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48 hours left to apply as a TC Top Pick at Disrupt Berlin 2018

Disrupt Berlin 2018 , Europe’s most exciting tech conference, takes place on November 29-30 and plays host to hundreds of early-stage startups and thousands of attendees. We’re talking boundary-pushing founders, investors, hackers and tech leaders. Not to mention legendary events like Startup Battlefield , the startup competition that’s launched more than 750 companies. Does your early-stage startup have what it takes to be chosen as a TC Top Pick and earn the right to exhibit in Startup Alley for free? Only one way to find out, friends. You have 48 hours left before the application window closes on September 28. Don’t miss your chance: apply to be a TC Top Pick right now . TechCrunch editors will closely vet every application and ultimately select up to five stellar startups to be a TC Top Pick in each of these categories: AI/Machine Learning Blockchain CRM/Enterprise E-commerce Education Fintech Healthtech/Biotech Hardware, Robotics, IoT Mobility Gaming Each Top Pick startup receives one Startup Alley Exhibitor Package , which includes a one-day exhibit space, three Disrupt Berlin Founder passes, access to CrunchMatch (our free investor-to-startup matching platform) and access to the Disrupt press list. The access to influencers, technologists and investors has the potential to take a TC Top Pick startup from anonymity onto the world stage. Simply showcasing your company in Startup Alley, Disrupt’s heart, soul and exhibition hall, provides limitless opportunity.

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As Magic Leap preps for its first developer conference, the focus shifts to content

Even as Magic Leap has cleared the milestone of its first hardware release, the augmented reality startup still has big challenges ahead as it aims to entice developers to build the content for its wild new device. The $2,295 Magic Leap One headset is a very polished-looking developer kit, but it didn’t ship with a ton of software for buyers to play around with at launch, just a couple short experiences that were essentially concept proofs. The startup, which was most recently valued at north of $6 billion, is just a few weeks away from its first developer conference taking place down in Los Angeles. The  L.E.A.P. conference will be an opportunity for the company to bring more developers to its platform to build up a content library ahead of an eventual more consumer-facing release. Magic Leap One’s first big game is another Angry Birds; here’s what it’s like At L.E.A.P., Magic Leap is planning to show off more than a dozen demos from developers, the company tells TechCrunch. We’ve already taken a hands-on look at a full Angry Birds game for Magic Leap One from Rovio and Resolution Games. Other demos to be showcased include  Wingnut ‘s Funhouse Pest Control ,  Funomena ‘s Luna: Moondust Garden ,  Meow Wolf ‘s The Mech,   Wayfair Sketch and Magic Leap’s own Create title. We’ll also finally see the first demo of  Dr. Grordbort’s Invaders , a shooter title by Weta Workshops that Magic Leap has been hyping since its first-ever teaser video. Though building up content for a new device category is certainly daunting, Magic Leap has the benefit of having seen the major players of the VR industry brute force their way past some of these issues. For the VR industry’s first two years following the releases of the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, one of the big issues was that you could play through most of the good available titles in a week or two.

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Mars orbiter spots silent, dust-covered Opportunity rover as dust storm clears

Mars rover Opportunity has been operating on the surface of the Red Planet since 2004, but a dust storm this summer may prove to be the mission’s toughest challenge. The enormous storm caked Opportunity in dust and blocked out the sun, its source of energy — and there’s no guarantee the batteries aren’t dead for good. But now that the skies have cleared, we at least have our first look at the workhorse rover from orbit since it went radio silent. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captures fabulous imagery of the planet at a regular rate, but it happened that it passed over Perseverance Valley last week, where Opportunity is currently stationary. In the image you can just make it out as a few pixels raised above the surface. That valley isn’t the only place that was hit by the storm — this was no flurry but a full-blown planet-spanning tempest that lasted for months. It isn’t the first dust storm Opportunity has weathered by a long shot, but it was probably the worst. The last we heard from the rover was on June 10, at which point the storm was getting so intense that Opportunity couldn’t charge its batteries any more and lowered itself into a hibernation state, warmed only by its plutonium-powered heaters — if they’re even working. Once a day, Opportunity’s deeply embedded safety circuit checks if there’s any power in its battery or coming in via solar. “Now that the sun is shining through the dust, it will start to charge its batteries,” explained Jim Watzin , director of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA. And so some time in the coming weeks it will have sufficient power to wake up and place a call back to Earth. But we don’t know when that call will come.” An Opportunity shadow-selfie from 2004, when Opportunity was comparatively young (and had “only” doubled its mission length).

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Tinder’s ‘Swipe the Vote’ campaign aims to educate young voters and get them to polls

Tinder has partnered with nonprofit Rock the Vote for a second time, in the hopes of driving young people to the polls through in-app messaging. The company claims a young adult user base where more than half are in the 18 to 24 demographic, and believes it’s well-positioned to mobilize younger voters during the 2018 U.S. midterm elections. It’s critical to get these voters to the polls, as only 46.1 percent of the 18 to 29-year olds turned out to vote during the 2016 election, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the company notes. Tinder says it will begin to share “fun facts” with its users during election season right in the app — like the volumes of voter registrations and other anecdotes related to past and upcoming elections. These facts will have a particular focus on those that are of most interest to Tinder’s younger users. For example, some that will be shared include: “Did you know that only about 40% of eligible voters turn up for the midterm elections?,”  and “Even though millennials make up 25% of the population, they make up less than 5% of state legislatures,” plus, “The average American is twenty years younger than their congressional representative.” The facts will pop up in the app as often as two to three times a week in the U.S. as a “Swipe the Vote” native display card. These cards will also include a way to tap to navigate in-app to the  Rock the Vote website , where users can enter their ZIP code and details in order to register to vote. Additionally, the two organizations also produced a  Schoolhouse Rock! -inspired  video  encouraging young Americans to vote. (Though the Schoolhouse Rock reference may fly over the 18-year-olds’ heads.) Tinder isn’t the only large platform participating in National Voter Registration Day today (September 25). Others, including Facebook , Instagram , Twitter , Reddit , Snapchat , Lyft , HBO and  many more have also rolled out their own campaigns in an effort to mobilize and register voters

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DoorDash customers say their accounts have been hacked

Food delivery startup DoorDash has received dozens of complaints from customers who say their accounts have been hacked. Dozens of people have tweeted at @DoorDash with complaints that their accounts had been improperly accessed and had fraudulent food deliveries charged to their account. In many cases, the hackers changed their email addresses so that the user could not regain access to their account until they contacted customer services. Yet, many said that they never got a response from DoorDash, or if they did, there was no resolution. Several Reddit threads  also point to similar complaints. DoorDash is now a $4 billion company after raising $250 million last month, and serves more than 1,000 cities across the U.S. and Canada. After receiving a tip , TechCrunch contacted some of the affected customers. Four people we spoke to who had tweeted or commented that their accounts had been hacked said that they had used their DoorDash password on other sites. Three people said they weren’t sure if they used their DoorDash password elsewhere. But six people we spoke to said that their password was unique to DoorDash, and three confirmed they used a complicated password generated by a password manager. DoorDash said that there has been no data breach and that the likely culprit was credential stuffing, in which hackers take lists of stolen usernames and passwords and try them on other sites that may use the same credentials. Yet, when asked, DoorDash could not explain how six accounts with unique passwords were breached. “We do not have any information to suggest that DoorDash has suffered a data breach,” said spokesperson Becky Sosnov in an email to TechCrunch. “To the contrary, based on the information available to us, including internal investigations, we have determined that the fraudulent activity reported by consumers resulted from credential stuffing.” The victims that we spoke to said they used either the app or the website, or in some cases both.

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What to expect from Facebook’s big Oculus Connect 5 keynote

The Oculus Connect 5 conference kicks off tomorrow in San Jose where FB and company will let their latest virtual reality efforts loose and attempt to prove to the world at last that VR is coming and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. Tomorrow is going to be a big day for hardware, though there might not be all that many surprises, as Oculus has already been pretty vocal about some of its future plans. We’ll see. Here’s some of the stuff that we’re expecting to go down tomorrow. Release date, price for Oculus “Santa Cruz” standalone The still unnamed standalone, 6DoF headset with tracked controllers is more than likely coming early next year; the big question is really going to be its price. While Oculus has been very aggressive with their $199 starting price for Oculus Go, it will be interesting to see where the pricing moves for whatever “Santa Cruz” ends up being called. The headset is still running a mobile chipset, though it will more than likely be a current-generation Snapdragon 845 as opposed to the much older 821, which is on the Oculus Go. The headset most notably will also sport positional tracking and hand controllers (which we’ll probably see an updated design for) at launch, features that will also surely add to the price. I’m expecting pricing to sit around $349-$399; anything less would probably cannibalize Oculus Go sales and anything more would be a tough sell to consumers that have already proven a little reluctant to buy into VR right now. A look at the next-gen Oculus Rift We got a peek at the Oculus “Half Dome” prototype at F8; my guess is we’ll see a lot more about it tomorrow and perhaps get some press demos of a feature prototype. Facebook teases major VR display upgrades with Oculus ‘Half Dome’ prototype The company’s Rift headset is more than a couple of years old at this point so it’s probably time to start thinking about the next generation of the PC-powered headset.

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Hear from investors at General Catalyst, FirstMark and Shasta at TC Sessions: AR/VR

The worlds of augmented reality and VR theoretically represent a boundless expanse for startups looking to create a new digital future. Realizing that future is the tough part, and doing so while Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple all look to plant their flags is even harder. While plenty of investors have taken a look at AR/VR companies in the years following Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus VR, for many, the prospect of buying in at a stage where the consumer interest is so uncertain has proven a bit too risky. At TechCrunch’s one-day Sessions AR/VR event on October 18 at UCLA , we’ll chat with investors from top venture capital firms about where they’re seeing potential in the market and how they are approaching investments in AR/VR in 2018. We’ll be joined by Niko Bonatsos from General Catalyst, Catherine Ulrich from FirstMark Capital and Jacob Mullins from Shasta Ventures on a panel discussing the ins and outs of AR/VR investing. Bonatsos was an early investor in Snap and has also backed AR cloud startup 6D.ai (which will also be joining us), Ulrich’s firm FirstMark has made investments in AR/VR startups like Sketchfab and Mullins runs Shasta Ventures’ Camera Fund focused on early-stage AR investments. The future of consumer AR/VR may be a bit murky for the time being, but these investors are looking to peer through the smoke and mirrors and find the startups that will stand resilient. Get an inside look into the AR/VR investment landscape when you purchase a ticket today . Early-bird sales were extended til this Friday, September 28. Don’t miss out! Student tickets are just $45 and can be purchased through this link .

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Live streams of karate and niche sports are terrifying major sports leagues

Of the 100 most-watched live telecasts in the US in 2005, 14 were sporting events; in 2015, sporting events comprised 93 of the top 100 telecasts . That shift occurred because TV shows are shifting to online or on-demand viewing, and live broadcasts of the biggest sports are the main thing TV networks have left to draw in live audiences. But the need to keep those sports on TV and off streaming services is only accelerating the rate at which young people are tuning into other sports leagues instead. The rapid adoption of subscription video streaming services like Netflix and Hulu and of social live streams on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch is enabling massive growth by sports leagues that you won’t normally see on TV. In the streaming era, more sports – and new types of sports like esports – keep thriving while interest in traditional pro leagues like the NFL and MLB declines. OTT is where the growth is The central narrative in the global film/TV industry right now is the response of incumbent companies to the growing dominance of Netflix, Amazon, and other streaming (aka “OTT” or over-the-top) services. The incumbents are merging to consolidate ownership of must-have shows onto a smaller number of new OTT services that will each be stronger. The majority of American households have a Netflix subscription (i.e. access to one of Netflix’s 56M US accounts), another 20M have a Hulu subscription, the number of OTT-only households has tripled in 5 years, and 50% of US internet users use a subscription OTT service at least weekly. Almost one-third (29%) of Americans say they watch more streaming TV than linear TV, and among those age 18-29 it’s 54% (with 29% having cut the cord on linear TV entirely). People, especially young people, want to watch shows on their own time and on any device, and they get more value from a few $8-40 per month subscription platforms than a $100+ per month cable bill. Meanwhile, social live-streaming platforms that got their start enabling people to either vlog or watch video gaming are expanding to all sorts of live broadcasting: Twitch averaged 1 million viewers at any given point of day in January, and there were 3.5 billion broadcasts over Facebook Live in the first two years after it launched (with 2 billion users viewing at least one)

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The Horological Machine 9 puts a rocket on your wrist

If you’ve been keeping up with watchmaker MB&F you’ll be familiar with their Horological Machine series, watches that are similar in construction but wildly different when it comes to design. This watch, the HM9, is called the Flow and hearkens back to roadsters, jets and 1950s space ships. gallery ids="1719823,1719822,1719821" The watch, limited to a run of 33 pieces, shows the time on a small forward-facing face in one of the cones. The other two cones contain dual balance wheels. The balance wheel is what causes the watch to tick and controls the energy released by the main spring. Interestingly, MB&F added two to this watch in an effort to ensure accuracy. “The twin balance wheels of the HM9 engine feed two sets of chronometric data to a central differential for an averaged reading,” they wrote. “The balances are individually impulsed and spatially separated to ensure that they beat at their own independent cadences of 2.5Hz (18,000bph) each. This is important to ensure a meaningful average, just as how a statistically robust mathematical average should be derived from discrete points of information.” There are two versions, called the Road and Air, and they cost a mere $182,000 (tax not included). Considering nearly every piece of this is made by hand — from the case to the curved crystal to the intricate movement — you’re essentially paying a team of craftsman a yearly wage just to build your watch. While it’s no Apple Watch, the MB&F HM9 is a unique and weird little timepiece. While it’s obviously not for everyone, with enough cash and a little luck you can easily join a fairly exclusive club of HM9 owners.

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Google’s blanket ban of cryptocurrency ads ends next month

Google is rolling back its ban on cryptocurrency advertisements – following a similar move made by Facebook earlier this summer, CNBC reports. Google in March was among the first of the major platforms to announce it would no longer run ban cryptocurrency ads, due to an abundance of caution around an industry where there’s so much potential for consumer harm. Facebook , Twitter , and even Snapchat had also banned cryptocurrency ads, for similar reasons. But Facebook moved away from its blanket ban this June , when it said it would no longer ban all cryptocurrency ads, but would rather allow those from “pre-approved advertisers” instead. It excluded ads that promoted binary options and initial coin offerings (ICOs), however. Google is now following suit with its own policy change. The update was announced today, we’ve confirmed. Google’s policy still bans ICOs, wallets and trading advice, CNBC reports, citing Google’s updated policy page which points to a list of banned products. But the October 2018 policy update says that “regulated cryptocurrency exchanges” will be allowed to advertise in the U.S. and Japan. To do so, advertisers will have to be certified with Google for the specific country where their ads will run, a process that begins in October. The policy will apply to all accounts that advertise these types of financial products, Google says. Banning cryptocurrency ads on the part of the major platforms was a good step in terms of consumer protection , due to the amount of fraud and spam in the industry. According to the FTC, consumers lost  $532 million to cryptocurrency-related scams in the first two months of 2018.

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Bleximo raises $1.5M for its quantum computing accelerators

Bleximo , a startup that aims to build “quantum accelerators” — basically quantum-based application-specific integrated circuits — today announced it has raised a $1.5 million seed round led by Eniac Ventures. Other investors in this round include Boost VC, Creative Ventures, KEC Ventures and Gyan Kapur. Instead of building a general-purpose quantum computer like IBM, Rigetti and others, Bleximo, which was  founded by Cyclotron Road fellow and quantum physicist Alexei Marchenkov , wants to focus on building quantum processors that focus on very specific applications. Before founding Bleximo, Marchenkov worked at Rigetti Computing, where we worked on developing that company’s technology for general-purpose quantum computers. “At Eniac, we believe general quantum computing is still far away, but Bleximo ’s approach of building vertical quantum computing architecture will bring this nascent technology to the mainstream in a more practical way — much like vertical AI is here today before general AI,” said Vic Singh, founding general partner at Eniac Ventures. “ We are excited to support founder Alexei Marchenkov, a recognized expert in quantum computing, and the Bleximo team to help build this reality.” Right now, Bleximo is mostly looking at speeding up simulations of new materials and molecules for drug development. Quantum computing lends itself to solving these kind of problems, though the company argues that its technology is just as applicable to solving problems in energy, finance, manufacturing and security. Not everybody seems to agree that general quantum computing is all that far away, though, so it remains to be seen if a real market for this kind of specialized quantum co-processors (Bleximo calls it a “qASIC”) will really develop, especially given that a quantum computer will also be some form of hybrid machine that combines classical and quantum computing. If it does, though, Bleximo seems well-positioned to capitalize on it, especially given that its technology will be a bit simpler (as far as one can say that about anything quantum computing) and won’t need the large amount of qubits with long coherence times that a general-purpose quantum computer would need.

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Tinder in India launches ‘My Move,’ a Bumble-like feature where women chat first

Tinder in India is now rolling out a new feature that allows women to make the first move. The setting, called “My Move,” is similar to the core feature in rival dating app Bumble, which is currently enmeshed in multiple lawsuits with Tinder parent Match Group. Match sued Bumble for patent violations following failed acquisition attempts that would have made Bumble another Match Group brand along with Tinder, Plenty of Fish, OKCupid, Match.com, and others. In February this year, Tinder confirmed it would later begin to test a new option that would allow women to choose when to start a conversation, but said this would not the default setting, as it is in Bumble. Instead, Tinder would allow women to decide whether or not they wanted this feature toggled on, it explained then. The company hadn’t yet rolled out the option at the time, but said it would come in a future update as a test, ahead of a public debut. According a report from Reuters  out this morning, which TechCrunch has also confirmed, Tinder has been quietly testing “My Move” in India for several months, and intends to roll out it out worldwide if all goes well. The company says it’s formally announcing the feature’s arrival in India today. It’s first available to users in India on iOS, Tinder tells us. To use the feature, women go into the app’s settings to enable it with a toggle switch. Once turned on, only they can start a conversation with their matches.

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LinkedIn steps into business intelligence with the launch of Talent Insights

LinkedIn may be best known as a place where people and organizations keep public pages of their professional profiles, using that as a starting point for networking, recruitment and more — a service that today that has racked up more than 575 million users, 20 million companies and 15 million active job listings. But now under the ownership of Microsoft , the company has increasingly started to build a number of other services; today sees the latest of these, the launch of a new feature called Talent Insights . Talent Insights is significant in part because it is LinkedIn’s first foray into business intelligence, that branch of enterprise analytics aimed at helping execs and other corporate end users make more informed business decisions. Talent Insights is also notable because it’s part of a trend, where LinkedIn has been launching a number of other services that take it beyond being a straight social network, and more of an IT productivity tool. They have included a way for users to look at and plan commutes to potential jobs (or other businesses); several integrations with Microsoft software including resume building in Word  and Outlook integrations ; and adding in more CRM tools to its Sales Navigator product . Interestingly, it has been nearly a year between LinkedIn first announcing Talent Insights  and actually launching it today. The company says part of the reason for the gap is because it has been tinkering with it to get the product right: it’s been testing it with a number of customers — there are now 100 using Talent Insights — with employees in departments like human resources, recruitment and marketing using it. The product that’s launching today is largely similar to what the company previewed a year ago : there are two parts to it, one focused on people at a company, called “Talent Pool,” and another focused on data about a company, “Company Report.” gallery ids="1719596,1719598,1719600,1719601"   The first of these will let businesses run searches across the LinkedIn database to discover talent with characteristics similar to those what a business might already be hiring, and figure out where they are at the moment (in terms of location and company affiliation), and where they are moving, what skills they might have in common, and how to better spot those who might be on the way up based on all of this. The second set of data tools (Company Report) provides a similar analytics profile but about your organisation and those that you would like to compare against it in areas like relative education levels and schools of the respective workforces; which skills employees have or don’t have; and so on. Dan Francis, a senior product manager running Talent Insights, said in an interview that for now the majority of the data that’s being used to power Talent Insights is primarily coming from LinkedIn itself, although there are other data sources also added into it, such as material from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (And indeed, even some of LinkedIn’s other data troves, for example in its recruitment listings, or even in its news/content play, the material that populates both comes from third parties.) He also added that letting companies feed in their own data to use that in number crunching — either for their own reports or those of other companies — “is on our roadmap,” an indication that LinkedIn sees some mileage in this product. Adding in more data sources could also help the company appear more impartial and accurate: although LinkedIn is huge and the biggest repository of information of its kind when it comes to professional profiles, it’s not always accurate and in some cases can be completely out of date or intentionally misleading. (Related: LinkedIn has yet to launch any “verified”-style profiles for people, such as you get on Facebook or Twitter, to prove they are who they say they are, that they work where they claim to work, and that their backgrounds are what they claim them to be

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Picfair gives every photographer on its marketplace their own store

Picfair , the photo marketplace that competes with Getty and Shutterstock by giving photographers a fairer deal , is adding a major update to its offering today. The London-based startup is launching Picfair Stores, giving the 35,000 photographers on its marketplace the ability to create their own free independent online store. Customers who buy from a Picfair Store can choose a licensed digital copy or a physical print. “We’re moving beyond being just a new generation stock image marketplace,” Picfair founder Benji Lanyado, who used to be a journalist at The Guardian , tells me. “With stores, and prints, and more… we’re becoming a fully featured commercial ecosystem for photographers. At the heart of it all: the principle that anyone should be able to make money from their images, simply and fairly”. In addition, every image on a photographer’s individual Picfair Store will also be available simultaneously on Picfair’s marketplace, which Lanyado likens to “thousands of local image stores across the globe, with a central Amazon-style megastore they all feed in to”. He reckons it is the first time anyone has combined a marketplace with the added control of website builders, such as Wix or Squarespace, and the on-demand print functionality of Smugmug or Zenfolio, all built with amateur photographers in mind (although the line between amateur and professional is becoming increasingly blurred). “Picfair is uniting all of this. The control of a website builder. The commercial structures of an e-commerce platform. The exposure of a marketplace, with added price control and fair royalty splits,” Lanyado says. Less tech-driven but perhaps equally significant, Picfair has recently launched a photo agency unit , building on top of its bread and butter business of selling image licenses to editorial and marketing companies

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Chinese electric scooter startup Niu files for $150M U.S. public offering

Chinese electric scooter startup Niu Technologies has filed for an initial public offering on Nasdaq to raise up to $150 million. In its form , Niu said it is “the largest lithium-ion battery-powered e-scooters company in China,” according to data from China Insights Consultancy, and also a market leader in Europe based on sales volume. Founded in 2014 and based in Beijing, Niu says it currently holds a market share of 26% in China based on sales volume. Niu’s debut will the latest in a string of recent Chinese tech IPOs, the most prominent of which include the recent Hong Kong listings of Xiaomi and Meituan . Niu’s scooters connect with an app that give drivers maintenance and performance data and also delivers firmware updates. As of the end of June, Niu claims it had sold more than 431,500 smart electric scooters in China, Europe and other markets. According to the CIC’s data, China is the largest market for electric two-wheeled vehicles, with retail sales expected to increase to $13 million by 2022, up from $8 billion in 2017. Niu says its growth markets also include Southeast Asia and India, where scooters are a popular form of transportation. In its filing, Niu said its net revenue in 2017 was RMB 769.4 million ($116.2 million), an increase of 116.8% from RMB 354.8 million in 2016. Its net losses during that time decreased to RMB 184.7 million ($27.9 million) in 2017 from RMB 232.7 million in 2016. More recently, net revenue for the first six months of 2018 was RMB 557.1 million ($84.2 million), an increase of 95.4% from RMB 285.1 million the same period a year earlier. Net loss was RMB 314.9 million ($47.6 million) during that period, compared to RMB 96.6 million the year before.  

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