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Valimail raises $25M in additional funding for its email authentication service

Valimail helps businesses ensure that nobody can impersonate them over email. That’s not a sexy business to be in, but very much a necessary one. The company’s email authentication service, which uses standards like SPF , DKIM and DMARC , is currently in use by the likes of Yelp, Uber, Fanni Mae and WeWork. Today, the company announced that it has raised a $25 million Series B round led by Tenaya Capital, with participation from Shasta Ventures, Flybridge Capital Partners and Bloomberg Beta. This round bring Valimail’s total amount of funding to $38.5 million, including the company’s $12 million Series A round in 2016. “Authentication is at the root of trusted communications,” Valimail CEO and co-founder Alexander Garcia-Tobar told me. “You must be able to trust the authenticity of who/what is on the other side, or the communication is meaningless. For example, no retailer would never accept a credit card without swiping it first (either physically or virtually). What happens in the credit card world needs to happen for communications.” The funding round is coming at an important time for email authentication. The DMARC standard is now supported by over 5 billion inboxes, according to Valimail. Over the course oft he last six month, domain owners have also published more DMARC records than in the five previous years combined. In addition, all federal agencies must implement this standard , too. Valimail promises to take care of all the hassles of setting up support for these authentication standards. “After attempting email authentication with other solutions, I was amazed at the level of automation Valimail provides,” said JJ Agha, VP of information security at WeWork. “It eliminates the need for two FTEs, so my staff can focus on other key priorities.

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This UK startup thinks it can win the self-driving car race with better machine learning

A new U.K. self-driving car startup founded by Amar Shah and Alex Kendall, two machine learning PhDs from University of Cambridge, is de-cloaking today. Wayve — backed by New York-based Compound, Europe’s Fly Ventures, and Brent Hoberman’s Firstminute Capital — is building what it describes as “end-to-end machine learning algorithms” to make autonomous vehicles a reality, an approach it claims is different to much of the conventional thinking on self-driving cars. Specifically, as Wayve CEO Shah explained in a call last week, the young company believes that the key to making an autonomous vehicle that is truly just that (i.e. able to drive safely in any environment it is asked to), is a much greater emphasis on the self-learning capability of its software. In other words, self-driving cars is an AI problem first and foremost, and one that he and co-founder Kendall argue requires a very specific machine-learning development skill set. “Wayve is building intelligent software to decide how to control a vehicle on all public roads,” he tells me. “Rather than hand-engineering our solution with heavily rule-based systems, we aim to build data-driven machine learning at every layer of our system, which would learn from experience and not simply be given if-else statements. Our learning-based system will be safer in unfamiliar situations than a rule-based system which would behave unpredictably in a situation it has not seen before”. To explain his thinking in laymen’s terms, Shah points to the way a human who is relatively proficient in driving in one city can quickly adapt to the differences in a completely new city, without having to be given extra training or instruction beforehand. It may take around 30 minutes or even a few hours to become fully climatized to new driving conditions or environment, but humans don’t need very much new data to do so. “Humans have a fascinating ability to perform complex tasks in the real world, because our brains allow us to learn quickly and transfer knowledge across our many experiences,” he says. “We want to give our vehicles better brains, not more hardware”. To problem, thus far, the pair argue, is that companies like Google and Uber are throwing an engineering mindset at making vehicles autonomous, in the sense of designing rule-based systems that try to pre-empt and deal with every edge case, whilst in tandem adding more sensors and capturing more data.

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Don’t expect Ubuntu maker Canonical to IPO this year

Canonical , the company best known for its Ubuntu Linux distribution, is on a path to an IPO. That’s something Canonical founder and CEO Mark Shuttleworth has been quite open about. But don’t expect that IPO to happen this year. “We did decide as a company — and that’s not just my decision — but we did decide that we want to have a commercial focus,” Shuttleworth told me during an interview at the OpenStack Summit in Vancouver, Canada today. “So we picked cloud and IoT as the areas to develop that. And being a public company, given that most of our customers are now global institutions, it makes for us also to be a global institution. I think it would be great for my team to be part of a public company. It would be a lot of work, but we are not shy of work.” Unsurprisingly, Shuttleworth didn’t want to talk about the exact timeline for the IPO, though. “We will do the right thing at the right time,” he said. That right time is not this year, though. “No, there is a process that you have to go through and that takes time.

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Uizard raises funds for its AI that turns design mockups into source code

When you’re trying to build apps, there is a very tedious point where you have to stare at a wireframe and then laboriously turn it into code. Actually, the process itself is highly repetitive and ought to be much easier. The traditional software development from front-end design to front-end html/css development to working code is expensive, time-consuming, tedious and repetitive. But most approaches to solving this problem have been more complex than they need to be. What if you could just turn wireframes straight into code and then devote your time to the more complex aspects of a build? That’s the idea behind a Copenhagen-based startup called Uizard . Uizard’s computer vision and AI platform claims to be able to automatically turn design mockups — and this could be on the back of napkin — into source code that developers can plug into their backend code. It’s now raised an $800,000 pre-seed round led by New York-based LDV Capital with co-investors ByFounders, The Nordic Web Ventures, 7percent Ventures, New York Venture Partners, entrepreneur Peter Stern (co-founder of Datek) and Philipp Moehring and Andy Chung from AngelList . This fundraising will be used to grow the team and launch the beta product. The company received interest in June 2017 when they released their first research milestone dubbed “pix2code” and implementation on GitHub was the second-mosttrending project of June 2017 ahead of Facebook Prepack and Google TensorFlow.

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Adobe to acquire Magento for $1.68B

Adobe announced today that it was acquiring Magento for $1.68 billion . The purchase gives Adobe a missing e-commerce platform piece that works in B2B and B2C contexts and should fit nicely in the company’s Experience Cloud. It should also help Adobe compete with Salesforce, which offers its own marketing, sales and service offerings in the cloud and which  bought Demandware for more than $2 billion in 2016 to provide a similar set of functionality. Brent Leary, who owns CRM Essentials and keeps a close eye on the intersection between marketing and CRM, says this fills an obvious hole in Adobe’s Experience Cloud . “Now they have an offering that allows them to close the loop with consumers, who are able to finalize a digital transaction that started online with digital marketing tools Adobe already offered,” Leary explained. Leary also sees this deal bringing Microsoft and Adobe, who have already announced partnerships in the past, closer together. “But maybe even more interesting may be how this may further the relationship Adobe has with Microsoft. As they also are missing an e-commerce piece to their customer engagement platform as well,” he pointed out. Leary speculates this could lead to an even deeper relationship between the two companies as they are each battling Salesforce. Salesforce is the 10,000-pound gorilla in this space with revenue across its various clouds reaching more than $8 billion last year. The company is  on a run rate to exceed $10 billion in 2018

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Google Photos adds likes and favorites with hearts and stars

Twitter swapped out its Favorite star icon for an appreciation-focused heart icon instead, but Google Photos is embracing both icons with an update rolling out now. The company announced this afternoon it’s adding a new star-shaped Favorites button to its photo-sharing service starting today, which will be followed by a heart-shaped “Like” button next week. The two will have different functionality, however. The Favorite (star) button will only appear on photos in your own library, allowing you to mark an individual item as a favorite which, in turn, will automatically populate a new photo album with just your favorite photos. This is a feature that most other photo services already offer, including Apple’s and previously, Google’s own Picasa, so it’s a bit of an obvious catch-up addition on Google’s part. Meanwhile, the heart icon is Google Photos’ version of the “like.” This will appear only on those photos that have been shared with you from your family and friends. You can also like a full shared album, but not any photos or albums that aren’t shared, says Google. If you want to save one of these shared photos to your own Favorites album, you have to copy it to your own library first. Though seemingly minor additions, the implementation of a proper favoriting system is actually a big design decision for a social platform. When Twitter switched from stars to hearts, for example, there was quite the user backlash . And some people continue to upset over the change years later. Even Facebook had to acquiesce to users’ demands for an alternative to its “Like” button by offering different ways to react to a post. It would have been fun to see Google Photos do something similar – perhaps a shocked emoji, or laughing with tears – in addition the simple heart. After all, we know not all the photos we take are beloved – some are just ridiculous, goofy, crazy, weird, and so on

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Barack and Michelle Obama sign production deal with Netflix

Another (very) big deal for Netflix: Former U.S. President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama have reached an agreement to produce films and series for the streaming service. The New York Times first reported in March that the Obamas were in “advanced negotiations” with Netflix. The goal, supposedly, was less about criticizing the Trump administration or promoting any specific political message and more about highlighting inspirational stories. Netflix’s official announcement makes it sound like that continues to be what the Obamas have in mind, with Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos describing them as “uniquely positioned to discover and highlight stories of people who make a difference in their communities and strive to change the world for the better.” The Obamas have formed a company called Higher Ground Productions to create this content. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Netflix has deep pockets  and has shown a willingness to write very large checks . It says the Obamas might produce “scripted series, unscripted series, docu-series, documentaries and features” — so basically any kind of audiovisual content. In a statement, Mr. Obama said: One of the simple joys of our time in public service was getting to meet so many fascinating people from all walks of life, and to help them share their experiences with a wider audience. That’s why Michelle and I are so excited to partner with Netflix – we hope to cultivate and curate the talented, inspiring, creative voices who are able to promote greater empathy and understanding between peoples, and help them share their stories with the entire world. Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming is scheduled for publication in November , while Barack Obama is expected to release a new memoir under the same deal. He’s kept a relatively low profile since leaving office, but he did make a recent appearance as the first guest on David Letterman’s Netflix interview show My Next Guest Needs No Introduction .

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Lyft reportedly wants to launch electric scooter service

Because there aren’t enough electric scooters on the roads, Lyft is looking into launching its own fleet of electric scooters in San Francisco, The Information reports . Lyft would join the likes of Spin, Bird and Lime — the three startups that deployed their scooters in San Francisco, without permission, back in March. Lyft has reportedly been in talks with San Francisco city officials to discuss applying for a permit, and has drafted some prototypes of scooter designs. A Lyft spokesperson declined to comment. Earlier this month, the city of San Francisco laid out its requirements for companies seeking to obtain electric scooter permits. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has yet to actually finalize the application and terms, but a spokesperson told me on Friday the permit applications should be ready as early as this week. The city will issue permits for no more than five companies during the 24-month pilot program. The program would grant up to 2,500 scooters to operate, but it’s not yet clear how many scooters each company would be allowed to deploy. Here’s how SF wants to regulate electric scooters Meanwhile, Uber also has its eyes on electric scooters. In April, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told me the company plans to “look at any and all options” that would help move transportation options in ways that are city-friendly. That same month, Uber acquired bike-share startup JUMP for about $200 million . As it stands now, there are four companies that have announced electric scooter sharing

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Teen monitoring app TeenSafe exposes thousands of passwords

U.K.-based security researcher Robert Wiggins has found two exposed TeenSafe servers, leaking the passwords and information of some users of the monitoring service. TeenSafe is meant to protect teenagers by letting their parents monitor their texts, phone calls, web history, location and app downloads. The breach was first reported by ZDNet . According to the report, TeenSafe left two of their servers, which were hosted on AWS, exposed and viewable by anyone. Moreover, the database included information such as the parent’s email address, child’s Apple ID email address, device name, device unique identifier and plaintext passwords for the teenager’s Apple ID. So… just about everything. TeenSafe requires that teenagers abstain from using two-factor authentication so parents can keep an eye on their activity, making those teenagers even more vulnerable to malicious actors now that their personal information has been exposed. TeenSafe claims on its website that it encrypts data so that it wouldn’t be accessible in the case of the breach. According to ZDNet, the server held at least 10,200 records from the past three months containing customer data. The publication also included that some of those records were duplicates and that one of the servers appeared to store test data. That said, it’s unclear if there are other leaky servers with exposed data yet to be discovered.

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This top Silicon Valley venture firm just made a contrarian move with its newest fund

In Silicon Valley, venture firms with a track record of success find themselves awash in money thanks to the growing number of institutions that want to invest more of their capital in tech. In March, an SEC filing showed that General Catalyst had closed a $1.375 billion fund , the biggest vehicle in its 18-year history. Battery Ventures also closed on two funds earlier this year that are the 35-year-old firm’s biggest to date. Sequoia Capital, meanwhile, is reportedly out raising $12 billion across a series of funds, a move that’s unprecedented for the firm — or any U.S.-based venture firm, for that matter. Fifteen-year-old Emergence Capital could easily follow the same path. Emergence funds early-stage ventures that are focused on enterprise and SaaS applications, and it does this very well. Its bets include the storage company Box (now public), the social networking company Yammer (sold for $1.2 billion to Microsoft in 2012) and Veeva Systems, the company that’s generally known for its customer relations software for the life sciences and pharmaceutical industries, though envious investors recognize Veeva as the company that produced a more than 300x return for Emergence when it went public in 2013. (Emergence had invested just $6.5 million in the outfit and owned 31 percent of it going into the IPO. It was also Veeva’s sole venture backer.) Still, when it came time to raise its fifth fund, Emergence did not raise a billion-dollar fund, as it surely could have. Instead, the San Mateo, Calif., firm, which closed its fourth fund with $335 million in 2015, opted to increase the fund by 30 percent, closing its new vehicle this past Friday with $435 million. We talked the other day with firm co-founder Jason Green, who is one of four general partners, about the firm’s trajectory. Specifically, we asked why — like almost every other firm in Silicon Valley — it didn’t close its newest fund with exponentially more in capital commitments than its last fund. The answer, said Green: “Our sweet spot is on early market fit, with a core team we can work around.” Because that hasn’t changed, neither has the size of the funds it raises, he said

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Chinese bike sharing giant Mobike is making big plans for India

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Chinese bike-sharing startup Mobike, which was recently acquired in a $3 billion deal , was already present in India. The company went on an aggressive global expansion spree in 2017 , India wasn’t on the radar then but that’ll soon be rectified with a launch expected in early June. Mobike has bold plans for India, where it freely admits that there isn’t currently a strong culture of biking. The goal is to work with municipal governments and town planners to do what Mobike (and rival Ofo did in China) which is to help cut down city congestion and provide new last-mile transit options. “We’ve had great responses from many cities around how they see bike sharing in general and Mobike specifically,” Sujith Nair, Mobike India’s Chief Business Officer, told TechCrunch in an interview. Ofo landed in India earlier this year and local Uber rival Ola started a service on a small scale last year so Mobike isn’t the first mover here. Nair said the company plans to launch its service in early June — or potentially before the end of May — but for now he isn’t saying which cities will be first. “We’re talking to all the big cities, such as Bangalore and Delhi,” he added. “Our intent is to grow rapidly and we’re looking at partnerships to help accelerate that.” While there have been infamous photos of piles of bikes in China, and stories of bikes dumped in trees or canals in other parts of the world, Nair said that the government agencies he’s spoken to haven’t expressed concern at a deluge of cycles. Instead, he said, conversations has focused around the practical potential of easing congestion and enabling short trips. “It’s a great way to jump-start a sustainable transport ecosystem,” he said. “With the local government throwing in advocacy and communication to drive awareness. They’re investing in cycling tracks and infrastructure… we can always deal with excess later, it’s not a huge concern.” Nair suggested that Mobike will look to grow to 10-12 cities in India over the next 18 months but the company “aspires” to grow even more rapidly than that since there are over 25 cities with a population of over one million people.

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Whisk, the smart food platform that makes recipes shoppable, acquires competitor Avocando

Whisk , the U.K. startup that has built a B2B data platform to power various food apps, including making online recipes ‘shoppable’, has acquired Avocando, a competitor based in Germany. The exact financial terms of the deal remain undisclosed, although TechCrunch understands it was all-cash and that Whisk is acquiring the tech, customer base, integrations, and team. Related to this, Avocando’s founders are joining Whisk. “The team is joining Whisk to help scale a joint global vision to help leading businesses create integrated and meaningful digital food experiences using cutting-edge technology,” says Whisk in a statement. To that end, Whisk’s “smart food platform” enables app developers, publishers and online supermarkets/grocery stories to do a number of interesting things. The first relates to making recipes shoppable i.e. making it incredibly easy to order the ingredients needed to cook a recipe listed online or in an app. Specifically, Whisk’s platform parses ingredients in a recipe, and matches it to products at local grocery stores based on user preferences (e.g. “50g of butter, cubed” matched to “250g Tesco Salted Butter”). It then interfaces with the store to fill the users basket with the needed items. The second is recipe personalisation. Based on user preferences (e.g

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Tradeshift fires-up blockchain to address late payment problem

While the cryptocurrency world continues to swirl around in a daze of troughs and highs, startups are continuing to make use of the fundamental underlying strengths of blockchain technology. A new entrant in this race is Tradeshift, a leading players in supply-chain payments and marketplaces, which is today launching its new service which enables supports blockchain-based finance, or writing all transactions to a public ledger in order to create transparency and securing a record. While this doesn’t involve the use of currencies like actual Bitcoin or Ethereum, “having the transactions on a public ledger ensures full transparency and the ability for companies to prove that they have legit transactions,” says CEO and cofounder Christian Lanng. SO what this all means is that Tradeshift’s cloud platform will bring supply chain payments, supply chain finance, and blockchain-based early payments together into one unified end-to-end solution, called “Tradeshift Pay”. They are aiming at a $9 trillion problem, which is the capital trapped in “accounts receivable” as a result of old-fashioned payment practices and the disconnection between large business buyers and their suppliers. In other words, this could be a boon for small suppliers who find it hard to get paid when their invoices aren’t mapped to a ledger as strong as a blockchain. With this single unified wallet, buyers can use several payment options, including virtual card payments of invoices and purchase orders, dynamic discounting, supply chain finance through bank partners, or blockchain-based payments.

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Launch with TechCrunch in the Startup Battlefield competition at Disrupt SF 2018

Hey, this message goes out to all you early-stage startup founders with the drive and determination to take your company all the way to the land of the unicorns. Now’s the time to apply to TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield competition — the world’s best start-up pitch competition going down at  Disrupt San Francisco 2018  on September 5-7. If you require incentive, consider this: we bumped the top prize this year to a very cool $100,000. That sure would help your bottom line, now wouldn’t it? If you’re not tuned in to how Startup Battlefield works, we’ll break it down for you. Seasoned TechCrunch editors review all applications in a highly-competitive vetting process. How competitive? The acceptance rate ranges from 3 to 6 percent. Factors that influence the decision include the team, the product and the market potential. Anywhere from 15-30 pre-Series A startups will make the final cut. This is a good time to point out that competing in  Startup Battlefield doesn’t cost a thing, and that TechCrunch does not charge startups any fees or take any equity. All competing teams receive free expert pitch training from the Startup Battlefield team who, trust us, have seen it all when it comes to startup pitch competitions. You’ll be primed and ready for round one where you’ll deliver a six-minute pitch and demo to a panel of expert judges — and then answer any questions they may have. The cream of the crop — roughly five teams — will advance to round two for a repeat pitch performance in front of a fresh set of judges. Every exciting, heart-pounding minute takes place in front of a live audience numbering in the thousands, and we live-stream it to the world on TechCrunch.com, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

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After tens of thousands of pre-orders, high-end 3D headphones startup Ossic disappears

After taking tens of thousands of crowd-funding pre-orders for a high-end pair of “3D sound” headphones, audio startup Ossic announced this weekend that it is shutting down the company and backers will not be receiving refunds. The company raised $2.7 million on Kickstarter and $3.2 million on Indiegogo for their Ossic X headphones which they pitched as a pair of high-end head-tracking headphones that would be perfect for listening to 3D audio, especially in a VR environment. While the company also raised a “substantial seed investment,” in a letter on the Ossic website , the company blamed the slow adoption of virtual reality alongside their crowdfunding campaign stretch goals which bogged down their R&D team. “This was obviously not our desired outcome. The team worked exceptionally hard and created a production-ready product that is a technological and performance breakthrough. To fail at the 5 yard-line is a tragedy. We are extremely sorry that we cannot deliver your product and want you to know that the team has done everything possible including investing our own savings and working without salary to exhaust all possibilities.” We have reached out to the company for additional details. Through January 2017, the San Diego company had received more than 22,000 pre-orders for their Ossic X headphones. This past January, Ossic announced that they had shipped out the first units to the 80 backers in their $999 developer tier headphones. In that same update, the company said they would enter “mass production” by late spring 2018. In the end, after tens of thousands of pre-orders, Ossic only built 250 pairs of headphones and only shipped a few dozen to Kickstarter backers. Crowdfunding campaign failures for hardware products are rarely shocking, but often the collapse comes from the company not being able to acquire additional funding from outside investors. Here, Ossic appears to have been misguided from the start and even with nearly $6 million in crowdfunding and seed funding, which they said nearly matched that number, they were left unable to begin large-scale manufacturing.

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