The Department of Justice has dropped its request for the IP addresses of visitors to an anti-Trump inauguration protest website. The news is a win for DreamHost, which went public with the situation last week, riling privacy advocates who decried the DOJ request for IP addresses that had visited disruptj20.org as dangerously broad.
In its reply to the court, the Justice Department modified its request to leave out information that it claims it didn’t know DreamHost had to begin with, namely the 1.3 million IP addresses in question. The DOJ asked the court to exclude any text and photographs from unpublished blog posts it hosted:
“What the government did not know… was the extent of visitor data maintained by DreamHost that extends beyond the government’s singular focus in this case of investigating the planning, organization, and participation in the January 20, 2017 riot. The government has no interest in records relating to the 1.3 million IP addresses that are mentioned in DreamHosts’s numerous press releases and Opposition brief. The government’s investigation is focused on the violence discussed in the Affidavit.”
The letter states that the government intended to exclude and seal evidence beyond the scope of its warrant and that DreamHost refused to engage in a dialogue around the issue after claiming that the warrant was “improper.” The Justice Department maintains that the warrant is lawful. “Contrary to DreamHost’s claims, the Warrant was not intended to be used, and will not be used, to “identify the political dissidents of the current administration,” the letter to the court asserts.
For its part, DreamHost will continue on as planned. In a blog post titled “Narrowing the Scope,” DreamHost cheered its privacy win while preparing to argue “the remaining First and Fourth Amendment issues raised by this warrant” in its court date set for this week.
Featured Image: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
A class-action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of shareholders by law firm, Bragar Eagel & Squire. They are alleging that Blue Apron failed to adequately disclose material information.
The information in question relates to Blue Apron’s challenges with customer retention, delayed orders and reduced ad spend. Here’s how it’s summarized in the release about the suit: “1) Blue Apron had decided to significantly reduce spending on advertising in Q2 2017, hurting sales and profit margins in future quarters; (2) Blue Apron was experiencing difficulty with customer retention due to orders not arriving on time or with all expected ingredients; and (3) the Company was experiencing delayed orders in Q2 2017 related to its new factory in Linden, New Jersey.”
Apart from the outlined issues that have put pressure on Blue Apron’s stock, a lot of the blame for the depressed share price has been placed on Amazon, which agreed to purchase Whole Foods just weeks before Blue Apron’s debut. Following the announced deal, there were many media reports about the threat of Amazon potentially getting into Blue Apron’s cooking kit delivery business. IPO investors were at least made aware of this particular concern ahead of time.
It’s not uncommon for struggling companies to face shareholder lawsuits. In fact, there’s a name for them: stock-drop challenges. Facebook also faced legal challenges following its unsuccessful 2012 IPO. (Since then, the stock has gone up tremendously). More recently, a shareholder sued Snap for allegedly misrepresenting how many people use its Snapchat app. The lawsuit, filed in L.A., blames these alleged misrepresentations for a drop in Snap’s shares, with the plaintiff seeking unspecified damages and a class-action designation.
“As soon as the stock goes down like that, the lawyers come out,” said Kathleen Smith, a principal at Renaissance Capital who manages IPO ETFs.
Smith calls the issue a “distraction,” but notes that these lawsuits usually get settled. Among the reasons: in order to win, a plaintiff’s lawyers have to prove that the company made false statements, and that those false statements were material and that the plaintiff relied on them, which isn’t easy to do.
Blue Apron, of course, can’t address this issue publicly yet. “We don’t comment on pending litigation,” said a company spokesperson.
Featured Image: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Ben: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Ben: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Plastics.
Ben: Exactly how do you mean?
Mr. McGuire: There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?
Ben: Yes I will.
Mr. McGuire: Enough said. That’s a deal.
Fifty years or so ago, plastics were on the road to becoming as ubiquitous as cryptocurrency will be 20 years from now.
The financial goals we have today are nearly identical to those a half century ago: a well-paying job, safe and successful investments, college for our kids, a comfortable standard of living and enough resources to see us through retirement.
However, we’re not doing a very good job of it. Nearly 7 in 10 Americans have less than $1,000 in savings.
The way we attain these assets, and the numbers of us who are able to attain them, however, will look very different in the future, thanks to tokenization.
Our ability to profit from our investments relies on two things: having the resources needed to purchase the asset and then having a way to sell it — a concept known as liquidity.
Tokenizing real-world assets will allow buyers to access assets never before within their reach, and sellers to move assets that were previously difficult to unload. The secret lies in the possibility of fractionalization.
From real estate to gold bullion, diamond mines to carbon offsets, the smallest investors to the largest corporations will be able to procure fractions of tokenized assets. Investors could buy a portion of a shopping mall or invention patent, trade the token for a different investment, or sell their share.
Imagine unlocking cash from the equity in your home without having to borrow or pay interest. Tokenize your home and sell fractions to the public. Buy the tokens back, or pay the investors their value at the time the property is sold.
Tokenization will change how we think about — and extract liquidity from — our everyday, under-utilized assets too.
In the future, you’ll be able to tokenize the value of unused bedrooms and backyards in your home. You’ll be able to tokenize use of your vehicle for Uber driving while you’re away on travel. You’ll even be able to tokenize access to your phone so marketers have to pay you tokens in order to gain access to your attention. Yes, this will happen.
As the sharing and access economies take off, the need for tokenization will only increase as transactions get smaller, the blockchain expands to more people (less than 0.3% of the world’s population own crypto tokens today), and our concept of assets stretches further to the edges — through tokens.
The concept of tokens is nothing new. Remember the arcade game called Skee-ball? You’d roll a ball into one of a number of holes, each worth a certain number of points. At the end of the game, you were awarded tickets, which could be turned in for a prize. The more tickets you collected, the better the prize. Casino patrons bet with chips, which they trade for cash if they have any left at the end of the night.
Simply put, a token is a surrogate equivalent to something of value, like a poker chip or a dollar bill.
In the world of cryptocurrency, a token is a digital representation of an asset along with the rules for how that token can be used. The tokens are expressed using public and private keys — or long string of numbers and letters representing addresses (an example Bitcoin public key looks like this: 1PCwyKvjRMMBR7vkX86LtkdnGon1kzeQVr). When someone sends you crypto tokens over a public blockchain, they are actually sending you an encrypted version of their public key. To receive their tokens, your private key unlocks and reads their public key which includes the data of how many tokens they sent to your wallet
The rule is to never share your private key with outsiders. Also, to store it in a secure online wallet in a place like Coinbase or other secure online cryptocurrency platform. If someone else owns your private key, they can potentially take ownership, or steal, your crypto tokens. Some holders of crypto tokens store their private keys behind a vault or a safe written out on paper, engraved into metal coins, or stored on hard drives — a concept called cold storage.
Finally, for a new crypto token to be created, they are secured, validated, mined, and/or minted on top of public blockchains like Bitcoin and Ethereum using highly complex algorithms. Proof of Stake is the major consensus algorithm being used today and its miners are consuming the same amount of electricity as a small country. To get an idea of how large these mining operations are, see this.
Originally, crypto tokens were created for Bitcoin, a Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System. Bitcoin has the ability to record every transaction on all users’ records simultaneously because its database isn’t stored in a single location. Instead, the database is stored on the computers of the miners who are validating the transactions that make up the Bitcoin blockchain. This concept is called decentralization.
Bitcoin’s transaction records are 100 percent public, easy to verify, and nearly impossible to — once validated by the Bitcoin Proof of Work consensus algorithm — attack or corrupt. This concept is called Byzantine Fault Tolerant.
As developers create new decentralized blockchain protocols, the options for tokenizing assets become limitless, as does the opportunity to decentralize wealth itself.
It’s why I think Bitcoin’s decentralized consensus Proof of Work algorithm is the most important invention of the 21st century to-date.
Tokens will make it possible for people of all economic levels to buy into investments that so far have been out of their reach. Selling their interests in these investments will be as easy as making a couple of keystrokes.
Tokens will drastically expand and remix our definition of asset investing, today and in years to come.
That’s not to say all this tokenization and buying and selling will magically start happening. Challenges including integrating with established banking systems; government regulation; and public trust and confidence issues do exist.
Mr. Braddock was right about plastics. In the 60s it was a “huh” but now it’s almost impossible to find something that doesn’t contain plastic or isn’t wrapped in it.
For graduates looking to find their footing and establish themselves like young Ben Braddock. today’s plastics are crypto tokens.
The long and dramatic process for naming a new Uber CEO may be coming closer to an end.
First reported by Kara Swisher, our sources are also telling us that former General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt is still being seriously considered and the board vote is expected to happen soon. The talks were first reported several weeks ago.
Co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick was asked to resign in June, following the completion of an investigation into the company’s culture. A lawsuit with Waymo and accusations of a sexist company culture are partly what led to his departure.
But Kalanick still remains on the board and has the power to appoint two more board seats, which has become the subject of a lawsuit with early investor, Benchmark Capital. Benchmark wants Kalanick off the board because it believes that he didn’t disclose material information about the legal and ethical problems at the company. In response, Kalanick ally and investor Shervin Pishevar suggested that Benchmark’s Matt Cohler should be taken off the board. Kalanick has weighed in, saying that Benchmark took advantage of him when they persuaded him to step down from Uber, while he was mourning his mother’s recent death.
The stakes are especially high because Uber’s $68.5 billion valuation is just paper money until there is an exit, likely via IPO or acquisition. Kalanick has reportedly been telling people that he wants to return to the CEO.
Uber investors have mixed feelings about Immelt. One investor who asked to be anonymous felt that Immelt had the right disposition to bring the company back in the right direction. Another expressed concern about Immelt’s lack of industry expertise and seemed to feel that he’s not someone the company would have wanted, had it not been in this difficult situation.
But while Immelt is said to be the frontrunner, this is not a done deal. With all the board drama, it may be hard to finalize things.
Swisher reported that the board vote is expected to happen within two weeks. We’re hearing it might be sooner.
Featured Image: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
While we usually see robotics applied to industrial or research applications, there are plenty of ways they could help in everyday life as well: an autonomous guide for blind people, for instance, or a kitchen bot that helps disabled folks cook. Or — and this one is real — a robot arm that can perform rudimentary sign language.
It’s part of a masters thesis from grad students at the University of Antwerp who wanted to address the needs of the deaf and hearing impaired. In classrooms, courts, and at home these people often need interpreters — who aren’t always available.
Their solution is “Antwerp’s Sign Language Actuating Node,” or ASLAN. It’s a robotic hand and forearm that can perform sign language letters and numbers. It was designed from scratch and built from 25 3D-printed parts, with 16 servos controlled by an Arduino board. It’s taught gestures using a special glove, and the team is looking into recognizing them through a webcam as well.
Right now, it’s just the one hand — so obviously two-hand gestures and the cues from facial expressions that enrich sign language aren’t possible yet. But a second coordinating hand and an emotive robotic face are the next two projects the team aims to tackle.
The idea is not to replace interpreters, whose nuance can hardly be replicated, but to make sure that there is always an option for anyone worldwide who requires sign language service. It could also be used to help teach sign language — a robot doesn’t get tired of repeating a gesture for you to learn.
Why not just use a virtual hand? Good question. An app or even a speech-to-text program would accomplish many of the same things. But it’s hard to think less of the ASLAN project; taking an assistive technology off the screen and putting it in the real world, where it can be interacted with, viewed from many angles, and otherwise share the physical space of the people it helps, is a commendable goal.
ASLAN was created by Guy Fierens, Stijn Huys and Jasper Slaets. It’s still in prototype form, but once it’s finalized the designs will be open sourced.
Americans apply for more than 250 million new financial products each year, but the majority of those applications are completed on paper or over the phone. A startup called Original Tech wants to change that by providing white-label software to improve loan applications completed online.
While many of the big financial institutions have their own in-house engineering teams focused on building better products for consumers, it’s difficult for the mid-market and smaller banks, credit unions and non-bank lenders to compete on the customer-facing user experience. That’s where Original Tech comes in.
It enables borrowers to apply for loans on desktop, tablet or mobile devices without needing to go through the manual process of filling out paper applications or fax documents to the financial institution.
For lenders, Original Tech takes care of the data collection, fraud prevention and compliance enforcement. But its system is designed to work within lenders’ existing workflows and allows them to apply all their own underwriting rules.
Original Tech was founded by Heang Chan, Sean Li and Chris Blaser, all of whom are former employees of Blend, a B2B fintech company focused on providing technology solutions to mortgage lenders. Like Blend, the Original Tech team wants to take the pain out of the application process for borrowers, while also increasing application completion, and thus increasing the number of loans issued by lenders.
There are a few differences, however: Blend is currently focused almost exclusively on providing white-label tools to process mortgage applications, while Original Tech’s system can be used for multiple different lending products.
In addition, Blend historically has taken a top-down view of customer acquisition, going after some of the largest financial institutions as its anchor clients. Meanwhile, Original Tech is targeting the mid-market and below for its initial customer outreach, as it believes it can best serve financial institutions with limited engineering resources.
Finally, Blend has raised about $60 million since being founded, while Original Tech is angel-funded and just got started. That said, Original Tech is angel-funded and just about to graduate from Y Combinator’s Summer 2017 class.
Though it just launched, Original Tech has signed up 10 customers, including banks like Metropolitan Capital Bank, Rockhold Bank, Conventus Lending, Guarantee Mortgage, Loan Factory, Pacific Private Money and Clear Choice Credit. With Demo Day next week, the company is hoping to attract more funding and maybe also some new customer interest.
This is probably the last bit of news Samsung wanted to pop up in headlines in the weeks leading up to the Note 8 launch. Though, to be fair, this latest battery recall isn’t actually on Samsung.
The US Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued a recall for refurbished Galaxy Note 4 batteries. While the news has undeniable echoes of last year’s massive Note 7 disaster, this time out, the fault appears to fall at the feet of potentially counterfeited batteries supplied by FedEx.
As the company noted in a statement to TechCrunch, “FedEx Supply Chain handles more than the transportation of these devices. We deliver technology-based solutions for customers that include repair, refurbishment and testing.”
The batteries in question were installed in refurbished AT&T Note 4 units. The scale is much smaller than last year’s issues, impacting a little over 10,000 units, and thus far no injuries or property damage has been reported. Instead, there’s only a single case of overheating resulting from the non-OEM batteries. The fact that the Note 4 has a user-replaceable battery should help the whole thing go a bit more smoothly, as well.
FedEx will be mailing out a new battery identified with a green dot to users who got a replacement Note 4 as part of an AT&T insurance program between last December and this past April. The company is also mailing out a pre-paid box to send back the old battery.
“We are closely engaged with our customers to make sure all of these lithium batteries are safely and quickly returned, and will replace those lithium batteries free of charge for consumers,” the company said in a statement provided to TechCrunch. “FedEx Supply Chain places a high priority on the safe handling, packaging, and transport of our customers’ products and regrets any inconvenience this recall may cause.”
FedEx would not provide any more information regarding the origin of the batteries in question.
MongoDB has filed confidentially for IPO, sources tell TechCrunch. The company has submitted an S-1 filing in the past few weeks and is aiming to go public before the end of the year.
New York-based MongoDB helps companies including Adobe, eBay and Citigroup manage databases. Some of its offerings include its name-bearing MongoDB open source database and the Atlas database-as-a-service offering.
The company has raised over $300 million in equity financing dating back to 2008, including well-known investors like Sequoia Capital, Intel Capital and NEA. Its last round of funding was more than two years ago at a reported $1.6 billion valuation.
MongoDB has taken advantage of the “confidential filing” provision of the JOBS Act, which was introduced in 2012. Many companies are choosing to submit filings and wait until 15 days before the investor roadshow before unveiling its financials. This helps startups get ready to list on the stock market without as much scrutiny until a few weeks before the debut.
There have been rumblings about an eventual MongoDB IPO for several years now. In May, the Wall Street Journal reported that the company hired investment bankers to move forward with the IPO process.
We recently reported that Stitch Fix has also filed confidentially for an IPO. We’re hearing that a number of companies are planning to go public between Labor Day and Thanksgiving.
IPOs are a great way to provide liquidity for employees and early investors. While companies like Google and Amazon have found tremendous success on the stock market, recent high-profile IPOs like Snap and Blue Apron have struggled. Cloudera, a big data company, has remained above its IPO price.
Last year Blizzard made what I felt was a huge mistake in scrapping the Battle.net brand, which gamers have associated with properties like StarCraft and Diablo for decades. The company has now reversed that decision, in what can only be a humble acknowledgment of my wisdom in these matters.
“The technology was never going away, but after giving the branding change further consideration and also hearing your feedback, we’re in agreement that the name should stay as well,” the company wrote today in a blog post.
The reasoning in 2016 was that there was “occasional confusion and inefficiencies” from Blizzard, the game development company, and Battle.net, the game launcher and matchmaking service, having different names.
I’m pretty sure that wasn’t actually a problem then, and I don’t think there’s one now. But probably to throw a bone to the marketing manager who suggested this ill-advised course of action in the first place, the service will now be known as “Blizzard Battle.net.”
Zug zug, but we’ll all still just call it Battle.net. Hopefully forever.
Last week, Disney rocked the media world when it officially – and inevitably — threw its mouse ears into the direct-to-consumer over the top video ring with separate forthcoming streaming video on demand (SVOD) services for Disney and ESPN television and movies.
At the same time, Disney announced that it would no longer license its prized content to global SVOD behemoth Netflix. With this 1-2 gut punch, Disney looked straight into Netflix’s eyes and pronounced, “Game On!” So, how worried should Netflix and its investors be?
In a word, “Very.”
Here are a few reasons why.
Disney is supremely motivated to “win.”
In the past several months, Disney had wanted to buy – not fight — Netflix to become an instant global SVOD juggernaut (I wrote about that previously in TechCrunch). But Netflix apparently had too high of an opinion of itself (in the eyes of Disney, at least). Disney doesn’t like to lose. So, now the gloves are off.
But, more fundamentally, Disney had no choice but to make a massive move to prioritize digital OTT platforms by either buying or competing with Netflix, given the cut-the-cord bleeding of traditional cable and satellite television packages that historically have been Disney’s cash cow. ESPN’s downward slide in traditional pay TV packages has been well publicized, but the Disney Channel is right there too.
SVOD is Disney’s newly-minted plan to make up for this lost ground, and you can bet that CEO Bob Iger will ignite all of the his multiple businesses, platforms and channels to promote Disney’s new cause celebre to consumers.
Disney knows that “content is king” like never before, and is now using its content might as a weapon to win.
Amidst the massive tectonic (tech-tonic?) entertainment shift to OTT video viewing and the global SVOD land grab, exclusive content is the great differentiator. That’s why each massive player is trying to capture our hearts and minds (and most importantly, our eyes) with high-priced, high-profile exclusive original television and movies (“Originals”). Well, guess what, Disney already owns the rights to the most valuable brand, franchises, content and characters in the world.
Due to massively astute strategic moves over the past decade plus, ESPN and Disney princesses now share the stage with the Marvel, Star Wars and Pixar holy trinity. So, why give industry-leading Netflix the keys to its content castle when Disney can deliver that magic kingdom directly to consumers itself?
Exactly — and Disney isn’t. Not anymore.
Make no mistake, that hurts Netflix. Disney-esque kids-focused programming is increasingly strategic to Netflix, since about half of Netflix’s subscribers regularly watch kids-focused programming (and that content is frequently and uniquely “evergreen,” which means it never gets old).
Disney is just the latest in a long and growing list of far better resourced industry behemoths hell-bent on taking Netflix down.
That list now includes AT&T’s DirecTV Now, Amazon Video, YouTube TV, Apple — and soon will include upcoming services from Verizon and Comcast. None of these giants (including Disney) are “Netflix Killers” on their own. But, together, this cabal may result in “death by 1,000 cuts.” Netflix is too big to fail, of course.
But, that doesn’t mean it can survive as an independent long-term. Disney, after all, has a market cap of about $160 billion compared to Netflix’s relatively paltry $75 billion. So, Disney – like all the other behemoths — certainly has deeper coffers with which to compete.
Even more significantly, Disney and the others bask in the glow of a holistic, multi-faceted business model. In Disney’s case, it can monetize multiple divisions with multiple product lines and revenue streams (movies, television, theme parks, merchandising, licensing), all on a global scale. Netflix can’t. Its business model is one-dimensional. Netflix’s very existence is justified by subscriptions alone.
Disney’s SVOD services, on the other hand, just need to play their parts in an overall smooth-running Disney machine. That gives Disney (and the other mega-competitors like it) tremendous freedom that Netflix doesn’t have, especially as budgets for Originals continue to skyrocket amidst this massive competition.
Netflix spent a whopping $6 billion this year alone on its Originals and just secured a $500 million line of credit to fund even more (after securing nearly $1.5 billion more in notes just a few months earlier). I have long been bearish on Netflix due to its singularly challenged business model, and Disney’s call to arms certainly doesn’t help.
Naysayers no doubt will challenge the notion that Netflix, with its global brand and massive head start, faces any real existential crisis from Mickey and his fellow cast of giant OTT characters. After all, all of us reading this article undoubtedly count ourselves as being part of the Netflix faithful. Would any of us ever really leave?
Well, chew on this. Each of these three meta-forces is a massive new threat, the likes of which Netflix has never seen before.
First, the onslaught by Disney and the burgeoning list of other major players – all of which can afford to play the long game — now offer real choice to consumers for the first time. Take Amazon for example.
Amazon Video is reported to be gaining ground on Netflix in Europe, out-performing Netflix in Germany only a few months after its launch. That study also found that average viewing of Netflix programs in Europe was down significantly year-over-year, whereas Amazon’s was way up.
So perhaps in increasingly critical international markets where the Netflix brand is not so deeply entrenched, neither is viewer uptick or loyalty in the face of compelling alternatives. Even in the U.S., consumers face no real “switching costs” in an OTT world. If they lose interest in Netflix Originals or simply prefer those of Amazon or others, all they need to do is cancel their monthly subscriptions.
Yes, many will pay for more than one. But, U.S. market penetration already exceeds 50% of U.S. households. Not much margin of error here.
That leads to the second disruptive factor of ever-escalating herculean budgets for Originals in order to both acquire and retain customers. Amazon, with its more ironclad checkbook, spent $4.5 billion on Originals this year, closing in on Netflix’s $6 billion in that regard.
Ultimately, Netflix’s foes can out-spend the reigning champ – or undercut its pricing — if they choose to do so. Can Netflix even afford to maintain, let alone drop, its pricing long-term?
Finally, Disney’s internationally beloved franchises, characters, and overall brand – all, if nothing less, marketing goldmines to attract new users — are now apparently out of Netflix’s reach forever.
It’s not too much of a stretch to assume that Time Warner’s movies and television will follow suit if DirecTV Now’s AT&T closes that $85 billion mega-deal.
Together, these amount to a perfect-storm that inevitably will stunt Netflx’s growth and depress its shares. Maybe not overnight, or even next year. But, ultimately Netflix will not be able to go it alone.
Now, for Disney and its OTT ambitions, the pivotal question becomes whether it hires the right talent with the right digital-first DNA and gives them the freedom and flexibility to pull it off.