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Equity podcast Coinbase buys a startup Discord’s a unicorn and Netflix soars

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

This week TechCrunch’s Katie Roof and Crunchbase News’s Alex Wilhelm sat down with Science Inc’s Michael Jones to dig through the latest in the world of technology and money. And goddamn was there some stuff to get through.

On our even-more-stuffed-than-usual agenda this week we first dug into the Coinbase-Earn.com deal, and how it came to be. This raised the question of dividends (which somehow Alphabet still doesn’t have to pay, bringing a new high watermark to the concept of corporate adolescence) and venture firms bringing together two of their own deals under one roof.

Scooting along we turned to Netflix’s staggering earnings run, including its share price rally that has been nigh-parabolic. That took us into MoviePass, whose parent company you have not heard of, and seems to be in potentially serious financial trouble.

After that we jumped into Discord, a popular gaming chat service that is raising another $50 million at a $1.65 billion post-money valuation. That’s a hell of a lot of new money, and a hell of a lot of new market cap. (At this point we also started talking about League of Legends. I am sorry.)

Finally, back on theme, we poured over the DocuSign IPO pricing range that it just dropped, and the Pluralsight S-1, which brought up many fun questions.

All that and we had a few laughs. Hit play, and we’ll chat you all next week!

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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Twitter doesn’t care that someone is building a bot army in Southeast Asia

Facebook’s lack of attention to how third parties are using its service to reach users ended up with CEO Mark Zuckerberg taking questions from Congressional committees. With that in mind, you’d think that others in the social media space might be more attentive than usual to potentially malicious actors on their platforms.

Twitter, however, is turning the other way and insisting all is normal in Southeast Asia, despite the emergence of thousands of bot-like accounts that have followed prominent users in the region en masse over the past month.

Scores of reporters and Twitter users with large followers — yours truly included — have noticed swarms of accounts with generic names, no profile photo, no bio and no tweets have followed them over the past month.

It’s been a month already and the twitter bots just keep showing up. Anyone else seeing the same thing? pic.twitter.com/YEGcGnUYxd

— Lulu Yilun Chen (@luluyilun) April 18, 2018

The deluge of Asia @Twitter bot follows continues unabated. Sigh pic.twitter.com/jD5JbOQnT2

— Jerome Taylor (@JeromeTaylor) April 10, 2018

These accounts might be evidence of a new ‘bot farm’ — the creation of large numbers of accounts for sale or usage on-demand which Twitter has cracked down on — or the groundwork for more nefarious activities, it’s too early to tell.

In what appears to be the first regional Twitter bot campaign, a flood of suspicious new followers has been reported by users across Southeast Asia and beyond, including Thailand, Myanmar Cambodia, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Sri Lanka among other places.

While it is true that the new accounts have done nothing yet, the fact that a large number of newly-created accounts have popped up out of nowhere with the aim of following the region’s most influential voices should be enough to concern Twitter. Especially since this is Southeast Asia, a region where Facebook is beset with controversies — from its role inciting ethnic hatred in Myanmar, to allegedly assisting censors in Vietnam, witnessing users jailed for violating lese majeste in Thailand, and aiding the election of controversial Philippines leader Duterte.

Then there are governments themselves. Vietnam has pledged to build a cyber army to combat “wrongful views,&r

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Musiio uses AI to help the music industry curate tracks more efficiently

A former streaming industry exec and an AI specialist walk into a bar, they leave starting an AI company for the music industry.

That’s not exactly how Singapore-based startup Musiio was formed, but it’s close enough and the outcome is the same.

Co-founders Hazel Savage, formerly of Pandora and Shazam, and Swedish data scientist Aron Pettersson connected at Entrepreneur First in Singapore. The program began in London as a way to help likeminded tech connect with the potential to start projects, so it does mirror the serendipity of meeting new friends in a bar.

“We’d probably never have met each other if we hadn’t gone to EF,” Savage told TechCrunch in an interview.

Brit Savage was looking for new ideas after work brought her and her husband to Singapore, and after crunching through some problems that need fixing, the duo settled on an AI service that helps music platforms tackle content and curation.

Push for personalization

Personalization has been the big push for music streaming giants. The initial face of the streaming revolution was based on giving users instant access to millions of songs in a single place, removing the pain of downloads and paying per song. Now that streaming is established, the puck has moved to smarter solutions that help music streamers shift through those tens of millions of songs to find music they like, or better yet discover new tracks they’ll love.

Spotify has moved on this in a major way. Aside from consumer products such as Discovery Weekly, a playlist that pulls in a weekly selection of music tailored to a user, it has invested considerable resources in making its product smarter. That’s including acquisitions such as music intelligence company Echo Nest for $100 million, and smaller AI startup Niland which helps make recommendations and search results smarter. Spotify has also ramped up its internal hires, too.

While Spotify, which recently went public in an unconventional listing, might be the most visible company in need of smarts for music, it is not the only one by far. And we’re not even talking about direct rivals like Pandora, Apple Music, Google and co. Others involved in the less visible — but hugely lucrative — parts of the industry who also need help pouring through millions of tracks include labels, who filter through talent on a daily basis, and agencies that pick out music fo

Read more: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Techcrunch/~3/Mw34I084PNU/

Google changes its messaging strategy again Goodbye to Allo double down on RCS

Google’s long-and-winding road to figuring out messaging is taking yet another change of direction after the company called time on Allo, its newest chat app launch, in order to double down on its vision to enable an enhanced version of SMS.

The company told The Verge that it is “pausing” work on Allo, which was only launched as recently as September 2016, in order to put its resources into the adoption RCS (Rich Communication Services), a messaging standard that has the potential to tie together SMS and other chat apps. RCS isn’t new, and Google has been pushing it for some time, but now the company is rebranding it as “Chat” and putting all its efforts into getting operators on board.

The new strategy will see almost the entire Allo team switch to Android Messages, according to The Verge.

In case you didn’t hear about it before, RCS is essentially a technology that allows basic ‘SMS’ messaging to be standardized across devices. In the same way that iMessage lets Apple device owners chat for free using data instead of paid-for SMS, RCS could allow free chats across different networks on Android or other devices. RCS can be integrated into chat apps, which is something Google has already done with Android Messages, but the tipping point is working with others, and that means operators.

Unlike Apple, RCS is designed to work with carriers who can develop their own messaging apps that work with the protocol and connect to other apps, which could include chat apps. Essentially, it gives them a chance to take part in the messaging boom, rather than be cut out as WhatsApp, Messenger, iMessage and others take over. They don’t make money from consumers, but they do get to keep their brand and they can look to get revenue from business services.

But this approach requires operators themselves to implement the technology. That’s no easy thing since carriers don’t exactly trust tech companies — WhatsApp alone has massively eaten into its SMS and call revenues — and they don’t like working with each other, too.

Google said more than 55 operators worldwide have been recruited to support Chat, but it isn’t clear exactly when they might roll it out. Microsoft is among the OEM supporters, which raises the possibility it could bring support to Windows 10, but the company was non-committal when The Verge pressed it on t

Read more: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Techcrunch/~3/9QNsD_uKvZw/

Don’t just stir Stircle

Although I do my best to minimize the trash produced by my lifestyle (blog posts notwithstanding), one I can’t really control, at least without carrying a spoon on my person at all times, is the necessity of using a disposable stick to stir my coffee. That could all change with the Stircle, a little platform that spins your drink around to mix it.

Now, of course this is ridiculous. And there are other things to worry about. But honestly, the scale of waste here is pretty amazing. Design house Amron Experimental says that 400 million stir sticks are used every day, and I have no reason to doubt that. My native Seattle probably accounts for a quarter of that.

So you need to get the sugar (or agave nectar) and cream (or almond milk) mixed in your iced americano. Instead of reaching for a stick and stirring vigorously for ten or fifteen seconds, you could instead place your cup in the Stircle (first noticed by New Atlas and a few other design blogs), which would presumably be built into the fixins table at your coffee shop.

Around and around and around she goes, where she stops, nobody… oh. There.

Once you put your cub on the Stircle, it starts spinning — first one way, then the other, and so on, agitating your drink and achieving the goal of an evenly mixed beverage without using a wood or plastic stirrer. It’s electric, but I can imagine one being powered by a lever or button that compresses a spring. That would make it even greener.

The video shows that it probably gets that sugar and other low-lying mixers up into the upper strata of the drink, so I think we’re set there. And it looks as though it will take a lot of different sizes, including reusable tumblers. It clearly needs a cup with a lid, since otherwise the circling liquid will fly out in every direction, which means you have to be taking your coffee to go. That leaves out pretty much every time I go out for coffee in my neighborhood, where it’s served (to stay) in a mug or tall glass.

But a solution doesn’t have to fix everything to be clever or useful. This would be great at an airport, for instance, where I imagine every order is to go. Maybe they’ll put in in a bar, too, for extra smooth stirring of martinis.

Actually, I know that people in labs use automatic magnetic stirrers to d

Read more: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Techcrunch/~3/XersHxwpItc/



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