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The RealReal’s CEO says the company’s goal is to IPO

The RealReal’s CEO says the company’s goal is to IPO

The RealReal CEO Julie Wainwright tells TechCrunch in a video interview that she’s preparing the luxury consignment e-tailer to go public someday. “That’s the goal,” she said when asked about IPO plans. “We really aren’t in the mood to sell the business, we’re in the mood to go public at some point in the future.”

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GM now lets developers test their in-car apps running in actual cars

GM now lets developers test their in-car apps running in actual cars

GM has been doing a lot to try to make it easier for developers to create software for use in their vehicle infotainment systems. Back in January, it opened up access to a wide range of data points from the vehicle, and made it possible to develop using a simulator on the desktop, instead of having to use very specific developer hardware based in Detroit.

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Graphcore’s AI chips now backed by Atomico, DeepMind’s Hassabis

Graphcore’s AI chips now backed by Atomico, DeepMind’s Hassabis

Is AI chipmaker Graphcore out to eat Nvidia’s lunch? Co-founder and CEO Nigel Toon laughs at that interview opener — perhaps because he sold his previous company to the chipmaker back in 2011.

“I’m sure Nvidia will be successful as well,” he ventures. “They’re already being very successful in this market… And being a viable competitor and standing alongside them, I think that would be a worthy aim for ourselves.”

Toon also flags what he couches an “interesting absence” in the competitive landscape vis-a-vis other major players “that you’d expect to be there” — e.g. Intel. (Though clearly Intel is spending to plug the gap .)

A recent report by analyst Gartner suggests AI technologies will be in almost every software product by 2020. The race for more powerful hardware engines to underpin the machine-learning software tsunami is, very clearly, on.

“We started on this journey rather earlier than many other companies,” says Toon. “We’re probably two years ahead, so we’ve definitely got an opportunity to be one of the first people out with a solution that is really designed for this application. And because we’re ahead we’ve been able to get the excitement and interest from some of these key innovators who are giving us the right feedback.”

Bristol, UK based Graphcore has just closed a $30 million Series B round, led by Atomico, fast-following a $32M Series A in October 2016. It’s building dedicated processing hardware plus a software framework for machine learning developers to accelerate building their own AI applications — with the stated aim of becoming the leader in the market for “machine intelligence processors”.

In a supporting statement, Atomico Partner Siraj Khaliq, who is joining the Graphcore board, talks up its potential as being to “accelerate the pace of innovation itself”. “ Graphcore ’s first IPU delivers one to two orders of magnitude more performance over the latest industry offerings, making it possible to develop new models with far less time waiting around for algorithms to finish running,” he adds.

Toon says the company saw a lot of investor interest after uncloaking at the time of its Series A last October — hence it decided to do an “earlier than planned” Series B. “That would allow us to scale the company more quickly, support more customers, and just grow more quickly,” he tells TechCrunch. “And it still gives us the option to raise more money next year to then really accelerate that ramp after we’ve got our product out.”

The new funding brings on board some new high profile angel investors — including DeepMind co-founder Demis Hassabis and Uber chief scientist Zoubin Ghahramani. So you can hazard a pretty educated guess as to which tech giants Graphcore might be working closely with during the development phase of its AI processing system (albeit Toon is quick to emphasize that angels such as Hassabis are investing in a personal capacity).

“We can’t really make any statements about what Google might be doing,” he adds. “We haven’t announced any customers

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SoFi loses another senior executive, as chief revenue officer Michael Tannenbaum departs

SoFi loses another senior executive, as chief revenue officer Michael Tannenbaum departs

Online finance startup SoFi has lost yet another senior executive, the company has confirmed. Chief revenue officer Michael Tannenbaum is the latest exec to leave, following a string of departures in the company’s senior ranks.

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Silent Echo lets you chat with Alexa over Slack

Silent Echo lets you chat with Alexa over Slack

Want to chat with Alexa via Slack? A new bot called Silent Echo now makes that possible. The idea is that there are times when you want to interact with Amazon’s virtual assistant, Alexa, but you don’t want to do it by voice. For example, if things are too noisy in the room for Alexa to properly hear you, or, alternately, if you need things to be very quiet.

The service doesn’t offer the full capabilities that Alexa offers on other platforms, like Amazon’s Echo speaker. For example, Silent Echo doesn’t let you control Spotify or other music services, nor can it handle using Alexa skills that require multiple turns due to its short session times.

But there are things Silent Echo can handle, like the ability to control smart home devices or the ability interact with Alexa skills – including for testing purposes, as developers may need to do.

In fact, the idea for Silent Echo comes from  Bespoken , a company offering tools for developing voice apps. Bespoken spun out of interactive audio ad company XappMedia last year, and has since released a number of open source command line tools which have been adopted by nearly 700 voice app developers. These tools help Bespoken to gain exposure for its SaaS product, a logging and monitoring software solution for Alexa and Google Home voice apps.

Today, that software is being used by around 150 customers – mainly agencies working with bigger brands on voice app development.

According to John Kelvie, founder and CEO at Bespoken, the team originally built a  web client version  of Silent Echo in order to support some functionality in the company’s enterprise voice application solution. But a number of people asked if they could get a version of this for Slack, leading to the creation of the new Slackbot.

Once installed in Slack, you can direct message the Silent Echo bot or call it up in a group chat by addressing messages to @silentecho.

The bot works by converting what you type in Slack into audio using text-to-speech, which is then sent to Alexa using Amazon’s own APIs. The audio reply Alexa returns is then converted back into text using speech-to-text.

Silent Echo lets you chat with Alexa over Slack

This is an unofficial means of using Alexa – so technically speaking, it’s something of a hack. However, it’s all being done using “openly available routines,” says Kelvie. “We are not doing anything sneaky or relying on any private APIs or loopholes,” he explains.

Essentially, Silent Echo acts like a virtual Alexa device, so it’s tied to your own Alexa account. That means it has access to your Amazon account information and any skills you’ve added.

But for security purposes, the group chat interactions with Silent Echo instead use a generic Silent Echo instance, which is linked to an Amazon account with limited privileges. You can still add skills to this version, but not those that require you to link them with a personal account – like a skill that lets you order a

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