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Tag Archives: computer-science

MIT announces new college of computing with $1 billion commitment

MIT announced today that it is massively doubling down on the future of computer science with the launch of a new college of computing . The university is committing $1 billion in resources to the new school, and the university received a $350 million donation from Stephen A. Schwarzman, who will be the naming donor. MIT said that its commitment is the largest of a university yet to the discipline. The university is already one of the leaders in computer science, with a famed department located in the School of Engineering. The new initiative will see computer science, artificial intelligence, and data science placed in the new school, complete with a new dean and around 50 new faculty positions according to the university. In a statement, MIT said that it hoped the new home would “help position the United States to lead the world in preparing for the rapid evolution of computing and AI.” For students, MIT is taking an even more bullish stance: that every graduate should encounter computer science and AI before graduation. The objective of the new school will be to ensure that all MIT students become familiar with the field regardless of their chosen profession. The school will be housed in a new building on MIT’s Cambridge, Massachusetts campus. Creating a separate school for computer science will change the Institute, and will position it more similarly to its peer rival Carnegie Mellon, which has had a separate School of Computer Science for some time. The $350 million gift from Stephen A. Schwarzman for naming rights is in line with other massive recent gifts to MIT’s close neighbor Harvard, which received $400 million from John A. Paulsen to name the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and $350 million from Gerald Chan to name the School of Public Health. Schwarzman, the co-founder, CEO, and chairman of alternative investment firm Blackstone, has been on a philanthropic binge recently

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Titan launches its mobile ‘not a hedge fund’

What Robinhood did to democratize buying individual stocks, Titan wants to do for investing in a managed portfolio. Instead of being restricted to rich accredited investors willing to pour $5,000 or even $500,000 into a traditional hedge fund that charges 2 percent fees and 20 percent of profits, Titan lets anyone invest as little as $1,000 for just a 1 percent fee on assets while keeping all the profits. Titan picks the top 20 stocks based on data mined from the most prestigious hedge funds, then invests your money directly in those with personalized shorts based on your risk profile. Titan has more $10 million under management after quietly spinning up five months ago, and this week the startup graduates from Y Combinator. Now Titan is ready to give upscale millennials a more sophisticated way to play the markets. This startup is hot. It refused to disclose its funding, likely in hopes of not tipping off competitors and incumbents to the opportunity it’s chasing. But it’s the buzz of YC, with several partners already investing their own money through Titan. When you consider Stanford-educated free stock-trading app Robinhood’s stunning $5.6 billion valuation thanks to its disruption of E*Trade, it’s easy to imagine why investors are eager to back Titan’s attack on other financial vehicles. “We’re all 28 to 30 years old,” says co-founder Clayton Gardner about his team. “We want to actively invest and participate in the market but most of us who don’t have experience have no idea what we’re doing.” Most younger investors end up turning to family, friends or Reddit for unreliable advice. But Titan lets them instantly buy the most reputable stocks without having to stay glued to market tickers, while using an app to cut out the costs of pricey brokers and Wall Street offices. Titan co-founders (from left): Max Bernardy, Joe Percoco, Clayton Gardner “We all came from the world of having worked at hedge funds and private equity firms like Goldman Sachs

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Students and mentors: Apply for the all-new TC Include program at Disrupt SF with #BUILTBYGIRLS

We’re going all out for this year’s TechCrunch Disrupt SF (September 5-7),  which means more fantastic content, more of the most influential startup and tech leaders and tons of networking. As such, we are expanding our TC Include program at Disrupt SF and partnering with #BUILTBYGIRLS to host an engaging day full of interactive programming for even more students who are interested in tech and entrepreneurship. In the past we’ve worked with organizations like  BUILD.org ,  Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) ,  the Academy for Software Engineering ,  NYC Foundation for Computer Science Education ,  The Young Women’s Leadership Schools of the Bronx & Astoria ,  Red Hook Initiative ,  Mission Bit ,  The Urban Assembly Maker Academy  and  The Girls’ Network to bring small groups of students to Disrupt. This year we are inviting up to 200 young women ages 15-22 to participate in our day-long TC Include program at Disrupt SF on Friday, September 7. Just like in past programs, students will get to have a Q&A session with a Disrupt SF speaker, go on a tour of Startup Alley with a TechCrunch staffer and have some free time to check out all of the great talks, workshops and other content that will be happening throughout Moscone West. On top of that, #BUILTBYGIRLS is giving students an exclusive opportunity to meet and interact with several established leaders in tech through a small-scale version of WAVE, 1:1 matching platform. #BUILTBYGIRLS WAVE connects high school and college girls interested in pursuing tech careers with expert professionals working for top tech companies across the country. Advisors meet these girls monthly, sharing their career journey and expertise to give young women the exposure, skills and network they need to land their dream job. At Disrupt, students will get a mini version of WAVE, meeting 1:1 with Silicon Valley’s top tech talent, receiving direct access to professionals who will help build upon their knowledge of the limitless opportunities for a career in tech. To be eligible to participate as a student, you must be between ages 15-22. Anyone aged 15-17 will also be required to provide a signed permission form from your legal guardian prior to participating in the event. You do not need to be a young woman to participate in the TC Include program at Disrupt SF, but please note that the #BUILTBYGIRLS WAVE portion will only be available for young women and gender non-binary students to participate. Apply to participate as a student today . If you are interested in possibly participating as a WAVE Advisor, you can apply here

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Scalar Capital, a hedge fund for crypto assets, plants its flag in an increasingly crowded landscape

Scalar Capital is a San Francisco-based hedge fund company specializing in crypto assets. In fact, it is one of roughly 300 crypto-focused funds that have sprung up in the last year or so. That kind of market zaniness makes it difficult to carve out a niche, but S calar has a bit an edge on this front, thanks to its founders’ backgrounds. Linda Xie, who studied economics at UC San Diego, spent a couple of years out of college as a portfolio risk analyst with the insurance giant AIG before joining Coinbase as a product manager, a role she held for more than three years before leaving last fall to start Scalar. Her cofounder, Jordan Clifford, has a computer science degree from Carnegie Mellon and spent a few years as a business analyst with Capital One before bouncing around a couple of startups and landing at Coinbase, where he worked as a software engineer for roughly 18 months, meeting Xie in the process. Though it’s far too early to say whether Scalar can, well, scale, a source close to the firm says the duo has already raised $20 million from investors that include VC and crypto enthusiast Chris Dixon of Andreessen Horowitz, Coinbase cofounder Fred Ehrsam, and angel investor Elad Gil, among others. We spoke with Xie recently to learn more. Our chat has been edited lightly for length. TC: When did you first become interested in crypto assets? LX: I first came across bitcoin in 2011. At the time, I was working (first as an intern) at AIG, which was hiring a lot of risk analysts after the financial implosion. And I saw a lot of what went wrong and became very interested in decentralized systems. When Coinbase came along and I saw they were working with retailer Overstock, helping enable bitcoin as a form a payment for its customers, and working with regulators to take bitcoin mainstream, I wrote to them, and they brought me on. TC: What were you doing there exactly

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Root Ventures, a young SF firm focused on ‘hard tech,’ just closed a much bigger second fund with $76.7 million

Root Ventures , a San Francisco-based venture firm that closed its debut fund with $30 million in 2015, has raised a second fund, closing it with $76.7269 million dollars in capital commitments. Why? Because Root is proudly composed of engineering nerds, and 767.269 miles per hour is the speed of sound. In dry air. At 20 degrees Celsius. Of course, more mathematically significant to its investors is how the firm is faring, and on that front, Root’s backers must like what they see. Though Root’s investments are mostly too new to judge yet — its debut fund took stakes in 27 companies — it can easily back up claims that it invests in “deeply technical founders” who are tackling “interdisciplinary engineering problems,” including in robotics, machine learning and software for physical industries. Among Root’s many interesting bets to date:  Creator , a hamburger-making robot that can craft a burger from start to finish in five minutes ; Nautilus Labs , which sells machine learning-based analytics to maritime shipping companies, including to help them reduce their fuel costs; NordSense , whose ultra low-cost sensors sit inside garbage bins to monitor how full they are; and Wild Type , a young startup focused on creating lab-grown meat. Firm co-founder Avidan Ross tells us that with the firm’s new fund, he and investing partners Chrissy Meyer and Kane Hsieh will be writing slightly larger initial checks, ranging from $1 million to $2 million, up from the $500,000 checks it was writing with its first fund. He adds that the firm plans to stay firmly rooted (ahem) to its mission of supporting seed-stage founders whose companies may ultimately require a lot of resources, yet which Root can help because of its collective engineering and investing muscle. Ross is himself a trained engineer who was previously CTO of the private equity firm CIM Group. Meyer was an engineering program manager at both Apple and Square before becoming the director of hardware product development at Pearl Automation. (The three-year-old company was founded by numerous Apple employees and set out to make automotive back-up cameras, but it  shut down last year.) Meanwhile, Hsieh, who studied computer science at Harvard, spent a couple of years as a senior associate with RRE Ventures in New York before co-founding a bike company focused on low cost and high design.

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The quantum meltdown of encryption

Shlomi Dolev Contributor Shlomi Dolev is the Chair Professor and founder of the Computer Science department of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. He is the author of Self-Stabilization . Shlomi also is a cybersecurity entrepreneur and the co-founder and chief scientist of Secret Double Octopus . More posts by this contributor The quantum computing apocalypse is imminent The world stands at the cusp of one of the greatest breakthroughs in information technology. Huge leaps forward in all fields of computer science, from data analysis to machine learning, will result from this breakthrough. But like all of man’s technological achievements, from the combustion engine to nuclear power, harnessing quantum comes with potential dangers as well. Quantum computers have created a slew of unforeseen vulnerabilities in the very infrastructure that keeps the digital sphere safe. The underlying assumption behind nearly all encryption ciphers used today is that their complexity precludes any attempt by hackers to break them, as it would take years for even our most advanced conventional computers to do so. But quantum computing will change all of that. Quantum computers promise to bring computational power leaps and bounds ahead of our most advanced machines. Recently, scientists at Google began testing their cutting edge 72 qubit quantum computer. The researchers expect to demonstrate with this machine quantum supremacy , or the ability to perform a calculation impossible with traditional computers. Chink in the Armor Today’s standard encryption techniques are based on what’s called Public Key Infrastructure or PKI, a set of protocols brought to the world of information technology in the 1970’s.

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CowryWise micro-savings service opens high-yield government bonds to everyday Nigerians

In emerging market countries where economic volatility is a way of life, there aren’t a lot of relatively safe options for members of the burgeoning middle class to park their money. For instance, countries like Nigeria have experienced a tremendous growth in the number of citizens entering the middle class, which now accounts for about 23 percent of the population (it’s around 50 percent in the U.S.), according to a recent article citing the African Development Bank. While Nigeria now faces some significant headwinds from a weak domestic currency (the naira), high interest rates and a manufacturing recession, there are ways that local investment can both protect the wealth that’s been created and encourage investment domestically to potentially spur development. At least, that’s the conclusion that college friends Razaq Ahmed and Edward Popoola came to while they were thinking about opportunities for new financial services options in their home country of Nigeria. The two men, Ahmed with a background in finance and Popoola in computer science, are launching a company called CowryWise that gives Nigerian investors a way to save their money by investing in high-yield government bonds. The rates on those products are high enough to absorb the wild swings in value of the naira and still provide a healthy return for investors, according to Ahmed. Set to present at this year’s demo day from Y Combinator , CowryWise is one of a number of startups that Y Combinator has backed coming from the African continent, and an example of the wellspring of entrepreneurial talent that is flourishing in sub-Saharan Africa. Using CowryWise, a customer would just have to sign up with their email address and phone number and link their bank account up to the CowryWise platform. There are already roughly 57 million savings accounts in Nigeria and 32 million unique bank users. By investing in the bonds, these savers gain access to interest rates that range between 10 percent and 17 percent, according to Ahmed. “The bonds… are similar to the treasuries issued by the U.S. government, which is A-rated,” says Ahmed. Even if there were foreign currency risk from investing in the naira, the inflation rate is currently around 11 percent, according to Ahmed

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Oscar and Lemonade founders will join us at Disrupt SF to strategize about the future of insurance innovation

Insurance premiums total more than a trillion dollars in the U.S. , and yet, where that money goes is something of a mystery. It certainly doesn’t seem to get invested in the consumer experience, where ancient incumbent companies still process paperwork as if it is the 1800s, and consumers are left wanting for new insurance options that meet their needs. Insurance might well be the last frontier for disruptive innovation, but now, a generation of insurance tech startups is bringing new data models and product experience talent to bear on this sclerotic industry. In the process, they may well become some of the most durable and profitable companies the industry has ever seen. Those startups face challenging questions. How can a startup even get started in an industry where an insurer often needs millions sitting on the balance sheet just to get started? How can a startup compete in a highly-regulated industry, where incumbents have the financial might to actively stamp out competition? Can there be such a thing as delightful insurance? These are just some of the questions we will be investigating during a high-powered insurance tech panel at Disrupt SF this September 5-7. We will be joined by two founders who are spearheading a complete overhaul of the industry through their companies. Mario Schlosser is the CEO and co-founder of Oscar, a New York-based health insurance startup that has raised approaching a billion dollars in venture capital .

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Dr. Kai-Fu Lee is coming to Disrupt SF to talk about how AI will eat everything, especially jobs

At our upcoming TechCrunch Disrupt SF (September 5-7) , TechCrunch committed to go deep on artificial intelligence, and we’re pleased to announce a speaker who has few peers in that realm as a technologist or investor. Dr. Kai-Fu Lee is the CEO and chairman of Sinovation , a venture firm based in the U.S. and China, and he has emerged as one of the world’s top prognosticators on artificial intelligence and how the technology will disrupt just about everything. Dr. Lee wrote in The New York Times last year that AI is “ poised to bring about a wide-scale decimation of jobs — mostly lower-paying jobs, but some higher-paying ones, too.” In his forthcoming book, AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley and the New World Order , Dr. Lee expands on his AI thesis to argue that China has caught up to the United States in AI technology and that the two countries will dominate the AI globally, even as AI radically transforms the work world, necessitating dramatic new social programs. That’s one seriously disruptive investment thesis, and it’s central to Sinovation’s 300 investments in the U.S. and China. Given Dr. Lee’s background, there is good reason to pay careful attention. Equally at home in Taiwan, where he was born, Beijing where he lives and the United States, where he was educated and worked for many years, Dr

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CommerceDNA wins the TechCrunch Hackathon at VivaTech

It’s been a long night at VivaTech. The building hosted a very special competition — the very first TechCrunch Hackathon in Paris. Hundreds of engineers and designers got together to come up with something cool, something neat, something awesome. The only condition was that they only had 24 hours to work on their projects. Some of them were participating in our event for the first time, while others were regulars. Some of them slept on the floor in a corner, while others drank too much Red Bull. We could all feel the excitement in the air when the 64 teams took the stage to present a one-minute demo to impress fellow coders and our judges. But only one team could take home the grand prize and €5,000. So, without further ado, meet the TechCrunch Hackathon winner. Winner: CommerceDNA Runner-Up #1: AID Runner-Up #2: EV Range Meter Judges Nicolas Bacca, CTO, Ledger Nicolas worked on card systems for 5 years at Oberthur, a leader in embedded digital security, ultimately as R&D Solution Architect. He left Oberthur to launch his company, Ubinity, which was developing smartcard operating systems. He finally co-founded BT Chip to develop an open standard, secure element based hardware wallet which eventually became the first version of the Ledger wallet. Charles Gorintin, co-founder & CTO, Alan Charles Gorintin is a French data science and engineering leader.

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Meet the judges and hackmasters for the TC Hackathon at VivaTech

On May 25-26, hundreds of Europe’s best and brightest coders, hackers, tech makers and programmers will descend upon Paris to take part in  TechCrunch Hackathon at VivaTech  and compete for a €5,000 grand prize. But who are the people who will determine who gets that prize? Without further ado the judges for the TC Hackthon: Nicolas Bacca, CTO, Ledger Nicolas worked on card systems for 5 years at Oberthur, a leader in embedded digital security, ultimately as R&D Solution Architect. He left Oberthur to launch his company, Ubinity, which was developing smartcard operating systems. He finally co-founded BT Chip to develop an open standard, secure element based hardware wallet which eventually became the first version of the Ledger wallet.     Charles Gorintin, co-founder & CTO, Alan Charles Gorintin is a French data science and engineering leader. He is a cofounder and CTO of Alan. Alan’s mission is to make it easy for people to be in great health. Prior to co-founding Alan, Charles Gorintin was a data science leader at fast-growing social networks, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, where he worked on anti-fraud, growth, and social psychology. Gorintin holds a Masters degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from Ecole des Ponts ParisTech, a Masters degree in Machine Learning from ENS Paris-Saclay, and a Masters of Financial Engineering from UC Berkeley – Haas School of Business.   Samantha Jérusalmy, Partner, Elaia Partners Samantha joined Elaia Partners in 2008. She began her career as a consultant at Eurogroup, a consulting firm specialized in organisation and strategy, within the Bank and Finance division

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For Madrona Venture Group, four IPOs in 20 months and a brand-new fund

Madrona Venture Group typically flies under the radar of Silicon Valley reporters, partly because it’s in Seattle. But the 23-year-old, early-stage venture firm has been having a pretty good run of late — success it just used to close its seventh fund with $300 million, the same amount it raised for its sixth fund in 2015. Among its investors: Bezos Expeditions, Vulcan Capital, and billionaire John Stanton, who is the chairman of the board of Trilogy International Partners (as well as the majority owner of the Major League Baseball team the Seattle Mariners). Madrona’s momentum didn’t build overnight. Four Madrona portfolio companies that have IPO’d over the last 20 months — the cloud software companies Smartsheet, Apptio, the real estate site Redfin, and the RFID chip maker Impinj —  took on average 12 years to get into the hands of public market investors. Madrona, the firm is quick to note, was there from the start, writing seed and Series A checks that today range from $200,000 to upwards of $5 million to $7 million. (The firm has, on rare occasion, invested upwards of  $30 million in a single company over the life of its investment.) Yet those four now-public companies share another trait in common; they’re all based in the Pacific Northwest, which includes greater Seattle but also cities like Portland, Ore.; Vancouver, British Columbia; and Spokane, Wa. That’s no accident. About 90 percent of Madrona’s deals are local, where the startup scene has seemingly expanded dramatically in recent years. In addition to Madrona and other local venture shops, Google, Facebook, Alibaba and Snowflake Computing have each opened engineering offices. Meanwhile, the University of Washington Computer Science Department — last year renamed the Allen School — is finishing another major building to expand its ability to graduate more CSE students.

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