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2018-07-20T00:33:10.812Z
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Tilray, a five-year-old, British Columbia-based medical cannabis company that sells its products to patients, researchers, pharmacies and even governments, saw its shares get high (sorry) on the Nasdaq today, after the company priced 9 million shares at $17 apiece and watched them soar, closing at $22.39, a jump of slightly more than 32 percent.

The company raised $153 million in the offering, capital it will reportedly use in part to fuel its marijuana growing and processing facilities in Ontario.

It was a huge win for the cannabis industry, which has been growing like a weed (sorry again). Related startups attracted $593 million in funding last year, twice what they raised in 2016 and a meaningful jump from the $121 million invested in related startups in 2014, according to CB Insights. Among the different types of companies to garner investor dollars, shows CB Insights’ research, are: startups focused on research or distribution of medical marijuana products (as with Tilray); tools for ensuring compliance with state and federal marijuana laws; startups focused on payments for marijuana companies; startups collecting data and producing marketing insights about the industry; and companies creating novel strains and types of marijuana using new farming techniques.

Tilray’s performance today is also a very positive signal for Seattle-based Privateer Holdings, a private equity firm that owned 100 percent of the startup as it headed into its offering. In fact, Privateer’s CEO, Brendan Kennedy, is also the CEO of Tilray. (Cannabis...

The debut of Walt Disney Animation Studio’s first VR short film, Cycles, is set for this August in Vancouver, the Association for Computing Machinery announced today. The plan is for it to be a headliner at the ACM’s computer graphics conference (SIGGRAPH), joining other forms of VR, AR and MR entertainment in the conference’s designated Immersive Pavilion.

This film is a first for both Disney and its director, Jeff Gipson, who joined the animation team in 2013 to work as a lighting artist on films like Frozen, Zootopia and Moana. The objective of this film, Gipson said in the statement released by ACM, is to inspire a deep emotional connection with the story.

“We hope more and more people begin to see the emotional weight of VR films, and with Cycles in particular, we hope they will feel the emotions we aimed to convey with our story,” said Gipson.

Cycles centers around the meaning of creating a home and focuses on the ups and downs of a family as they create a life in theirs.

“Every house has a story unique to the people, the characters who live there,” says Gipson. “We wanted to create a story in this single place and be able to have the viewer witness life happening around them.”

While VR is a perfect candidate for this kind of emotionally driven story, the process of bringing an idea like this to life is no simple task. Apart from the technical feats involved (the short took about four months with 50 collaborators)...

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is still reviewing the 12 applications from companies to operate electric scooters in the city. In early June, companies like Uber, Lime, Bird, Lyft and others applied for permits to operate electric scooter share services in San Francisco. San Francisco’s permit process came as a result of Bird, Lime and Spin deploying their electric scooters without permission in the city in March. As part of a new city law, which went into effect June 4, scooter companies are not able to operate their services in San Francisco without a permit.

The SFMTA initially said it expected to make a decision about which five, if any, companies would receive permits by the end of June. Well, it’s now July and still no decision. The SFMTA expects to finalize its recommendations and documentation “in the coming weeks,” the SFMTA wrote in a blog post today. Once that’s done, the agency says it will work with companies to finalize and clarify the terms and conditions of the permit. The goal, according to the blog post, is to issue permits sometime in August.

As part of the 24-month pilot program, electric scooter companies selected to operate in the city will need to provide user education and insurance, share its detailed trip data with the city, have a privacy policy that protects user data, offer a low-income plan and operate in a to-be-approved service area. The city will allow no more than 2,500 electric scooters...

You would think that Amazon, Reddit, Wikipedia and other highly popular websites would by now tell you that “password1” or “hunter2” is a terrible password — just terrible. But they don’t. A research project that has kept tabs on the top sites and their password habits for the last 11 years shows that most provide only rudimentary password restrictions and do little to help users.

Steven Furnell, of the University of Plymouth, first did a survey of websites’ password practices in 2007, repeating the process in 2011 and 2014 — and then once more this week. His conclusions?

It is somewhat disappointing to find that the overall story in 2018 remains largely similar to that of 2007. In the intervening years, much has been written about the failings of passwords and the ways in which we use them, yet little is done to encourage or oblige us to follow the right path.

Although the university writeup notes that Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo had the best password practices and Amazon, Reddit, and Wikipedia had the worst, it diplomatically declined to go into specifics. Fortunately, I acquired the paper for myself and am prepared to name and shame.

The top 10 unique sites in English (as measured by Alexa; the lineup has changed somewhat over the years) were evaluated: Google, Facebook, Wikipedia, Reddit, Yahoo, Amazon, Twitter, Instagram, Microsoft Live, and Netflix.

The biggest failure is inarguably Amazon, which combines truly inadequate password controls with an incredibly valuable and personal service. Wikipedia and Reddit had fewer restrictions,...

Farfetch — the e-commerce startup that works with some 900 high end fashion boutiques and labels to present and sell clothes, shoes, accessories and jewellery online, and we and others have heard is gearing up for a $6 billion IPO — is making an acquisition to double down China, one of the fastest-growing markets for luxury goods.

It’s acquiring Curiosity China, a marketing firm that specialises in leveraging social media — specifically, WeChat — to target users and sell goods. It already works with some 80 brands that are also customers of Farfetch to help them use WeChat channels and accounts to reach would-be customers. It also offers CRM and a few other services.

The plan will be to incorporate Curiosity China into Farfetch’s “Black & White” white-label API, which essentially allows boutiques to integrate their stock into Farfetch’s purchasing and logistics platform, or use that engine to sell its goods on their own sites. This will now give them the option also to use the API to run campaigns in China.

Terms of the deal have not been disclosed. This is Farfetch’s third acquisition, the other two being UK boutique Browns and Style.com. Farfetch also said it is buying all of the company’s tech and all of its employees and founders are coming on board.

Judy Liu, a co-founder of CuriosityChina, will become Farfetch’s managing director for China; another co-founder, Alexis Bonhomme, is taking on the role of VP commercial, China; and the...

Augmented reality tech is in this incredibly weird position where it has the world’s biggest tech companies cheerleading consumer-facing products highlighting it but there are some very base issues that haven’t been solved yet.

Jido Maps, which just graduated from Y Combinator’s most recent class, is another startup aiming to deliver the backend technologies needed to give a great fundamental AR experience. They have just raised a $2.1 million seed round led by Khosla Ventures with participation from GREE, Seraph Group, Outpost Capital and others.

Persistence is a big part of what current consumer technologies are lagging in. Jido sees itself as a “save button” for the digital AR world where after gaining an understanding of the space, it can recall where your augmented reality session ended and how the objects within that experience were left in the space.

So, more practically, if you are holding a digital banana and you put that on the table, Jido may enable that to remain in that space when you return at a later date or time. That process of relocalizing a device and helping it remember its former position is at the core of this technology.

What’s interesting about the rhetoric that Jido’s leadership is putting out there is that the company is less focused on the point clouds and seems to be more focused on underlying structure of a space and deciphering the relationship between objects and what fixtures are permanent. The company says that this approach will ultimately give the platform more...

Sujay Seetharaman Contributor Share on Twitter Sujay Seetharaman is a Customer Success Manager and a Market Analyst at eCommerce market intelligence firm PipeCandy

As competition between Walmart and Amazon intensifies, the acquisition of Shopify’s merchant marketplace may be the boost that the Walton family’s juggernaut needs to move ahead.

In May this year, Amazon published its small business impact report in which it disclosed that there are 20,000 small and medium sized businesses that make a million dollars or more in sales on its platform

Amazon boasts about 5 million third-party sellers on its marketplace today, with an estimated 100,000 sellers hopping onboard every month.

At 100,000 sellers a month over the next 5 years, there could be an estimated 11 Million sellers on Amazon’s marketplace by 2023.

E-commerce intelligence firm Marketplace Pulse estimates Amazon’s Gross Merchandise Volume or GMV for 2018 at $280B, set to triple over a 5-year period, concluding that the marketplace contribution to Amazon’s GMV would surpass 70% by 2023.

Combined with Prime and FBA, this high-level picture sounds like Amazon can afford to not worry about its marketplace. But an uneasy trend seems to simmer within its 5 million cohort. Looking at Feedvisor’s survey of Amazon marketplace merchants from 2017 and 2018 and some interesting trends surface. 

Marketplace merchants are looking to keep their advertising costs...

Embark Trucks has raised $30 million in a Series B funding round led by Sequoia Capital in its bid to be the first to develop and launch a commercially viable driverless truck.

Sequoia partner Pat Grady has joined Embark’s board. Existing investors including Data Collective, YCombinator, SV Angel and AME Cloud also participated in the round, Embark announced Thursday.

Embark, which was founded in 2016, has raised $47 million to date.

The autonomous trucking field is starting to become crowded. A number of companies, and more it seems every day, are all developing and testing autonomous trucks, including TuSimple, Starsky Robotics, Anthony Levandowski’s new company Kache.aiWaymo, and Uber.

Each competitor in this emerging industry has a slightly different approach with the same general aim.

Embark, for instance, doesn’t want to replace the driver completely. The company, which emerged publicly in February 2017, envisions local drivers on the two tail ends of a long haul journey. A local driver would handle the piece from a warehouse to the interstate. From there, the driver would drop its freight and Embark’s self-driving system takes over, with a completely autonomous stint on the freeway. A local driver at the end of the trip would the freight to its final drop off point.

The company believes its tech, once deployed, will help decrease the number of drivers needed for long-haul trips.

Despite its relatively small size—there are just 35 employees—Embark has made considerable headway.

Embark has now added operations in Los Angeles suburb Ontario, according to...

Star Wars: The Clone Wars, an animated series that ran on Cartoon Network for five seasons, is coming back.

Created by George Lucas and overseen by Dave Filoni, the show depicted the adventures of Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, as well as new characters like Ahsoka Tano, during the titular Clone Wars. Fans praised its ability to showcase a wide range of stories, characters and even genres.

The Clone Wars was cancelled after Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm, with a final batch of episodes known as “The Lost Missions” airing on Netflix. Characters and story elements were subsequently incorporated into the animated series Star Wars Rebels — and even into the latest film, Solo.

Today at San Diego Comic-Con, Lucasfilm held a panel celebrating the show’s 10-year anniversary, where Filoni announced that The Clone Wars will return for 12 more episodes, which will air on Disney’s upcoming streaming service. He also released the first trailer for the new season.

It sounds like these episodes are being pitched as the end of the Clone Wars story, with Filoni telling StarWars.com, “Any opportunity to put the final pieces of the story in place is meaningful as a storyteller.”

It’s not clear what this means for The Clone Wars‘ presence on Netflix. Meanwhile, Disney says it will launch its still-unnamed streaming service next year with exclusive Star Wars and Marvel shows — it already announced a live action Star Wars series written and produced by Jon Favreau.

Huawei’s had a rough go of it here in the States, after concerns around ties to the Chinese government have left the company scrambling to gain a commercial toehold. Over the past several years, top U.K. security officials have also put the company under the microscope over potential security concerns. 

A new report issued by a government panel with the straightforward name “Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre” this week presents some fairly inconclusive findings.

“Identification of shortcomings in Huawei’s engineering processes have exposed new risks in the UK telecommunication networks and long-term challenges in mitigation and management,” the report notes, early on. “The Oversight Board can provide only limited assurance that any risks to UK national security from Huawei’s involvement in the UK’s critical networks have been sufficiently mitigated.”

Sure, it’s not as damning as the time the FBI, CIA and NSA issued a bold proclamation against buying from the company, but it certainly leaves the door open for further scrutiny. For its part, Huawei actually seems pretty pleased with the report.

The company offered TechCrunch the following statement in response:

Huawei welcomes the Oversight Board report. It confirms the collaborative approach adopted by Huawei, the UK Government and operators is working as designed, meeting obligations and providing unique, world class network integrity assurance through ongoing risk management. The report concludes that HCSEC’s operational independence is both robust and effective. The Oversight Board has identified some areas for improvement in...

Event management software company Gather today announced the introduction of its Gather Booking Network, and inaugural partners Yelp and EVENTUp. The network is designed to help party go-ers, venues and event planners connect more easily and start celebrating sooner.

Gather was founded in 2013 by CEO and co-founder Nick Miller, Alex Lassiter (SVP of Sales) and Tom Merrihew (VP of Engineering) after their experience organizing corporate events for a consulting group led them head-first into the dark, mostly disorganized world of event planning.

“We kind of fell into and uncovered what is a manual and disorganized process,” CEO and co-founder Nick Miller told TechCrunch. “On both sides of the table. For both the person planning the event but also for the folks who work at the restaurants and venues. We set out to fix the problem.”

Since its creation, Gather has teamed up with more than 12,500 venues and restaurants across the United States and expanded its three person team to 95 Atlanta-based employees. The company helps coordinate a wide range of events, ranging from corporate gatherings to full-blown weddings. As part of its expansion and to refine its services, Gather raised a $2.5 million Series A round in 2016 led by Ryan Floyd of Storm Ventures and a strategic investment and partnership with Vista Equity Partners in 2017.

Now, the company’s sights are on growing its booking network to provide a one-stop shop for event planning needs.

After the...

Yale Fox Contributor Yale Fox is founder and CEO at Rentlogic.

We are moving toward a society controlled by algorithms, but very few of us actually understand how they work. This asymmetry of information is a recipe for disaster. Case in point: Recently in the U.K., an algorithmic failure put the lives of 450,000 woman at risk through a technical error that inhibited their ability to detect breast cancer.

Unfortunately, this is not an anomaly, and if the tech industry doesn’t take the lead on imposing oversights to our algorithms, the government may create its own regulations — causing roadblocks to innovation.

We have seen time and time again the mistake of placing our blind trust in algorithms. Even our best intentions can go awry when we’re working with something we don’t always understand, which has the ability to scale globally almost instantly.

This isn’t a new concept. For example, since the early 1900s, “scientifically proven” was the trend in innovation, which bled into marketing — only a few people with highly specialized knowledge, in this case scientists, had the esoteric research along with understanding of DNA and biological sciences. Most people blindly believed this research, and it was exploited to sell products. By the early 1990s, “data driven” beat out “scientifically proven” and became the de rigueur buzz phrase — anything data driven (or data-related) must be correct because the data said so, and therefore one should...

The TechCrunch Summer Party at August Capital is the stuff of Silicon Valley legend. We’re celebrating 13 years of libations and convivial conversation while toasting the entrepreneurial spirit on the deck at August Capital in Menlo Park on July 27. And we want you to join us.

If you have not yet secured your ticket to this summer soiree, heed our call. We’ve just released the last round of tickets. Once they go — and go quickly they will — that’s it. No party for you. Get clicking and buy your ticket right here, right now.

We aren’t kidding when we say legendary things happen at TechCrunch events. Our favorite story is when Box founders Aaron Levie and Dylan Smith met one of their first investors, DFJ, at our summer party hosted by TechCrunch founder, Michael Arrington in his Atherton backyard.

And that’s just it — this party draws a veritable who’s who of the startup community. You never know who you’ll meet on the deck at August Capital. Opportunity awaits, along with some pretty spiffy door prizes like TechCrunch swag, Amazon Echos and tickets to Disrupt San Francisco 2018.

Here’s the where, when and how much:

  • July 27, 5:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
  • August Capital in Menlo Park
  • Ticket price: $95

All those influential party people make the TechCrunch Summer Party at August Capital a great place for founders to showcase their early-stage startups, so consider buying a party demo table at the event. The price includes four party tickets — that’s a sweet deal.

This...

FlixBus, the low-cost bus service out of Europe, is doubling down on its U.S. launch. The parent company, FlixMobility, started cheap bus routes between Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Tucson just two months ago.

Now it’s adding another 16 connections throughout central and northern California as well as Nevada and Arizona. The new connections, which begin Thursday, include California cities such as Bakersfield, Commerce, Fremont, Fresno, Gilroy, Kettleman City, Millbrae, Oakland, Richmond, Sacramento, Salinas,  San Francisco, San Jose and Universal City. Tempe, Arizona and Reno, Nevada have also been added. Several of these routes, including from Los Angeles to San Francisco,  Bakersfield to Fresno and Oakland to Burbank are $9.99.

FlixBus might be competing with traditional bus company Greyhound with fares between U.S. cities as low as $4.99. But it has a different business model that is more comparable to ride-hailing company Uber. FlixBus, which now operates in 28 countries, manages the ticketing, ticketing, customer service, network planning, marketing, and sale of its product. The driving is left to local partners, which get to keep a percentage of the ticket receipts.

These local bus partners manage the daily operations of the brightly painted FlixBuses. The company says it’s adding 26 more buses to its fleet to accommodate the expansion. New bus partners include Alvand Transportation, Amador Stage Lines, Classic Charter, LD Tours, Transportation Charter Services and Tourcoach.

FlixBus vehicles have other touches beyond its brightly painted facades aimed at attracting customers. The buses offer free Wi-Fi and onboard entertainment and customers can use an app to book...

Microsoft is capping off a rather impressive year without any major missteps in its final report for its performance in its 2018 fiscal year, posting a quarter that seems to have been largely non-offensive to Wall Street.

In the past year, Microsoft’s stock has gone up more than 40%. In the past two years, it’s nearly doubled. All of this came after something around a decade of that price not really doing anything as Microsoft initially missed major trends like the shift to mobile and the cloud. But since then, new CEO Satya Nadella has turned that around and increased the company’s focused on both, and Azure is now one of the company’s biggest highlights. Microsoft is now an $800 billion company, which while still considerably behind Apple, Amazon and Google, is a considerable high considering the past decade.

In addition, Microsoft passed $100 billion in revenue for a fiscal year. So, as you might expect, the stock didn’t really do anything, given that nothing seemed to be too wrong with what was going on. For a company that’s at around $800 billion, that it’s not doing anything bad at this point is likely a good thing. That Microsoft is even in the discussion of being one of the companies chasing a $1 trillion market cap is likely something we wouldn’t have been talking about just three or four years ago.

The company said it generated $30.1 billion...

In a blog post today, Instagram announced a new feature: a green status dot that indicates when a user is active on the app. If you’re cruising around Instagram, you can expect to see a green dot next to the profile pics of friends who are also Instagramming right then and there.

The dot will show up in the direct messaging part of the app but also on your friends list when you go to share a post with someone. Instagram clarifies that “You will only see status for friends who follow you or people who you have talked to in Direct” so it’s meant to get you talking more to the people you’re already talking to.

 

Instagram already displayed how long ago someone was active by including information like “Active 23m ago” or “Active Now” in grey text next to their account info where your direct messages live.

You can disable the status info in the “Activity Status” bit of the app’s settings menu, where it’s set to on by default. Still, even after disabling Activity Status, I can see which of my friends are active now in grey text. For those of us who prefer a calm, less realtime experience, that’s a bummer and it feels creepy.

Given that, the status dot is not really that much of a change, but it’s one design choice closer to making Instagram a compulsive realtime social media...

A broadcast merger that has been the poster boy for the FCC’s pro-industry agenda has been ordered to undertake a lengthy and potentially embarrassing process that amounts to, in the words of one commissioner, a “de facto merger death sentence.”

The proposed takeover of Tribune by Sinclair has been criticized by many as an unnecessary and potentially dangerous consolidation of media properties. The resulting company would have incredible reach and influence, especially combined with other recent rule changes that have further unshackled big media companies.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has himself been the target of many a sharp inquiry from the public, lawmakers, and even the Office of the Inspector General. The general feeling seems to be: We understand that you have a deregulatory to-do list here, and that’s valid, but practically everything you do benefits Sinclair directly or indirectly. Justify yourself.

FCC declines to punish Sinclair for its ‘must-run’ segments and scripts

Whether it was because of this unremitting scrutiny or simply because Sinclair’s merger proposal was blatantly disingenuous, Pai decided to do an about-face and put the brakes on the deal. He announced his intentions earlier this week and today brings the actual “hearing designation order,” which would require Sinclair to appear before a judge in an adversarial courtroom setting and explain...

The Wyze Cam has long been a strong contender for the best deal in connected home security. I haven’t actually tried the thing out, but Greg was “surprisingly impressed” with his hands-on time with the 1080p camera. That’s probably enough in and of itself to justify the $20 price tag.

Now the dirt cheap camera’s getting some added features courtesy of a software update. Starting today, owners of the Wyze Cam v2 and the $30 Wyze Cam Pan will be able to use Alexa to summon live video feeds on the Echo Show, Spot and through the Fire TV Stick (using the voice-enabled remote). Sorry, no luck for those who picked up the first gen device. Hope that $20 camera is working out for you, otherwise. 

The feature is available this week as a free update to the Alexa app. Wyze joins Ring, Arlo, Nest, and Canary, along with Amazon’s own security cameras, of course. But if nothing else, its option is certainly the cheapest of the bunch. One of these and an Echo Spot will set you back $150 — not too shabby for an on-the-fly home security system.

Shaun Abrahamson Contributor Shaun Abrahamson is a managing partner at Urban Us Ventures and serves on the Investment Committee at URBAN-X.

The design and operation of cities is the province of urban planning. But an explosion of startups in cities means a lot of new products and services for urban areas. The problem is, we don’t really know how people are going to use these new products and services.

“The company launched a trial service in Santa Monica just last year and when I first saw the scooters (parked literally outside of our office) I was convinced nobody would want to ride them…The volume grew so steadily that I finally hopped on one, rode down to Bird’s offices and pleaded with Travis to take money from us. I had literally never seen a consumer phenomenon take off so quickly,” says Mark Suster in All The Questions You Wanted Answered about Bird Scooters and Their Recent $300 Million Funding.

There is no doubt Santa Monica scooter usage has benefited from a significant investment in bike lanes, as you can see from this map. If you doubt this, take a look at what happens as you travel a little outside of Santa Monica, where bike infrastructure doesn’t exist. Scooter riders take to sidewalks, just as they do on bikes. (I suspect data would also reveal less usage...

Voyage, the autonomous driving startup that currently operates self-driving cars in retirement communities, has brought on its first CTO, Drew Gray. Gray most recently worked at Uber as its director of engineering, leading the deep learning and perception team in San Francisco, according to his LinkedIn. This comes shortly after the company poached Uber’s head of policy for autonomous vehicles and aviation, Justin Erlich, to lead its strategy, policy and legal efforts.

Voyage, Gray said, was the obvious choice because of the mobility needs it addresses for the 125,000 residents in The Villages in Florida.

“Private communities like The Villages are often much simpler with respect to roadways and traffic patterns, and allow us to implement creative technical solutions that aren’t possible everywhere else due to regulation,” Gray wrote in a Medium post. “We believe there to be a massive un-tapped autonomous ride-sharing business in locations like The Villages — all with approachable autonomy requirements we believe we can solve sooner rather than later.”

Gray, who has also held roles at Tesla, Cruise and Otto, joined Voyage about a month ago to help the company achieve its mission of bringing autonomous vehicles to the masses.

“The autonomous vehicle industry is still so young, it’s an incredibly rare to work side-by-side with someone who has held senior leadership positions at many of the foundational companies in the field,” Voyage CEO Oliver Cameron wrote on Voyage’s blog. “Drew has done...