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The Daily Crunch: Tech stocks hammered after US Treasury Secretary speculates on hiking interest rates – TechCrunch

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Are startup valuations about to fall?

Hello, friends! Alex here to talk to you for a hot second about money. Then we’ll get into startups, venture capital, what Big Tech is up to and more. I promise. But hang with me for a moment.

Tech stocks got hammered today: The tech-heavy Nasdaq fell by more than 2%. Cloud stocks endured twice the damage. What happened? The U.S. government said that it might raise interest rates. So what? Well, when rates were low, lots of money that might have been invested elsewhere was instead funneled into tech stocks and VC funds that invest in startups.

Now, with the government saying that it might shake up the current state of affairs, investors are responding by selling tech stocks. Bessemer Venture Partners investor Byron Deeter noted the drop, tweeting that after a “brutal few days in the clouds,” with software stocks off “~5% today and ~10% on the week,” he was curious if valuations are “just taking a breather after a massive 2020” or starting “a broader reset.”

That’s a great question. More on the underlying economics of the situation here and here. Now, into startup-land.

Twitter doubles down on subscriptions

If you were curious about how Twitter was going to pursue its subscription strategy, the answer, to a degree, is buying startups. Today Big Tweet announced that it is buying Scroll, a startup that charges its users a fee, providing them with an ad-free experience on various media sites. Scroll then split its user fee with those sites.

A neat model, yeah? It’s a bit like the startup called Contenture that TechCrunch covered a few times back in 2009. Only Scroll made more progress than Contenture did. And your humble servant was not a co-founder at Scroll.

Regardless, the Scroll-Twitter deal matters because the social media company is busy rolling up startups and products into its ecosystem to better craft a set of services that may help it monetize more effectively over the long haul. Sarah reports:

[Scroll] will become a part of Twitter’s larger plans to invest in subscriptions, the company says, and will later be offered as one of the premium features Twitter will provide to subscribers. Premium subscribers will be able to use Scroll to easily read their articles from news outlets and from Twitter’s own newsletters product, Revue, another recent acquisition that’s already been integrated into Twitter’s service. When subscribers use Scroll through Twitter, a portion of their subscription revenue will go to support the publishers and the writers creating the content, explains Twitter in an announcement.

Twitter vs. Substack? Yep. Twitter vs. Clubhouse? Yep. And if Twitter can help media companies better monetize and thus not die? Well, then it’s Twitter versus the a16z media operation. I didn’t really expect a Jack versus Marc 2021 but am here for it all the same.

A typical day in today’s startup funding market

There was a cornucopia of startup news today on the site, so I’ve narrowed it a bit to get you what you need in a hurry. Also, shoutout to Mary Ann for covering half of it all by herself.

Here’s the rundown:

To round out our startup and venture capital notes, here are two more bits of news: Austin-based Multicoin Capital has raised a $100 million fund to “further capitalize on rampant excitement in the crypto world,” per our own reporting. Oh, and London-based seed investment fund Stride VC has raised a £100 million fund.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

How to break into Silicon Valley as an outsider

There is no magic spell that will induce an investor to meet with you. As with most things in life, it all comes down to who you know and what you have to offer.

“Nothing beats building human networks,” says Domm Holland, CEO and co-founder of Fast. “That’s the way that you’re going to get this done in terms of fundraising.”

Since its founding in 2019, Fast has raised $124 million across three rounds as it lands new users and partners like Stripe for its one-click checkout product. In this interview, Holland, a native Australian, shares actionable advice for other outsiders with startup dreams.

“Raising money isn’t the only thing,” Holland says. “You’ve got to hire people, you’ve got to build a team, you’ve got to build customers and suppliers, and you’ve got to build entire ecosystems.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

The enterprise strikes back

Before we get into the enterprise news, here’s what you want to read about: Tesla spent $3 (not a typo) to purchase patents relating to battery tech that we think could really matter.

On the enterprise front, Ron has two stories today from tech giants that matter. The first is an interview with SAP CEO Christian Klein. SAP, you will recall, spun out Qualtrics a little bit ago. What’s ahead for the software giant? Ron is on the case!

From the same pen, Box’s time in the barrel continues as some of its largest public shareholders are agitating to “inject [Box’s] board with still more new blood, taking a swipe at the Box leadership team while it was at it.” This is a fight worth watching as it could encourage, or discourage, more unicorns from going public.

Finally from Big Tech, some good news. Namely that Instagram is working on improving its caption tech, which could help with accessibility. And our own Twitter-free Devin reports that Microsoft wants to help kids read.

Community

We asked everyone on Twitter about their experience trying to learn a foreign language, and you can weigh in here. Some of you have tried using Duolingo (with success!) and some shockingly got through German class in junior high without learning a single sentence of the language. Regardless of your personal experience, give the Duolingo EC-1 a read and learn about how the company started, how they figured out how to make money and what’s up next for them.

Speaking of starting a company … if you’re building your own, join us for this week’s Extra Crunch Live. Register here. It’s free! See you there.


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Google is about to start automatically enrolling users in 2FA

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In recent months, vulnerable apps, hacked websites, and zero-day exploits have accounted for an increasing amount of the reporting that we do here at BGR. There is risk in everything we do online, but there are many ways to mitigate that risk, such as turning on two-factor authentication (2FA) for any apps, services, or accounts that offer it. Speaking of 2FA, Google decided to take matters into its own hands on that front, as the company announced Thursday that it will soon enable 2FA by default for anyone with an “appropriately configured” Google account.

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“Today we ask people who have enrolled in two-step verification (2SV) to confirm it’s really them with a simple tap via a Google prompt on their phone whenever they sign in,” Google’s Director of Product Management, Identity and User Security, Mark Risher, said in a blog post. “Soon we’ll start automatically enrolling users in 2SV if their accounts are appropriately configured. (You can check the status of your account in our Security Checkup). Using their mobile device to sign in gives people a safer and more secure authentication experience than passwords alone.”

Basically, your account is “appropriately configured” if you have provided Google with recovery information, which could be a secondary email address, a phone number, or an authenticator app. You should already be using Google’s two-step verification, but if you’re not, at least make sure to visit the Security Checkup site.

As Google notes earlier in the blog post, searches for the phrase “how strong is my password” increased by 300% in 2020. Meanwhile, millions of you are still using passwords like “123456” or “password” or “qwerty,” so the resounding answer to that search query is an unequivocal “NO.” Make your passwords strong and difficult to guess, use different passwords for all of your accounts, and take advantage of Google’s Password Manager, which not only stores all of your passwords, but also lets you know when and if they have been compromised.

Google’s dream of killing passwords once and for all is still just that — a dream — but as we slowly work our way toward that glorious day, do what you can to keep your accounts and your personal data safe.

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Jacob started covering video games and technology in college as a hobby, but it quickly became clear to him that this was what he wanted to do for a living. He currently resides in New York writing for BGR. His previously published work can be found on TechHive, VentureBeat and Game Rant.


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Finding Dark Ships Via Satellite

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It would seem that for as long as there have been ships on the ocean, there’s been smuggling. The International Maritime Organisation requires ships to have AIS, the automatic identification system which is akin to a transponder on an airplane. However, if you don’t want to be found, you often turn off your AIS. So how do governments and insurance companies track so-called dark ships? Using satellite technology. A recent post in Global Investigative Journal tells the story of how lower-cost satellites are helping track these dark ships.

Optical tracking is the obvious method, but satellites that can image ships can be expensive and have problems with things like clouds. Radar is another option, but — again — an expensive option if you aren’t a big military agency with money to spend. A company called HawkEye 360 uses smallsats to monitor ship’s RF emissions, which is much less expensive and resource-intensive than traditional methods. Although the data may still require correlation with other methods like optical sensing, it is still cost-effective compared to simply scanning the ocean for ships.

The post tells the tale of an Iranian crude oil tanker. Noting a long gap in the AIS signal from the ship, HawkEye 360 attempted to locate the ship the next time it went dark. Of course, AIS can be off for other reasons, such as equipment failure or fear of piracy. Simply not squawking AIS isn’t a definite sign of malfeasance.

Using the satellite, radio transmissions on VHF channel 16 (156.8 MHz) — the standard calling frequency — were found from the ship and it appeared they were offloading crude oil to a refinery in Syria. With a specific target in mind, commercial satellite imaging picked up 3-meter resolution images of the ships and — apparently there is a database of ships at that resolution — identified four Iranian flag tankers at the site, three of which had arrived in stealth mode.

The HawkEye 360 satellites can pick up radar, emergency beacons, satellite phones, and VHF radio signals. A map shows the difference between the number of AIS signals in the South China Sea and the number of X-band radar signals. The AIS map looks sparse, whereas the radar map shows 3-4 times the number of vessels.

In another example, uses ESA’s Sentinel 1 satellite and synthetic aperture radar to locate ships going from China to North Korea. ICEYE, another smallsat company, is tracing illegal fishing activity around Argentina and smuggling near the UAE.

It is amazing to see how much satellite tech that would have been deep secret a few years ago is now commercially available. It isn’t just useful for law enforcement, either. The resolution is a far cry from the old weather satellites people tend to eavesdrop on.

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Phil Schiller expressed concern over scam apps as early as 2012 | AppleInsider

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Apple’s Phil Schiller ranted about scam and knockoff apps on the App Store as early as 2012, per documents revealed in the Epic Games v. Apple trial.

In February 2012, Schiller sent out a furious email to the App Store team — which included Greg Joswiak, Eddy Cue, and Matt Fischer — about an apparently fake version of Temple Run. At the time, Temple Run was among the most popular iOS games.

“What the hell is this????” Schiller asked. “How does an obvious rip off of the super popular Temple Run, with no screenshots, garbage marketing text, and almost all 1-star ratings become the #1 free app on the store?”

He continued by asking “is no one reviewing these apps? Is no one minding the store?” before calling the situation “insane.”

At another point in 2012, Schiller brought several other apps to the attention of the app Store team, including a fake palm reading app and another app called “Hide My Fart,” which Schiller said “should never have been approved.”

The internal emails were revealed as part of Epic Games’ opening presentation in its trial with Apple. The slide deck contained other communications from different Apple executives about the prevalence of scam apps on the App Store.

Low-quality, knockoff, or outright scammy apps do sometimes slip through the cracks and make it past Apple’s App Review team. Earlier in 2021, vocal app developer Kosta Eleftheriou sued Apple over the alleged enablement of the app scams. Eleftheriou is known for highlighting several scam apps, including one that grosses $1 million a month.

According to a report from cybersecurity firm Avast, scam “fleeceware” apps cost App Store consumers more than $400 million. Other types of scams include knockoffs of established and popular apps.

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