Author: Josh Constine

Clearbanc raises $70M to loan startups ad money for a rev share

TECHCRUNCH Selling equity to buy Facebook and Google ads is a bad deal for startups. Clearbanc offers a fundraising alternative. For fast-growing businesses reliably earning sales from their marketing spend, Clearbanc offers loans of $5,000 to $10 million in exchange for a steady revenue share of their earnings until its paid back plus a 6 percent fee. Clearbanc picks what merchants qualify by developing tech that scanns their Stripe, Facebook ads, and other accounts to asses financial health and momentum. It’s already doled out $100 million this year. “As a business successfully scales, we continue to provide them ongoing...

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Facebook Portal needs more. At least it just added YouTube

TECHCRUNCH To offset the creepiness of having Facebook’s camera and microphone in your house, its new Portal video chat gadget needs best-in-class software.  Its hardware is remarkably well done, plus Messenger and the photo frame feature work great. But its third-party app platform was pretty skimpy when the device launched this week. Facebook is increasingly relying on its smart display competitors to boost Portal’s capabilities. It already comes with Amazon Alexa inside. And now, Google’s YouTube is part of the Portal app platform. “Yes, YouTube.com is available through an optional install in the ‘Portal Apps’ catalog” a Facebook spokesperson tells me. You can open it with a “Hey Portal” command, but there currently seems to be no way to queue up specific videos or control playback via voice. The addition gives Portal much greater flexibility when it comes to video. Previously it could only play videos from Facebook Watch, Food Network, or Newsy. It also brings the device to closer parity with Google’s Home Hub screen, the Google Assistant-powered smart displays from JBL and Lenovo, and the Amazon Echo Show 2 which Google blocked from using YouTube before Amazon added a web browser to the device to reopen YouTube access. Read our comparison of the top smart display gadgets YouTube makes the most of the $349 Portal+’s 15.6-inch 1080p screen, the biggest and sharpest of the smart display crop. Whether for...

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Facebook launches Lasso, its music and video TikTok clone

TECHCRUNCH Done cloning Snapchat, Facebook is now chasing Chinese short-form video sensation TikTok with the launch of its knock-off Lasso. Available now for iOS and Android, Lasso is Facebook’s answer to the zany mobile lipsyncing playground that’s gained ground with young users, both in China and in the West. The release confirms TechCrunch’s scoop from last month that the company was building an app called Lasso to let people share short videos with soundtracks. With TikTok looking like the next big thing, it’s not surprising to see Facebook playing chase, much like it did, successfully, when Snapchat posed an existential threat....

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Burgerbot startup Creator hires inventor of Boston Dynamics’ Big Dog

TECHCRUNCH Disney Imagineering animatronics wizard Dr. Martin Buehler is a legend in the robotics world. His work leading development of the galloping Big Dog quadruped at Boston Dynamics both inspired and terrified a new generation of makers. But after playing in the worlds of fantasy and science fiction that consumers can’t buy, Buehler has been poached to work on something much more tangible. In fact, it’s edible. He’s joining burger-making robot startup Creator as VP of engineering. “It was a great experience working on experimental validation [at Boston Dynamics]” Buehler tells me, “But one of the things I really value...

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So I sent my mom that newfangled Facebook Portal

TECHCRUNCH “Who am I going to be worried about? Oh Facebook seeing? No, I’m not worried about Facebook seeing. They’re going to look at my great art collection and say they want to come steal it? No, I never really thought about it.” That’s my 72-year-old mother Sally Constine’s response to whether she’s worried about her privacy now that she has a Facebook Portal video chat device. The gadget goes on sale and starts shipping today at $349 for the 15.6-inch swiveling screen Portal+, $199 for the 10-inch Portal, and $100 off for buying any two. The sticking point for...

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Facebook says the 100+ accounts it removed yesterday were connected to Russia

TECHCRUNCH The 115 accounts Facebook took down yesterday for inauthentic behavior ahead of the mid-term elections were in fact linked to the Russia-based Internet Research Agency. A site claiming association with the IRA today posted a list of Instagram accounts it had made which included many Facebook had taken down yesterday, and it also has since removed the rest. Facebook’s head of cyber security policy Nathaniel Gleicher issued this statement to TechCrunch: “Last night, following a tip off from law enforcement, we blocked over 100 Facebook and Instagram accounts due to concerns that they were linked to the Russia-based...

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Fantasmo pivots to scooter cameras that keep them off sidewalks

TECHCRUNCH GPS is too inaccurate to tell if a scooter is being driven or parked in off-limits area. But as scooter startups compete for permits from city governments, they need a way to prove their riders play by the rules. That’s where Fantasmo’s new scooter positioning camera comes in. The augmented reality mapping startup had been building the Camera Positioning Standard to give self-driving cars, robots, and AR games a dynamically updated understanding of the real world around them. But now Fantasmo is focusing on the urgent use case of scooter accountability. Its camera attaches to personal electric vehicles, captures video, and matches that against Fantasmo’s map to reliably identify if a scooter is being illegally ridden on the sidewalk or parked in the middle of the walkway. Scooter companies could make their vehicles beep and slowly lose acceleration where not allowed, issue fines for parking in the wrong spot, notify redistribution teams to move errant vehicles, or ban riders who consistently break their terms. The tech could even make maps of available scooters more precise so you’re not wandering around searching. And scooter companies could use Fantasmo’s data to demonstrate that their riders are the most respectful. “Scooters are under threat unless they find ways to work with cities to prevent sidewalk riding and make sure they’re parked in places the cities deem appropriate. 2D image capture can...

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Instagram prototypes bully-proof moderated School Stories

TECHCRUNCH Instagram is considering offering collaborative School Stories that only a certain school’s students can see or contribute to. And to make sure these Stories wouldn’t become bullying cesspools, Instagram’s code shows a warning that “School stories are manually reviewed to make sure the community is safe.” School Stories could create a fun space for kids to share with their peers beyond the prying eyes of their parents or strangers, though they could also exacerbate teen culture issues around envy and exclusionary social scenes. The code was first discovered by TechCrunch’s top tipster Jane Manchun Wong. Instagram declined to...

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