Fortra told breached companies their data was safe
Software maker Fortra told its corporate customers that their data was safe — even when it wasn’t — following a ransomware attack on its systems, TechCrunch has learned.
As we have been reporting, the Clop ransomware gang exploited a newly discovered bug in Fortra’s GoAnywhere file transfer software, used by thousands of organizations to transfer sensitive data over the internet. The bug allowed the ransomware gang to hack in and carry out a mass ransomware attack on January 31. The Russia-linked Clop gang claimed it compromised about 130 organizations that were using the vulnerable GoAnywhere tool at the time of the ransomware attack.
Now, new victims are coming to light.
Consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble confirmed to TechCrunch that it was “one of the many companies affected by Fortra’s GoAnywhere incident” and that hackers had obtained some information of its employees as a result. Healthcare and wellness program provider US Wellness also disclosed this week that consumers’ personal and protected health data may have been compromised because of a third-party breach. TechCrunch has learned that US Wellness was a GoAnywhere customer at the time of the ransomware attack.
As the number of victims grows, more details are also beginning to come to light about how Fortra handled the incident.
TechCrunch has heard from two victim organizations that only learned that data had been exfiltrated from their GoAnywhere systems after they each received a ransom demand. Both organizations had been previously told by Fortra that their data was unaffected by the ransomware attack.
One of the organizations told TechCrunch that they realized the situation had changed when it was contacted by the purported hackers but said that the organization has not entered into any negotiations or paid a ransom demand.
When asked about this by email, Fortra spokesperson Rachel Woodford would not comment but did not dispute what the two organizations had told us or that Fortra had told customers their data was safe. Fortra did not make CISO Chris Reffkin available for an interview.
The full impact of the mass-hack resulting from the GoAnywhere vulnerability remains unknown. Fortra would not say, despite repeated requests by TechCrunch, if the company’s in-house GoAnywhere systems storing customers’ data were compromised during the ransomware attack.
The Clop ransomware gang has added dozens of new victims to its dark web leak site over the past few days — including payment software startup AvidXchange, investment giant Onex, the U.K.’s Pension Protection Fund, and the City of Toronto — all of which were identified by TechCrunch as organizations that used vulnerable GoAnywhere file transfer software at the time of the breach, along with dozens of other organizations.
It follows other additions to its leak pages, including Colombian energy giant Grupo Vanti, Australian gambling giant Crown Resorts, and Medex Healthcare.
Fortra has not yet publicly confirmed its January breach beyond an inaccessible advisory on its website. Fortra’s most recent press release on March 16 announced that the company had been awarded “best cybersecurity company” by the Cybersecurity Excellence Awards, an industry award paid for by submitting companies and which Fortra sponsors.
Fortra told breached companies their data was safe by Zack Whittaker originally published on TechCrunch
ABL Space Systems scores $60M for rapid response launch for defense customers
Launch startup ABL Space Systems has landed a $60 million contract to build out its “responsive launch” operational capacity, as part of the U.S. Space Force and U.S. Air Force Strategic Funding Increase (STRATFI) program. The new funding, which equally matches government funding with private investment, comes as the company prepares for the second launch attempt of its RS1 rocket.
In a statement, ABL said that a key challenge with responsive space launches “is breaking from the assumption of a pre-defined orbit, trajectory, and launch site.” For such missions, the company said it would build new operational capacity for short-notice launches.
“We believe that operational flexibility is key to meeting the rapidly changing needs of our customers,” Eva Abramson, ABL’s head of strategic development, said in a statement. “This award will help us in further developing on-call launch capabilities to meet mission-driven payload, launch site and target orbit needs.”
The U.S. Space Force has made strides in recent years to expand its Tactically Responsive Space (TacRS) capabilities by working with private industry, and rocket startups in particular. Last October, the Space Force awarded Firefly Space a $17.6 million TacRS mission contract to launch this year. Under the terms of the agreement, the Space Force will give Firefly just 24 hours’ notice prior to launch.
This new funding will likely be a boon for ABL as it gears up to attempt to launch its RS1 small rocket for a second time from the Pacific Spaceport Complex on Alaska’s Kodiak Island. The company made its first launch attempt in January, but the rocket was destroyed after all nine engines on the first stage shut down simultaneously. The vehicle hit the launch pad, but no personnel were injured.
ABL has yet to announce the date of the next launch, but it’s already eyeing up expansion: Earlier this month, the Space Force granted the company dedicated launch space at Launch Complex 15 in Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Base.
ABL Space Systems scores $60M for rapid response launch for defense customers by Aria Alamalhodaei originally published on TechCrunch
Rocket Lab reveals big supplier deal with mystery mega constellation customer
Rocket Lab has proven that it’s much more than a launch company: One glance at the company’s most recent earnings presentation shows as much, since in 2022, its space systems business, which designs, manufactures and sells satellite components and spacecraft, brought in over 70% of company revenue compared to launch, at $150.3 million versus $60.7 million, respectively.
The space systems business — whose products include star trackers, reaction wheels, solar power systems, separation systems and more — also saw a massive growth in revenue, increasing by 239% year-over-year. To meet this growing demand, the company further announced last year that it was building out new manufacturing capabilities for reaction wheels, in particular.
The investment is paying off: It appears that Rocket Lab has landed a contract to provide reaction wheels to an unnamed mega constellation customer. The company said as much in a February press release announcing a new 12Nms reaction wheel product, saying that the wheel is “currently planned for flight with an undisclosed large mega constellation customer.”
More recently, Rocket Lab CFO Adam Spice added more color to this statement, revealing that the deal is worth “thousands” of reaction wheels per year.
“We entered into an agreement with a mega constellation where it’s thousands of reaction wheels per year and much bigger reaction wheels,” Spice said at Cowen’s 44th Annual Aerospace/Defense and Industrials Conference. “What that allowed us to do is build a dedicated high-volume production facility in New Zealand and we brought the cost down by almost an order of magnitude on those wheels.”
At a Bank of America event this Tuesday, Spice reiterated the enormity of the deal: “We secured a contract with a mega constellation customer where we’ll ship two or three thousand reaction wheels per year to one customer.”
While the company has not publicly disclosed the name of this customer — and declined to comment on the matter to TechCrunch, citing commercial sensitivity — there’s only a handful of known possibilities. Amazon’s Project Kuiper is one likely candidate, and OneWeb’s growing network could plausibly be another. SpaceX has demonstrated that it wants to stay in-house as much as possible for its production stack, however, so Starlink isn’t likely.
In its data sheet on the 12Nms reaction wheel, Rocket Lab lists the base price at $100,000. Of course, on contracts of this size, the price per unit is often discounted (which Spice acknowledged, saying at the Cowen conference that the ASP for the mega constellation reaction wheels “came down quite a bit”), but it suggests a big win for Rocket Lab’s revenues and a possible source for the doubling of the company’s backlog last year: from $241 million at the end of 2021 to $503 million.
Rocket Lab reveals big supplier deal with mystery mega constellation customer by Aria Alamalhodaei originally published on TechCrunch
SEC puts Coinbase on notice and other TC news
Welcome to another episode of The TechCrunch Podcast where we break down the biggest stories in tech news with the people who cover it. This week, I talk with Taylor Hatmaker about the TikTok CEO’s congressional testimony and Jacquie Melinek is here to catch us up on everything that’s been going on in Crypto from Do Kwon’s arrest to the SEC suing the Tron founder and many celebrities.
Use Promo code TCPOD to get 40% founder and investor passes to Early Stage on April 20 in Boston.
Articles from the episode:
- Terra creator Do Kwon reportedly arrested at Montenegro airport
- SEC sues Tron founder and celebrities, including Lindsay Lohan, Jake Paul and Soulja Boy, for crypto securities violations
- Coinbase execs weigh in on the crypto’s future in US amid regulatory scrutiny
- TikTok CEO testifies before Congress
- TikTok CEO says it wasn’t ‘spying’ when ByteDance employees surveilled journalists
More from TechCrunch
- Amazon kills DPReview, the best camera review site on the web
- Google’s Bard lags behind GPT-4 and Claude in head-to-head comparison
- AWS takes a hit in latest round of Amazon layoffs
- Microsoft brings OpenAI’s DALL-E image creator to the new Bing
SEC puts Coinbase on notice and other TC news by Darrell Etherington originally published on TechCrunch
How the FBI caught the BreachForums admin
On Friday, the U.S. Justice Department announced that the now-arrested alleged administrator of the infamous hacking forum BreachForums facilitated the sale and purchase of private information that belonged to “millions of U.S. citizens and hundreds of U.S. and foreign companies, organizations, and government agencies.”
In a statement, prosecutors confirmed the arrest of Conor Fitzpatrick, 20, aka pompompurin, of Peekskill, New York. Fitzpatrick is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit access device fraud, subject to a maximum of five years in prison if convicted.
In order to prove that BreachForums facilitated the sale and purchase of stolen or hacked data, FBI undercover agents purchased five sets of data: one of data stolen from an unnamed U.S. internet hosting and security services company, which contained names, addresses, phone numbers, usernames, password hashes, and email addresses for approximately 8,000 customers, as well as payment card information for 1,900 customers; another dataset stolen from an unnamed U.S. based investment company, containing at least 5 million email addresses; one containing the private information of “large numbers of U.S. persons,” including full names, email addresses, phone numbers, home addresses, birthdates, Social Security Numbers, driver licenses’ numbers, bank names, routing numbers, and account numbers; another from the same seller, which contained private information and bank account information of around 15 million U.S. persons; and one other set of data taken from a U.S. healthcare company.
The feds collected several pieces of evidence to nab Pompompurin. First they got the IP addresses that Pompompurin used to access RaidForums, the predecessor of BreachForums, which was seized by the FBI in April 2022. Nine of those IP addresses were associated with Fitzpatrick, according to his internet service provider Verizon, as FBI Special Agent John Longmire wrote in the affidavit dated March 15, two days before Fitzpatrick’s arrest.
In a spectacular snafu on the hacker’s part, Longmire wrote that the second piece of evidence came from Pompompurin himself. In a chat with the RaidForums admin, Pompompurin said he noticed a data breach posted on the site did not include “one of my old emails,” which he looked up on the legitimate data breach notification site Have I Been Pwned.
Even though Pompompurin then said “(I don’t want to share my actual email for obvious reasons, but this email seems to have the same case as mine): email@example.com,” the agent wrote in the affidavit that that email address was indeed Pompompurin because the FBI obtained records from Google showing that Fitzpatrick registered that address months before that chat. The alleged hacker also had Google Pay accounts linked to both that email address as well as a newer one, “firstname.lastname@example.org,” both linked to a number owned by Fitzpatrick, according to the affidavit.
Furthermore, the agent wrote that he obtained more records from Google, which showed email@example.com had a recovery email address firstname.lastname@example.org linked to an IP address registered to someone with the last name Fitzpatrick and a different phone number, which the agent said he believed belong to Fitzpatrick’s father.
Then, according to the affidavit, Pompompurin used several VPNs to connect to his Gmail account, some of which overlap with his activity elsewhere on the internet.
The agent also said that the FBI obtained records from cryptocurrency exchange Purse.io. The company’s records revealed that four of the IP addresses used to connect to the exchange were also used to connect to the email@example.com Gmail account and Popompurin’s RaidForums account. Moreover, that Purse.io account was registered with the name Conor Fitzpatrick and the email address“firstname.lastname@example.org,” the affidavit said.
Those four IP addresses, according to the agent, were owned by VPN providers which Pompompurin also used to connect to the “email@example.com” account.
Another VPN IP address was also used to log into a Zoom account under the name “pompompurin” associated with a Riseup email address also used to register his RaidForums account, according to the affidavit.
Records from Purse.io also showed that Fitzpatrick’s account purchased “several items” and shipped them to his address with the phone number the feds had already established was his. Also seven of nine IP addresses used to connect to Purse.io were also used to connect to Pompompurin’s account on RaidForums. And, finally, the Purse.io account “was funded exclusively by a Bitcoin address that Pompompurin had discussed in posts on RaidForums,” per the affidavit.
The evidence does not stop there. In a database of RaidForums forum activity, the feds saw that Pompompurin accessed his account from an IP address registered to Fitzpatrick’s father at the same home address previously identified by the authorities, according to the affidavit.
That same IP address was used to access an iCloud account associated with Fitzpatrick, Longmire wrote in the affidavit.
Moreover, Longmire noted that the accounts with the handle Pompompurin on RaidForums and BreachForums were likely owned by the same person, as Pompompurin wrote in a post on BreachForums: “if you used RaidForums you most likely remember me, I was one of the more active users on there,” and the new Pompompurin account on BreachForums “alluded to past activity by the pompompurin account on RaidForums.”
Finally, Longmire wrote that the FBI obtained a warrant to get Fitzpatrick’s real-time cell phone GPS location from Verizon, allowing agents to observe that Pompompurin was logged in to BreachForums while his phone’s location showed he was at his home.”
The feds also surveilled Fitzpatrick at his home while agents noted Pompompurin’s account was active on the forum.
This trove of evidence allowed law enforcement to obtain a warrant to search Fitzpatrick’s house, where he agreed to speak to the agents and “admitted that he is the user of the pompompurin account,” and that “he owns and administers BreachForums and previously operated the pompompurin account on RaidForums.”
The FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Fitzpatrick’s lawyer also did not respond to a request for comment.
Ironically, Fitzpatrick may have thought this day would come when he launched BreachForums. In an interview on the Data Knight website, when the interviewer asked him: “Don’t you think that there’s a reason that the FBI took down RaidForums? Why would you want to bring it back up knowing that you may face that same fate whatever it [may be].”
Pompompurin responded: “It doesn’t really bother me. If I get arrested one day it also wouldn’t surprise me, but as I said I have a trusted person who will have full access to everything needed to relaunch it without me.”
The Justice Department said in its Friday statement that it had also “conducted a disruption operation that caused BreachForums to go offline.” When reached for comment, DOJ spokesperson Joshua Stueve declined to elaborate. At the time of publication, BreachForums was inaccessible, displaying an error saying “bad gateway,” but the domain still appeared to be in the control of the site’s current administrator.
Following the Justice Department’s announcement of Fitzpatrick’s arrest, the person who took over from him, known as Baphomet, announced they would shut down the forum.
On Friday, after the affidavit was circulated online, Baphomet wrote a message on a Telegram channel, saying “the most important thing right now of our community is to be aware that the FBI is now confirmed to have access to the Breached database,” and, “at this point the entire document will clearly show what I’ve said for the entirety of my time on Breached, and that you shouldn’t trust anyone to handle your own OPSEC. I never made this assumption as an admin, and no one else should have either.”
That’s why, Baphomet added, “simply piling everyone back into the same community without any thought of how we properly move forward safely is basically a death trap.”
Do you have information about BreachForums? We’d love to hear from you. From a non-work device, you can contact Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai securely on Signal at +1 917 257 1382, or via Wickr, Telegram and Wire @lorenzofb, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also contact TechCrunch via SecureDrop.
How the FBI caught the BreachForums admin by Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai originally published on TechCrunch
Turo just dropped its 2022 financials as its IPO hunt continues
Turo, a startup that allows consumers to rent their cars to one another, filed an update to its IPO paperwork Friday, detailing its full 2022 financial performance.
The upshot? Turo has continued to grind away and even make revenue gains as it awaits for better IPO conditions.
While the IPO market has been frozen for some time, Turo has not given up on its plans to go public. From a private filing back in 2021 and dropping a public S-1 document in early 2022, the unicorn has regularly released quarterly updates to the document. The latest filing fills in its Q4 2022 performance, allowing us to compare its most recent year to those trailing, and providing the market with news on what could be one of the first IPOs to price and start trading when the market improves for such offerings.
As a private company, Turo has raised around a half-billion dollars, including a Series E in 2019 that pegged its valuation at the $1 billion mark; that round was later extended in early 2020 per Crunchbase data.
What does the new filing show us? It indicates that Turo’s growth out of the pandemic doldrums continued last year after posting rapid revenue gains in 2021. And that the company has reached new levels of profitability that may prove enticing to investors when the time comes. Let’s take a closer look.
In 2022 Turo generated revenue of $746.6 million, up 59% from the $469 million it brought into the business in 2021. That growth was powered, in part, by a large boost to spending at the company, which saw its sales and marketing costs grow from $52.7 million in 2021 to $111.3 million in 2022.
But rising costs didn’t mean that Turo had an unprofitable last year. In fact, after posting GAAP net losses in the $90 million range in both 2019 and 2020, Turo cut the figure to a $40.4 million net loss in 2021. Last year the company’s net income came to a far-shinier and positive $154.7 million, although that number is predicated on a more modest operating income result of $33.8 million.
Given that Turo’s income statement after operating costs is a bit wonky, its adjusted EBITDA may ironically be a more useful — less sclerotic — indicator of its profitability. Here we find that the company essentially matched its 2021 result of $81.1 million in 2022 when it reported adjusted EBITDA profit of $79.7 million.
Growth? Check. Profits? Check. Turo is ready to go public, and thanks to its S-1/A filing we know that it still wants to. At this point we’re merely waiting for it to kick off a roadshow.
While Turo has been itching to get into the public markets game, perhaps it better that it has waited. Turo competitor Getaround went public in late 2022 by merging with a SPAC. In the wake of that combination, the company has lost nearly all of its value and is at risk of delisting after falling below the $1 per share threshold. The company announced a round of cost cutting in February, but has not yet released Q4 earnings. A December-era investor update was light on hard financial data, but did detail that Getaround is a fraction of the size of Turo.
Turo’s model has evolved from individuals sharing cars to slightly more professional users that provide a handful of cars to the platform. Still, its asset-light business appears to have come good in the post-pandemic era, a time in which many folks felt the itch to move, and used and new car prices were above historical norms. Car rentals, it appears in light of Turo’s results, benefited from the trends.
It’s difficult to price Turo, as it’s gross margins are a bit outside normal software bands, and we don’t precisely know how investors will classify it industry-wise when it does debut. But give its revenue growth and ability to generated adjusted and unadjusted black ink, it doesn’t seem likely that Turo will struggle to defend its final private marks.
Turo, you have the keys. Kickstart the IPO wave please.
Turo just dropped its 2022 financials as its IPO hunt continues by Alex Wilhelm originally published on TechCrunch
Woolly introduces a Twitter and TweetDeck-inspired Mastodon app
The slow but steady Twitter exodus has brought a new abundance of third-party Mastodon apps like Ivory, Mammoth, and Ice Cubes that connect users to the increasingly popular open source and decentralized social network. Today, we can add one more app to that list with the launch of Woolly, another solidly built iOS Mastodon client focused on offering a more customizable home screen, threaded views for reading longer conversations, and a TweetDeck-inspired layout for the iPad.
According to Woolly’s creator, Matteo Villa, the main differentiator between his app and others is the approach he took to home screen customization. With Woolly, users can pin things like multiple remote timelines, lists, bookmarks, search, hashtags, or even other user profiles directly to the app’s main tab bar, enabling quick and easy access to your favorite content.
You can also customize the icon associated with each pinned section for a more personalized experience.
On both iPhone and iPad, the different pinned “columns” can be accessed by tapping on their icon, but on iPad, the columns are also presented in a TweetDeck-like view.
This latter option may appeal to those who were more heavily dependent on Twitter’s often-ignored social media dashboard app, which the company has seemingly been winding down by dropping the TweetDeck Mac app last summer after discontinuing its mobile client and Windows support in prior years. (And of course, it’s unclear to what extent TweetDeck even has a future under Elon Musk’s ownership.)
Another standout feature in Woolly’s new app is its support for threaded conversations, which resembles Twitter’s own look and feel, complete with connective lines between posts to help you follow the replies as you scroll down. The feature aims to offer “a better reading experience for longer conversations,” Villa explains, which was something he particularly missed when he switched to Mastodon’s official app.
The similarity between Woolly and Twitter doesn’t stop there, either. Even the line of icons for engaging with Mastodon posts feels a bit familiar, as the row starts with the reply button on the far left, followed by the retweet (or “boost” in Mastodon lingo), then the heart icon for favoriting a post, as on Twitter.
There are several other nice touches in Woolly, too, like a way to filter your timeline to hide boosts and replies, settings that let you specify if you want to open links in-app or in the system browser, a selection of both light and dark mode themes to choose from, toggles for hiding or unhiding sensitive media or hiding posts with content warnings, plus access to trending posts, links, and hashtags.
At launch, Woolly is still not as feature-rich as some other apps, like Ivory which includes access to things like analytics and more custom timeline filters. However, Woollly comes across as a polished and stable app that also has the potential to make former Twitter users feel more comfortable when making the switch to Mastodon.
Since Musk’s takeover of Twitter, the federated social web has been gaining ground, as some former Twitter users began to experiment with other places to socialize online.
Mastodon’s user base has grown too, as a result, reaching 2.5 million monthly actives by year-end. Though some Twitter users have since departed, the network still has 1.2 million monthly active users and the wider Fediverse of decentralized social apps has grown to 2.3 million monthly actives. Recently, Mastodon has seen an uptick as services like Flipboard and Medium began setting up their own servers for their own customers to use. Plus, WordPress.com’s owner just bought a plugin that allows blogs to reach readers on federated platforms. Over time, these moves could potentially grow the number of active users on the Fediverse.
Available today on the App Store, Woolly is available as a free download so you can take a look and test it out. But if you want to actually use the app to post to Mastodon you’ll have to purchase its in-app subscription. Currently, this costs either $0.99 per month or $6.99 per year and offers the ability to log in to multiple accounts, customize the main tab bar, unlock more themes, and, soon, utilize Home Screen widgets, too.
Woolly introduces a Twitter and TweetDeck-inspired Mastodon app by Sarah Perez originally published on TechCrunch
Snap quietly acquired 3D scanning startup Th3rd last year
Snap quietly acquired Amsterdam-based 3D scanning studio Th3rd in the second quarter of last year, at a time when the company was looking to bolster its AR-powered commerce ambitions. A spokesperson for the company confirmed to TechCrunch that four team members from Th3rd, who are based in the Netherlands, joined Snap as part of the acquisition. The company did not disclose the financial terms of the deal.
Founded in 2014, Th3rd specializes in creating high-quality digital twins of people and products to give brands and retailers a way to digitize their product catalog at scale. After being selected for Adidas’ Accelerator in Europe, the company worked with the retailer to digitize more than 2,500 shoes.
Snap declined to share how it incorporated Th3rd’s capabilities into its company, but we understand the startup’s technology has been used to enhance Snap’s AR projects, including its newly launched offering for brands. Yesterday, Snap announced it would start offering its AR tools to enterprise customers. The new SaaS product offers a suite of features, like AR try-on and fit and sizing recommendation tech, to help brands leverage AR technology. Brands can integrate these AR features directly into their apps or websites, Snap had said.
The company has been investing in AR-powered commerce in recent years and is building out its platform to leverage the technology. In April 2022, the company introduced tools that turn retailers’ photos into 3D assets and launched an in-app destination for AR fashion and virtual try-on called “Dress Up.”
A few months before that, Snap rolled out a number of upgrades to better appeal to retailers and brands, including the ability to update product information and pricing in real-time, access better analytics, and more easily create AR Shopping Lenses, among other things. At the same time, Snap had updated its Lens Web Builder that allowed brands to create shopping Lenses in a matter of minutes.
In addition, Snap recently landed a notable partner for its AR-powered commerce ambitions when it announced that it partnered with Amazon for its Virtual Try-On shopping experience. Other brands that have leveraged Snapchat’s AR Shopping Lenses include MAC Cosmetics, Ulta Beauty, American Eagle, Puma, Chanel, Walmart and LVMH.
Th3rd is one of the several AR companies that have been acquired by Snap over the last few years.
In May 2021, Snap acquired AR startup WaveOptics, a company that supplied the technology that powers Snap’s Spectacles AR glasses, for $500 million. In March 2021, Snap acquired Fit Analytics to further its AR-fuelled move into e-commerce. In July 2021, it acquired 3D and AR commerce company Vertebrae. And last year, Snap disclosed it acquired AR company Forma.
Given its recent investments, it’s clear that the company sees potential in AR-powered commerce. A combined study from Publicis media and Snap suggests that the AR Retail market will have a project value of $1.2 trillion by 2030.
Snap says 250 million Snapchat users have engaged with AR shopping lenses more than 5 billion times since January 2021. For context, Snapchat has 375 million daily active users. The company also recently said in an email that it conducted a study with consulting firm Ipsos and found that 92% of Gen Z users are interested in using AR for shopping.
Snap isn’t the only company that has been investing in AR-powered commerce, however, as Pinterest and Google have also leveraged AR to allow shoppers to try on makeup, apparel, and accessories. Amazon also launched a virtual try-on experience for shoes in June 2022, available to consumers in the U.S. and Canada in the Amazon iOS app.
Snap quietly acquired 3D scanning startup Th3rd last year by Aisha Malik originally published on TechCrunch
Twitter Blue relaunched has made just $11M on mobile in its first 3 months
Legacy Twitter checkmarks are disappearing on April 1st, Twitter says, and in the future, the only way users will be able to get the coveted blue badge is by paying for a Twitter Blue subscription. That points to a big question for Twitter and owner Elon Musk: will that nail finally drive more take-up of the social network’s premium tier?
So far, take-up has been fairly underwhelming. Since relaunching three months ago as a big push into non-advertising-based revenue, Twitter Blue has only picked up $11 million in mobile subscriptions, according to data from app intelligence firm Sensor Tower.
The $11 million figure is notable because Twitter is banking on Twitter Blue at a time when advertising — which traditionally has accounted for the vast majority of Twitter’s income — remains in rapid decline.
In part, that drop is due to the overall economy, which has pushed marketing spend down. But advertisers have also been hesitant to recommit to Twitter amid its rapid-fire changes, chaotic missteps, and threats to general brand safety as Elon Musk rolled back earlier protections. Twitter has since tried to repair some of those relationships, including by way of partnerships with adtech companies DoubleVerify and Integral Ad Science (IAS), for example, but it’s not yet clear to what extent revenue has improved as a result.
While $11 million is a small figure, we should caveat that this estimate does not cover web-based subscriptions. The firm also can’t break out who is paying for annual or monthly Blue subscriptions. The figures cover the 20 markets where Blue has been launched prior to this week. It wasn’t until yesterday that Twitter made the service available globally.
In the insights shared with TechCrunch, Sensor Tower estimates that Blue has more than 385,000 mobile subscribers worldwide on both iOS and Android. The U.S. is its largest market, with 246,000 subscribers spending around $8 million through their mobile devices.
“The loss of advertising demand, fueled both by broader macro uncertainty and Twitter-specific platform issues, has made alternative revenue streams quite appealing for the social media network,” said Abe Yousef, senior insights analyst at Sensor Tower.
It’s not clear how many users overall Twitter has currently, but as of Q2 last year, it said it had nearly 238 million monetizable daily active users (its own metric).
The company, according to multiple reports, has been bleeding advertisers since Musk acquired Twitter and took over as CEO. A report earlier this month from The Wall Street Journal said that earnings, dated December 2022, which Twitter shared with investors, had noted a 40% decline in revenue. Twitter had adjusted earnings because of it. To put the $11 million in Twitter Blue mobile subs into a revenue context, as a point of comparison, in Q2 2022, the last quarterly earnings statement Twitter released (when it was still a publicly-traded company), advertising made up all but $100,000 of Twitter’s nearly $1.2 billion in revenue.
There are also questions about how recurring that $11 million will be over the coming months. Yousef told us Sensor Tower believes that annual subscriptions will be a “minimal” proportion of the $11 million.
“Social media users are typically less inclined to spend $100+ all at once versus $11 for 1-2 months to try the service out and see if they enjoy using it,” he pointed out.
Some are already not that impressed…
Twitter Blue originally launched in limited markets in 2021 as a service aimed at power users, with perks that might have only felt momentous to that group — bookmarking, a chance to ‘redo’ a Tweet, ad-free reading of news articles, and early access to experiments via Twitter Labs among them.
But under Musk, Blue’s taken on a different emphasis: it’s part of his strategy to rebuild the company’s revenue model. As such, the features — both those that are live plus those that Twitter promises are coming — feel more central to the mainstream Twitter experience.
In addition to badges, Blue users can edit tweets, upload larger videos, have a “reader” view for longer threads, and more. It also promises (but has yet to launch) fewer ads and more visibility for Blue users in replies.
U.S. Twitter users on mobile devices had spent nearly $1.8 million on Twitter Blue subscriptions in its first-month post-relaunch in December, the new data shows. This suggests that the service received over 160,000 mobile subscribers in the country in its first month of the relaunch, Yousef said.
But the company has some work to do when it comes to driving business in its strongest markets. In India, the company’s second-largest market by users after the U.S., Twitter launched Blue in February. Since then, Sensor Tower says that only $301,000 has been spent on Blue, working out to about 17,000 mobile subscriptions.
Yousef said India became Twitter’s sixth-largest mobile market in terms of in-app purchases following the local launch of Twitter Blue. The country represented Twitter’s eighth-largest mobile market for in-app purchases nearly ten months before the company’s acquisition and Twitter Blue’s subsequent launch and relaunch, the analyst said.
Sensor Tower data is based on in-app purchases from Twitter’s mobile apps. The company does have other in-app purchases besides Twitter Blue. However, Yousef said that given the substantial increases examined in in-app purchase revenue post the relaunch of Twitter Blue, you can attribute most of that revenue to the subscription product, with boosted tweets and other in-app purchases providing very little in-app purchase revenue.
We have reached out to Twitter for a response to these numbers. We didn’t get a reply.
Twitter Blue relaunched has made just $11M on mobile in its first 3 months by Jagmeet Singh originally published on TechCrunch
Threading the needle: Exploring 5 ideas with the founders of LGBT+ VC
Silicon Valley’s full of people from all walks of life, but very little of its wealth is distributed evenly, especially when we’re talking about the LGBTQ+ community.
Currently, it’s estimated that less than 1% of venture capital goes to openly LGBTQ+ founders. There are no numbers on how much of that capital goes specifically to trans founders or how many investors identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community. What is known is that LGBTQ+ founders still feel the need to hide their identity from investors.
Enter LGBT+ VC, a nonprofit organization that aims to advance LGBTQ+ and LGBTQ+-allied venture investors. Launched by investors Tiana Tukes, a Black trans woman who has worked at Accenture, Sequoia Capital and Silicon Valley Bank, and Jackson Block, a former early-stage investor who identifies as bisexual, the nonprofit hopes to foster a new generation of inclusivity within the venture ecosystem by cultivating and educating investors to champion and accept LGBTQ+ founders and funders.
To that end, LGBT+ VC plans to run networking events, conferences and education classes for the LGBTQ+ community to help them learn how to become accredited investors, one of many steps needed to change the mindset and add more intersectionality within venture theses.
“We are trying to change who is an investor and who these founders can have opportunities with,” Block told TechCrunch+.
“The best investors right now are investing in LGBTQ-founded companies,” Tukes added. “Open AI is a prime example. That, to me, is the hot-ticket company at the moment.”
The initiative comes amidst a historic wave of hate being directed at the LGBTQ+ community in the U.S., with anti-trans legislation sweeping the country and crimes against the LGBTQ+ community increasing nationwide. In fact, Tukes and Block were inspired to launch the nonprofit after the Colorado Springs nightclub shooting late last year, which saw a gunman target the only LGBTQ+ club in the city and murder five people.
“It was really difficult to see the silence of the venture community,” Block told TechCrunch+. “Tiana and I came together, and we thought, ‘where can we make a difference?’”
That resulted in the duo tapping into their networks and assessing the relationship the LGBTQ+ community currently has with the tech ecosystem. So far, Tukes says the reception has been warm and the nonprofit has managed to attract investors from a few law and accounting firms as well as banks and larger tech companies.
On June 19 and June 20, the nonprofit will host its first summit in New York City, dubbed Stonewall to Silicon Valley. This is all part of a larger mission to change what it means to be a venture capitalist. I recently sat down with the two investors to talk about their nonprofit, how they started it and their plans to build a network of allies.
(Editor’s note: The interview below has been edited for length and clarity)
Why did you decide to launch this nonprofit together, and how did you know now was the time to take the risk?
Jackson Block: There’s a huge opportunity hiding in plain sight. Twenty percent of Gen Z identifies as LGBTQ+. Moreover, according to Gallup, the LGBTQ+ community is one of the fastest-growing segments of the U.S. population. That’s a market opportunity.
Tiana Tukes: Our mission is to help all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and queer people prosper. In U.S. history, in particular, there are moments, particularly in the civil rights movement, where Black leaders and Jewish leaders [Block is Jewish] came together in times of crisis for social advancement. We see this as a continuation of that legacy first and, secondly, as part of our LGBTQ+ history.
Threading the needle: Exploring 5 ideas with the founders of LGBT+ VC by Dominic-Madori Davis originally published on TechCrunch