Tensions Grew at Salesforce Before Leadership Change

Marc Benioff became frustrated about how his co-CEO Bret Taylor, who is set to exit the role, was spending his time, people familiar with the executives said.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/tensions-grew-at-salesforce-between-co-ceos-benioff-and-taylor-ahead-of-leadership-change-11670447233?mod=rss_Technology

A healthcare brand for women begins to take shape

Until last year, healthcare funding continued to shatter previous records. But there remains at least one very big hole in the industry. No one has yet created a broad, leading women’s healthcare brand, and that spells opportunity.

Dina Radenkovic is among those who see it, and at her company, Gameto, she specifically wants to build a massive healthcare business that redefines reproductive health. A bioinformatics researcher who has a medical degree from the University College of London, Radenkovic is primarily focused right now on using cell engineering to make IVF cycles shorter. But the bigger company she has in mind would one day enable young women to so easily and affordably freeze their eggs that there would be little reason not to do this. Later, if some of these same women turned to IVF, Gameto would help improve their odds of success at a price that doesn’t break the bank. Even later still, these same customers might turn to Gameto to extend the life of their ovaries. Radenkovic’s thinking: women are living longer; their ovaries could and should be functioning longer, too.

It’s early days for the New York-based startup, which has just one biologic in pre-clinical trials right now. There’s a good chance that none of what she is imagining will come to fruition. Still, investors like Insight Partners and Future Ventures like her vision and her credentials.

They also like her New York- and Spain-based team, including co-founder and chairman Martin Varsavsky, who has previously launched numerous companies, including a Wi-Fi connectivity company called FON, and Prelude, a chain of fertility clinics that is among roughly a handful of similar outfits that are now enrolling patients in Gameto’s trials. In fact, VCs have already funded Gameto to the tune of $40 million.

We first talked with the company back in January, when it had newly secured its $20 million Series A round. Nearly 12 months and an economic downturn later, we talked again with Radenkovic about the progress Gameto has made — and some of the challenges it has yet to overcome.

TC: When we last talked, you were very excited about the potential to delay, even eradicate, menopause. But you’re now focused more on a biologic that tries to improve IVF outcomes, which is a more crowded area. Why?

DR: We know that one in eight couples suffer from infertility [in part] because we do have this problem [with] ovarian aging in that our ovaries age faster than the rest of the body. Women are born with a finite number of eggs, and we keep losing them throughout life, and by the time we want to use them, we may not be able to. We also know that even though many couples experience infertility, only around 2% of babies are born through assisted reproduction technology right now. It’s one of the few industries where you could see double or triple in a very short time horizon. A good example is the United Kingdom, where egg freezing has increased tenfold in the last 10 years because the technology has gotten so much better; previously, we didn’t know how to freeze eggs without destroying them.

The technology wasn’t there but it’s also expensive.

Yes, for women to freeze their eggs they need to dedicate $15,000 to $20,000, with some variance across states and different jurisdictions globally. They also need around two weeks of hormonal injections that are given to the whole body in order to stimulate and artificially stimulate the ovaries, which is both inconvenient and carries side effects, from nausea and bloating to potentially more serious side effects like ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. So for that reason, even though egg freezing technology [now works well], it accounts for about 7% of total IVF cycles in the U.S. right now. So it’s still very small. We think we can widen the market and allow more women to use this service.

You say the biologic you’re developing is different than IVF as it exists today, that patients using it need to undergo just two to four days of hormonal stimulation versus two to four weeks. How?

We are a cell engineering biotechnology company. We started with a sponsor research agreement with George Church‘s lab at Harvard Medical School. Our underlying technology allows us to convert stem cells into cells of the reproductive system. And we build that into the organoid model of the reproductive system. And we use it to derive therapeutics biologics that occur for the disease of the reproductive system. Our first product, Fertilo, is a derivative of an engineered ovarian supporting cell line, and what that allows us to do is to add Fertilo to eggs in a dish in the embryology lab and aid their maturation and improve their quality by mimicking a natural process that occurs in the ovary. Normally, in our ovaries, we have immature eggs and ovarian supporting cells that help egg maturation, so we try to mimic that natural process and thereby reduce the need for injections.

[Editor’s note: The IVF process as it’s designed today aims to stimulate the follicles in someone’s ovaries so that they produce and mature eggs in preparation for an egg collection procedure; Gameto thinks it can move this process outside of the body.]

Can you make eggs more viable with your technology? Or is the viability of an egg predetermined?

Well, we’re maturing eggs and mature eggs are essentially viable, good eggs that are more likely to [develop into] healthy embryos and healthy babies. So certainly, by improving maturation, you also improve the quality of eggs. And we’ve been doing really extensive analysis, both from an imaging and sequencing [standpoint], to show that it’s not just the maturity but also the quality of these eggs that are improved in the process.

You talk about opening up the marketing, meaning your process could prove more affordable. How?

A lot of the cost is around the injection medications. A lot of it is around ultrasounds and blood tests, right? Women are medicalized throughout this process, but if you could potentially change this protocol by eliminating injections or reducing them to the bare minimum of injections that the patient needs, you could reduce clinic visits, you could reduce the need for [expensive] medications. You can make it a lot more convenient, shorter and cheaper. And that is what we hope to do. Our mission is really around access as well as efficacy and convenience.

What is your preclinical trial data telling you, and how many women have participated in these trials to date?

We’ve recruited over 120 women in our studies. And we’re seeing that firstly, our product is non toxic, and secondly, that it does aid egg maturation. So we’re hoping to complete our preclinical data by the end of the year. And then certainly what will be the next step is to see if this translates into live births, so there’s still work to be done. We’re not making any judgments yet. We’re doing the science slowly. But the data that we’re getting so far is promising, and it certainly shows that there is some good science here . . . in that we are seeing increased egg maturation.

What do you think it’s going to take for women to think about freezing their eggs as something that should be done routinely? 

We need to make it cheap and convenient. When it comes to egg freezing today, it is often a decision on the balance of risk and benefit. So you could imagine a 28-year-old, living in New York, and she has saved $20,000 and has 10 days of paid time off, and she’s thinking whether to use it to go on holiday with her friends, or use those same resources to inject herself at home and become bloated and have to explain to people why she’s freezing her eggs — [people who might ask] if there’s something wrong with her or why she’s delaying having children. There’s a lot of potential judgment.

But let’s say we do end up showing that the [minimal] injections procotol works. Now imagine a world where you come in [to a clinic for your egg extraction] for one day, and that’s it. You can go back to work. You don’t need to mess up your whole body. You can even repeat [the process] two or three times until you get enough eggs. And then you have a monthly subscription where your eggs are frozen as a security policy, because so many things can happen, from taking a medicine or an accident or cancer or just deciding that you want to have a second or third child later, when you’re 38. I mean, we’re living longer by two years every decade but the age at which we lose our fertility has not really been extended since the introduction of medical records.

Speaking of women living longer, you and I had talked earlier this year about a different biologic — Ameno — you wanted to develop for women to essentially push out menopause from the time when most women experience it currently. Are you still working on this?

Right now, we’re really focused on bringing Fertilo from the clinic into the market. We made a first prototype for Ameno but given that we’re a small company and we started getting really promising data for Fertilo, our current team is really focused on infertility at the moment.

It’s a matter of prioritization. IVF is, I feel, really the best first place to start women’s health, though I could talk for probably way too long about all the things that need to be addressed. Like, seriously, when you go and look at women’s health medicines, there’s pretty much nothing. A lot of it is just pure hormonal-based. There are many things to be addressed here. And we certainly have this platform technology [to do that].

The reason why IVF is so good is because it’s always done in a dish, so very quickly, we were able to test our product in a dish, and then move that dish from our lab to the lab in the IVF clinic. . . But menopause and fertility are very closely interlinked, right? These are all phenotypes of ovarian aging. If you look at almost a trajectory of ovarian function, we know that ovaries age faster than the rest of woman’s body and that first we experience infertility and very shortly afterwards is this whole concept of perimenopause and menopause  . . .

By providing treatments, you could have a more continuous healthcare program that starts with women when they’re young, telling them about things like egg freezing, then they come back for IVF if they ever want to access that service, and then very shortly afterwards, they get support around perimenopause and menopause. You really are following women through the trajectory of ovarian aging, which is essentially the right way if you think about biology, and not the current service delivery.

A healthcare brand for women begins to take shape by Connie Loizos originally published on TechCrunch

https://techcrunch.com/2022/12/07/a-healthcare-brand-for-women-begins-to-take-shape/

Navier’s 30-foot hydrofoiling electric boat hits the water and prepares for production

Of course, at $300,000 a pop, they won’t be replacing dinghies with five-horsepower outboards. This is aimed more at both the luxury crowd and at institutional customers like water taxi services. Fuel is expensive, narrowing already thin margins in marine transport operations. A 10-passenger boat that consumes no fuel could be just the thing for shuttling commuters across a bay or lake, or for three-hour tours. The amount of marine fuel expended on this type of trip is enormous, and gas-powered boats don’t run particularly clean.

The just-revealed N30 was described by Bhattacharyya as “software driven,” which at first seems an odd claim to make for a boat. But while most boats just float, hydrofoiling is a process that needs to be actively monitored to maintain stability.

“It is a combination of a boat and plane — there are lots of very complex parts, but that’s what it takes to build something that is step function more efficient,” she explained, comparing the boat to a fighter jet, which compensates for a natural instability with constant, software-defined adjustments. “The control system software is what stabilizes and flies it using sensor information and then driving the actuators. The user operates at a higher level (or outer loop), and drives it like a normal boat.”

Interior of the first Navier N30. Image Credits: Navier

It may sound a little daunting, but practically every car does this now as well with traction control and all-wheel drive — you push on the gas, and the car figures out how much power to send to which wheels, adjusting on the fly if you hit water or ice. Some cars allow you to have a bit more control if you like it, and that’s the sport mode on the N30.

The plan is to incorporate more high-level software features, culminating (as all vehicles seem to these days) in a self-driving mode. For now the boat has automatic docking capability, which probably sounds nice to anyone who doesn’t enjoy this potentially finicky maneuver.

Illustration of a sample docking maneuver. Looks easy in theory, but… Image Credits: Navier

“The N30 can autonomously direct the boat safely to a user-selected docking slip without any further input from the captain. The auto-docking system uses advanced computer vision and additional sensors to estimate the location of the boat with respect to the selected slip while compensating for external perturbations such as wind while also avoiding obstacles,” Bhattacharyya said.

There are three variants: open-top, hardtop and cabin, which start at $375,000 and go up from there. It’s certainly a lot of money, but cabin cruisers this size aren’t cheap to begin with, and this is a state of the art electric vessel that basically flies. Sure, it’ll be a plaything for the very rich for the near future, but once the production methods and tech get a bit more established, you’ll start to see this type of craft trickle down to institutional uses (like water taxis) and perhaps even rentals. At any rate, it’s nice to see a bit of innovation on the water, and I look forward to the days when the lakes are quieter and cleaner because of it.

Electric leisure boat startup Navier has managed to bring its concept hydrofoiling watercraft into reality, and has opened preorders — if you happen to have a few hundred grand laying around. It may not be affordable, but it’s not like the other 30-foot boats you can order are a bargain either. At least this one doesn’t burn 10 gallons of gas an hour.

Navier just picked up a seed round at the beginning of the year, at which point the boat was a 27-foot twinkle in the eyes of its founders, Sampriti Bhattacharyya (whom I met on the “Accelerator at Sea”) and Reo Baird. Now it’s a real 30-foot boat actually plowing through the waves at 25 knots.

The craft is fully electric and uses hydrofoiling to get around the fact that batteries, while fine for wheeled vehicles, run out fast when you’re pushing water out of the way the whole time you’re moving forward. Hydrofoiling basically takes advantage of the physics of how water resists forward motion to cause the bulkiest part of the boat to lift up above the surface, while the propulsion part stays below, attached by thin fins.

The basic approach is not unique — Candela also makes a few electric hydrofoiling boats and is trying to access some of the same markets. But Navier touts a longer range — about 75 nautical miles versus the Candelas’ 50 — and a more leisure-friendly experience. That is to say, cushier cockpit, more focus on user experience and a sport mode that lets the driver more directly control the boat.

Its foils are also completely retractable, allowing the N30 to navigate shallows without scraping the bottom. Keeping them tucked in also minimizes “biofouling,” i.e. algae and barnacles.

Bhattacharyya was quick to add, though, that she considers Candela more colleague than competitor: The real competition is gas-powered boats. “I think to free our lakes and oceans from the fossil fuel pollutants, and rebuild the maritime industry, we all need to do more, and faster. We have to replace our gas rivals — there are a lot of them, and the more folks in the industry can switch to electric quickly, the better we can expedite saving the planet,” she wrote in an email.

Aerial view of the Navier boat at its debut. Image Credits: Navier

Of course, at $300,000 a pop, they won’t be replacing dinghies with five-horsepower outboards. This is aimed more at both the luxury crowd and at institutional customers like water taxi services. Fuel is expensive, narrowing already thin margins in marine transport operations. A 10-passenger boat that consumes no fuel could be just the thing for shuttling commuters across a bay or lake, or for three-hour tours. The amount of marine fuel expended on this type of trip is enormous, and gas-powered boats don’t run particularly clean.

The just-revealed N30 was described by Bhattacharyya as “software driven,” which at first seems an odd claim to make for a boat. But while most boats just float, hydrofoiling is a process that needs to be actively monitored to maintain stability.

“It is a combination of a boat and plane — there are lots of very complex parts, but that’s what it takes to build something that is step function more efficient,” she explained, comparing the boat to a fighter jet, which compensates for a natural instability with constant, software-defined adjustments. “The control system software is what stabilizes and flies it using sensor information and then driving the actuators. The user operates at a higher level (or outer loop), and drives it like a normal boat.”

Interior of the first Navier N30. Image Credits: Navier

It may sound a little daunting, but practically every car does this now as well with traction control and all-wheel drive — you push on the gas, and the car figures out how much power to send to which wheels, adjusting on the fly if you hit water or ice. Some cars allow you to have a bit more control if you like it, and that’s the sport mode on the N30.

The plan is to incorporate more high-level software features, culminating (as all vehicles seem to these days) in a self-driving mode. For now the boat has automatic docking capability, which probably sounds nice to anyone who doesn’t enjoy this potentially finicky maneuver.

Illustration of a sample docking maneuver. Looks easy in theory, but… Image Credits: Navier

“The N30 can autonomously direct the boat safely to a user-selected docking slip without any further input from the captain. The auto-docking system uses advanced computer vision and additional sensors to estimate the location of the boat with respect to the selected slip while compensating for external perturbations such as wind while also avoiding obstacles,” Bhattacharyya said.

There are three variants: open-top, hardtop and cabin, which start at $375,000 and go up from there. It’s certainly a lot of money, but cabin cruisers this size aren’t cheap to begin with, and this is a state of the art electric vessel that basically flies. Sure, it’ll be a plaything for the very rich for the near future, but once the production methods and tech get a bit more established, you’ll start to see this type of craft trickle down to institutional uses (like water taxis) and perhaps even rentals. At any rate, it’s nice to see a bit of innovation on the water, and I look forward to the days when the lakes are quieter and cleaner because of it.

Navier’s 30-foot hydrofoiling electric boat hits the water and prepares for production by Devin Coldewey originally published on TechCrunch

https://techcrunch.com/2022/12/07/naviers-30-foot-hydrofoiling-electric-boat-hits-the-water-and-prepares-for-production/

How AI That Powers Chatbots and Search Queries Could Discover New Drugs

Natural language processing algorithms like the ones used in Google searches and OpenAI’s ChatGPT promise to slash the time required to bring medications to market

https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-ai-that-powers-chatbots-and-search-queries-could-discover-new-drugs-11670428795?mod=rss_Technology

Apple Plans New Encryption System to Ward Off Hackers and Protect iCloud Data

“Advanced Data Protection” would offer end-to-end encryption on iCloud backups, Notes, Photos and other services—a step that may draw ire from law enforcement.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/apple-plans-new-encryption-system-to-ward-off-hackers-and-protect-icloud-data-11670435635?mod=rss_Technology

Fire TV arrives on Amazon’s wall-mounted smart screen, the Echo Show 15

Fire TV is now available on the Echo Show 15. In September, Amazon announced it was soon bringing its Fire TV experience to its larger, 15.6-inch wall-mounted Echo, offering consumers a way to access a combination smart speaker, smart home hub and TV-like device at a relatively affordable price point — it’s currently selling for $185, down from the list price of $250. With the free update rolling out today, Echo Show 15 customers will be able to stream Fire TV content, which means Prime Video along with other popular services, like Disney+, Netflix, YouTube TV, HBO Max, Hulu, Parmount+, Peacock, NBC Sports and others. YouTube and YouTube Kids are also available, as Amazon and Google worked out their differences back in 2019.

While the streaming functionality may now become the main selling point for this device, the Echo Show 15 also offers other standard Echo Show functionality, like the ability to manage smart home devices, make to-do lists, listen to podcasts and speak to Alexa, among other things.

Plus, the Show’s bigger screen can be customized with a variety of widgets, which allows the device to become sort of a family hub with things like sticky notes, shopping lists, shortcuts to smart home favorites, reminders, shared and individual calendars, links to recently launched apps and more. To cater to those who mount the device in the kitchen, the Echo Show 15 also offers recipe suggestions from Epicurious, Tasty and Allrecipes.

Image Credits: Amazon

Privacy-sensitive customers should be cautioned that there are some more invasive features included with this version of Echo, including a Voice ID feature that allows Alexa to call you by your name and personalizes the responses based on who’s asking. It also includes a Visual ID facial recognition system that’s used to provide additional personalization. (Amazon says Visual ID and facial images are stored on your Echo Show device, and both systems are optional.)

After the update that brings support for Fire TV, users will be guided through a setup process that includes having them select apps and pairing their Alexa Voice Remote (3rd gen.). The remote only works within the Fire TV experience. It’s useful, as some apps (like Netflix) will warn they offer “limited touch functionality.” In those cases, the device will pop up a virtual on-screen remote which you can tap to navigate the service if you don’t have the Alexa remote or don’t have it handy. It’s an odd workaround for the lack of touch controls — a feature that’s somewhat expected when a device is otherwise touch-based. But it works in a pinch.

Image Credits: Amazon

One issue that may crop up with the remote control is not about the functionality itself, but rather the way the device is meant to be used in real life.

If the Echo Show 15 is mounted in the kitchen, where is the remote meant to go — on the kitchen countertop? In a junk drawer where it’s out of the way? Next to your blender? It’s odd. In the living room, it’s fine to leave a remote on an entertainment console or coffee table, but most people wouldn’t want to see a remote control laying around in their kitchen. A simple add-on like a remote control holder on the device’s outer frame could have gone a long way toward making the Echo Show 15 more user-friendly for real world use. (Some of the third-party accessory makers — like those who offer stands to consumers who don’t want to wall-mount their device — haven’t thought about this need, either.)

Meanwhile, though the remote can be used in Fire TV, it can’t be used to navigate the Echo Show 15’s widgets or other skills and services. That seems like a miss on Amazon’s part. An elegant experience would have allowed a customer to navigate to a notes or lists widget with the Fire TV experience minimized and/or paused while in picture-in-picture (PiP) mode, then allow them to update their shopping list with a quick voice command before returning their program in full-screen.

The device does support PiP for watching a live camera feed — like the nursery cam or doorbell — while watching a show or recipe video, which is handy. You can also enable this by voice, by first asking Alexa to play a TV show, then saying something like “Alexa, show me…,” followed by the name of the camera feed you want to see. This PiP feed can be dragged around on the screen, too.

The remote’s home button will launch the Fire TV experience at any time, and the Live TV and quick-access provider buttons (e.g. for Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ and Prime Video) will take you directly to those services. Still, the lack of continuity between touch and remote control-based navigation could be challenging for the less technically savvy, such as elderly people who still struggle with using their iPhones, for example.

Once you’ve set up and used Fire TV, a widget will be added to your home screen — if you don’t already have your screen full of widgets. (Fire TV is only added if you have nine or fewer widgets installed.) Otherwise, you can click the + symbol from the widget in the Widget Gallery to add it.

When not in use, the Echo Show can display a photo slide show, like a digital photo frame would, or can display artwork or other stock imagery, like nature photography, if you prefer.

While not widely publicized, the Echo Show 15 will work with Amazon’s Echo Buds for a private listening mode with noise cancellation. (Sadly, it could not identify a set of AirPods.) You can, however, stream from your mobile to Echo Show 15 or from the device to a Bluetooth speaker, if it doesn’t require a PIN code. (Specifically, it supports A2DP and AVRCP, the latter for voice control of connected mobile devices, but not Mac OS X devices.)

Image Credits: Amazon

Overall, the Fire TV 15 could work for someone who wants a wall-mounted device, or something to replace a more dated, smaller-screen TV for their kitchen (ahem, big kitchen with lots of wall space, that is!). It could also perhaps work in another room of the house, like a garage workshop, craft room, guest room or any other extra space where you don’t want to invest in a full TV as you would for a living room, den or playroom.

But it could be difficult for the device to find a large audience, as it’s attempting to carve out a niche somewhere in between the use case for touchscreen media devices like Apple’s iPad and more affordable, smaller screened sub-$100 TVs. Its lack of an included stand may also put off some consumers who don’t think the couple hundred dollars (plus or minus, depending on sales), is worth it when smaller, non-mountable Echo Show devices are much more affordable. Plus, Google is teasing its upcoming Pixel tablet will offer a charging speaker dock, which is a clever combination of a viewing screen for the kitchen and a tablet for your portability needs. Amazon, of course, is banking on consumers paying for the Alexa functionality and smart home controls, which may appeal to some — if you have a spot for such an oversized device in the first place.

Fire TV arrives on Amazon’s wall-mounted smart screen, the Echo Show 15 by Sarah Perez originally published on TechCrunch

https://techcrunch.com/2022/12/07/fire-tv-arrives-on-amazons-wall-mounted-smart-screen-the-echo-show-15/

Skydio takes flight with new drone docking stations for easy remote deployment

Autonomous drones have a tremendous amount of potentially valuable use cases, but even if the drones have the smarts to go and do their jobs by themselves they need to come home to base to recharge. Skydio today announced a new series of docks that represents the next step in the company’s journey toward deploy-anywhere autonomous flying worker bees.

The company claims that its freshly launched Dock and Dock Lite are deserving of a swarm of superlatives, describing them as the “smallest, lightest, and smartest cloud-connected base stations for drones available on the market today.” The dock solutions are designed to give the company’s customers the power to run site inspections as well as monitoring, mapping and situational awareness tasks from anywhere in the world at any time. Relying on its new Remote Ops software, the AI models to keep the drones on task, the systems can operate both indoors and outdoors.

The selling point is obvious; skilled, licensed drone operators that are able to operate beyond line-of-sight are expensive. Being able to remote-control them rather than having to bring them on-site is very appealing. Skydio drones housed in Dock and Dock Lite can fly with a single off-site operator, or autonomously.

The new Skydio Dock. Image Credits: Skydio

“The concept of remotely operated drones is incredibly compelling,” said Adam Bry, CEO of Skydio in a press statement. “It has attracted a gaggle of activity from startups and established manual drone companies, but it’s never going to work the way customers want — let alone scale to address real-world applications solving the needs of today — unless you can trust the drone to fly itself. And making drones smart enough to fly themselves is our core focus.”

The gaggle of startups Bry is referring to might include Matternet and Airobotics, which both raised significant funds and started deploying autonomous drone solutions over the last few years.

“Skydio Dock and Skydio Dock Lite, combined with our Remote Ops software, deliver autonomous capabilities for our customers, whether they are monitoring their warehouses, inspecting a security perimeter, or assessing infrastructure following a natural disaster — finally realizing the promise of efficient, scaleable remote operations,” says Bry.

Skydio’s new Remote Ops UI. Image CreditsSkydio

Deploying drones in compliance with the FAA isn’t trivial, and it’s encouraging to see that Skydio has a regulatory team to help its customers make the case for remote operations, obtaining approvals and the necessary blessings from the aviation regulators.

Skydio takes flight with new drone docking stations for easy remote deployment by Haje Jan Kamps originally published on TechCrunch

https://techcrunch.com/2022/12/07/skydio-takes-flight-with-new-drone-docking-stations-for-easy-remote-deployment/

It’s Not Just You: Businesses Are Making Their Phone Numbers Hard to Find

More customer-facing phone numbers are being replaced with chat boxes and virtual reservation systems that can make connecting to an actual human being next to impossible.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/customer-service-phone-chat-social-media-11670351834?mod=rss_Technology

Slingshot Aerospace closes Series A-2 to grow space situational awareness platform

Space is packed with human-made objects, and will likely only get more crowded with the continued growth of the space industry. Spacecraft operators have surprisingly little real-time data about where things actually are in orbit, especially in relation to each other.

Enter Slingshot Aerospace. The company is building a real-time “digital space twin” so that operators can keep their assets safe and secure while in orbit. Investors are certainly paying attention. The company has closed $40.85 million in Series A-2 funding, led by Sway Ventures and with participation from C16 Ventures, ATX Venture Partners, Lockheed Martin Ventures, Valor Equity Partners and Draper Associates. Slingshot also received a venture loan for an undisclosed amount from venture lending firm Horizon Technology Finance.

Slingshot has already raised a notably amount of funding, including a Series A-1 for $25 million that closed in March. The decision to raise so quickly after that last batch of funding was in part due to the opportunity the company was presented to acquire two other businesses, Slingshot CEO Melanie Stricklan told TechCrunch in an interview at TC Sessions: Space in Los Angeles.

“At the very tail end of that A-1, we were presented with these acquisition opportunities,” she explained. Closing out that round and calling this one A-2, rather than B, had much to do with how the company was thinking about the purpose of the funds, she added. “In my mind, a traditional B should be a lot larger, and it’s to completely scale our company. […] When we do a B, we want that round to be significant enough, depending on where we are, to scale the company rather than going to an A-3.”

Those acquisitions were of Numerica’s Space Domain Awareness division and U.K.-based Seradata; both were announced in August. From those companies, Slingshot gained access to what it says is the world’s only optical sensing network for satellite tracking in commercial low Earth orbit to geosynchronous orbit, as well as Seradata’s satellite and launch database.

The funding will also be used to grow customers across both commercial and defense sectors; build out Slingshot’s sensor network, which already includes 150 sensors and 30 telescopes across 20 locations globally; and grow Slingshot’s suite of products. Stricklan didn’t specify by how many sensors or telescopes the network would grow, but she did say the company is putting “a significant amount of capex” toward the growth plan.

As the Austin and El Segundo-based company continues to grow its space situational awareness (SSA) network, it also announced it would commence a two-month pilot with the U.S. Department of Commerce (DoC) to provide SSA data to the Department of Defense.

“I think this initiative is going to be a portal to understand what acquisition cultures have to shift […] A lot of that is gonna have to shift if we really want to move space traffic management and space traffic coordination into the [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] realm outside of the DoD realm,” Stricklan said.

“This is the beachhead.”

Slingshot Aerospace closes Series A-2 to grow space situational awareness platform by Aria Alamalhodaei originally published on TechCrunch

https://techcrunch.com/2022/12/07/slingshot-aerospace-closes-series-a-2-to-grow-space-situational-awareness-platform/

Instagram’s new transparency tools will tell you if your content is ineligible to be recommended

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Instagram announced today that it’s introducing new transparency tools so you can see whether your photos and videos are recommended in the app. The social network is expanding its Account Status hub to make it easier for users with professional accounts, like businesses and creators, to understand if their content is eligible to be recommended to non-followers in places like Explore, Reels and Feed Recommendations or if their content violates the company’s Recommendations Guidelines.

Instagram launched Accounts Status last year as a place where you can find out if your account is in good standing. Account Status lets users see any content that’s been removed from their account, appeal those decisions directly via the app and see if they’re at risk of losing their account.

With this latest update, if you discover that your content is not eligible to be recommended, you can see a sample of content or components of your profile that may go against Instagram’s Recommendations Guidelines. From there, you can edit or delete posts that go against the company’s guidelines.

“We know that, for many creators, having Instagram recommend your content is a great way to reach new fans and grow your audience,” Instagram said in a blog post. “That’s why it’s important to us that creators understand our guidelines and are able to know if something they’ve posted or have in their profile may be impacting their reach to non-followers. It’s also why we’re introducing the ability to disagree with our decision so our review team can take another look as quickly as possible and we can continue to improve our detection technology.”

Instagram says the goal of these new updates is to help users understand issues with their accounts. The social network plans to continue improving its Account Status hub to cover more areas of the app, such as Search and Suggested Accounts. Instagram also wants to add more ways for users to understand and fix issues that may affect how they reach non-followers.

You can navigate to the Account Status hub by going into your profile settings and clicking on “Account” and then tapping Account Status.

Instagram’s new transparency tools will tell you if your content is ineligible to be recommended by Aisha Malik originally published on TechCrunch

https://techcrunch.com/2022/12/07/instagrams-new-transparency-tools-will-tell-you-if-your-content-is-ineligible-to-be-recommended/