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Dish is the first TV provider to offer support for Apple’s Business Chat

Dish today announced it’s becoming the first TV provider to offer customer support over Apple’s Business Chat. Launched earlier this year, Business Chat allows companies to communicate with their customers over iMessage in order to answer questions, provide customer service, or even enable purchases. In Dish’s case, the TV provider says its customers can use Business Chat to reach a live agent with their questions, make account changes, schedule an appointment, and more.

They can even use their credit card in Business Chat to order a pay-per-view movie or sporting event, then watch it within minutes of confirming the purchase, Dish says.

This feature takes advantage of Apple Pay, which lets you quickly make purchases using your stored payment information without having to leave the iMessage conversation.

Business Chat is as secure as placing a call, where customers would have had to provide information to identify themselves as the account holder. As Dish explains, Apple Business Chat doesn’t display the customer’s contact information to the agents, so customers can choose if they want to share that information themselves. They’re also in control of authenticating their account, if they want to make changes or purchases.

“TV should be simple, so we’ve made reaching our live customer service representatives as easy as sending a text,” said John Swieringa, Dish’s chief operating officer, in a statement about the launch. “Adding messaging with Apple Business Chat is a powerful way to connect with us, giving another choice so you can pick what fits with your life.”

Business Chat is a direct attack by Apple on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Today, businesses tend to set up Facebook Pages and often offer customers the ability to reach out over Facebook’s Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp with questions. Twitter has also entered the customer service business, allowing businesses to respond to customers over tweets and DMs. Business Chat offers companies an alternative to social media, with the advantage of having access to Apple Pay built-in. (Facebook, meanwhile, hasn’t established itself as a payments company nor does much of its user base keep their payment information on file with the company. The same goes for Twitter.)

In addition, operating over iMessage means businesses get even closer with their cust

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Facebook Google and more unite to let you transfer data between apps

The Data Transfer Project is a new team-up between tech giants to let you move your content, contacts, and more across apps. Founded by Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Microsoft, the DTP today revealed its plans for an open source data portability platform any online service can join. While many companies already let you download your information, that’s not very helpful if you can’t easily upload and use it elsewhere — whether you want to evacuate a social network you hate, back up your data somewhere different, or bring your digital identity along when you try a new app. The DTP’s tool isn’t ready for use yet, but the group today laid out a white paper for how it will work.

Creating an industry standard for data portability could force companies to compete on utility instead of being protected by data lock-in that traps users because it’s tough to switch services. The DTP could potentially offer a solution to a major problem with social networks I detailed in April: you can’t find your friends from one app on another. We’ve asked Facebook for details on if and how you’ll be able to transfer your social connections and friends’ contact info which it’s historically hoarded.

Facebook shouldn’t block you from finding friends on competitors

From porting playlists in music streaming services to health data from fitness trackers to our reams of photos and videos, the DTP could be a boon for startups. Incumbent tech giants maintain a huge advantage in popularizing new functionality because they instantly interoperate with a user’s existing data rather than making them start from scratch. Even if a social networking startup builds a better location sharing feature, personalized avatar, or payment system, it might be a lot easier to use Facebook’s clone of it because that’s where your profile, friends, and photos live.

If the DTP gains industry-wide momentum and its founding partners cooperate in good faith rather than at some bare minimum level of involvement, it could lower the barrier for people to experiment with new apps. Meanwhile, the tech giants could argue that the government shouldn’t step in to regulate them or break them up because DTP means users are free to choose whichever app best com

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Zoox’s fresh 500M how to spend 63B and Microsoft’s fine fiscal year

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This week we had another full house which made for a good time. Our own Connie Loizos, Matthew Lynley and I were joined by Renata Quintini, a partner at Lux Capital.

Today’s episode is a grab bag of topics, including some self-driving stuff, late-stage venture noodling, and Microsoft. So, this show hit on every topic I used to have listed on my OkCupid profile.

First up was Zoox’s epic $500 million infusion. The self-driving company is notable for its full-stack approach, and, as Lux is a long-time investor in the project, we had the perfect guest on hand to help us discuss it. As you can imagine, we dug around who else is working in the space, what SoftBank is up to, and why Zoox might need so much capital.

Oddly enough everyone ’round the table found the dollar amount pretty reasonable. We apologize for the lack of drama.

Next up we peeked at Insight Venture Partners’ epic new fund, and how some founders are looking to provide liquidity to their investors without exiting. As you can imagine, we wanted to know how these Very Large Indeed funds are going to return enough capital to make their LPs happy. We also spent some time chewing on what happens to startups that wind up growing, but not as quickly as their venture backers had originally hoped.

Finally, Microsoft’s earnings. We don’t do too much about the already-public, but Microsoft’s latest digest was something that we couldn’t pass up. The company posted another set of healthy growth as it scampers along in the $1 trillion race.

And that’s about it. We’ll be back in a week with more Equity.

Equity drops every Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Pocket Casts, Downcast and all the casts.

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Blavity raises 65 million Series A round led by GV

Blavity, the digital lifestyle media company geared toward black millennials, recently closed a $6.5 million Series A round led by GV with participation from Comcast Ventures, Plexo Capital and Baron Davis Enterprises. As part of the investment, GV Partner John Lyman is joining Blavity’s board of directors.

As the media landscape continues to change, with some businesses up for sale, a prominent black media publication moving under new leadership and other ones shuttering, Blavity is at a point where it’s thinking about what phase two looks like, Blavity CEO Morgan DeBaun told TechCrunch over the phone.

“There’s just a lot going on where it’s important now more than ever that Blavity is committed and has the resources it needs to grow as a publication,” DeBaun told me.

Most of the funding will go toward opening a new office that is strictly focused on engineering and data, DeBaun said. As part of that, Blavity intends to triple the size of its engineering team. The office, which will likely be in Atlanta, will be home to engineers on additional products and content creation tools to facilitate better storytelling.

“A lot of innovation will come out of that office in the next six to nine months,” she said.

Currently, Blavity employs 30 people full-time and has between 60-80 contractors across its five brands. Since launching in 2014, Blavity has acquired Travel Noire, a travel startup for black millennials and media platform Shadow and Act to expand its focus from news to lifestyle.

Founded by DeBaun, Aaron Samuels, Jonathan Jackson and Jeff Nelson, Blavity ultimately aims to be a digital voice for black millennials. Prior to this Series A, Blavity raised a little over $1.8 million from MACRO, New Media Ventures, Base Ventures, Cross Culture Ventures, Harlem Capital Partners, the Knight Enterprise Fund and others.

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EBay paid 573M to buy Japanese e-commerce platform Qoo10 filing reveals

EBay is a very distant second behind Amazon when it comes to e-commerce sales in the U.S., but abroad — and in particular in Asia — it is willing to invest to grow its footprint in a targeted way. In February, eBay paid a total of $573 million to acquire Qoo10, a Japanese sales platform, according to the company’s quarterly earnings filing.

In more detail, the deal consisted of $306 million in cash and the relinquishment of about $266 million in shares in Giosis, a pan-Asian e-commerce marketplace business originally founded as a joint venture with Korea’s Gmarket. Qoo10, which claims two million shoppers, was originally part of Giosis.

The acquisition is similar to a deal eBay did in Korea in 2001 when it purchased Internet Auction Co and linked the Korean service up to its global network of buyers and sellers. That integration has been successful, and today South Korea is eBay’s fourth largest market based on revenue behind only the U.S., Germany and UK, respectively.

Although the acquisition of Qoo10 was first announced in February, the actual price was not disclosed until the company’s earnings report dropped on Thursday. “We believe the acquisition will allow us to offer Japanese consumers more inventory and grow our international presence,” eBay explained in the filing.

The deal underscores how eBay is at the same time pulling back from general plays while doubling down on more targeted opportunities. Earlier this year, the company gave up its stake in Flipkart as part of its acquisition by Walmart, but at the same time committed to investing in a new, standalone eBay operation in India, using some of the $1.1 billion in proceeds it made from selling its Flipkart stake to Walmart.

EBay had an unsuccessful effort in China which ended in 2006 and it hasn’t returned to the country.

According to its latest financial results, the company’s U.S.-based business accounted for $1.1 billion out the company’s total quarterly sales of $2.6 billion. That North American revenue was up five percent year-on-year, but eBay’s revenue from other international locations grew by more over the same period to give the company’s total sales a nine percent annual increase.

That didn’t impress investors, however, and the company’s share price dropped by 10 percent to close Thursday at $34.11.

EBay doe

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