Tag: TechCrunch

Ford invests $500m in Rivian and intends to build a vehicle on Rivian’s EV platform

Rivian today announced a major investment from Ford. The 115-year old automaker is investing $500 million into the Michigan-based EV startup. Along with the cash, Ford announced plans to build a vehicle on Rivian’s electric vehicle platform.

“This strategic partnership marks another key milestone in our drive to accelerate the transition to sustainable mobility,” said RJ Scaringe, Rivian founder and CEO, said in a released statement. “Ford has a long-standing commitment to sustainability, with Bill Ford being one of the industry’s earliest advocates, and we are excited to use our technology to get more electric vehicles on the road.”

This investment comes two months after Rivian netted $700 million from a funding round that was lead by Amazon.

Rivian was founded in 2009 by RJ Scaringe but operated in stealth until late 2018 when it unveiled its stunning electric pickup and SUV. Today, the company has more than 750 employees split between four development locations in the U.S. and an office in the U.K. The bulk of its employees are in Michigan to be close to an expansive automotive supply chain.

Rivian chassis

Today’s announcement stopped short about detailing the vehicle Ford intends on building on Rivian’s platform. It’s likely whatever Ford produces will have similar capabilities of the two products Rivian announced last year. Rivian’s five-passenger R1T pickup and seven-passenger R1S SUV both feature over 400 miles of range and the startup previously stated they would be available in late 2020.

Ford already has several electric vehicles in production and in the works. Along with small electric vehicles, Ford is developing an electric version of its best-selling model, the F-150 pickup.

With this investment, Rivian will stay an independent company. Following regulatory approval, Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of Automotive, will join Rivian’s board.



from TechCrunch https://techcrunch.com/2019/04/24/ford-invests-500m-in-rivian-and-intends-to-build-a-vehicle-on-rivians-ev-platform/

Docker developers can now build Arm containers on their desktops

Docker and Arm today announced a major new partnership that will see the two companies collaborate in bringing improved support for the Arm platform to Docker’s tools.

The main idea here is to make it easy for Docker developers to build their applications for the Arm platform right from their x86 desktops and then deploy them to the cloud (including the Arm-based AWS EC2 A1 instances), edge and IoT devices. Developers will be able to build their containers for Arm just like they do today, without the need for any cross-compliation.

This new capability, which will work for applications written in Javascript/Node.js, Python, Java, C++, Ruby, .NET core, Go, Rust and PHP, will become available as a tech preview next week, when Docker hosts its annual North American developer conference in San Francisco.

Typically, developers would have to build the containers they want to run on the Arm platform on an Arm-based server. With this system, which is the first result of this new partnership, Docker essentially emulates an Arm chip on the PC for building these images.

“Overnight, the 2 million Docker developers that are out there can use the Docker commands they already know and become Arm developers,” Docker EVP of Business Development David Messina told me. “Docker, just like we’ve done many times over, has simplified and streamlined processes and made them simpler and accessible to developers. And in this case, we’re making x86 developers on their laptops Arm developers overnight.”

Given that cloud-based Arm servers like Amazon’s A1 instances are often signficantly cheaper than x86 machines, users can achieve some immediate cost benefits by using this new system and running their containers on Arm.

For Docker, this partnership opens up new opportunities, especially in areas where Arm chips are already strong, including edge and IoT scenarios. Arm, similarly, is interested in strengthening its developer ecosystem by making it easier to develop for its platform. The easier it is to build apps for the platform, the more likely developers are to then run them on servers that feature chips from Arm’s partners.

“Arm’s perspective on the infrastructure really spans all the way from the endpoint, all the way through the edge to the cloud data center, because we are one of the few companies that have a presence all the way through that entire path,” Mohamed Awad, Arm’s VP of Marketing, Infrastructure Line of Business, said. “It’s that perspective that drove us to make sure that we engage Docker in a meaningful way and have a meaningful relationship with them. We are seeing compute and the infrastructure sort of transforming itself right now from the old model of centralized compute, general purpose architecture, to a more distributed and more heterogeneous compute system.”

Developers, however, Awad rightly noted, don’t want to have to deal with this complexity, yet they also increasingly need to ensure that their applications run on a wide variety of platform and that they can move them around as needed. “For us, this is about enabling developers and freeing them from lock-in on any particular area and allowing them to choose the right compute for the right job that is the most efficient for them,” Awad said.

Mesina noted that the promise of Docker has long been to remove the dependence of applications from the infrastructure they run on. Adding Arm support simply extends this promise to an additional platform. He also stressed that the work on this was driven by the company’s enterprise customers. These are the users who have already set up their systems for cloud-native development with Docker’s tools — at least for their x86 development. Those customers are now looking at developing for their edge devices, too, and that often means developing for Arm-based devices.

Awad and Messina both stressed that developers really don’t have to learn anything new to make this work. All of the usual Docker commands will just work.


from TechCrunch https://techcrunch.com/2019/04/24/docker-partners-with-arm/

Embrace raises $4.5M for its mobile application performance management platform

Embrace, an LA-based startup that offers a mobile-first application performance management platform, today announced that it has raised a $4.5 million funding round led by Pritzker Group Venture Capital. This brings the company’s total funding to $7 million. New investors Greycroft, Miramar Ventures and Vy Captial also participated in this round, as did previous investors Eniac Ventures, The Chernin Group, Techstars Ventures, Tikhon Bernstam of Parse and others.

Current Embrace customers include the likes of Home Depot, Headspace, OKCupid, Boxed, Thrive Market and TuneIn. These companies use the service to get a better view of how their apps perform on their users’ devices.

As Embrace CEO and co-founder Eric Futoran, who also co-founded entertainment company Scopely, argues, too many similar services mostly focus on crashes, yet those only constitute a small number of the actual user experience issues in most apps. “To a large extent, crashes are solved,” he told me. “The crash percentages are often 99.8 percent crash-free and yet users are still complaining.”

That’s because there are plenty of other issues beyond code exceptions, which many tools focus on almost exclusively, that can force an app to close (think memory issues or the OS shutting down the app because it uses too many CPU cycles). “To users, that looks like a crash. Your app closed. But in no way, that’s a crash from a technical perspective,” Futoran noted.

Raising this new round, Futoran told me, was pretty easy. Indeed, Pritzker approached the company. “It was not fundraising,” he said. “They sat us down and said, ‘we want to fund you guys,’ which I find pretty unusual. So I’ve been calling it a pre-emptive round.” He also noted that having Pritzker involved should help open up the mid-west market for Embrace, which is mostly focusing on enterprise customers (though Futoran’s definition of ‘enterprise’ includes the likes of digital-first companies like Headspace).

“We saw many organizations trust Embrace’s seamless and innovative optimization platform to quickly identify and resolve any user-impacting issues within their apps, and we’re optimistic about the future of the company in this growing market,” said Gabe Greenbaum, an LA-based Partner for Pritzker Group Venture Capital. “We look forward to this next stage in the company’s growth journey and are honored to partner with Eric and Fredric to help them achieve their vision.”

The company plans to use the new funding to increase its go-to-market capabilities, and grow its team to build out its technology.



from TechCrunch https://techcrunch.com/2019/04/24/embrace-raises-4-5m-for-its-mobile-application-performance-management-platform/

Databricks open-sources Delta Lake to make data lakes more reliable

Databricks, the company founded by the original developers of the Apache Spark big data analytics engine, today announced that it has open-sourced Delta Lake, a storage layer that makes it easier to ensure data integrity as new data flows into an enterprise’s data lake by bringing ACID transactions to these vast data repositories.

Delta Lake, which has long been a proprietary part of Databrick’s offering, is already in production use by companies like Viacom, Edmunds, Riot Games and McGraw Hill.

The tool provides the ability to enforce specific schemas (which can be changed as necessary), to create snapshots and to ingest streaming data or backfill the lake as a batch job. Delta Lake also uses the Spark engine to handle the metadata of the data lake (which by itself is often a big data problem). Over time, Databricks also plans to add an audit trail, among other things.

“Today nearly every company has a data lake they are trying to gain insights from, but data lakes have proven to lack data reliability. Delta Lake has eliminated these challenges for hundreds of enterprises. By making Delta Lake open source, developers will be able to easily build reliable data lakes and turn them into ‘Delta Lakes’,” said Ali Ghodsi, co-founder and CEO at Databricks.

What’s important to note here is that Delta lake runs on top of existing data lakes and is compatible with the Apache spark APIs.

The company is still looking at how the project will be governed in the future. “We are still exploring different models of open source project governance, but the GitHub model is well understood and presents a good trade-off between the ability to accept contributions and governance overhead,” Ghodsi said. “One thing we know for sure is we want to foster a vibrant community, as we see this as a critical piece of technology for increasing data reliability on data lakes. This is why we chose to go with a permissive open source license model: Apache License v2, same license that Apache Spark uses.”

To invite this community, Databricks plans to take outside contributions, just like the Spark project.

“We want Delta Lake technology to be used everywhere on-prem and in the cloud by small and large enterprises,” said Ghodsi. “This approach is the fastest way to build something that can become a standard by having the community provide direction and contribute to the development efforts.” That’s also why the company decided against a Commons Clause licenses that some open-source companies now use to prevent others (and especially large clouds) from using their open source tools in their own commercial SaaS offerings. “We believe the Commons Clause license is restrictive and will discourage adoption. Our primary goal with Delta Lake is to drive adoption on-prem as well as in the cloud.”

from TechCrunch https://techcrunch.com/2019/04/24/databricks-open-sources-delta-lake-to-make-data-lakes-more-reliable/

R/GA Ventures incubator to nurture enterprise blockchain startups in Portland, OR

R/GA Ventures, a company that acts as investment arm and startup incubator for R/GA corporate client work, announced plans to open a new studio in Portland devoted to encouraging startups working on enterprise blockchain projects.

R/GA itself has a three-pronged purpose. It helps companies like Samsung, Google and Verizon (which owns this publication) in the product concept and design phase. It will also sometimes build products conceived in the design phase for the same clients. As an extension of that work, the company, which is owned by Interpublic Group, a group of marketing and advertising agencies, opened the Ventures arm five years ago with the aim of encouraging start-ups to do some of that innovation work for them and extend the company.

The blockchain project is the lates piece, and the idea behind it is to connect these startups with their corporate clients, who are interested in developing enterprise blockchain solutions in verticals such insurance, healthcare and sports; while building up a blockchain development center in Portland. The goal may be helping the corporate clients, but the startups are independent entities with their own sales and marketing approaches. The company may also invest a modest amount of money in the companies.

Nick Coronges, the global chief technology officer for R/GA, says they are looking at real-world applications of blockchain with the understanding that it’s still very early days for distributed ledger and blockchain applications, and they are looking for ways to explore the utility of it in business.

“I think one of the assumptions that we make going into this is that blockchain, as we currently understand it is probably going to go through a lot of iterations. And it may be bigger in the next few years…we may talk about it as a kind of ecosystem or a set of adjacent technologies that are related to blockchain, and this idea of decentralized data processing systems,” he explained.

He added, “The main thing that we look for is cases where you have multiple participants in some type of workflow, requiring access and some kind of accountability, transparency and control over data.”

The company has partnered with several intuitions on this project including Moda, Umpqua Bank, Portland State University, Oregon Health & Science University, Business Oregon, ConsenSys and blockchain research firm Smith and Crown.

The first cohort of blockchain startups will begin working at the end of July in an office space in Portland.

from TechCrunch https://techcrunch.com/2019/04/24/r-ga-ventures-project-pushes-enterprise-blockchain-startups-in-portland-or/

Ride-hailing firm Grab is losing its CTO

Grab is once again on the hunt for a CTO after Theo Vassilakis, the former Microsoft and Google executive who currently occupies the role, announced that he will leave the ride-hailing company this summer.

Vassilakis became Grab CTO in October 2017, ending a very long search to fill the job, but he explained in a LinkedIn post that he is leaving the Singapore-based firm, and Southeast Asia, for family reasons.

My family and I moved to Singapore in late 2017 when I joined Grab. Living and working in Southeast Asia has been an adventure that broadened our horizons and will always be in our hearts. Unfortunately, our personal circumstances have changed unexpectedly and we’ll need to spend most of our time outside the region — mostly in the south of China for the foreseeable future.

Following his exit on June 30, Vassilakis will remain an advisor to Grab, with a specific focus on “coaching our senior tech leaders and shepherding our ongoing AI and marketplace optimization efforts.” He said that he will be involved in finding and hiring his replacement.

While it will lack a ‘group CTO,’ Grab does have CTOs for its transport and financial business units — Mark Porter and Vikas Agrawal, respectively — while head of product and design Jerald Singh will be involved in filling the void. Grab’s first CTO was Wei Zhu, who is credited with creating Connect with Facebook, but he left in 2015 after just a year and later sued over alleged unpaid earnings.

Under Vassilakis’ leadership, Grab massively increased its tech presence. The company now has seven R&D offices — Bangalore, Beijing, Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Seattle and Singapore — and it claims to have doubled its headcount in 2018. Grab said in December that it is projected to add a further 1,000 “tech roles” this year.

The company has also expanded from merely transportation services to on-demand services, apps from third-parties via its ‘platform’ strategy, and payments and financial services.

Grab has also become the largest tech company in Southeast Asia by some margin in the eyes of investors. The company was most recently valued at $14 billion when it raised nearly $1.5 billion from SoftBank’s Vision Fund in March. To date, Grab has raised and the company said earlier this month that it plans to pull in $2 billion more from investors this year to battle rival Go-Jek, make acquisitions and develop its ‘super app’ strategy.

from TechCrunch https://techcrunch.com/2019/04/24/grab-cto-theo-vassilakis-leaving/

Selina raises $100M at an $850M valuation for its network of living spaces for digital nomads

The rising tide of Airbnb is lifting all boats, and today a startup that’s building a series of living-coworking-activity spaces across the world primarily geared at digital nomads is reeling in a sizeable round to take its business to the next level. Selina, which operates a network of 22,000 beds out of boutique hostel-style operations in some 13 countries, has raised $100 million in funding, money that it plans to to use to expand its footprint to 130,000 beds across 400 properties by 2023, capitalising on the surge in remote working and the more holistic approach taken by digital nomads, who seek out places where they can take a bite or two out of life but still be productive at the same time.

In 2019 alone, the plan will be to open 35 Selina properties in the U.S., U.K., Germany, Portugal, Greece, Israel, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico.

The funding is being made at a post-money valuation of $850 million, the company confirmed. Co-founder and CEO Rafael Museri said in an interview that the startup is likely to tip over $1 billion in its next round.

This latest round, which brings the total raised by Selina to $225 million, is being led by Access Industries, with participation from Grupo Wiese and existing investors Colony Latam Partners.

Selina itself has taken a page out of the digital nomad bible: the company’s first properties were across Latin America — founded in 2015 when Museri and co-founder Daniel Rudasevski were resident in Panama — although the company itself was established in New York and now its co-founders are relocating to London.

In addition to the equity funding, Selina has also secured some $300 million in country partnerships to build out its hostels and their related activities across the globe. Museri noted that the company mainly leases the buildings where it operates its services rather than buying the real estate outright, and so some of these local contributions will be from property owners who pay in to help refurbish their locations to share in some of the returns that come from the hostels that eventually open up.

“We are converting boring spaces into cultural hubs, quickly,” is how Museri describes it.

This latest funding will be used to bring on more talent and build more bridges into local communities — which Selina relies on to build out its operations, which include not just a place to sleep and work, but activities throughout the day for those staying in its rooms as well as other locals — as well as to continue investing in its tech, which is built out of the co-founders’ home country of Israel, in Tel Aviv, and specifically to improve the booking process and algorithmic recommendations that people use both to figure out where to travel next, as well as what they want to do when they get there.

Selina’s rise comes at a time when we’ve seen an interesting convergence in the worlds of working and travel, where people are demanding an increasingly greater amount of flexibility in terms of how they approach both.

In the world of startups, that evolution has been spearheaded by the likes of WeWork and Airbnb, which have respectively turned the concept of leasing or buying an office, or renting a stodgy and soulless hotel room, on its head, providing more interesting and way more flexible approaches to both.

In more recent times, both WeWork and Airbnb have in effect moved ever-closer to each other, with WeWork now starting to provide its customers with places to sleep, and Airbnb offering places to work as part of its bigger Business effort.

Notably, WeWork founder Adam Neumann is actually an investor in Selina, having been a part of its previous $95 million round. (That’s something to think about when considering that move the We Company, as it’s now called, makes into adjacent areas like accommodations.)

While these outsized companies present inevitable competition to Selina and the many others that are approaching the opportunity, Selina is continuing to build out its business not just as co-working or co-living space in a variety of urban and exotic locations, but as a place to go for experiential enjoyment — one of the reasons it has attracted this funding.

“We believe Selina’s focus on building a global hospitality platform for digital nomads will redefine the way millennials live, work, play, learn and give back,” said Lincoln Benet of Access Industries, in a statement.

Museri said that today some 80 percent of travellers stay for 2.5-2.8 days, although it’s not completely unusual for people to stay 12 or 60 days, too. “It’s a process,” he said when I asked him for a more concrete figure. “If they are happy, they stay longer. If they want to move, they can jump to another Selina. It’s flexible. We do have people who fall in love and stay longer, but three nights is the average stay, and it’s growing every day.”

The average age of its residents is 25 to 35, he said, but again the range is pretty wide, with some travelling not as individuals but in groups of friends or families.

Most activities are free, Museri notes, although there are also additional paid experiences you can get on top (example: surfing — one of the typical activities in the beach properties — might be free, but surf lessons come at a price; or basic yoga might be free, but an extended multi-day program would not be).

“This is the future of accommodation,” Museri said. “Airbnb is improving but we are doing something completely different. We don’t think any one brand will touch all three spaces [of work, sleep, play] the way that we will.”

from TechCrunch https://techcrunch.com/2019/04/24/selina-raises-100m-at-an-850m-valuation-for-its-network-of-living-spaces-for-digital-nomads/