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Subscription video services’ recommendations aren’t working, study claims

Streaming video services invest heavily in technology to improve their ability to show users a set of personalized recommendations about what to what next. But according to a new research study released today by UserTesting, it seems that consumers aren’t watching much recommended content – in fact, only 29 percent of the study’s participants said they actually watched something the service recommended. On some services, those figures were extremely low – for example, only 6 percent of HBO NOW users said they watched recommended content. That’s probably because consumers found it difficult to locate HBO NOW’s recommendations in the first place. The service was given a low 16.8 “ customer experience”  score on this front, the study says. That’s a much lower score than all other services analyzed, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and YouTube TV – all of which had scores in the 80’s. (See first chart, below). To be fair, HBO NOW doesn’t really do recommendations in the same way as the others. Its app offers a “Featured” selection of content for all users, and, if you scroll down further, there are a couple of editorial collections, like “Essential HBO” or “14 Hidden Gems You Missed the First Time.” A separate “Collections” section includes more of these suggestions, like “New Movies,” “Just Added,” “Last Chance” and others. The lack of personalized, easily located recommendations also impacted HBO NOW’s overall score in the UserTesting study, which rated the services across a variety of metrics including availability of content, friction-free viewing, ease of scrubbing and episode scanning, and other factors. HBO NOW was also was dinged by survey respondents for lagging, freezing and buffering issues, though they said they appreciated its clean design. Netflix’s overall score was 89.5, making it the highest-rated streaming service among those analyzed due to having the most relevant recommendations, overall high ease-of-use, and a speedy service

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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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SpaceX rocket will make a pit stop 305 miles up to deploy NASA satellites before moving on

Tuesday is the planned launch for a SpaceX Falcon 9 carrying two payloads to orbit — and this launch will be an especially interesting one. A set of five communications satellites for Iridium need to get to almost 500 miles up, but a NASA mission has to pop out at the 300 mile mark. What to do? Just make a pit stop, it turns out. Now, of course it’s not a literal stop — the thing will be going thousands of miles per hour. But from the reference frame of the rocket itself, it’s not too different from pulling over to let a friend out before hitting the gas again and rolling on to the next destination. What will happen is this: The rocket’s first stage will take it up out of the atmosphere, then separate and hopefully land safely. The second stage will then ignite to take its payload up to orbit. Usually at this point it’ll burn until it reaches the altitude and attitude required, then deploy the payload. But in this case it has a bit more work to do. When the rocket has reached 305 miles up, it will dip its nose 30 degrees down and roll a bit to put NASA’s twin GRACE-FO satellites in position. One has to point toward Earth, the other toward space. Once in position, the separation system will send the two birds out, one in each direction, at a speed of about a foot per second. The one on the Earth side will be put into a slightly slower and lower orbit than the one on the space side, and after they’ve spread out to a distance of 137 miles, the lower satellite will boost itself upwards and synchronize with the other.

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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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CREXi raises $11 million to bring commercial real estate out of the Dark Ages

Managing, buying and selling commercial real estate is a fairly primitive process. CREXi founder Mike DeGiorgio remembers one experience in 2014 when he was required to fax and mail details about an urgent transaction to the leasing office, a move that made him think he was back in the era of Pogs and MTV’s Real World Season 1. “There simply was no great industry solution for researching markets, finding comps, transacting, connecting with key stakeholders, purchasing or investing in properties, renting or leasing space, getting a loan, finding partners to purchase properties with, marketing yourself or the properties you own, sell or lease etc.,” he said. “I started thinking about technology solutions for the commercial real estate industry to solve many of these inefficiencies in the CRE space. I could not figure out why it hadn’t been done and set out to build CREXi to help industry stakeholders be more efficient and to make the industry more liquid, transparent and easier to access.” CREXi — the CRE stands for “commercial real estate” — has been around since 2015, but recently announced an $11 million Series A as well as some interesting user numbers. Key investors include Jackson Square Ventures, Manifest Investment Partners, Lerer Hippeau, Freestyle Capital, TenOneTen Ventures and Founder Collective. The company has managed more than 100,000 “properties brought to market” on its platform and they have 200,000 users per month. They see more than 6,000 properties listed on the site each month. The service is a suite of tools that streamlines the entire CRE processing. “We give brokers the ability to find, manage and qualify leads, market their properties with customizable emails, and communicate with interested parties through in-app messaging. Additionally, our features help brokers interact with the industry and its stakeholders; solicit, make, accept, counter and negotiate offers; run competitive bidding processes; run escrow and closing processes; research markets and sold properties etc.,” said DeGiorgio

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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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Last chance to get a table in Startup Alley at TC Tel Aviv 2018

Startups, TechCrunch Tel Aviv 2018 is coming for you in just 2 weeks! As you may know, we’re hosting our   first inaugural day long conference at the Tel Aviv Convention Center on 7 June. The event will feature TechCrunch’s signature stellar programming on Mobility, and we will also have new expo area called Startup Alley , where hundreds of rockstar startups from ALL verticals demo their products to attendees. Check out the current list of startups that will be at the event!  Want to be part of this awesome lineup of startups? For 1700 ILS, you’ll get one full day to exhibit, two tickets to TechCrunch Tel Aviv 2018, a demo table, wifi, power, linens, and a branded table-top sign. You can secure your exhibit spot here . Remember, TechCrunch events are the ideal place to show off your company to prospective customers, gain media attention, meet investors, and take your startup to the next level. If you’re a pre-Series A, early-age startup, we want to see you on our showcase floor. Buy yours before we run out — space is limited, and feel free to email startupalley@techcrunch.com if you have any questions. Hope to see you in a few weeks!

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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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After tens of thousands of pre-orders, 3D audio 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. The company said in their letter, that it would likely take more than $2 million in additional funding to deliver the existing backlog of pre-orders

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Uber’s chief product officer is out

Uber Chief Product Officer Jeff Holden, who oversaw Uber Elevate, has left the company, Recode first reported . His last day was yesterday, TechCrunch confirmed. On a day-to-day level, Holden was not that heavily involved. Manik Gupta, for example, is in charge of product, maps and marketplace at the VP level. There was also Uber Head of Product Daniel Graf, who left the company in March but was quickly replaced by former Amazon Alexa shopping lead Assaf Ronen . Holden, instead, was more of a big-picture kind of executive, which entailed him taking ownership over Uber Elevate. Under his leadership, Uber brought on the CEO of flying taxi startup Zee Aero, Eric Allison. Eric Allison at Uber Elevate in May 2018. (Photo by MRD) “As demonstrated by last week’s Uber Elevate Summit, we’re incredibly bullish on the future of aerial ridesharing,” an Uber spokesperson said in a statement to TechCrunch. “Under the leadership of Eric Allison, the Elevate team is set up for success and will continue to chart the course for this growing industry.” But it’s worth pointing out that Holden had a lengthy conversation with Federal Aviation Administration Acting Administrator Dan Elwell about regulation for uberAIR, the company’s upcoming aerial taxi service. That was just last week at Uber Elevate, the company’s two-day summit on aerial transportation. It seems odd that Holden was tasked with leading a conversation with the head of the FAA regarding what will arguably be the biggest hurdle uberAIR will face: regulation. Prior to joining Uber, Holden served as Groupon’s senior vice president .

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WARD is an app for placing fantasy bets on esports games

Prediction markets, such as those that exist in the realm of fantasy sports, have taken off amongst consumers in the last few years. But fantasy sports have yet to make much of a play in one of the hottest areas online right now, namely esports. And it’s a big market. Fantasy esports have been thriving across international markets. In 2017, more than 360 million viewers watched League of Legends alone, significantly overtaking the Super Bowl viewership. By 2020, the esports industry is estimated to be worth more than $1.5 billion, with the target audience being 21-35 years old. But quite how to take advantage of this arena has been a conundrum. Now a new startup thinks it has the answer. What if you could create a live predictions market around esports as it happens? That’s the aim of WARD , a startup out of Berlin that has created a “pick and predict” real-time prediction smartphone game, where players can win real prizes. Billed as a fantasy esports game that provides a second-screen real-time experience for tournaments, WARD has now secured a $600,000 seed round. The backers are Impulse VC, SmartHub and a number of European angel investors. The seed investment will be used to build out the product, but also to expand in the lucrative markets of Asia and the U.S. So how does it work? Well, fans who watch a championship or a specific esports game can predict their version of in-game events in real-time.

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WARD is an app for placing fantasy predictions on esports games

Prediction markets, such as those that exist in the realm of fantasy sports, have taken off amongst consumers in the last few years. But fantasy sports have yet to make much of a play in one of the hottest areas online right now, namely esports. And it’s a big market. Fantasy esports have been thriving across international markets. In 2017, more than 360 million viewers watched League of Legends alone, significantly overtaking the Super Bowl viewership. By 2020, the esports industry is estimated to be worth more than $1.5 billion, with the target audience being 21-35 years old. But quite how to take advantage of this arena has been a conundrum. Now a new startup thinks it has the answer. What if you could create a live predictions market around esports as it happens? That’s the aim of WARD , a startup out of Berlin that has created a “pick and predict” real-time prediction smartphone game, where players can win real prizes. Billed as a fantasy esports game that provides a second-screen real-time experience for tournaments, WARD has now secured a $600,000 seed round. The backers are Impulse VC, SmartHub and a number of European angel investors. The seed investment will be used to build out the product, but also to expand in the lucrative markets of Asia and the U.S. So how does it work?

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Selected’s recruiting platform matches teachers with schools they’ll love

A “dating app for teachers” is an odd but useful way to describe the startup  Selected , which has just closed on $1.2 million in seed funding for its recruiting platform for educators. And, in all fairness, Selected said it first. The startup’s own website describes itself (a bit tongue-in-cheek) as a “dating app for job-seeking teachers and hiring schools.” Before you roll your eyes at the shorthand being used here, let’s skip ahead to the main point. And that is – like dating apps – Selected takes advantage of profile-matching technology in order to help teachers find good jobs they’ll want to keep. With Selected, this involves connecting candidates to schools based on mutual fit in terms of personal preferences, school culture, and teaching methods, among other things. The dating app comparison didn’t just come out of nowhere, though. The company began as a tutoring app in New York City, during which time it had teachers building out profiles where they would details their certifications and expertise. But the team found that it was schools who had interest in this app, not parents. In fact, the schools asked if they could reach out to the tutors and offer them jobs. Seeing an opportunity, Selected pivoted to work on a teacher-to-schools matching app instead, instead of one for tutors. Another reason for the comparison is that early employee, COO Eric Kim , was formerly a senior product manager at the dating app OKCupid. “We started talking to him early on as we were thinking about how matching should be designed,” explains Selected co-founder and CEO  Waine Tam , a Princeton grad whose own background is in software engineering and education.”Selected is similar to a dating app-type interface where you answer a couple of questions about what you’re looking for,” he adds. However, Tam cautions that – also like dating apps – matches often don’t click until teachers and those hiring them meet in real life. But Selected can at least get the process started by asking teachers to answer questions that help schools determine if they’re a fit – things like “how much do you value progressive education?” or “do you prefer inquiry-based learning over explicit instruction?,” for example.

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Intel starts testing self-driving cars in Jerusalem

Intel and its subsidiary Mobileye have started testing 100 self-driving cars in Jerusalem. In the “coming months,” the plan is to deploy the fleet in the U.S. and other regions, Mobileye CEO Amnon Shashua wrote in a blog post . Through this test, Intel/Mobileye hope to demonstrate that its cars are 1,000 times safer than human drivers “without the need for billions of miles of validation testing on public roads.” These cars are equipped with 12 cameras to create a 360 view of its surroundings. Eight of those cameras are for long-range viewing purposes while the other four are for parking. In phase two of development, which will happen in the next few weeks, Intel/Mobileye will add a layer of radar and LIDAR. “The camera-only phase is our strategy for achieving what we refer to as ‘true redundancy’ of sensing,” Shashua wrote. “True redundancy refers to a sensing system consisting of multiple independently engineered sensing systems, each of which can support fully autonomous driving on its own.” Intel and Mobileye landed on Jerusalem as its test city to prove its tech can work “in any geography and under all conditions.” Shashua also noted Jerusalem is “notorious for aggressive driving” and doesn’t always have clearly marked roads. Jerusalem, he said, also has complicated merging situations and people walking outside of crosswalks. “You can’t have an autonomous car traveling at an overly cautious speed, congesting traffic or potentially causing an accident,” he wrote. “You must drive assertively and make quick decisions like a local driver.” Intel/Mobileye’s goal is to deploy Level 4 and Level 5 autonomous vehicles on the roads by 2021 in partnership with its vehicle manufacturers. Earlier today, Reuters reported Mobileye signed a contract with an automaker based in Europe to supply eight million of its cars with Mobileye technology. The company’s known vehicle partners include General Motors, Nissan, Audi, BMW, Fiat Chrysler, Honda and China’s Nio.

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