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Report: Chinese smartphone shipments drop 21% to reach lowest level since 2013

Analysts have long-warned of a growth crunch in China’s smartphone space, and it’s looking like that’s very much the case right now. China’s smartphone growth has been the feel-good story for domestic OEMs who have clocked impressive figures as the billion-plus population has rushed online via mobile devices. However, the market reached saturation point in 2017 — when sales stopped growing for the first time — and the first quarter of this year is already showing savage results. In a report released today , Canalys claimed that shipments across the industry fell by 21 percent year-on-year in Q1. The total number of mobile devices shipped in China dropped below the 100 million market in a quarter for the first time since late 2013, the firm added. “Eight of the top 10 smartphone vendors were hit by annual declines, with Gionee, Meizu and Samsung shrinking to less than half of their respective Q1 2017 numbers,” the report read. Ouch. Of the field, only Xiaomi — the firm tipped for an IPO at a $100 billion valuation — was able to post positive momentum as its numbers grew by 37 percent to reach 12 million. That was enough to see it overtake Apple into fourth place, but Xiaomi numbers are still heavily reliant on its $150 Redmi range, which isn’t as lucrative as its higher-end products. Huawei, Oppo and Vivo led the market. Somewhat incredibly, those three firms plus Xiaomi now account for a very dominant 73 percent of all shipments, which Canalys believes is bad for consumers and smartphone aficionados in China. “The level of competition has forced every vendor to imitate the others’ product portfolios and go-to-market strategies,” analyst Mo Jia said in a statement.

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Allegro.AI nabs $11M for a platform that helps businesses build computer vision-based services

Artificial intelligence and the application of it across nearly every aspect of our lives is shaping up to be one of the major step changes of our modern society. Today, a startup that wants to help other companies capitalise on AI’s advances is announcing funding and emerging from stealth mode. Allegro.AI, which has built a deep learning platform that companies can use to build and train computer-vision-based technologies — from self-driving car systems through to security, medical and any other services that require a system to read and parse visual data — is today announcing that it has raised $11 million in funding, as it prepares for a full-scale launch of its commercial services later this year after running pilots and working with early users in a closed beta. The round may not be huge by today’s startup standards, but the presence of strategic investors speaks to the interest that the startup has sparked and the gap in the market for what it is offering. It includes MizMaa Ventures — a Chinese fund that is focused on investing in Israeli startups, along with participation from Robert Bosch Venture Capital GmbH (RBVC), Samsung Catalyst Fund and Israeli fund Dynamic Loop Capital. Other investors (the $11 million actually covers more than one round) are not being disclosed. Nir Bar-Lev, the CEO and cofounder (Moses Guttmann, another cofounder, is the company’s CTO), started Allegro.AI first as Seematics in 2016 after he left Google, where he had worked in various senior roles for over 10 years. It was partly that experience that led him to the idea that with the rise of AI, there would be an opportunity for companies that could build a platform to help other less AI-savvy companies build AI-based products. “We’re addressing a gap in the industry,” he said in an interview. Although there are a number of services, for example Rekognition from Amazon’s AWS, which allow a developer to ping a database by way of an API to provide analytics and some identification of a video or image, these are relatively basic and couldn’t be used to build and “teach” full-scale navigation systems, for example. “An ecosystem doesn’t exist for anything deep-learning based.” Every company that wants to build something would have to invest 80-90 percent of their total R&D resources on infrastructure, before getting to the many other apsects of building a product, he said, which might also include the hardware and applications themselves. “We’re providing this so that the companies don’t need to build it.” Instead, the research scientists that will buy in the Allegro.AI platform — it’s not intended for non-technical users (not now at least) — can concentrate on overseeing projects and considering strategic applications and other aspects of the projects. He says that currently, its direct target customers are tech companies and others that rely heavily on tech, “but are not the Googles and Amazons of the world.” Indeed, companies like Google, AWS, Microsoft, Apple and Facebook have all made major inroads into AI, and in one way or another each has a strong interest in enterprise services and may already be hosting a lot of data in their clouds. But Bar-Lev believes that companies ultimately will be wary to work with them on large-scale AI projects: “A lot of the data that’s already on their cloud is data from before the AI revolution, before companies realized that the asset today is data,” he said. “If it’s there, it’s there and a lot of it is transactional and relational data

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Allegro.AI nabs $11M for ‘deep learning as a service’, for businesses to build computer vision products

Artificial intelligence and the application of it across nearly every aspect of our lives is shaping up to be one of the major step changes of our modern society. Today, a startup that wants to help other companies capitalise on AI’s advances is announcing funding and emerging from stealth mode. Allegro.AI, which has built a deep learning platform that companies can use to build and train computer-vision-based technologies — from self-driving car systems through to security, medical and any other services that require a system to read and parse visual data — is today announcing that it has raised $11 million in funding, as it prepares for a full-scale launch of its commercial services later this year after running pilots and working with early users in a closed beta. The round may not be huge by today’s startup standards, but the presence of strategic investors speaks to the interest that the startup has sparked and the gap in the market for what it is offering. It includes MizMaa Ventures — a Chinese fund that is focused on investing in Israeli startups, along with participation from Robert Bosch Venture Capital GmbH (RBVC), Samsung Catalyst Fund and Israeli fund Dynamic Loop Capital. Other investors (the $11 million actually covers more than one round) are not being disclosed. Nir Bar-Lev, the CEO and cofounder (Moses Guttmann, another cofounder, is the company’s CTO; and the third cofounder, Gil Westrich, is the VP of R&D), started Allegro.AI first as Seematics in 2016 after he left Google, where he had worked in various senior roles for over 10 years. It was partly that experience that led him to the idea that with the rise of AI, there would be an opportunity for companies that could build a platform to help other less AI-savvy companies build AI-based products. “We’re addressing a gap in the industry,” he said in an interview. Although there are a number of services, for example Rekognition from Amazon’s AWS, which allow a developer to ping a database by way of an API to provide analytics and some identification of a video or image, these are relatively basic and couldn’t be used to build and “teach” full-scale navigation systems, for example. “An ecosystem doesn’t exist for anything deep-learning based.” Every company that wants to build something would have to invest 80-90 percent of their total R&D resources on infrastructure, before getting to the many other apsects of building a product, he said, which might also include the hardware and applications themselves. “We’re providing this so that the companies don’t need to build it.” Instead, the research scientists that will buy in the Allegro.AI platform — it’s not intended for non-technical users (not now at least) — can concentrate on overseeing projects and considering strategic applications and other aspects of the projects. He says that currently, its direct target customers are tech companies and others that rely heavily on tech, “but are not the Googles and Amazons of the world.” Indeed, companies like Google, AWS, Microsoft, Apple and Facebook have all made major inroads into AI, and in one way or another each has a strong interest in enterprise services and may already be hosting a lot of data in their clouds. But Bar-Lev believes that companies ultimately will be wary to work with them on large-scale AI projects: “A lot of the data that’s already on their cloud is data from before the AI revolution, before companies realized that the asset today is data,” he said. “If it’s there, it’s there and a lot of it is transactional and relational data

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Techtonic Group raises $2 million to transform tech hiring through apprenticeships

Where the two companies are using price arbitrage between the costs of developers in emerging markets and coders in the U.S., Techtonic Group is simply offering access to talent. The company’s program pitches itself not just as a development shop, but as a recruitment and training company connecting its clients with skilled entry-level talent. The firm’s clients actually can hire Techtonic Group apprentices at no additional cost after 1,000 hours of work together. The company has fairly typical standards for the skills that its looking for, but it doesn’t require its apprentices to have a degree. Since its inception, more than 30 percent of the participants in the program have been women, half come from underrepresented minority backgrounds, and one quarter are veterans, according to a statement from the company. Given the demands for new programmers across the economy, to most businesses it doesn’t matter where the qualified new employees come from. The company cited estimates that  suggest  as many as 1 million coding positions will go unfilled by 2020. And the industry’s struggle to develop and hire a more diverse workforce has been well documented.  “Tech companies are beginning to recognize the importance of expanding the talent pool to more diverse candidates as both as socially responsible decision and a good business practice,” said Heather Terenzio, Founder and CEO of Techtonic Group, in a statement. “But hiring norms, including degree requirements, can box-out the very talent that employers want and need. Our model offers a new paradigm by enabling our clients to build software with a leading firm while they are building a team based on skills and potential, rather than pedigree.” The Denver-based Techtonic Group was founded in 2006 as a software development shop, but it’s the company’s Department of Labor registered apprenticeship provider for software development that really attracted investors — including University Ventures, an education and training focused investment firm, and Zoma Capital, a venture capital fund affiliated with the multi-billion dollar family office of the Walton family (heirs to the Walmart fortune). The company’s customers include Zayo Group, Well Wallet, Pivotal Software, and Misty Robotics . “In an industry that grapples with both pervasive skills gaps, and a troubling diversity challenge, Techtonic Group is pioneering a uniquely American solution: outsourced apprenticeships,” said Ryan Craig, managing partner of University Ventures, in a statement

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Around 40 Chinese mutual funds have adjusted the valuation of ZTE in their portfolios, some by 20-30%, since it suspended trading following US trade…

Reuters : Around 40 Chinese mutual funds have adjusted the valuation of ZTE in their portfolios, some by 20-30%, since it suspended trading following US trade sanctions   —  SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Chinese funds have slashed valuations of ZTE Corp (000063.SZ) (0763.HK) after the United States banned American companies …

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Razer doubles down on Southeast Asia and payments with announcement of deal to acquire MOL Global for $61M, after investing $20M in the company last…

Jon Russell / TechCrunch : Razer doubles down on Southeast Asia and payments with announcement of deal to acquire MOL Global for $61M, after investing $20M in the company last year   —  Gaming hardware maker Razer, which went public in a big IPO in Hong Kong last year, is doubling down on payments after it announced …

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Middle Eastern ride-hailing app Careem says 14M users’ names, email addresses, phone numbers, and trip data was stolen in cyberattack; it became aware…

Nour Al Ali / Bloomberg : Middle Eastern ride-hailing app Careem says 14M users' names, email addresses, phone numbers, and trip data was stolen in cyberattack; it became aware on Jan 14   —  Customers' names, email, phone number and trip data stolen  —  The platform has over 20 million users, according to website

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Apple’s acquisition of Shazam faces extended EU probe as antitrust regulators worry that Apple might halt Shazam referrals and use Shazam data to…

Aoife White / Bloomberg : Apple's acquisition of Shazam faces extended EU probe as antitrust regulators worry that Apple might halt Shazam referrals and use Shazam data to hamper rivals   —  EU says concerned Apple could use Shazam data to hamper rivals  —  Probe also looking whether Apple could halt Shazam referrals

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43% of music revenues came from streaming last year

Streaming services and their subscription revenue has saved the music business, according to a new music industry report,  which notes that 2017 was the third consecutive year of revenue growth – again, thanks to digital music consumption. Global recorded music revenues reached $17.4 billion in 2017, up from $16 billion in 2016 – an annual growth rate of 8. percent. Streaming revenues in particular have contributed to this growth, and were up 39 percent year-over-year to reach $7.4 billion, or 43 percent of all revenues. That offset some of the declines from legacy formats, like downloads and physical albums, which fell by $783 million. In the U.S., digital revenue last year grew 15 percent to $6.5 billion, up from $5.65 billion the year before. A good-sized portion of those revenues came from streaming music subscriptions, which grew 63 percent from $2.5 billion in 2016 to $4 billion in 2017. The U.S. has also become the most important streaming market worldwide, accounting for 40 percent of total global  recorded music revenues. Thanks to the innovation and diversity of music services available in the U.S., the report predicts than the number of paid music subscribers will reach 90.1 million by 2025 – nearly double today’s number of $49.1 million. The report comes from  MIDiA Research , a media and technology analysis company, in partnership with digital media association,  DiMA . In addition to digital’s ability to grow revenues, the changes in how people are consuming music have had other impacts as well.

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Glowforge finally launches its $2,495 3D laser printer to consumers, after breaking crowdfunding records for the device in October 2015 (Taylor…

Taylor Soper / GeekWire : Glowforge finally launches its $2,495 3D laser printer to consumers, after breaking crowdfunding records for the device in October 2015   —  Glowforge has raised more investment dollars as the Seattle startup starts selling its 3D laser printer to the general public and continues to fulfill delayed orders from its crowdfunding campaign.

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Music Streaming Grew By 39% Since Last Year – Ubergizmo

Ubergizmo Music Streaming Grew By 39% Since Last Year Ubergizmo While there will always be a demand for physical mediums for music, such as CDs and more recently the resurgence of vinyl, it seems that music streaming is definitely the way of the future. This is because according to the latest numbers shared by ... and more »

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