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Eventbrite goes public, and everyone else is raising hella money

Hello and welcome back to  Equity , TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines. This week we worked with an (excellent) skeleton crew. Our own Connie Loizos held down the fort with a guest that knew quite a lot: March Capital’s   Jamie Montgomery . There was a healthy blizzard of news to get through, so Connie and Jamie plowed ahead. Up top, the Eventbrite IPO was big news. After a long path to going public, Eventbrite reported interesting revenue growth acceleration , attached to a standard set of GAAP net losses. (Standard in that most tech IPOs these days do not feature profitable companies.) But Eventbrite’s IPO was just one thing going on the IPO front. X Financial also went public this week after a somewhat muted pricing event. But even  that wasn’t all the IPO news. There was one more tidbit to hang our hat on:  NIO’s recent IPO price see-saw . Moving along, Uber may be going on a shopping spree, picking up either Careem (a rival car-sharing service) or Deliveroo (a competing food-delivery service), or both.

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Eight Roads Ventures targets Southeast Asia deals

Eight Roads Ventures , the investment arm of financial giant Fidelity International, is moving into Southeast Asia where it sees the potential to plug the later stage investment gap. The firm has funds across the world including the U.S, China and Europe, and it has invested nearly $6 billion in deals over the past decade. The firm has been active lately — it launched a new $375 million fund for Europe and Israeli earlier this year — and now it has opened an office in Singapore, where its managing partner for Asia, Raj Dugar, has relocated to from India. The firm said it plans to make early-growth and growth stage investments of up to $30 million, predominantly around Series B, Series C and Series D deals. The focus of those checks will be startups in the technology, healthcare, consumer and financial services spaces. Already, it has three investments across Southeast Asia — including virtual credit card startup Akulaku , Eywa Pharma and fintech company Silot . There’s a huge amount of optimism around technology and startups in Southeast Asia, where there’s an emerging middle-class and access to the internet is growing. A report from Google and Singapore sovereign fund Temasek forecasted that the region’s ‘online economy’ will grow to reach more than $200 billion. It was estimated to have hit $49.5 billion in 2017, up from $30.8 million the previous year. Despite a growing market, investment has focused on early stages. A number of VC firms have launched newer and larger funds that cover Series B deals — including Openspace Ventures and Golden Gate Ventures — but there remains a gap further down the funding line and Eight Roads could be a firm that can help fill it. “Southeast Asia has several early-stage and late-stage funds that cater well to the start-ups and more mature companies. The growth-stage companies, looking at raising Series B/C/D rounds have had limited access to capital given the lack of global funds operating in the region. We see phenomenal opportunity in this segment, and look forward to helping entrepreneurs as they scale their business, providing access to our global network of expertise and contacts,” Eightroad’s Dugar said in a statement.

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Watch how Tesla Model 3 earned NHTSA’s top safety rating

The Tesla Model 3 has had its share of struggles from CEO Elon Musk’s well-documented production hell to more recent logistic “nightmares” that have slowed deliveries to customers. There’s one area where the Tesla shines : crash safety tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And the Tesla Model 3 is no exception. Check out the videos below to watch the crash tests. The rear-wheel-drive version of the Tesla Model 3 earned an all-around five-star safety rating from NHTSA, the highest possible issued by the agency. These tests cover frontal, side and rollover crashes. The Model 3 received five stars in each category as well as sub categories such as side barrier and pole crashes.   Tesla’s crash rating is buoyed by the absence of an internal combustion engine. For instance, without a motor in the hood, there’s more room for a forward crumple zone. Tesla vehicles also tend to be resistant to rollovers because the battery pack is located at the bottom of the vehicle, giving it a low center of gravity. The risk of a rollover in a Tesla Model 3 is 6.6%, according to NHTSA. Tesla Model 3 is not the only vehicle to earn the highest rating. There are other 2018 model year vehicles that have earned a five-star rating from NHTSA, including the Subaru Legacy and Toyota Camry four-door hybrid. It’s also worth noting, as Musk did Thursday, that five star ratings only mean the vehicle meets a certain threshold. Injury probability stats, which are expected soon, indicate by how much. . @NHTSAgov will post final safety probability stats soon. Model 3 has a shot at being safest car ever tested

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Scientists have moved one step closer to RNA editing, which could be the next stage of CRISPR

Researchers at the prestigious  Salk  Institute  are reporting that they have managed to map the molecular structure of a CRISPR enzyme that could allow scientists to more precisely manipulate functions within cells. Over the past several years, CRISPR-Cas9 has seized the public imagination for its ability to edit genetic code in a way that may correct defects inside individual cells — potentially healing mutations and preventing the advent of may illnesses. Specifically Cas9 enzymes act sort of like scissors, snipping away pieces of genetic code and swapping them out with a replacement. But these enzymes target DNA, which is the fundamental building block for the development of an organism, and there are growing concerns that using the enzyme to essentially reprogram the DNA of a cell may cause more harm than good. As this report in  Scientific American  illustrates: Research  published on Monday suggests that’s only the tip of a Titanic-sized iceberg: CRISPR-Cas9 can cause significantly greater genetic havoc than experts thought, the study concludes, perhaps enough to threaten the health of patients who would one day receive  CRISPR-based therapy . The results come hard on the heels of two  studies  that identified a related issue: Some CRISPR’d cells might be missing a key anti-cancer mechanism and therefore be able to initiate tumors. CRISPR-CAS9 gene editing complex from Streptococcus pyogenes. The Cas9 nuclease protein uses a guide RNA sequence to cut DNA at a complementary site. Cas9 protein: white surface model. DNA fragments: blue ladder cartoon. RNA: red ladder cartoon. Photo courtesy Getty Images The new findings from the Salk Institute, published in the journal  Cell ,  provide the detailed molecular structure of CRISPR-Cas13d, an enzyme that can target RNA instead of DNA. Once thought to just be the delivery mechanism for instructions encoded in DNA for cell operations, RNA is now known to carry out biochemical reactions like enzymes; and serve their own regulatory functions in cells. By identifying an enzyme that can target the mechanisms by which cells operate, rather than the overall plan for cellular function, scientists should be able to come up with even more highly refined treatments with fewer risks

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Amazon introduces APL, a new design language for building Alexa skills for devices with screens

Along with the launch of the all-new Echo Show , the Alexa-powered device with a screen, Amazon also introduced a new design language for developers who want to build voice skills that include multimedia experiences. Called Alexa Presentation Language, or APL, developers will be able to build voice-based apps that also include things like images, graphics, slideshows, and video, and easily customize them for different device types – including not only the Echo Show, but other Alexa-enabled devices like Fire TV, Fire Tablet, and the small screen of the Alexa alarm clock, the Echo Spot. In addition, third-party devices with screens will be able to take advantage of APL through the Alexa Smart Screen and TV Device SDK, arriving in the months ahead. Sony and Lenovo will be putting this to use first. Voice-based skill experiences can sometimes feel limited because of their lack of a visual component. For example, a cooking skill would work better if it just showed the steps as Alexa guided users through them. Other skills could simply benefit from visual cues or other complementary information, like lists of items. Amazon says it found that Alexa skills that use visual elements are used twice as much as voice-only skills, which is why it wanted to improve the development of these visual experiences. The new language was built from the ground-up specifically for adapting Alexa skills for different screen-based, voice-first experiences. At launch, APL supports experiences that include text, graphics, and slideshows, with video support coming soon. Developers could do things like sync the on-screen text and images with Alexa’s spoken voice. Plus, the new skills built with this language could allow for both voice commands as well as input through touch or remote controls, if available. The language is also designed to be flexible in terms of the placement of the graphics or other visual elements, so companies can adhere to their brand guidelines, Amazon says.

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Amazon introduces the Echo Input, its first Echo without a speaker

Amazon today introduced a new product it’s calling the Echo Input. This is a very thin, tiny version of the Echo Dot – and the first Alexa device without a speaker. The idea here is to offer a device that allows you to connect to the speaker you already own. On the back of the device is a line in and Bluetooth connection, and it sports a far field microphone array like other Echo devices. The small form factor, however, allows the device to fit in almost anywhere – you can drop them throughout the house, for example. Amazon says the product is designed also to be shipped in bundles with other speakers that people like – such as Bose, which is a first partner for this device. The Echo Input will be available later this year for $34.99 in the U.S., U.K. and Germany. more to come…

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Amazon FreeTime for Alexa adds routines, kids’ podcasts and audiobooks

Amazon today announced it’s rolling out new features for its FreeTime service for parents and children, which recently started working with Alexa,  allowing parents to control children’s experience with the personal assistant. Now, the FreeTime service for Alexa will also support routines – the combination of voice commands that can be kicked off with a single phrase. For example, parents could say, “Alexa, it’s bedtime” to have Alexa turn off the lights, lower the shades and play lullabies. The company said it’s also adding other features for kids, as well, including podcasts and over 1,000 audiobooks for kids. See our full coverage from the event  here .

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Lunewave is pitching a new sensor offering better vision for autonomous vehicles

The investment arms of BMW and the Chinese search technology giant, Baidu, along with a large original equipment manufacturer for the auto industry and a slew of technology investors have all come together to back Lunewave , a startup developing new sensor technologies for autonomous vehicles. The $5 million seed round which the company just closed will serve as a launching pad to get its novel radar technology, based on the concept of a Luneburg antenna, to market. First developed in the 1940s, Lunewave’s spin the antenna technology involves leveraging 3D printing to create new architectures that enable more powerful antennas with greater range and accuracy than the sensing technologies currently on the market, according to the company’s chief executive John Xin. Lunewave was co-founded by brothers John and Hao Xin and is based off of research that Hao had been conducting as a professor at the University of Arizona. Hao previously spent years working in the defense community for companies like Raytheon and Rockwell Scientific after graduating with a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2000. Younger brother John took a more entrepreneurial approach, working in consulting and financial services for companies like PriceWaterhouseCoopers and Liberty Mutual. Lunewave represents the culmination of nine years of research the elder Xin spent at the University of Arizona applying 3D printing to boost the power of the Luneburg antenna. With so much intellectual firepower behind it, Hao was able to convince his younger brother to join him on the entrepreneurial journey. “ He has a strong desire to commercialize his inventions,” John Xin said of his older brother.  “He wants to see it in everyday life.”  Image courtesy of Driving-Tests.org Now the company has $5 million in new funding to take the technology that Hao Xin has dedicated so much time and effort to develop and bring it to market.  “With a single 3D printer in the laboratory version we can produce 100 per day,” John Xin told me. “With an industrial printer you can print 1000 per day.” The first market for the company’s new technology will be autonomous vehicles — and more specifically autonomous cars. Lunewave is focused on the eyes of the vehicle, says John Xin. Currently, autonomous technologies rely on a few different sensing systems. There are LIDAR technologies which use lasers to illuminate a target and measure the reflected pulses with a sensor; camera technologies which rely on — well — camera technologies; and radar which uses electromagnetic waves to detect objects. Startups developing and refining these technologies have raised hundreds of millions of dollars to tackle the autonomous vehicle market.

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Apple Watch fire face was made with actual fire

With the Apple Watch Series 4 , Apple introduced a new, larger display. It now has rounded edges and thinner bezels. And the company took advantage of that display to introduce new fire, water, liquid metal and vapor faces. Apple didn’t use CGI to create those faces — they shot those faces in a studio. Many companies would have rendered those effects on a computer given the size of the display. But those are actual videos shot with a camera. Cool Hunting shared a video of the actual process, and it’s insane: As you can see, Apple used a flamethrower against a transparent surface, exploded a balloon at the top of a basin of water, made a color powder explosion in a cylinder and rotated a small puddle of metallic liquid. It says a lot about Apple’s design culture — they don’t take shortcuts and they have a lot of money. Here’s the introduction video for the new Apple Watch:

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Walmart is putting 17,000 Oculus Go headsets in its stores to help train employees in VR

Workplace training has long been considered one of the key early areas where virtual reality can make a dent in the enterprise. Walmart already made some noise when it announced it would be bringing VR hardware into its training centers , now the company is planning to send Oculus Go headsets to each of its 5,000 stores so that more of Walmart’s employees can get instruction more often. The big box giant will begin sending four headsets to each Walmart supercenter and two headsets to each Neighborhood Market in the country. That may not necessarily seem like a ton to train a store full of employees, but at Walmart’s scale that amounts to about 17,000 headsets being shipped by year’s end. The move is the evolution of an announcement that the company made last year that it was working with STRIVR Labs to bring virtual reality training to its 200 “Walmart Academy” training centers. Those training sessions were done on PC-tethered Oculus Rifts, the move to Oculus Go headsets really showcases how much more simple standalone headset hardware is to setup and operate. Just being able to send a few of these to each store and expect that people will be able to navigate them easily is a win for Oculus and Facebook as most early VR hardware has taken a healthy bit of troubleshooting in order to engage with anything. “Walmart was one of the first companies to benefit from VR’s ability to enrich employee education, and its applications will only grow from here,” Oculus business partnerships head Andy Mathis said in a press release. “What makes it so compelling is that costly, difficult, or otherwise impossible scenarios and simulations become not only possible, but immediately within reach.” Walmart is bringing VR instruction to all of its U.S. training centers Virtual reality offers a unique opportunity to gain exposure to processes and products before it’s actually go-time. For employees, the experience can be more engaging than existing options and I would imagine people are less prone to distractions or mindlessly clicking through screens. STRIVR’s instruction videos are largely 360 video-based with interactive onscreen prompts and can offer employees an opportunity to see and feel like they’re interacting with new initiatives before the infrastructure is even in place

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GoPro kills the Session camera cube

Three years after its introduction, GoPro is killing its Session camera line. The cute little cube was dropped today after GoPro revealed its latest lineup of Hero7 cameras. GoPro shakes up its entire camera line When the Hero4 Session was first revealed in 2015, it was the action camera company’s first major redesign and signaled some dramatic ethos shifts, some that ultimately found their way to other GoPro cameras and others that it seems to be taking to the grave. It was the first GoPro to have a waterproof/shockproof casing built-in, it dropped the user replaceable battery and it significantly reduced the camera’s footprint. It was not designed to be the “cheap camera” and was initially positioned at a $399 price point near the high-end of its lineup at the time. The company ultimately failed to really differentiate the Session form factor and despite an ambitious introduction it just kind of ended up becoming the company’s low-end product that didn’t work with any of the existing GoPro accessories that were being sold. The writing was on the wall when the company neglected to refresh the hardware at its Hero6 event last year, but the Hero5 Session kept chugging along as the entry-level GoPro until the company showed off a new $199 Hero camera in March . The Hero5 Session is not alone singing its swan song, the Hero6 Black and Hero5 Black have also been officially discontinued replaced by the Hero7 White, Silver and Black editions.

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WalkMe raises $40M at a $1B+ valuation for its on-screen guidance technology

Designing for digital interfaces has come a long way  since the first days of the web, but there remains a place for tech that can help navigate us through what are sometimes still bloated or complicated services (notwithstanding those that are  deliberately so). Today, one of the more successful startups working in this area has raised a sizeable round that speaks to the opportunity. WalkMe — the Israel-based provider of tools that companies and organizations plug into their own apps to help guide people in using them more efficiently — has closed $40 million in funding in a Series F round led by Insight Venture Partners, with participation also from previous investor Mangrove. WalkMe is not disclosing its valuation, but a source very close to the company confirmed to me that it is now over $1 billion as business continues to “grow rapidly.” WalkMe now has 2,000 customers globally, which includes more than 30 percent of the Fortune 500, including Delta, HP (CEO and co-founder Dan Adika is an alum), T-Mobile and Microsoft (no Clippy jokes , please). The money — which brings the total raised to $207.5 million — will be used to expand its business further into local markets in Europe and Asia Pacific, and also continue to build out its platform. Today, that platform includes elements of machine learning and big data analytics along with technologies to read, understand, and guide through user interfaces — a tech stack that has grown through a combination of internal development and acquisitions. When it was founded in 2011, WalkMe’s focus was primarily on providing help to website visitors, to keep them from bouncing away in frustration. Over time, it expanded to other areas. Its remit now also includes B2B, since in many cases an organization’s internal teams can be just as confused or frustrated with its tech services as external customers might be, and that impacts overall productivity. (Consider employee on-boarding, or change management, or the fact that we have multiple services, sometimes as much as 20 different systems, that we need to use daily.) WalkMe is also doing more in automation, helping fill in information and proceed through other steps to speed up usage, or as Rephael Sweary, the president and other co-founder of the company, describes it, “reducing the steps it takes to do something on a site from 10 to three.” Sweary said that WalkMe’s business is roughly split equally between B2B and B2B2C today, with 40 percent of sales to repeat customers. Perhaps the best measure of a service that helps you use other services better is if the helping service disappears into the background and becomes a bit invisible. That seems to be something of the modus operandi of WalkMe, which even as a startup lacks much of a profile, especially considering its valuation now

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MariaDB acquires Clustrix

MariaDB , the company behind the eponymous MySQL drop-in replacement database, today announced that it has acquired Clustrix , which itself is a MySQL drop-in replacement database, but with a focus on scalability. MariaDB will integrate Clustrix’s technology into its own database, which will allow it to offer its users a more scalable database service in the long run. That by itself would be an interesting development for the popular open source database company. But there’s another angle to this story, too. In addition to the acquisition, MariaDB also today announced that cloud computing company ServiceNow is investing in MariaDB, an investment that helped it get to today’s acquisition. ServiceNow doesn’t typically make investments, though it has made a few acquisitions. It is a very large MariaDB user, though, and it’s exactly the kind of customer that will benefit from the Clustrix acquisition. MariaDB CEO Michael Howard tells me that ServiceNow current supports about 80,000 instances of MariaDB. With this investment (which is actually an add-on to MariaDB’s 2017 Series C round ), ServiceNow’s SVP of Development and Operations Pat Casey will join MariaDB’s board. Why would MariaDB acquire a company like Clustrix, though? When I asked Howard about the motivation, he noted that he’s now seeing more companies like ServiceNow that are looking at a more scalable way to run MariaDB. Howard noted that it would take years to build a new database engine from the ground up.

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Lime hits 11.5 million bike and scooter rides

Bike and scooter company Lime recently hit 11.5 million rides,  a couple of months after it surpassed six million rides . This milestone comes just 14 months after Lime deployed its first bikes. Today, Lime is in more than 100 markets throughout the U.S. and Europe. Last December , Lime brought its bikes to a number of European cities and in June,  Lime brought its scooters to Paris . By the end of this year, Lime plans to launch in an additional 50 cities. The rise of shared personal electric vehicles has also led to a new type of side hustle for some people. Through Lime’s Juicer program, which enables anyone to make money from charging scooters overnight, the company has paid out millions of dollars to those workers. Lime has raised $467 million in funding, with its most recent round coming in at  $335 million. The round, led by GV, included participation from Uber .

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Curve, the all-your-cards-in-one app, adds ‘zero fees’ when spending abroad

Curve , the London fintech that lets you consolidate all of your bank cards into a single Curve card and app to make it easier to manage your spending, has always faced a slight awareness problem. Even though nobody else does what Curve does — the product is innovative on a multiple fronts, such as its “ financial time travel ” feature — it is also the kind of proposition that not everybody gets until they’ve signed up and started using it. Once they do, however, they tend to stick around. I’m told retention rates are way above industry average at 70 percent. Three years since launch and much further along in the roadmap , the sum of its parts is beginning to make Curve a much easier sell. Not least because any company that wants to create “one card to rule them all” needs to have multiple bases covered if it is going to convince you to leave your other debit and credit cards at home. One of those, of course, is low FX fees when spending abroad. Or, better still, zero fees. Enter the latest update from Curve, which introduces the “real exchange rate, with no hidden fees”. Up until now, Curve offered a better exchange rate and fee structure than most high street banks (around 1-2 percent on top of MasterCard’s competitive exchange rate), but it wasn’t up there with the very best on the market, such as the likes of Revolut, Starling, TransferWise, Monzo or Tandem, depending on use case and your penchant for convenience over price. To that end, the fintech startup has spent the last six months re-engineering the platform’s money exchange piping to be able to compete much harder in currency conversion and at the point of purchase. “Our zero FX proposition is built on the foundations of the innovative technology at the heart of Curve, enabling us to perform FX swaps on top of any card that you have loaded into your Curve wallet without the user needing to do anything special and with the transaction showing in the underlying cards native currency,” Curve CTO Matt Collinge tells me.

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