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VCs say Silicon Valley isn’t the gold mine it used to be

In the days leading up to TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2018, The Economist published the cover story, ‘Why Startups Are Leaving Silicon Valley.’ The author outlined reasons why the Valley has “peaked.” Venture capital investors are deploying capital outside the Bay Area more than ever before. High-profile entrepreneurs and investors, Peter Thiel, for example, have left. Rising rents are making it impossible for new blood to make a living, let alone build businesses. And according to a recent survey, 46 percent of Bay Area residents want to get the hell out, an increase from 34 percent two years ago. Needless to say, the future of Silicon Valley was top of mind on stage at Disrupt. “It’s hard to make a difference in San Francisco as a single entrepreneur,” said J.D. Vance, the author of ‘Hillbilly...

Amazon makes offline retail push in India

Amazon unleashed a flurry of new products this week at a U.S. press event, but halfway across the world, it is getting deeper into physical retail in the Indian market. The U.S. e-commerce giant is buying up 49 percent of More in a deal that sees Amazon partner and PE firm Samara Capital pick up the remaining 51 percent. Amazon and Samara have created an entity called Witzig Advisory Services Private Limited which will hold the ownership stake through the deal, which is reportedly worth around $585 million according to Indian media. Regulation prevents Amazon from owning the business entirely, hence it requires a local partner to take a majority stake. The deal is significant because it represents a major move for Amazon in brick and mortar retail in India, which is one of the up-and-comin...

How the Audi e-tron compares to the Tesla Model X and Jaguar I-Pace

Audi just announced its first production electric vehicle. Called the e-tron, the EV is a mid-size SUV loaded with technology with an unofficial range of over 300 miles. It’s nicely equipped, and with a starting price of $74,800, it sits between the Jaguar I-Pace and the Tesla Model X. The e-tron is most similar to the Jaguar I-Pace though the Audi is slightly better equipped. The e-tron packs a 95 kWh battery over the Jaguar’s 90 kWh battery. It’s also slightly larger and rated to tow 4,000 lbs. Comparing the e-tron to the Model X gets messy. Tesla sells the Model X in three flavors: mild, hot, and on fire. The mild version starts at $72,100 and packs a 75 kWh battery good for 237 miles. Spend $88,600 to get the 100D and its 100 kWh battery that’s rated for 295 miles. And for $125,800, bu...

This is what Americans think about the state of election security right now

A wide-ranging new poll yields some useful insight into how worried the average American feels about election threats as the country barrels toward midterms. The survey, conducted by NPR and researchers with Marist College, polled 949 adult US residents in early September across regions of the country, contacting participants through both landlines and mobile devices. The results are a significant glimpse into current attitudes around the likelihood of foreign election interference, election security measures and how well social media companies have rebounded in the public eye. Attitudes toward Facebook and Twitter As the most recent dust settles around revelations that Russia ran influence campaigns targeting Americans on social media platforms, just how much do US voters trust that Faceb...

African experiments with drone technologies could leapfrog decades of infrastructure neglect

Jake Bright Contributor More posts by this contributor Harley-Davidson is opening a Silicon Valley R&D center to power EV production With a $10 million round, Nigeria’s Paga plans global expansion Samantha Stein Contributor More posts by this contributor Only 48 hours left to apply for Startup Battlefield Africa 2018 Announcing Startup Battlefield at Disrupt SF 2018 A drone revolution is coming to sub-Saharan Africa. Countries across the continent are experimenting with this 21st century technology as a way to leapfrog decades of neglect of 20th century infrastructure. Over the last two years, San Francisco-based startup Zipline launched a national UAV delivery program in East Africa; South Africa passed commercial drone legislation to train and license pilots; and Malawi even opened a...

FEMA to send its first ‘Presidential Alert’ in emergency messaging system test

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will this week test a new “presidential alert” system that will allow the president to send a message to every phone in the US. The alert is the first nationwide test of the presidential alert test, FEMA said in an advisory, which allows the president to address the nation in the event of a national emergency. Using the Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system, anyone with cell service should receive the message to their phone. “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed,” the message will read, due to be sent out on Thursday at 2:18pm ET. Minutes later, the Emergency Alert System (EAS) will broadcast a similar test message over television, radio, and wireline video services. Emergency alerts aren’t new and warni...

North Korea skirts US sanctions by secretly selling software around the globe

Fake social media profiles are useful for more than just sowing political discord among foreign adversaries, as it turns out. A group linked to the North Korean government has been able to duck existing sanctions on the country by concealing its true identity and developing software for clients abroad. This week, the US Treasury issued sanctions against two tech companies accused of running cash-generating front operations for North Korea: Yanbian Silverstar Network Technology or “China Silver Star,” based near Shenyang, China, and a Russian sister company called Volasys Silver Star. The Treasury also sanctioned China Silver Star’s North Korean CEO Jong Song Hwa. “These actions are intended to stop the flow of illicit revenue to North Korea from overseas information technology workers disg...

Kegel trainer startup Elvie is launching a smaller, smarter, hands-free breast pump

Elvie, a Berlin-based startup known best for its connected Kegel trainer is jumping into the breast pump business with a new $480 hands-free system you can slip into your bra. Even with all the innovation in baby gear, breast pumps have mostly sucked (pun intended) for new moms for the past half a century. My first experience with a pump required me to stay near a wall socket and hunch over for a good twenty to thirty minutes for fear the milk collected might spill all over the place (which it did anyway, frequently). It was awful! Next I tried the Willow Pump, an egg-shaped, connected pump meant to liberate women everywhere with its small and mobile design. It received glowing reviews, though my experience with it was less than stellar. The proprietary bags were hard to fit in the device,...

Alibaba’s Ant Financial denies stealing from Equifax

Ant Financial has denied claims that it covertly raided Equifax — the U.S. credit firm that was hit by a hack last year — to grab information, including code, confidential data and documents to help recruit staff for its own credit scoring service. The Alibaba affiliate, which is valued at over $100 billion, launched Sesame Credit in China in 2015, and a report this week from The Wall Street Journal suggests that it leaned heavily on Equifax to do so. Ant Financial hired China-born Canadian David Zou from Equifax and the Journal claims that Zou looked up employee information to gauge potential hires and squirreled away confidential documents via his personal email account. Ant was said to have offered Chinese staff at Equifax lucrative raises — reportedly tripling their salaries — with a f...

Coinbase plots to become the New York Stock Exchange of crypto securities

The future of Coinbase looks something like the New York Stock Exchange. That’s according a vision laid out by CEO Brian Amstrong who was interviewed on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco today. Coinbase is known for being the most popular exchange for converting fiat currency into crypto — most of the largest traded exchanges are crypto-to-crypto — but he foresees a future in which it plays host to a growing number of cryptocurrencies as it becomes standard for companies to create their own token, which runs alongside equity as an alternative investment system. “It makes sense that any company out there who has a cap table… should have their own token. Every open source project, every charity, potentially every fund or these new types of decentralized organizations [and] apps, t...

Google will struggle if it re-enters China, says its former country head

The odds are stacked against Google if the reports are true and the company is trying to bring its services back to China, according to the former head of Google China. News reports last month uncovered details of internal plans to introduce a search product and a news app in China, moves that would mark a re-entry to the consumer market which Google left in 2010. The plans, which follow a noticeable increase in activity in China from Google, were widely criticized by activists and also raised concern internally from Google employees. Kaifu Lee left the search giant nine years following a four-year stint, and today he’s best-known as one of the world’s leading thinkers on AI and the founding partner of Chinese VC Sinovation Ventures. Speaking at TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco this week, ...

How to help Californians whose tap water is tainted

David Gorn Contributor David Gorn is a contributing writer for CALMatters and formerly was an editor and reporter for public media, including NPR and its California stations. Karen Lewis knows about water problems. The 67-year-old lives in Compton, where the water coming out of her tap is tinged brown by manganese, a metal similar to iron, from old pipes. The water is supplied by the troubled Sativa Los Angeles County Water District. The district has been plagued by administrative scandal and charges of mismanagement, and it hasn’t been able to generate the money needed to fix the brown water. Lewis has sat through innumerable community meetings and heard years’ worth of explanations, and she’s had enough. “Nothing’s been changed,” she said. “They’re not going to change.” Lewis is one of a...

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