Elon Musk Says NBCUniversal Ad Boss Linda Yaccarino Is Twitter’s New CEO

NBCU earlier announced she was leaving, effective immediately.


Pale Blue Dot continues investing in its climate vision, with a second, $100M fund

Larsson, Lindvall, and Jakobsson are all former startup founders themselves, giving them a strong founder focus in the companies where they choose to invest. They are also the only members of the investment team, which doesn’t have a hierarchy. Any startup that is offered a meeting with the GPs meets with all three of them. If they choose to make an investment, then the founders can expect the GPs to work closely with them to help their startups grow and flourish. 

Sweden-based VC fund Pale Blue Dot bounced onto the scene in 2020 with a €53 million fund to help climate-focused startups. This fund grew again by €34 million in April 2021, and after deploying investments into 28 climate-forward companies, the investor this week announced it has officially closed its second fund. This one is valued at €93 million (approximately $101 million at today’s valuation), with the same thesis in mind: to support climate tech-oriented startups.

Founded by general partners Joel Larsson, Heidi Lindvall and Hampus Jakobsson, Pale Blue Dot looks to make pre-seed and seed investments in European-based companies, although it is open to deals from the U.S., too.

“Climate tech is here to stay,” says Lindvall in a statement to TechCrunch. “As long as the climate crisis has not been solved, we will need to keep investing more money into tech solutions. This space will continue to see accelerated growth as individuals, corporates and governments try to figure out how to decarbonise and prepare for a new world.” 

The firm prefers to lead rounds, writing checks between €500,000 and €2 million. Out of its 28 investments to date, the firm highlights some examples of what it is looking for in the form of Phytoform, a British-U.S. biotech-agritech business, climate risk data analytics firm Climate X; U.K.-based logistics company Hived, Danish EV charging platform Monta and French fintech firm Green Got. There remain a few investments to be made from the first fund before the firm officially starts deploying funds out of its second investment vehicle. The GPs are aiming to invest in 35 startups with this fund, in sectors such as food and agtech, industry, mobility and fintech, provided that they are focused on making a positive difference toward climate change.

The Pale Blue Dot team. Image Credits: Pale Blue Dot

Larsson, Lindvall, and Jakobsson are all former startup founders themselves, giving them a strong founder focus in the companies where they choose to invest. They are also the only members of the investment team, which doesn’t have a hierarchy. Any startup that is offered a meeting with the GPs meets with all three of them. If they choose to make an investment, then the founders can expect the GPs to work closely with them to help their startups grow and flourish. 

“Receiving interest and recognition from the industry is good,” said Jakobsson, “but the fact that amazing founders keep picking us to be their partners on their journeys is the biggest vote of confidence and why we get up in the morning.” 

The new €93 million fund has been created with investment from serial entrepreneurs, family offices and institutional investors from Europe and the U.S. Roughly two-thirds of the second fund’s LPs were LPs in the first fund, with the new LPs having been invited to join.

Pale Blue Dot tells TechCrunch it is eager to meet with ambitious founders from a diversity of backgrounds who are seeking to tackle climate change with their startups. 

Pale Blue Dot continues investing in its climate vision, with a second, $100M fund by Haje Jan Kamps originally published on TechCrunch


AWS announces new version of Aurora database that strips out I/O costs

AWS announced the general availability of a new version of its Aurora database this week called Amazon Aurora I/O-Optimized. The big news from this version is that it gets rid of all I/O charges for database use, a move that should reduce overall database costs for customers with large workloads, and bring more predictability to their cloud database bills.

“With the new Aurora configuration, customers only pay for their database instances and storage consumption with no charges for I/O operations. Customers can now confidently predict costs for their most I/O-intensive workloads, regardless of I/O variability, helping to accelerate their decision to migrate more of their database workloads to AWS,” the company said in a statement.

And getting customers to migrate more workloads is the goal of course. But with more companies looking to operate more efficiently in the cloud, a product like this could appeal to increasingly cost-conscious CIOs.

But it’s important to note that it is a higher-priced product than the standard Aurora database, according to Corey Quinn, chief cloud economist at The Duckbill Group, a consulting company that helps customers lower their AWS bills. “It’s an alternate pricing model. They charge more for this model as a baseline rate so it’s going to come down to the specifics of a given workload as to whether it’s a good idea to use it,” Quinn told TechCrunch.

In a blog post announcing the new version, AWS’s Channy Yun acknowledged that it depends on the type of workload. “You can now confidently predict costs for your most I/O-intensive workloads, with up to 40 percent cost savings when your I/O spend exceeds 25 percent of your current Aurora database spend. If you are using Reserved Instances, you will see even greater cost savings,” he wrote. As you can tell, and as Quinn points out, the devil will definitely be in the details of your particular workload requirements.

Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research, said it’s a win for customers with big workloads. “Normally every time you read data that’s not cached and then write data back to your mySQL or Postgres data, you incur an I/O charge,” he said. “This is designed to drop your pricing because they have found a more efficient way internally to handle this, and they’ve passed on the cost savings to customers as we enter an age of AI.”

This should be particularly helpful for customers with data-intensive workloads like AI or seasonal e-commerce use cases. Customers can bring new workloads or move between the standard Aurora database and the I/O optimized version in the management console, based on expected workloads, to help manage costs.

AWS announces new version of Aurora database that strips out I/O costs by Ron Miller originally published on TechCrunch


Brightly says SchoolDude data breach spilled 3 million user accounts

Software maker Brightly has confirmed that hackers stole close to three million SchoolDude user accounts in an April data breach.

SchoolDude is a cloud-based work order management system, used primarily by schools and universities, to submit and track maintenance orders. Its users are school employees, like principals, executives and maintenance workers, as well as students and other staff submitting repair requests.

In a data breach notice filed with the Maine attorney general’s office, Brightly said it was notifying both past and present customers that the hackers took their names, email addresses, account passwords and phone numbers, if added to the account. The data also includes the names of school districts.

Brightly said it reset customer passwords, a common practice when user logins are exposed. The company warned users to change passwords on other online accounts that use the same credentials as they used on SchoolDude. This refers to credential stuffing, where hackers use passwords from previous data breaches to break into other user accounts with the same passwords. One sysadmin on Reddit, who received the data breach notice, says the stolen passwords were not encrypted.

When reached for comment, spokesperson Annie Satow did not dispute that the stolen SchoolDude passwords were unencrypted, but declined to comment beyond the company’s data breach notice. Brightly also declined to say how the breach occurred, or say who — if anyone — was responsible for overseeing cybersecurity at the company at the time of the breach.

Brightly said in its notice that it discovered the breach on April 28, more than a week after the mass data theft.

Siemens bought Brightly, previously known as Dude Solutions, in 2022 from private equity owner Clearlake Capital in a $1.6 billion deal. At the time, Brightly said it had 12,000 enterprise customers, mainly across the U.K., Canada, Australia, and the United States.

Brightly says SchoolDude data breach spilled 3 million user accounts by Zack Whittaker originally published on TechCrunch


China’s phone giant Oppo disbands chip design unit as shipment slumps

Chinese smartphone giant Oppo is disbanding its young chip design unit Zeku as weak global demand forces major handset manufacturers to cut costs and restrategize.

The decision comes as a surprise to those who believe the phone maker is bolstering its in-house chip development as rising geopolitical tensions with the U.S. threatens to cut Chinese firms off key suppliers. In the foreseeable future, Oppo will have to revert back to relying on third-party chip partners.

While Oppo managed to finish Q1 2023 as the world’s fourth-largest smartphone vendor, its shipment dropped 8%, according to market research firm Canalys. Other than Apple, all five of the top phone makers saw a decline in shipments. All in all, the global smartphone market shrank by 13% in the quarter.

Oppo explained its decision to cut its once-promising chip team in a statement issued today: “Due to the uncertainties in the global economy and the smartphone industry, we have to make difficult adjustments for long-term development. Therefore, the company has decided to cease the operation of Zeku.”

In December 2021, Zeku revealed its first self-developed chipset, MariSilicon X, a neural processing unit designed to boost photo and video performance through machine learning, following Apple’s path to bring chip design in-house. Zeku also set up a research base in Palo Alto.

The end of Zeku comes off as abrupt given Zeku was still hiring over 100 positions a month ago, according to its LinkedIn page.

It’s unclear how the move will affect the over 2,000 employees at Zeku, which has been offering competitive salaries to attract talent from other established chip firms. Oppo is reticent about the whereabouts of the team for now, saying only “the company will properly arrange related matters and continue to deliver great products and service to users worldwide.”

Oppo’s retreat from chips signals another struggle from Chinese phone companies to strengthen their control over the semiconductor supply chain. Huawei lost access to advanced chips from the U.S. due to Trump-era sanctions, and its attempt to design its own high-end chips through HiSilicon floundered after the U.S. cut it off major foundries. The company resorted to spinning out its budget handset brand Honor, a move seen as a way to help the subsidiary circumvent the sanctions that have decimated Huawei’s consumer business.

China’s phone giant Oppo disbands chip design unit as shipment slumps by Rita Liao originally published on TechCrunch


Twitch’s new clip editor makes sharing vertical video on YouTube and TikTok a snap

Twitch clip editor for vertical short form video clips

Twitch released a small but mighty product update on Thursday, introducing a new tool that lets streamers craft and share short, vertical video clips in seconds.

The new clip editor is accessible through the clips manager in the creator dashboard. Clicking “edit and share clip” opens the slick editing tool, which keeps things simple. You can select a split view that captures two rectangular portions of a clip at once (the game stream and the camera, usually) or keep it streamlined with a full vertical snippet from the clip. The only other option is a toggle for including your channel name, which slots in on the upper portion of the clip.

Within the clip editor, Twitch offers direct integration for social sharing to YouTube Shorts. Direct sharing to TikTok or Instagram Reels isn’t supported for now — and it’s easy enough to do manually — but Twitch plans to add more integrations in the future.

“We’re committed to helping streamers grow and this is just one piece of our larger strategy to help streamers find new viewers while making it easier to promote their content on and off Twitch,” the company said of the update.

Twitch streamers will likely be relieved that a workflow that previously sent them to third-party tools like StreamLadder is now built into the platform itself. The feature update ultimately makes Twitch feel more connected to the broader social media ecosystem, a boon for a platform that plays well with others and one for the streamers who rely on cross-promotion to build their audiences.

Unlike other social media platforms suffering from multi-year identity crises (looking at you, Instagram), Twitch has long been single-mindedly committed to its core product: long form livestreaming. Twitch’s fresh embrace of vertical, short form video is a small thing, but it’s easy to imagine how the company could further leverage clips to help new streamers get discovered.

Twitch’s emphasis on livestreaming is a double-edged sword. Discovery remains a pain point on the platform — and one that keeps creators bound to strenuous streaming schedules, incentivizing more time live above everything. But the company’s leadership seems well aware of that fact, realizing that keeping streaming sustainable over the long haul is one of the biggest challenges facing the platform today.

Even with its laser-focus on livestreaming, there’s nothing stopping Twitch from getting creative with short form video to solve some of its discovery woes. For now, the new clip editor is just a handy solution for overworked creators, but Twitch might be smart to build it into something much bigger down the road.

Twitch’s new clip editor makes sharing vertical video on YouTube and TikTok a snap by Taylor Hatmaker originally published on TechCrunch


Tinder will remove social handles from bios as part of its updated community guidelines

Tinder is updating its community guidelines in a bid to keep the dating app safe and respectful, the company announced today. As part of the updates, Tinder will automatically remove social handles from bios and discourage users from posting private conversations with their matches on other platforms.

Tinder says its platform is not a place where users should be looking to gain followers on their social channels, which is why it will remove handles from public bios and profiles. Although you can no longer display your social handles, you will still be able to share your Instagram profiles with matches using Tinder’s Instagram integration.

The platform has never allowed users to promote their business on Tinder, but is now introducing a firmer policy that makes it clear that Tinder is for making personal connections, not business ones.

“Tinder is not a place to promote businesses to try making money,” the company wrote in a press release. “Members shouldn’t advertise, promote, or share social handles or links to gain followers, sell things, fundraise, or campaign. To help combat this, Tinder will remove social handles from public bios.”

As for the updates about sharing private Tinder chats on other platforms, the company outlines that users should never post private chats they’ve had with matches unless they have been given consent to do so. The updated policy comes as Tinder chats often go viral on platforms like Twitter or TikTok, as people like to share their funny, strange or wholesome interactions with others on the dating app. However, Tinder believes that “conversations on Tinder are meant to be just that — conversations on Tinder.”

In addition, Tinder is making it clear that an account should be for a single person, and that users in poly and open relationships should create separate accounts for each partner. This means that a couple should not use a single account to find a potential partner. Tinder also notes that users should use its recently released Relationship Types profile feature to indicate if they’re looking for ethical non-monogamy, open relationships or polyamory.

The updated guidelines outline that users should never create fake personas or pretend to be someone else, or file false reports against others. Tinder is also reminding users to respect others’ boundaries, noting that users shouldn’t overshare on the platform. The company is encouraging users to take advantage of its in-app features to be clear about their goals and relationship types.

“The majority of Tinder’s members are 18-25, and Tinder is often their first dating experience,” said Ehren Schlue, SVP of Member Strategy at Tinder, in a press release. “To guide these younger daters as they start their dating journey, Tinder is using this policy refresh to remind and educate members about healthy dating habits — both online and in real life.”

The updated community guidelines come as Tinder recently introduced an AI-powered update to its Photo Verification feature that allows users prove to others they’re neither a bot nor a catfisher. In the past, users would take pictures of themselves to become verified on the dating app and receive a blue check. Now, Tinder is strengthening this process by requiring a video selfie instead of photos. It will also soon allow users to restrict their chats to only those members who are also Photo Verified.

Tinder will remove social handles from bios as part of its updated community guidelines by Aisha Malik originally published on TechCrunch


Getaround aims to scale car-sharing platform with HyreCar acquisition

Peer-to-peer car sharing company Getaround said Thursday it will acquire the assets of HyreCar, another car sharing marketplace, for $9.45 million. Getaround expects to realize up to $75 million of run rate annualized gross booking value from the deal, which the company says will contribute to positive adjusted EBITDA profitability.

“At this acquisition price point, we believe this deal will deliver strong long-term value for Getaround stakeholders,” said Sam Zaid, CEO and founder of Getaround, in a statement.

Getaround’s stock soared 135% in after hours trading on the news, reaching a high of $0.80. That spike was still not enough to bring Getaround back into compliance with the New York Stock Exchange, which issued a delisting warning in January because the company’s stock price was trading below the $1 mark over a 30 trading-day period.

Getaround first debuted on the public markets in December after merging with a special purpose acquisition company. The combined company’s stock began trading at around $10 per share, but promptly plummeted. To date, Getaround’s stock has lost 96% of its value.

Since the start of 2023, Getaround has received separate delisting warnings from the NYSE because its global market capitalization over a 30 trading-day period was less than $50 million and because it did not file timely earnings reports with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Getaround still hasn’t reported fourth-quarter and full year 2022 earnings, despite the fact that we are well into the second-quarter of 2023 and other companies are now reporting first-quarter earnings. A spokesperson for the company said the delay is because Getaround is “finalizing a very technical post-SPAC accounting process and audit” and expects to report “in the coming weeks.”

Until then, the best insight we have into Getaround’s financials is the “selected preliminary unaudited financial results” for 2022 that the company shared on March 31, which say Getaround closed the year with $64.3 million in cash and cash equivalents. That money will likely be used to fund the HyreCar acquisition; Getaround said it will pay for the startup with cash on hand and expects the deal to close May 16.

Getaround has historically pursued a strategy of scaling aggressively, which has given it a network that Getaround claims is 20x larger than its nearest competitor. That scale, however, has come at the cost of sustainability. According to Getaround’s third-quarter 2022 earnings, the company’s revenue declined and operating costs increased for the first three quarters of 2022 compared to the year prior.

The HyreCar acquisition might result in a similar outcome, providing Getaround with scale and reach while ultimately increasing costs of operations.

HyreCar’s assets include access to its community of tens of thousands of gig drivers, but that healthy demand was part of why HyreCar declared bankruptcy. The company reportedly had more demand than it did access to vehicles, and had been attempting to solve that problem by forming a joint venture with AmeriDrive, a large fleet operator. That deal fell through, followed by an $8 million debenture transaction that never closed and mounting legal fees from an array lawsuits and investigations. HyreCar filed for bankruptcy in February.

Used car rental dealership Holmes Auto had agreed to buy HyreCar for $7.75 million, but Getaround outbid the company at auction earlier this week.

HyreCar brings other assets to the table, including extensive user data and strong risk management solutions, according to Zaid. We’ll keep our eyes on how the buy contributes to Getaround’s financials and operational costs in the long run.

Getaround aims to scale car-sharing platform with HyreCar acquisition by Rebecca Bellan originally published on TechCrunch


Nexon takes 20-year-old MapleStory into web3 with Haechi’s help

Nexon, one of the biggest gaming companies in the world, is wading into web3 like some of its peers in Asia. The developer of MapleStory is creating a blockchain-powered ecosystem based on the twenty-year-old massively multiplayer online game, where players can trade in-game assets like outfits, equipment and virtual pets in the form of non-fungible tokens.

Around 160,000 people in South Korea are still playing MapleStory today, the company wrote recently in a blog citing data from KMS.

Blockchain games have been cropping up everywhere in the past two years, but few have entered the mainstream and even the popular ones, like the play-to-earn game Axie Infinity, have been short-lived.

Nexon pledges to create more sustainable crypto games. “There was a time when the perception of ‘blockchain = P2E’ was widely accepted, and there was a lot of talk about using blockchain to make games that make money,” Angela Son, Nexon’s blockchain business development and partnership lead, told TechCrunch in a text message.

“But since, the market has changed, and there are more creators who want to use blockchain to seriously develop games.”

It’s still too early to say if MapleStory N, Nexon’s first blockchain game, and MapleStory Universe, the NFT ecosystem based on the classic game’s IP, will ever reach the heights of their web2 version. Nexon has a rosy outlook, of course.

“MapleStory has more than 180 million accumulative global users, and there are even more people who love the MapleStory IP. We anticipate that MapleStory N and MapleStory Universe will be enjoyed by many players,” said Son.

The main criticism of play-to-earn games is their flawed economies, where gamers purchase NFTs only to create and sell these digital goods to those who buy in after them. Nexon isn’t going down the pyramid scheme-like path.

In MapleStory N, there is no cash shop and players acquire items through gameplay like completing quests and defeating monsters. If people don’t get what they want, they can acquire items from others through the ecosystem’s secondary NFT marketplace. Eventually, players can also trade their in-game assets on external marketplaces, according to Son.

Onboarding the masses

Nexon is working with a handful of partners to enable its transition into web3. The firm already announced that the digital goods of MapleStory Universe will trade on Polygon, an Ethereum scaling solution that’s popular amongst game developers. Today, the South Korean gaming firm said it’s teaming up with another web3 company, Haechi Labs, a crypto auditing and wallet solution provider used by over 500 companies.

“A host of gaming companies started knocking on our door after seeing Axie Infinity’s success since Haechi Labs has been offering smart contract security auditing and wallet solutions in the past 5 years,” the company’s CEO Geon-gi Moon told TechCrunch in a written response.

“Nowhere else do you see such a high number of executives at AAA game companies so bullish on integrating their games with blockchain, but South Korea.”

Most existing decentralized applications require users to log in via their crypto wallets. But what if people have no prior web3 experience? Haechi is touting Face Wallet, which allows users to log into crypto games like MapleStory N through their existing accounts with Google, Facebook, Apple, Discord and Kakao.

Once logged in, users will gain access to their Face Wallet accounts. Anyone who’s used a self-custodial wallet like MetaMask knows the stress of trying to keep their 16-word seed phrase safe. Losing one’s seed phrase means losing access to the wallet permanently. Custodial solutions are easy to use, but on the other hand, asset owners are exposed to the risk the platform could get hacked or go bust.

Face Wallet is trying to solve the custodian dilemma by offering a self-custodial wallet that allows users to log in with a six-digit password and gives them the option to recover passcodes.

This is how it works: When a user creates a wallet via Face Wallet, its key is split into two encrypted “shares”, explained Moon. Share 1 is stored in a secure infrastructure environment and, usually, also in the user’s device. Share 2 is kept in the Face Wallet team’s repository. The decrypted keys are never shared with Haechi; nor can Haechi decrypt either of the encrypted keys, added Moon.

Haechi isn’t the only one trying to make self-hosted wallets more user-friendly. The Ethereum community itself is tackling this issue through a major technical upgrade called “account abstraction” and developers, such as venture-backed Soul Wallet, are racing to introduce wallets powered by smart contract capabilities.

Nexon takes 20-year-old MapleStory into web3 with Haechi’s help by Rita Liao originally published on TechCrunch


NBCUniversal’s Linda Yaccarino Is in Talks to Become Twitter CEO

Yaccarino is chairman of global advertising and partnerships at NBCU. Twitter owner Elon Musk said earlier he had picked a new chief executive without naming the person.