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ClassPass is headed to Asia via an imminent launch in Singapore

U.S fitness startup ClassPass is headed to Asia after it announced plans to go live in Singapore, its first city in the continent. Four-year-old ClassPass allows its users to book fitness classes and packages across a multitude of gyms. The company claims to work with more than 10,000 fitness partners across over 50 cities globally. That’s mostly in the U.S. but it has also forayed into Canada, the UK and Australia and now it is seeking out additional growth opportunities. The move into Asia has been expected for some time after ClassPass hired a head of international in May . The company told TechCrunch at the time that it would soon arrive in three countries in Asia and Singapore, which has many similarities to the West in terms of economics and culture, is a logical pick as the starting point. Added to that, the country’s sovereign fund, Temasek, led ClassPass’s $70 million Series C funding round last year so you could say that is an extra factor. The identity of the other two cities remains unclear at this point, but you’d imagine that Hong Kong will be one of them. ClassPass hasn’t given a specific date for its launch other than it will come to Singapore “in the lead-up to National Day” — that’s August 9.

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Coinbase reportedly gets approval from U.S. regulators to start listing tokenized securities

Coinbase shared big news Monday that federal regulators are allowing the popular cryptocurrency exchange to proceed with plans to sell cryptocurrency tokens that are deemed securities. Last month, Coinbase acquired  Keystone Capital , a California-based FINRA-registered broker-dealer that operates as an alternative trading system. With the announcement, the SF-based cryptocurrency exchange disclosed that it would still need to get regulatory approval to operate under the Keystone licenses. Today, the Securities and Exchange Commission and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority gave Coinbase just that, Bloomberg reported, approving that deal alongside the acquisitions of Venovate Marketplace and Digital Wealth. Today’s news opens up the scope of Coinbase’s ambitions to the billions of dollars that have been raised in initial coin offerings over the past several months. With permission to trade tokenized securities, Coinbase users could soon have the ability to move beyond the limited cryptocurrency options currently available to be traded on the site’s central exchange which currently just lists Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum and Litecoin. The company announced last week that it was exploring adding five new tokens to its exchange, including Cardano, Basic Attention Token, Stellar Lumens, Zcash and 0x. In a blog post, the company specified that the announcement did not necessarily deem that these tokens were not securities and that classification might vary by jurisdiction.

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Lyft outlines bike and scooter plans

On the heels of Lyft’s acquisition of bike-share company Motivate , the company is gearing up to fully integrate bicycle and scooter sharing into the app. There’s no word on exactly when this will happen, but it’s likely this will happen soon. Lyft is also investing $1 million to advance transportation equity to people in underserved communities. As part of its commitment, Lyft will work with non-profit organizations like TransForm to develop programs that support people with low incomes. “Soon you will be able to get real-time transit information, plan a multi-modal trip, and use Lyft Bikes and Scooters to connect to a local transit stop or shared ride pickup location,” Lyft wrote in a blog post. In June, Lyft revamped its rider app to encourage shared rides . Currently, 35 percent of Lyft rides are shared, but the goal is to reach 50 percent shared rides by 2020, Lyft VP of Government Relations Joseph Okpaku told TechCrunch last month. With scooters and bikes offered via the app, Lyft envisions being better equipped to “bridge the first and last-mile gap.” By the end of 2019, Lyft says it aims to take one million cars off the road. Last year, Lyft says 250,000 of its community members gave up their personal cars. This comes shortly after Uber invested in part of Lime’s $335 million round . Uber’s plan is to put its logo on Lime’s scooters, Bloomberg previously reported.

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Netflix experiments with promoting its shows on the login screen

Netflix is testing a new way to promote its original shows – right on the login screen. A company spokesperson confirmed the streaming service is currently experimenting with a different login screen experience which replaces the black background behind users’ names and profile thumbnails with full-screen photos promoting a Netflix Original series or special, like “BoJack Horseman,” “Orange is the New Black,” “Dark,” “My Next Guest…”, “13 Reasons Why,” and several others. We first noticed the change on a TV connected to a Roku media player and on a Fire TV, but Netflix says the test is running “for TV,” which means those on other TV platforms may see the promoted shows as well. (Our Roku TV, however, had the same black background on the login screen, we should note.) The promoted shows aren’t necessarily those Netflix thinks you’d like – it’s just a rotating selection of popular originals. Every time you return to the Netflix login screen, it will have refreshed the photo that’s displayed. After cycling in and out of the Netflix app several times on our TV, we found the image selection to be fairly random – sometimes the promoted show would repeat a couple of times before a new show hopped in to take its place. Netflix will likely decide whether or not to move forward with the change to the login screen based on how well this new promotional effort works to actually increases viewership of its originals. While it makes sense to better utilize this space, I’m not sold on having ads for adult-oriented shows appearing on the same login screen that’s used by a child. The ads themselves (so far) have not been inappropriate, but it doesn’t seem like a good fit for multi-person households and families. For example, I now have to explain to a school-ager why they can’t watch that funny-looking cartoon, “BoJack Horseman.” Meanwhile, when I was logging in to watch more grown-up fare, I saw an ad for the new “Trolls” kids’ show. Uh, okay.  That said, this is still a much less intrusive way to advertise Netflix shows, compared with putting promos at the beginning of a show, like HBO does.

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PayPal leads $50M round for PPRO, a profitable cross-border payment specialist

As payments companies continue to look to the long tail of global markets to expand their businesses, a startup that helps them do business in disparate economies is getting a strategic investment from one of payment world leaders. PayPal is leading a $50 million investment into PPRO , a London-based business that is focused on cross-border payments for merchants, specifically by offering the merchants a seamless way of accepting payments from customers using whatever the most popular payment form happens to be in a particular country. To date, the PPRO platform covers some 140 payment methods, and the plan will be to add more countries, and more payments, into the mix. The deal comes at the tail end of a wave of acquisitions from PayPal as it looks for new ways of expanding its business as growth tails off in its more established markets and established business lines. Between mid-May and now, it has acquired iZettle  for $2.2 billion to expand its mobile point-of-sale opportunities; AI-based CRM specialist Jetlore ; AI-based fraud and risk management firm Simility  for $120 million; and gig economy payment facilitator  Hyperwallet for $400 million. This PPRO investment also includes participation from new investor Citi Ventures and previous backer HPE Growth Capital. PPRO is not disclosing its valuation but Simon Black, its CEO, said in an interview that it’s definitely up on its previous funding and described it as a “minority investment” in the company. Interestingly, PPRO has raised only around $10.6 million since its founding in 2006; it is already profitable; it has around 200 employees; and it competes with the likes of Adyen, which recently went public at a valuation of over $8 billion — to give you an idea of the opportunity and value of the company. The challenge PPRO — pronounced “pea-pro” — is addressing is an interesting and complicated one. While the growth in e-commerce has been a global phenomenon, like a plant, it has grown differently and adapted to each market depending on local conditions. In the case of payments, that has meant a disparate range of payment methods that are standard in some countries, but not others. While credit cards or debit cards, for example, are very standard in the US and UK, in Japan , a lot of people pay for items purchased online by cash on delivery, or at convenience stores. In the Netherlands, there is a system called iDEAL that routes payments directly through your bank account. And so on. For a merchant that is based in one country but interested in selling to people in another, this can pose a problem, if it doesn’t accept whatever the local payment method happens to be. That’s where a company like PPRO comes in

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Undo gets $14M to scale to meet the software accountability challenge

Undo , a long time player in the debugging tools space, offering its program execution capture and replay technology to help others diagnose software failures, has closed a $14 million Series B round led by Cambridge Innovation Capital , the Cambridge, UK-based builder of tech and healthcare companies. The 2005 founded startup — initially bootstrapped (out of founder Greg Law’s garden shed) — has come a long way, and now has more than 30 paying customers for what it describes as its “record, rewind and replay” debugging technology, including the likes of SAP HANA, Mentor Graphics, Cadence and Micro Focus. A quick potted history: In 2012, Law quit his job to go full time on Undo, raising a small amount of angel funding and then a $1.25M from seed investment in 2014, followed by $3.3M in a series A funding in 2016. New investors in the Series B round include Global Brain Corporation, a Japanese venture capital fund; and UK-focused Parkwalk Advisors, while all Undo’s existing investor groups also participated —  including Rockspring; Martlet; Sir Peter Michael (founder of Quantel, Classic FM and California’s Peter Michael Winery); the Cambridge Angels group and Jaan Tallinn (co-founder of Skype and Kazaa). The Series B will be used to expand Undo’s software development team, accelerate product development and grow its US operations. Undo says its best markets so far are electronic design automation (EDA); database manufacturers/data management; and networking. “This funding will be used to significantly improve performance as part of Undo’s  always-on recording  vision, and also to accelerate our product roadmap and broaden the technology beyond compiled code so that it can be used with Java and other VM-based languages,” it tells us. “Our main competitor is the status quo — engineering organisations that do not evolve with the times. Old-school debugging techniques (e.g. printf, logging, core dump analysis) have been around for decades. 2000 was all about static analysis. 2010 was about dynamic analysis, 2020 will be about capturing software failures ‘in the act’ through capture & replay technology.” Undo argues that its Live Recorder technology offers “a completely new way of diagnosing software failures during development and in production” — arguing that its approach is superior to traditional debugging techniques such as printf, logging, core dump analysis which are “general purpose and provide limited information”, while it says static and dynamic analysis “are deep but can only look at specific instances of bugs” — whereas it claims its tech “can capture failure instances across the whole spectrum and therefore plugs in the gaps which no-one else has filled yet”. The UK company also sees a growing opportunity for its approach given increasingly complex and increasingly autonomous software risks becoming unaccountable, if it’s making decisions without people knowing how and why. So the wider vision for Undo is not just getting faster at fixing bugs but addressing the growing need for software makers to be able to articulate — and account for — what their programs are doing at any given moment. “Longer term it’s about that journey towards software accountability,” says Law .

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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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Restaurant booking startup Eatigo chows down ~$10M more from TripAdvisor

Eatigo, a Southeast Asia-based dining service that describes itself as an ‘anti-Groupon’ for restaurants, had a busy 2017 that saw it expand into a number of markets including India. Now it is primed to continue that growth further still after it gobbled down a fresh serving of capital from TripAdvisor, the travel giant that it already counts as an investor. Ok, no more food jokes, I promise… The funding is undisclosed but Eatigo CEO and co-founder Michael Cluzel told TechCrunch it is ‘eight-digits.’ We do know that it takes Eatigo to over $25 million raised to date which, given that the startup had raised more than $15 million following the completion of its previous round , suggests that the amount is around the $10 million mark. Eatigo was founded in Bangkok in 2013 and it is designed to help restaurants fill unused inventory by offering deals to customers at certain times of the day. The appeal to eaters is deals, but unlike group buying services such as Groupon, Eatigo encourages restaurants to manage their inventory and time so that they are filling their quiet hours for additional revenue not ramming people into restaurants for the sake of it. The latter scenario, of course, puts pressure on staff, reduces service quality and is generally not conducive to a good dining experience. It is also questionable whether discounts drive long-time loyalty, a cornerstone the Groupon of old was built on, but I digress. The Eatigo service is present in six countries where it claims four million registered users and over 4,000 restaurants. That latter number ranges from high-end affairs, such as upscale hotel restaurants, to chain outlets and — my own personal favorite — street food outlets. The important part here, besides the money, is that this new deal appears to signal a closer relationship between Eatigo and TripAdvisor, and particularly TripAdvisor’s The Fork subsidiary and its TripAdvisor Restaurants service. The Fork, which the company got via a 2014 acquisition , is TripAdvisor’s expansion into food, allowing users to find information on availability and bookings on restaurants and in cities. Like Eatigo, it allows for advanced bookings at a discount but the service is squarely focused on Europe, having initially been founded in France. In that respect, it makes sense for the duo to collaborate. “As we look to further our presence in the Asia Pacific region, we believe our latest strategic investment in Eatigo will continue to support a great business and strong management team

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A list of ten things that billionaire owners of EV, clean energy and rocket companies should and should not tweet

So… apparently there’s been another kerfuffle on the Twitter about some asinine things that a certain wealthy, rocket-building, payment-revolutionizing, electric vehicle company-creating entrepreneur has written in tweets to millions of followers. This billionaire is, by all accounts, incredibly difficult to work for, very visionary and … a bit thin-skinned for someone with such a habit of courting press. this is what @elonmusk did to a guy with 2 tweets. pic.twitter.com/S38FLRiZZR — drew olanoff (@yoda) July 15, 2018 I’m not saying that’s his fault. He’s been shredded by hundreds of people in thousands of messages on a platform that’s given him millions of (fake and) real followers and a megaphone that would be powerful enough to change the world (or at least the world’s coverage of him) with a single bloviating bit of textual hot air. And boy, as a billionaire entrepreneur, does this fella blow the hot air. Wait… I am saying some of this is his fault. That said, he’s done some truly amazing things for the world. AND IS A BILLIONAIRE . With that in mind, here’re a few humble suggestions for him to keep in mind as he approaches the touchpad, keyboard, or any other tweet-enabling appliance as he looks to foray further into the wild feathered world of the Twitter-birds. Image: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch THINGS THAT ARE OKAY TO TWEET Tweeting about offers to help people in dire need of help. Listen, I know you got a lot of heat for this one, and it was ultimately an unnecessary gesture that some folks chalked up to a cynical attempt to change the subject, but I believe that your heart was in the right place. People love John Henry stories — especially now when technology threatens to overwhelm all of us.

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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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Disney tech smooths out bad CG hair days

Disney is unequivocally the world’s leader in 3D simulations of hair — something of a niche talent in a way, but useful if you make movies like Tangled , where hair is basically the main character. A new bit of research from the company makes it easier for animators to have hair follow their artistic intent while also moving realistically. The problem Disney Research aimed to solve was a compromise that animators have had to make when making the hair on characters do what the scene requires. While the hair will ultimately be rendered in glorious high-definition and with detailed physics, it’s too computationally expensive to do that while composing the scene. Should a young warrior in her tent be wearing her hair up or down? Should it fly out when she turns her head quickly to draw attention to the movement, or stay weighed down so the audience isn’t distracted? Trying various combinations of these things can eat up hours of rendering time. So, like any smart artist, they rough it out first: “Artists typically resort to lower-resolution simulations, where iterations are faster and manual edits possible,” reads the paper describing the new system. “But unfortunately, the parameter values determined in this way can only serve as an initial guess for the full-resolution simulation, which often behaves very different from its coarse counterpart when the same parameters are used.” The solution proposed by the researchers is basically to use that “initial guess” to inform a high-resolution simulation of just a handful of hairs. These “guide” hairs act as feedback for the original simulation, bringing a much better idea of how the rest will act when fully rendered. The guide hairs will cause hair to clump as in the upper right, while faded affinities or an outline-based guide (below, left and right) would allow for more natural motion if desired. And because there are only a couple of them, their finer simulated characteristics can be tweaked and re-tweaked with minimal time. So an artist can fine-tune a flick of the ponytail or a puff of air on the bangs to create the desired effect, and not have to trust to chance that it’ll look like that in the final product. This isn’t a trivial thing to engineer, of course, and much of the paper describes the schemes the team created to make sure that no weirdness occurs because of the interactions of the high-def and low-def hair systems. It’s still very early: it isn’t meant to simulate more complex hair motions like twisting, and they want to add better ways of spreading out the affinity of the bulk hair with the special guide hairs (as seen at right)

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Coinbase teases new cryptocurrency assets for which it’s ‘exploring’ support

Coinbase is taking a look at some new cryptocurrencies to add to its exchange. The list is kind of a pre-announcement, with the startup saying that it’s “exploring” adding the assets and is working with local banks and regulators to make them happen. On the list are… Cardano (ADA) Basic Attention Token (BAT) Stellar Lumens (XLM) Zcash (ZEC) 0x (ZRX) Coinbase is one of the most popular exchange companies and holds quite a bit of sway in directing attention and enthusiasm within the broader blockchain/cryptocurrency space, so the exploration announcement is sure to bring some added interest to these particular assets. Last month, the site announced it was adding Ethereum Classic to the exchange, though in a blog post published today, Coinbase notes that while adding that asset was relatively straightforward, it’s going to take some regulatory work to add any of these new tokens, further noting that they “cannot guarantee they will be listed for trading.” Coinbase got some flack with the debacle surrounding the rollout of Bitcoin Cash after several users accused the site’s employees of profiting from advanced knowledge of the news after the token’s value swelled preceding the announcement. Announcing this might be a way for Coinbase to just hedge some of that by informing the whole community in an earlier stage of the process in which direction it is looking, even if every asset doesn’t necessarily end up landing on one of the startup’s exchanges.  It’s also a way to prevent speculation and frustration as APIs land on the site that are testing integrations — Coinbase probably doesn’t want people assuming these are guarantees of future support.        Note: We’re having some issues with our timestamp tool. This article was originally published at 1:44pm PT on July 13.

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ACLU calls for a moratorium on government use of facial recognition technologies

Technology executives are pleading with the government to give them guidance on how to use facial recognition technologies, and now the American Civil Liberties Union is weighing in. On the heels of a Microsoft statement asking for the federal government to weigh in on the technology, the ACLU has called for a moratorium on the use of the technology by government agencies. “Congress should take immediate action to put the brakes on this technology with a moratorium on its use, given that it has not been fully debated and its use has never been explicitly authorized,” said Neema Singh Guliani, ACLU legislative counsel, in a statement . “And companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and others should be heeding the calls from the public, employees, and shareholders to stop selling face surveillance technology to governments.” In May the ACLU released a report on Amazon’s sale of facial recognition technology to different law enforcement agencies. And in June the civil liberties group pressed the company to stop selling the technology.  One contract, with the Orlando Police Department, was suspended and then renewed after the uproar. Meanwhile, Google employees revolted over their company’s work with the government on facial recognition tech… and Microsoft had problems of its own after reports surfaced of the work that the company was doing with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement service. Some organizations are already working to regulate how facial recognition technologies are used. At MIT, Joy Buolamwini has created the Algorithmic Justice League , which is pushing a pledge that companies working with the technology can agree to as they work on the tech. That pledge includes commitments to value human life and dignity, including the refusal to help develop lethal autonomous vehicles or equipping law enforcement with facial analysis products.

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