executive

Silicon Valley’s sovereign wealth problem

John Vrionis Contributor It’s time to bring the conversation about where Silicon Valley gets its money from out into the open. Following recent revelations into Saudi Arabia’s extensive reach and influence in the US technology sector, the willful ignorance that has defined the relationship between venture capital firms and the limited partnerships (LPs) that fund them for years now isn’t going to cut it anymore. According to the latest reports from the Wall Street Journal, Saudi Arabia is now the single-largest source of funding for US-based tech companies. Since 2016, the Saudi royal family has invested at least $11 billion into US startups directly, and in August, the Saudi Arabian government committed $45 billion to Softbank’s $92 billion Vision Fund. To put that into context, the total...

Vishal Makhijani steps down as chief executive of Udacity

Vishal Makhijani, the long time chief executive of online education company Udacity, is stepping down as its chief executive officer, TechCrunch has learned. Makhijani first joined the company in 2013 as chief operating officer under Sebastian Thrun, the company’s founder and chief executive at the time. In 2016, Thrun, the original architect of Alphabet’s self-driving car initiatives and a storied entrepreneur and engineer in Silicon Valley, handed the reins of his online education startup over to Makhijani, who assumed the mantle of CEO while Thrun became chairman and president of the company. In an interview, Makhijani declined to disclose his next steps, but Thrun praised the executive for taking Udacity to new heights and hailed him as a key contributor to the company’s continuing gro...

Recent departures hint at turmoil at Quartet Health, a mental health startup backed by GV

Backed with nearly $87 million in venture capital funding from GV, Oak HC/FT and F-Prime Capital, Quartet Health was founded in 2014 by Arun Gupta, Steve Shulman and David Wennberg to improve access to behavioral healthcare. Its mission: “enable every person in our society to thrive by building a collaborative behavioral and physical health ecosystem.” Recent shakeups within the New York-based company’s c-suite and a perusal of its Glassdoor profile suggest Quartet’s culture is not fully in line with its own philosophy.   In the last few weeks, chief product officer Rajesh Midha has left the company and president and chief operating officer David Liu is on his way out, TechCrunch has learned and confirmed with Quartet. Founding chief executive officer Arun Gupta, meanwhile, has stepped int...

White House says a draft executive order reviewing social media companies is not “official”

A draft executive order circulating around the White House “is not the result of an official White House policymaking process,” according to deputy White House press secretary, Lindsay Walters. According to a report in The Washington Post, Walters denied that White House staff had worked on a draft executive order that would require every federal agency to study how social media platforms moderate user behavior and refer any instances of perceived bias to the Justice Department for further study and potential legal action. Bloomberg first reported the draft executive order and a copy of the document was acquired and published by Business Insider. Here’s the relevant text of the draft (from Business Insider): Section 2. Agency Responsibilities. (a) Executive departments and agencies with au...

AI training and social network content moderation services bring TaskUs a $250 million windfall

TaskUs, the business process outsourcing service that moderates content, annotates information and handles back office customer support for some of the world’s largest tech companies, has raised $250 million in an investment from funds managed by the New York-based private equity giant, Blackstone Group. It’s been ten years since TaskUs was founded with a $20,000 investment from its two co-founders, and the new deal, which values the decade-old company at $500 million before the money even comes in, is proof of how much has changed for the service in the years since it was founded. The Santa Monica-based company, which began as a browser-based virtual assistant company — “You send us a task and we get the task done,” recalled TaskUs chief executive Bryce Maddock — is now one of the main pr...

Sagewise pitches a service to verify claims and arbitrate disputes over blockchain transactions

Sometimes smart contracts can be pretty dumb. All of the benefits of a cryptographically secured, publicly verified, anonymized transaction system can be erased by errant code, malicious actors or poorly defined parameters of an executable agreement. Hoping to beat back the tide of bad contracts, bad code and bad actors, Sagewise, a new Los Angeles-based startup, has raised $1.25 million to bring to market a service that basically hits pause on the execution of a contract so it can be arbitrated in the event that something goes wrong. Co-founded by a longtime lawyer, Amy Wan, whose experience runs the gamut from the U.S. Department of Commerce to serving as counsel for a peer-to-peer real estate investment platform in Los Angeles, and Dan Rice, a longtime entrepreneur working with blockcha...

A new $124 million for Brazil’s Movile proves that investors still see promise in Latin American tech

Brazil’s macroeconomic picture may be gloomy, but technology investors still see hope in the nation’s burgeoning technology sector — and a recent $124 million financing for the mobile conglomerate Movile is the latest proof that that the pace of investment isn’t slowing down. Brazil was already the hottest spot for technology investment throughout Latin America — with Sao Paulo drawing in the majority of the record-breaking $1 billion in financing that the region’s startups attracted in 2017. And with this latest funding for Movile, led by Naspers, that trend looks likely to continue. Indeed, Naspers investments in Movile (supplemented by co-investors like Innova, which participated in the most recent round) have been one of the driving forces sustaining the Brazilian startup community. In...

Real estate property manager and developer JLL launches a $100 million tech investment fund

The multi-billion dollar real estate developer and property manager JLL is getting into the tech investment game with the launch of a new $100 million fund run by corporate subsidiary JLL Spark. Initially envisioned as a technology-focused business unit of the multinational real estate company, the firm eventually turned to the more traditional venture capital investment model as a way to get more exposure to all of the new technologies that are coming to market, according to JLL SPark’s co-chief executive Mihir Shah. For Shah and his co-founder Yishai Lerner running the real estate company’s investment firm is the first foray by either executive into the world of real estate or property technology. But both men have been working in the startup world of the Bay Area for at over a decade. I...

A simple solution to end the encryption debate

David Gurle Contributor Bill Harrington Contributor Criminals and terrorists, like millions of others, rely on smartphone encryption to protect the information on their mobile devices. But unlike most of us, the data on their phones could endanger lives and pose a great threat to national security. The challenge for law enforcement, and for us as a society, is how to reconcile the advantages of gaining access to the plans of dangerous individuals with the cost of opening a door to the lives of everyone else. It is the modern manifestation of the age-old conflict between privacy versus security, playing out in our pockets and palms. One-size-fits all technological solutions, like a manufacturer-built universal backdoor tool for smartphones, likely create more dangers than they prevent. Whil...

Update: Bird buys more scooters

Note: This story has been updated to indicate that the deal is worth tens of millions not hundreds of millions and includes comment from other manufacturers. It seems like all is fair in love and scooter wars. In the battle royal to become the last dock-less scooter startup standing (and un-besmirched by poop), Bird has inked what it is characterizing as exclusive deals with Ninebot (the parent company of Segway) and Xiaomi (yes, that Xiaomi), for rights to their supply of scooters for ride-sharing in the U.S. Ninebot and Xiaomi are the current champions in the scooter manufacturing market, and locking in their supply may cut off a big source of hardware for competitors Spin and LimeBike, both of which used Ninebot and Xiaomi for scooters. “That’s news to us, we have a contract with both,”...

Mobile money-saving app Qapital raises $30 million to spend on growth

Qapital, one of a slew of mobile applications trying to make it easier for users to save money (and spend it more wisely), has raised $30 million in fresh financing as it expands beyond savings to offer investment advisory services. Since its launch in the U.S. in 2015, Qapital has amassed roughly 420,000 users that have saved nearly $500 million on the platform, according to the company. But Qapital is more than just a Digit -style savings tool these days. The company has also folded in Qapital Spending through a linked Visa Debit Card that works with money saved through the app — as well as a budgeting tool called Qapital Weekly Spending Target. The company now has designs on the robo-investment market through Qapital Invest, a new product that Qapital expects to roll out before the end ...

The United States needs a Department of Cybersecurity

Ted Schlein Contributor Ted Schlein, a general partner at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, focuses on early-stage technology companies in the enterprise software and infrastructure markets, including ventures within the networking and consumer security arenas. More posts by this contributor What Silicon Valley can do about cyber threats The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Surviving A Tech Bubble  This week over 40,000 security professionals will attend RSA in San Francisco to see the latest cyber technologies on display and discuss key issues. No topic will be higher on the agenda than the Russian sponsored hack of the American 2016 election with debate about why the country has done so little to respond and what measures should be taken to deter future attempts at subver...

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