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Aiming to make billboard advertising more programmatic, Adquick raises $2.1 million

Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of Initialized Capital and an investor in Adquick , a new service that’s looking to bring billboard advertising into the internet age, bought his last billboard ad just this year. For several years, the Reddit founder had turned to outdoor advertising as a tool to troll politicians and advocate for various positions (and celebrate his famous wife ). The last political billboard, in 2012, was to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act. It was also the impetus for his investment in Adquick. “I’d seen pitches from a number of competitors that were all just static websites on top of the single business,” says Ohanian. What he was looking for, and what he eventually found in Adquick was a company that had managed to map all of the billboard advertising options available in the U.S. and was offering would-be advertisers a way to digitally distribute their ads and book inventory. “For us the reason why it was such an exciting initial investment was because we saw the opportunity and the talent of the team,” Ohanian says. Matthew O’Connor, Adquick’s chief executive previously worked at Instacart and it was there that he and his team first learned about dragging traditional businesses into the online world. “This team had come out of Instacart… they came well recommended by the founders over there,”Ohanian said.

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This fan-made Uncharted movie starring Nathan Fillion proves video game movies don’t have to be awful

It’s not exactly a controversial statement: Movies based on video games are, generally, bad. See  Assassins Creed . Or that weird mess that was Mortal Kombat: Annihilation . Or that Super Mario movie where Bowser (renamed “President Koopa” for some reason) was basically just a dude with bad hair for half the movie. Turns out, as this live action fan film based on Naughty Dog’s Uncharted suggests, they can be done right. This fan-made short is about as unofficial as can be, as noted by a disclaimer that pops up on screen right off the bat. And yet, it does a better job of capturing the feel of its source material than pretty much any game-based movie before it. And it stars Nathan Fillion! Captain friggin’ Reynolds himself! Fans have been saying for ages that Nathan Fillion would make for one helluva Nathan Drake, and it seems like the hive mind really nailed that casting. Is it silly? Sure. Will people who’ve never played the Uncharted series understand what’s going on? Maybe not.

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Putin proposes a joint cybersecurity group with the US to investigate Russian election meddling

Over the course of Monday’s controversial Helsinki summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin pushed an agenda that would ostensibly see the U.S. and Russia working side by side as allies. The two countries make stranger bedfellows than ever as just days prior, Trump’s own Department of Justice indicted 12 Russian intelligence officials for the infamous 2016 Democratic National Committee hack. Nonetheless, the Russian president revived talks of a joint group between the U.S. and Russia dedicated to cybersecurity matters. For anyone with the security interests of the U.S. at heart, such a proposal, which Trump endorsed in a tweet one year ago, would truly be a worst-case scenario outcome of the puzzlingly cozy relationship between the two world leaders. “Once again, President Trump mentioned the issue of the so-called interference of Russia during the American elections and I had to reiterate things I said several times…,” Putin said in Helsinki. “Any specific material, if such things arise, we are ready to analyze together. For instance, we can analyze them through the joint working group on cyber security, the establishment of which we discussed during our previous contacts.” U.S. officially attributes DNC hack to Russia Putin added that Russia favors “continued cooperation in counter-terrorism and maintaining cyber security.” “The most recent example is their operational cooperation within the recently concluded World Football Cup,” Putin said. “In general, the contacts among the special services should be put to a system-wide basis should be brought to a systemic framework. I reminded President Trump about the suggestion to re-establish the working group on anti-terrorism.” Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded.. — Donald J.

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0x lets any app be the Craigslist of cryptocurrency

Centralized crypto exchanges like Coinbase are easy but expensive because they introduce a middleman. Not-for-profit project 0x allows any developer to quickly build their own decentralized cryptocurrency exchange and decide their own fees. It acts like Craigslist, connecting traders without ever holding the tokens itself. And instead of having to bootstrap their way to enough users trading tokens on their app alone so that there’s liquidity, 0x offers cross-platform liquidity between users on the different projects it powers. The problem is the user experience of decentralized apps is often crappy compared to the consumer apps we’re used to across the rest of tech. From sign-in to recovering accounts to conducting transactions, it’s a lot more complicated than Facebook Login, PayPal, or Shopify. Bitcoin and Ethereum prices remain well below half their peaks because it’s difficult to do much with cryptocurrency right now. Until the decentralized infrastructure improves, the dreams of how blockchains can improve the world remain distant. 0x is trying to fix that by ensuring developers all don’t have to reinvent the exchange wheel. It began as a for-profit exchange before the team recognized the massive usability gap. So instead it became a decentralized exchange protocol, and raised $24 million in an ICO for its ZRX token. That’s how relayers — the apps who use it to build exchanges for ERC20 tokens atop the Ethereum blockchain — can charge fees.

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Skype 8.0 launches on desktop with HD video, and soon encryption & call recording

Skype’s redesign launched last year was met with mixed reviews, but the company is forging ahead by rolling out a number of its new features to other platforms, including the desktop . Microsoft today is launching Skype version 8.0 that will replace version 7.0 (aka Skype classic), the latter which will no longer function after September 1, 2018. The new release introduces a variety of features, including HD video and screen-sharing in calls, support for @mentions in chats, a chat media gallery, file and media sharing up to 300 MB, and more. It will also add several more features this summer, including most notably, supported for encrypted audio calls, texts, and file sharing as well as built-in call recording. The 8.0 release follows on the update to Skype desktop that rolled out last fall,  largely focusing on upgrading the visual elements of new design, like the color-coding in chat messages and “reaction” emojis. This release also included the chat media gallery and file sharing support, which are touted as new today, but may have already hit your desktop. Although Skype still has some 300 million monthly users , it no longer appears to be growing. While once a must-have app for communication, Skype has faced increased competition over the years from the likes of Apple’s FaceTime, and other apps for texting and calls, like Messenger and WhatsApp, among others, plus new communication apps for business, like Slack. To better compete, Microsoft gave Skype a facelift starting last year, which introduced a number of social features seemingly aimed at a younger user base, including its own take on Stories. Today’s desktop release focuses again on consumer-friendly features, with the added support of HD (1080px video) video calls which can include up to 24 people, as well as the Twitter-inspired @mentions. Later this summer, Microsoft says Skype will add support for profile invites (to invite friends to join you on Skype), read receipts for messages, group links for chats and calls, and other features. The most significant of the forthcoming additions includes an end-to-end encrypted experience where Skype audio calls, text messages, and shared files like images, audio and video, and secured with the industry standard Signal Protocol. Messages and notifications in these conversations will also be hidden in the chat list to keep the communication private. And, at long last, Skype is adding built-in call recording. Many Skype users today use third-party add-ons in order to record calls – something that should have prompted Skype to react years ago by making this a native option.

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The final season of ‘Unreal’ debuts on Hulu

Unreal , the critically acclaimed series that takes viewers behind the scenes of fictional reality TV show  Everlasting , has moved to Hulu . Today’s announcement confirms earlier reports that Hulu was negotiating with A+E Studios to get first dibs on Unreal ‘s fourth and final season. The show’s first three seasons aired on Lifetime, with the third season recently wrapping up just a few months ago, in April. Now all eight episodes of Season 4 are live on Hulu — a departure from the streaming service’s standard approach of releasing just one or two episodes of its original shows each week. Unreal once again stars Shiri Appleby as Rachel and Constance Zimmer as Quinn, producers who return to Everlasting for an “All Stars” season that brings back old contestants. While Unreal’s cable audience has been declining steadily , Hulu says its viewers have embraced the show — it’s not releasing total audience numbers, but apparently the average viewer binges three to four episodes of the show in one session and usually completes a full season in “a matter of days.” “UnREAL has captivated audiences on Hulu since season one, so when this opportunity came to us, we knew we couldn’t miss out,” said Hulu’s senior vice president of content Craig Erwich in the announcement. “This is a unique way to both satisfy fans of the show, while also continuing to introduce it to new audiences.”

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WeWork takes meat off the menu as part of environmental policy drive

WeWork, the co-working startup that’s valued at ~$20 billion and has some 200,000 members across 200 locations globally plus nearly 6,000 staff of its own, will no long allow employees to expense meat. It will also no longer serve meat at company events. The policy shift is intended to reduce the business’ environmental impact. The new internal policy was reported on Friday by Bloomberg  which obtained a company memo in which co-founder Miguel McKelvey revealed the policy, writing: “New research indicates that avoiding meat is one of the biggest things an individual can do to reduce their personal environmental impact — even more than switching to a hybrid car.” So Elon Musk take note. A WeWork spokeswoman confirmed the new policy to us — which specifically removes red meat, poultry and pork from company menus and expenses policy. Though she emphasized that the company is not prohibiting WeWork staff or members from bringing in meat-based meals they’ve paid for themselves. Members are also still free to host their own events at WeWork locations and serve meat they’ve paid for themselves. The policy only applies to food purchased (or paid for) by WeWork itself. The spokeswoman also confirmed that fish is not covered in the meat-free initiative. The internal memo announcing the meat-free policy is embedded below: Global Team, One thing that inspires me most about WeWork is our ability to effect positive change. Our team, united together, has no limit when solving any problem. That’s the Power of We

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Proportunity offers ‘help to buy’ loans based on predicting future house prices

Proportunity , a London-based startup and Entrepreneur First alumni, wants to help first time buyers get on the property ladder earlier or purchase a home more to their liking. The company, which recently became an FCA authorised mortgage lender, claims to use machine learning to accurately forecast future house prices and the areas of London that will see the highest growth in the next few years. Based on confidence in this modelling, it will soon begin offering equity loans to boost your deposit when buying a first home. Specifically, once Proportunity has used its technology to help identify a property for sale that both fits your needs and offers good house price growth prospects, the startup will offer an equity loan of up to 15 percent of the property’s price. You then combine this loan with the money you have already saved for a deposit so that you can apply for a mortgage with a lower loan-to-value ratio, which in turn will command a lower interest rate. The way it works is quite similar to the U.K. government’s “Help To Buy” scheme , except it isn’t restricted to a new build and you have to pay monthly interest on the loan from the get-go. Like Help To Buy, when you sell the house or remortgage it in five years time, you have to repay the Proportunity equity loan at 15 percent of the current market price. Therefore, if the price of the house has gone up, the amount you pay back will have also increased. In the unlikelihood that the price has gone down, the startup loses money. Overall, however, since a Proportunity loan is interest-only until you pay it back after five years, the company says the combined monthly repayments are less than if you took out a 95 percent mortgage to buy the same home. And unlike shared ownership schemes, you don’t have to pay rent on the 15 percent of your home funded by a Proportunity loan.

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Elon Musk tweets he’ll “bet ya a signed dollar” that Thai cave rescuer is a “pedo”

Elon Musk seems not only intent on burning all the goodwill he earned for trying to help last week’s Thai cave rescue, but rolling around in its ashes, too. In a series of extraordinarily offensive, now deleted tweets, the SpaceX and Tesla CEO called a British diver who participated in last week’s dangerous rescue mission a “pedo guy,” adding in another tweet “bet ya a signed dollar it’s true.” Musk’s tantrum was triggered by an interview the diver, Vern Unsworth, gave CNN International last Friday , in which he called the small submarine Musk had SpaceX engineers build a “PR stunt” and said Musk could stick it “where it hurts.” Though the submarine was intended to help the 12 boys stranded with their soccer coach navigate flooded cave passageways, Unsworth, who helped plan the rescue operation and recruited other cave diving experts, said it “had absolutely no chance of working.” Unworth added that Musk “had no conception of what the cave passage was like. The submarine, I believe, was about 5 foot 6 long, rigid, so it wouldn’t have gone round corners or round any obstacles. It wouldn’t hadn’t have made the first 50 meters into the cave from the dive start point.” When the reporter mentioned that Musk had gone into the cave on Tuesday, Unsworth said he was “asked to leave very quickly. And so he should have been.” The rescue mission, made even more challenging by monsoon season, claimed the life of a Thai Navy seal before all boys were saved last week. This is not the first time that Musk has clashed with a member of the cave rescue team. As confirmation came in that the last group of boys and their coach had been freed on July 10, the head of the rescue mission, Narongsak Osatanakorn, told reporters that “although Musk’s technology is good and sophisticated it’s not practical for this mission.” In response, Musk dismissed the credentials of Ostanakorn, who led the joint command center coordinating the operation and is former acting governor of Chiang Rai, the province where the cave is located. In a tweet he said Ostanakorn was “described inaccurately as ‘rescue chief'” and “is not the subject matter expert” ( the Columbus Dispatch reports  that Ostanakorn holds a Master’s degree from Ohio State University, where he studied geodetic engineering and surveying). Though Musk’s tweet about Ostanakorn was sharply criticized, many still gave him credit for his efforts. After all, engineering a submarine in a few days to save a group of children is an impressive and laudable feat. While Musk is known for going on strange Twitter rants , however, his attack on Unsworth is an entirely different stratosphere. In addition to defaming Unsworth in a particularly heinous way, the implication that a British diver would only go to Thailand, one of the world’s top diving destinations, for child sex tourism is problematic and arguably racist, as many have pointed out. Elon Musk implying that British expats who live in Thailand are all kiddie fiddlers? Erm… wow… isn't that kind of a little bit racist? — Robert Percy (@astweetedbyRP) July 15, 2018 Sure, Elon Musk calling a diver who help rescue 12 boys a ‘pedo’ just because he lives in Thailand is insulting, inflammatory and borderline libelous, but let’s not forget that it is also horrifically racist.

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Why BMW needs to own its customer experience from start to finish

For the last few years now, BMW has wrestled with the question of what it’ll mean to be a luxury car manufacturer in the age of electric cars, autonomous driving and rapidly changing — and increasing — customer expectations. What, after all, makes something the “ ultimate driving machine ” when the driver eventually stops driving? For BMW, the answer is a renewed focus on technology and the in-car experience it enables, without forgetting its heritage in performance cars. To discuss the state of the company’s transformation, not just in terms of its cars but also its business model, I sat down with BMW’s outspoken VP of Digital Products and Services Dieter May shortly after the company unveiled the latest version of its in-car operating system. “We build digital products and services that are meant to help us differentiate our core product, the car and generate revenue,” May said. “But these digital services also provide us with channels and touch points that allow us to now have a direct relationship with the customer on the sales side and talk to the customer directly.” In the car industry, however, the sales channel has traditionally been the dealership. That’s where you buy the car and that’s where you get it serviced. It’s the dealer who knows (ideally) who you are and what you want. The manufacturer’s role in this model is to build the car, maybe build a bit of a central online presence with a configurator so customers can get some idea of the car’s price — and get out of the way. That’s not the future that May envisions, though. And neither is it one where the big tech companies like Apple and Google own the driver and the user experience. “As we’re building the digital products in the car, we are also building out the car as a channel and touchpoint at the same time,” May noted

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In Q2 2018, late-stage deals led the world’s venture capital market

Jason Rowley Contributor Jason Rowley is a venture capital and technology reporter for Crunchbase News . More posts by this contributor Satellite startups turn to reinventing broadband, mapping and other industries Old VC firms hold entrenched position in fundraising despite fresh entrants Here is what you should take away from the state of the global venture capital market: late-stage deals dominated Q2. Using projected data provided by Crunchbase, Crunchbase News reported that  Q2 2018 marks new post-dot com highs  for both VC deal and dollar volume around the world, the latter of which was propelled by a surge in late-stage deals (Series C and above). The chart below plots growth in projected late-stage deal and dollar volume over time. This remarkable growth in dollar volume — more than doubling since the same period in 2017 — has led to the late-stage deal market looming large over the venture landscape. For perspective, late-stage rounds accounted for about 42 percent of dollar volume in Q2 2017, but it made up 64 percent of dollar volume in Q2 2018. To be clear, this isn’t a rising tide raising all ships. Worldwide, late-stage venture activity is intensifying at a more rapid clip than other venture funding stages, squeezing other stages toward the margins. We can see this happening in the chart below: Two things are happening at once here: On one side, private equity deals with previously venture-backed companies — what we call “Tech Growth” — account for less of the action; on the other side of the spectrum, angels, seed investors and writers of Series A and Series B checks account for less of the total dollar volume over time. As it happens, in Q2 seed and early-stage venture — despite reaching post-dot com highs in absolute terms — make up for a smaller percent of total dollar volume than in any quarter since at least Q3 2013, the last records we had readily available. In the second quarter, seed and early-stage venture lost ground in relative terms, making up a smaller percent of total dollar volume than in any quarter since at least Q3 2013, the last for which records were available. Private equity, on the other hand, is getting squeezed out because a certain class of venture capital firms are able to invest more capital into late-stage venture deals. Venture capital shops —  especially the well-established  — are  raising ever-larger funds  at an increasing pace.

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Fortnite’s Summer Skirmish kicks off today, with $8 million prize pool

Fortnite Battle Royale has swept the gaming world. Alongside its 125 million users and record-breaking Twitch streams, the game has also drawn many competitive players away from their usual titles to try their hand at Battle Royale. Today, that competitive play reaches at inflection point. At 4pm ET, Fortnite Battle Royale’s Summer Skirmish will kick off, with $8 million going to tournament winners over the course of the competition, with a whopping $250K going to the winners of today’s tournament. This isn’t the first competitive Fortnite tournament we’ve seen. Celebrity Twitch streamer Ninja held a charity tournament in April, and Epic held a ProAm tournament combining competitive players and celebs who play Fortnite in June. Plus, sites like UMG and CMG have been holding smaller tournaments since Fortnite first rose to popularity. And then there are $20K Fortnite Friday tournaments for streamers held by UMG. But today, the ante has most certainly been upped. This will be one of the highest paying Fortnite tournaments to date, and is yet just a small fraction of Epic Games’ promised $100 million prize pool for competitive play this year. For some context, Dota 2 (previously the biggest competitive esports title out there) had a $25 million payout for the International Championship tournament in 2017, with the winners taking home $10.8 million. Call of Duty, one of the most popular titles over the last decade, is only paying out $1.5 million for its own Champs tournament this summer. In other words, Fortnite is catching up quickly to the competitive gaming scene, not only in terms of talent but money. Epic Games’ Fortnite pulled in a record-breaking $318 million in June alone.

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iFixit finds dust covers in latest MacBook Pro keyboard

Apple released a refreshed MacBook Pro this week and top among the new features is a tweaked keyboard. Apple says its quieter than the last version and in our tests, we agree . But iFixit found something else: thin, silicone barriers that could improve the keyboard’s reliability. This is big news. Users have long reported the butterfly switch keyboard found in MacBook Pros were less reliable than past models. There are countless reports of dust and lint and crumbs causing keys to stick or fail. Personally, I have not had any issues, but many at TechCrunch have. To date Apple has yet to issue a recall for the keyboard.. iFixit found a thin layer of rubberized material covering the new butterfly mechanism. The repair outlet also points to an Apple patent for this exact technology that’s designed to “prevent and/or alleviate contaminant ingress.” According to Apple, which held a big media unveiling for new models, the changes to the keyboard were designed to address the loud clickity-clack and not the keyboard’s tendency to get mucked up by dust. And that makes sense, too. If Apple held an event and said “We fixed the keyboards” it would mean Apple was admitting something was wrong with the keyboards. Instead Apple held an event and said “We made the keyboards quieter” admitting the past keyboards were loud, and not faulty. We just got our review unit and will report back on the keyboard’s reliability after a day or two at the beach. Because science

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Reminder: Other people’s lives are not fodder for your feeds

#PlaneBae You should cringe when you read that hashtag. Because it’s a reminder that people are being socially engineered by technology platforms to objectify and spy on each other for voyeuristic pleasure and profit. The short version of the story attached to the cringeworthy hashtag is this: Earlier this month an individual, called Rosey Blair, spent all the hours of a plane flight using her smartphone and social media feeds to invade the privacy of her seat neighbors — publicly gossiping about the lives of two strangers. Her speculation was set against a backdrop of rearview creepshots, with a few barely there scribbles added to blot out actual facial features. Even as an entire privacy invading narrative was being spun unknowingly around them. #PlanePrivacyInvasion would be a more fitting hashtag. Or #MoralVacuumAt35000ft And yet our youthful surveillance society started with a far loftier idea associated with it: Citizen journalism. Once we’re all armed with powerful smartphones and ubiquitously fast Internet there will be no limits to the genuinely important reportage that will flow, we were told. There will be no way for the powerful to withhold the truth from the people. At least that was the nirvana we were sold. What did we get? Something that looks much closer to mass manipulation

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Facebook reportedly hires AI chip head from Google

Facebook is continuing to devote more resources to the development of AI-focused chips, bringing aboard a senior director of engineering from Google who worked on chips for Google’s products to lead its efforts, Bloomberg reports. We’ve reached out to Google and Facebook for confirmation. Shahriar Rabii spent nearly seven years at Google before joining Facebook this month as its VP and Head of Silicon according to his LinkedIn profile . Facebook’s work on AI-focused custom silicon has been the topic of rumors and reports over the past several months. It’s undoubtedly a bold direction for the company, though it’s unclear how interested Facebook is in creating custom silicon for consumer devices or if they’re more focused on building for their server business as they also look to accelerate their own research efforts. Rabii’s work at Google seemed to encompass a good deal of work on chips for consumer devices, specifically work on the Pixel 2’s Visual Core chip, which brought machine learning intelligence to the device’s camera. Facebook has long held hardware ambitions, but its Building 8 hardware division appears to be closer than ever to shipping its first products as the company’s rumored work on an Echo Show competitor touchscreen smart speaker continues. Meanwhile, Facebook has also continued building virtual reality hardware built on Qualcomm’s mobile chipsets. As Silicon Valley’s top tech companies continue to compete aggressively for talent amongst artificial intelligence experts, this marks another departure from Google. Earlier this year, Apple poached Google’s AI head .

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