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SpaceX opts for Texas over LA to build Starship prototypes

Update: CEO Elon Musk says on Twitter that Starship and Raptor (rocket engine) development is staying in Hawthorne, while prototypes are being built in Texas. Musk also said that the story “stems from a miscommunication by SpaceX .” Original story follows (the headline has also been updated).

The source info is incorrect. Starship & Raptor development is being done out of our HQ in Hawthorne, CA. We are building the Starship prototypes locally at our launch site in Texas, as their size makes them very difficult to transport.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 16, 2019

SpaceX is centering some of its next-generation development not its Los Angeles-area headquarters but in south Texas facilities, the company said today. Development of at least the test versions of its next-generation Starship and Super Heavy launch vehicle will take place in Texas, while Falcon 9 and Dragon work will remain at Hawthorne. The L.A. Times first reported the news.
The decision spells trouble for workers at the Hawthorne, Calif. facility, where many of SpaceX’s work has been done heretofore — however, it may also come as little surprise to those who have been following closely. The layoffs announced last week, the bulk of which are reportedly at Hawthorne, is logical considering the company’s shift away from development to operation and maintenance of the Falcon 9 system.
Initial plans had been for SpaceX to build at least some of its Starship and Super Heavy kit at the L.A. port and perform tests at the nearby Vandenberg Air Force Base. But as evident not just from today’s news, but the actual presence of the eye-catching steel hopper in Texas, that will no longer be the case.
SpaceX offered the following statement:
To streamline operations, SpaceX is developing and will test the Starship test vehicle at our site in South Texas. This decision does not impact our current manufacture, design, and launch operations in Hawthorne and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Additionally, SpaceX will continue recovery operations of our reusable Falcon rockets and Dragon spacecraft at the Port of Los Angeles.
It’s a soft way of saying that they’ll keep the old (but still very important and active) SpaceX stuff at Hawthorne but that it’s putting the rest of its eggs in the Texas basket.
Update: Technically SpaceX’s statement only says that the test vehicle will be developed in Texas, not necessarily the full-scale Starship and Super Heavy vehicles. That said it is rather hard to imagine that the company would build, assemble, and test it in Texas, with all the enormous and specialized equipment and personnel that requires, and relocate afterwards. It also seems unlikely that a city councilperson would characterize the move as “pulling the #SuperHeavy out of the @PortofLA” if that were not the case.
I’ve asked SpaceX for clarification on what specific Starship and Super Heavy operations it intends to continue in Hawthorne.

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SpaceX opts for Texas over LA for Starship work (Update)

Update: CEO Elon Musk says on Twitter that Starship and Raptor (rocket engine) development is staying in Hawthorne, while prototypes are being built in Texas. Musk also said that the story “stems from a miscommunication by SpaceX .” Original story follows.

The source info is incorrect. Starship & Raptor development is being done out of our HQ in Hawthorne, CA. We are building the Starship prototypes locally at our launch site in Texas, as their size makes them very difficult to transport.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 16, 2019

SpaceX is centering some of its next-generation development not its Los Angeles-area headquarters but in south Texas facilities, the company said today. Development of at least the test versions of its next-generation Starship and Super Heavy launch vehicle will take place in Texas, while Falcon 9 and Dragon work will remain at Hawthorne. The L.A. Times first reported the news.
The decision spells trouble for workers at the Hawthorne, Calif. facility, where many of SpaceX’s work has been done heretofore — however, it may also come as little surprise to those who have been following closely. The layoffs announced last week, the bulk of which are reportedly at Hawthorne, is logical considering the company’s shift away from development to operation and maintenance of the Falcon 9 system.
Initial plans had been for SpaceX to build at least some of its Starship and Super Heavy kit at the L.A. port and perform tests at the nearby Vandenberg Air Force Base. But as evident not just from today’s news, but the actual presence of the eye-catching steel hopper in Texas, that will no longer be the case.
SpaceX offered the following statement:
To streamline operations, SpaceX is developing and will test the Starship test vehicle at our site in South Texas. This decision does not impact our current manufacture, design, and launch operations in Hawthorne and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Additionally, SpaceX will continue recovery operations of our reusable Falcon rockets and Dragon spacecraft at the Port of Los Angeles.
It’s a soft way of saying that they’ll keep the old (but still very important and active) SpaceX stuff at Hawthorne but that it’s putting the rest of its eggs in the Texas basket.
Update: Technically SpaceX’s statement only says that the test vehicle will be developed in Texas, not necessarily the full-scale Starship and Super Heavy vehicles. That said it is rather hard to imagine that the company would build, assemble, and test it in Texas, with all the enormous and specialized equipment and personnel that requires, and relocate afterwards. It also seems unlikely that a city councilperson would characterize the move as “pulling the #SuperHeavy out of the @PortofLA” if that were not the case.
I’ve asked SpaceX for clarification on what specific Starship and Super Heavy operations it intends to continue in Hawthorne.

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SpaceX opts for Texas over LA for Starship work

SpaceX will center its largest-scale operations not in its Los Angeles-area headquarters but in south Texas facilities, the company said today. Development of at least the test versions of its next-generation Starship and Super Heavy launch vehicle will take place in Texas, while Falcon 9 and Dragon work will remain at Hawthorne. The L.A. Times first reported the news.
The decision spells trouble for workers at the Hawthorne, Calif. facility, where many of SpaceX’s work has been done heretofore — however, it may also come as little surprise to those who have been following closely. The layoffs announced last week, the bulk of which are reportedly at Hawthorne, is logical considering the company’s shift away from development to operation and maintenance of the Falcon 9 system.
Initial plans had been for SpaceX to build at least some of its Starship and Super Heavy kit at the L.A. port and perform tests at the nearby Vandenberg Air Force Base. But as evident not just from today’s news, but the actual presence of the eye-catching steel hopper in Texas, that will no longer be the case.
SpaceX offered the following statement:
To streamline operations, SpaceX is developing and will test the Starship test vehicle at our site in South Texas. This decision does not impact our current manufacture, design, and launch operations in Hawthorne and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Additionally, SpaceX will continue recovery operations of our reusable Falcon rockets and Dragon spacecraft at the Port of Los Angeles.
It’s a soft way of saying that they’ll keep the old (but still very important and active) SpaceX stuff at Hawthorne but that it’s putting the rest of its eggs in the Texas basket.
Update: Technically SpaceX’s statement only says that the test vehicle will be developed in Texas, not necessarily the full-scale Starship and Super Heavy vehicles. That said it is rather hard to imagine that the company would build, assemble, and test it in Texas, with all the enormous and specialized equipment and personnel that requires, and relocate afterwards. On the other hand the space industry does not and cannot always comport with expectations. I’ve asked SpaceX for clarification on what specific Starship and Super Heavy operations it intends to continue in Hawthorne.

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Shutdown could delay challenge of FCC’s net neutrality rollback

The ongoing shutdown of the federal government has already had adverse effects on millions nationwide, and now could even delay a major legal challenge to the FCC’s infamous net neutrality repeal. The agency moved yesterday to delay oral arguments scheduled for just two weeks from now.
The arguments in a consolidated lawsuit against the FCC led by the likes of Mozilla, Vimeo and industry group INCOMPAS were set to begin on February 1. But of course no one could have predicted a record-setting government shutdown (well — some might have). That has serious implications in a case taking place in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
In a court filing, the FCC explained its position:
…Due to the recent lapse in funding for the FCC and the relevant component of the Department of Justice, the Commission believes that, in an abundance of caution, it should move for an extension to ensure that attorneys may fully prepare for argument consistent with the Antideficiency Act…
That Act essentially prohibits the government from operating without adequate funding, which in this case includes U.S. legal counsel who would arguably be working without pay.
However, as you can imagine, there are plenty of federal court cases that can’t be delayed, and in those cases a judge can authorize the continued involvement of the federal lawyers and things will proceed. (This is all an extreme simplification, but sufficient for our purposes today.)

FCC Chairman Pai celebrates Congress failing to bring back net neutrality

The FCC argues, not without reason, that arguments should be postponed; the Department of Justice did issue blanket guidance earlier that civil cases like this one should in general be put off.
INCOMPAS, however, quickly filed an opposition to this idea, pointing out that the court had in previous cases denied similar requests:
…When federal appropriations lapsed in 2013, resulting in a ‘shutdown’ from October 1 to October 17, 2013, the court received Government motions to stay oral argument in at least sixteen cases. Every one of these motions was denied; and every time, the Government then participated in oral argument.
It’s down to the judge to determine whether the case is urgent enough to authorize federal counsel to work during the shutdown. If it decides to delay, it could be weeks or months before it is rescheduled.
A quick response is requested, as whichever decision the judge makes, both sides will need to be ready to accommodate it. I’ll update this post if I hear a decision is reached.

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Steve Carell is coming to Netflix in a new comedy about the US government’s new Space Force

Steve Carell is coming back to small-screen comedy for a new Netflix series about the people tasked with creating the “Space Force” — the proposed sixth branch of the military.
Details about the new show from Carell and Greg Daniels, who was the mind behind the American version of “The Office,” are sketchy. Netflix hasn’t given any specifics about the number of episodes or potential release date.
What’s certain is that this Space Force is less likely to draw criticism and condemnation than the real proposal put forward by President Donald Trump last year.

US Armed Forces is getting a Space Force over the objections of the Secretary of Defense

Vice President Pence announced that the Space Force would make its debut in 2020. That could be well after Netflix gets the Carell series up and running.
The Space Force project marks the second series Carell has signed on to do with a streaming service provider. He’s also on board for the Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon-led ensemble drama about a morning TV show.

Apple orders two seasons of Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon TV drama

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Steve Carell is coming to Netflix in a new comedy about the U.S. government’s new Space Force

Steve Carell is coming back to small screen comedy for a new Netflix series about the people tasked with creating the “Space Force” — the proposed sixth branch of the military.
Details about the new show from Carrell and Greg Daniels, who was the mind behind the American version of “The Office”, are sketchy. Netflix hasn’t given any specifics about the number of episodes or potential release date.
What’s certain is that this Space Force is less likely to draw criticism and condemnation than the real proposal put forward by President Donald Trump last year.

US Armed Forces is getting a Space Force over the objections of the Secretary of Defense

Pence announced that the Space Force would make its debut in 2020. That could be well after Netflix gets the Carell series up and running.
The Space Force project marks the second series Carell has signed on to do with a streaming service provider. He’s also on board for the Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon led ensemble drama about a morning TV show.

Apple orders two seasons of Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon TV drama

Continue Reading...
Posted in Tech News

Steve Carrell is coming to Netflix in a new comedy about the U.S. government’s new Space Force

Steve Carell is coming back to small screen comedy for a new Netflix series about the people tasked with creating the “Space Force” — the proposed sixth branch of the military.
Details about the new show from Carrell and Greg Daniels, who was the mind behind the American version of “The Office”, are sketchy. Netflix hasn’t given any specifics about the number of episodes or potential release date.
What’s certain is that this Space Force is less likely to draw criticism and condemnation than the real proposal put forward by President Donald Trump last year.

US Armed Forces is getting a Space Force over the objections of the Secretary of Defense

Pence announced that the Space Force would make its debut in 2020. That could be well after Netflix gets the Carell series up and running.
The Space Force project marks the second series Carell has signed on to do with a streaming service provider. He’s also on board for the Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon led ensemble drama about a morning TV show.

Apple orders two seasons of Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon TV drama

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Facebook poaches Google’s AR/VR engineering lead to take over Portal team

Facebook is bringing on the engineering lead for Google’s entire AR/VR team to tackle Portal hardware.
Ryan Cairns comes aboard after 12 years at Google, where he was most recently the engineering lead for a team of more than 500 people tackling AR/VR at the big G, including Daydream, Lens and ARCore, according to his LinkedIn.

Excited to announce that I'll be leading Hardware for AR/VR at @facebook…and would like to welcome Ryan Cairns, who will now lead Portal. Launching @portalfacebook with the team was an amazing experience and I look forward to launching @Oculus Quest and more
— Rafa Camargo (@rafa_camargo) January 16, 2019

His arrival comes after some big changes to Facebook’s hardware team. Last month, the company shook up its Building 8 hardware team, splitting it up into Facebook Reality Labs (AR/VR) and Portal teams. Rafa Camargo took over the Portal team while Michael Abrash stayed in charge of Facebook Reality Labs, according to a Business Insider report. Today’s shakeup shifts Camargo to taking over AR/VR, while Cairns will take on Portal.
No word on how this affects the role of Michael Abrash, who has been a very public face for the company’s AR/VR efforts. We’ve reached out to Facebook for more info.
Update 12:42 PT: Facebook has confirmed Abrash still holds his role as chief scientist leading Facebook Reality Labs.

Facebook restructures Building 8, separating projects into Reality Labs and Portal groups

Bringing an AR/VR engineer to take on Portal while the guy who was leading Portal takes on AR/VR may seem a bit questionable but Facebook does see quite a bit of crossover between the two hardware efforts which both heavily leverage computer vision tech. While Portal takes the similar form factor of other smart screens from Google and Amazon, what distinguishes it are the features that track people’s bodies and faces to automatically frame shots when users are further away from the camera as well as applying AR selfie masks that are available in other products.

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TV broadcaster Sinclair launches STIRR, a free streaming service with local news and sports

Local TV broadcasting company Sinclair Broadcast Group today announced the launch of a new streaming service called STIRR that aims to bring local TV news and other content to the growing number of cord cutters across the U.S. The company today owns more than 190 TV stations, which it’s leveraging in order to create its own “skinny bundle.” However, unlike TV streaming services such as Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, Hulu with Live TV or YouTube TV, for example, STIRR will be free and ad-supported instead of a paid subscription.
The service will offer access to national news, sports, entertainment and digital-first channels and a video-on-demand library in addition to its local content, which serves as the anchor for the new service.
In a special channel called STIRR CITY (yes, all caps), the service will stream a curated, 24/7 program lineup based on where the viewer lives. This will include local news, local and regional sports, entertainment and city-focused lifestyle programming from the local Sinclair TV station in that city.
STIRR CITY joins other original channels developed for the service, including STIRR Movies (for some reason, no caps), STIRR Sports and STIRR Life.
STIRR Sports and Life will offer locally focused programs, we’re told. For example, the Sports channel may show high school football, and the Life channel might show a local lifestyle show like “Seattle Refined.” When local content isn’t available, the channels will be fleshed out with content aggregated from other networks on STIRR.
STIRR Movies will also be aggregated content, but the company is exploring additional deals, we’re told.

At launch, there are more than 20 national networks and digital-first stations available, but few are notable.
The list includes: BUZZR, Charge, Cheddar, Comet, CONtv, Dove Channel, DUST, FailArmy, Futurism, Gravitas, Mobcrush, MovieMix, NASA TV, Outdoor America, The Pet Collective, SOAR, Stadium, TBD, The T and World Poker Tour.
The company says it plans to grow its selection to more than 50 networks by the end of 2019.
It’s clear, however, that the network selection won’t be the draw here — it’s the local content.
Today, it’s still fairly difficult for cord cutters to access local programming. While consumers can use a digital antenna to capture over-the-air TV signals for free, it requires the installation of a not-very-aesthetically-pleasing antenna. (At least Amazon’s Fire TV Recast gives you the option of hiding the antenna in a back room so as not to junk up your entertainment center.)
But even with an antenna, signals can be hit-or-miss — some areas have poor reception, or are too far from the signal’s source for a good experience.
And while the new crop of live TV streaming services provide another means of accessing local channels, they are not free.
Plus, the live TV services include cloud DVRs, which subscribers use to record programs then skip the ads. STIRR doesn’t have a recording option, which may make it attractive to advertisers.
“Despite the explosive growth of new national over-the-top (OTT) services, local TV station’s programming, especially local news, has remained some of the most popular and desired content to audiences and advertisers alike,” said Adam Ware, STIRR’s General Manager, in a statement. “By creating the STIRR CITY channel format, local TV stations can now extend their programming strength to OTT,” he added.

Ware also points out that STIRR will give advertisers a way to reach a different demographic that is no longer watching traditional TV.
“Local broadcast traditionally skews older. Streaming skews younger,” he tells TechCrunch. “This brings the two together for the first time,” he says.
STIRR’s ad sales will be coordinated between Sinclair Digital, OTT Compulse and Sinclair’s local stations. And its ad revenue is shared with content partners. (The company hasn’t ruled out a premium version that eliminates ads, we understand, but has nothing like that at launch.)
Also of note, you don’t have to live in a particular city to tune into its local programming via STIRR. That’s good, too, because STIRR doesn’t have a presence in all major metros. But it will suggest your closest markets when you load the app.
One caveat about STIRR: while local programming is available, STIRR won’t stream the prime time shows that these networks carry — you’ll still need your antenna or a paid streaming service for that. (Or, if you’re like a growing number of TV viewers, you don’t watch much network TV these days, in favor of streaming shows on Netflix and Amazon.)
In time, STIRR’s selection of content could be enhanced by more regional sports channels, as it’s a top bidder for those being sold by Disney and Fox. That could make the service more compelling.
STIRR is available for free on the web, iOS, Android, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and Roku.
*We’ve run into some launch bugs when testing STIRR, and have gotten page load errors when trying to access the Channel Guide. Hopefully these will smooth out in time as traffic stabilizes.

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Local TV broadcaster Sinclair launches STIRR, a free streaming service with local news and sports

Local TV broadcasting company Sinclair Broadcast Group today announced the launch of a new streaming service called STIRR that aims to bring local TV news and other content to the growing number of cord cutters across the U.S. The company today owns over 190 TV stations, which it’s leveraging in order to create its own “skinny bundle.” However, unlike TV streaming services such as Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, Hulu with Live TV, or YouTube TV, for example – STIRR will be free and ad-supported instead of a paid subscription.
The service will offer access to national news, sports, entertainment and digital-first channels and a video-on-demand library in addition to its local content, which serves as the anchor for the new service.
In a special channel called STIRR CITY (yes, all caps), the service will stream a curated, 24/7 program lineup based on where the viewer lives. This will include local news, local and regional sports, entertainment and city-focused lifestyle programming from the local Sinclair TV station in that city.
STIRR CITY joins other original channels developed for the service, including STIRR Movies (for some reason, no caps), STIRR Sports, and STIRR Life.
STIRR Sports and Life will offer locally focused programs, we’re told. For example, the Sports channel may show high school football, and the Life channel might show a local lifestyle show like “Seattle Refined.” When local content isn’t available, the channels will be fleshed out with content aggregated from other networks on STIRR.

At launch, there are over 20 national networks and digital-first stations available, but few are notable.
The list includes: BUZZR, Charge, Cheddar, Comet, CONtv, Dove Channel, DUST, FailArmy, Futurism, Gravitas, Mobcrush, MovieMix, NASA TV, Outdoor America, The Pet Collective, SOAR, Stadium, TBD, The T, and World Poker Tour.
The company says it plans to grow its selection to over 50 networks by the end of 2019.
It’s clear, however, that the network selection won’t be the draw here – it’s the local content.
Today, it’s still fairly difficult for cord cutters to access local programming. While consumers can use a digital antenna to capture over-the-air TV signals for free, it requires the installation of a not-very-aesthetically-pleasing antenna. (At least Amazon’s Fire TV Recast gives you the option of hiding the antenna in a back room so as not to junk up your entertainment center.)
But even with an antenna, signals can be hit-or-miss – some areas have poor reception, or are too far from the signal’s source for a good experience.
And while the new crop of live TV streaming services provide another means of accessing local channels, they are not free.
Plus, the live TV services include cloud DVRs which subscribers use to record programs then skip the ads. STIRR doesn’t have a recording option, which may make it attractive to advertisers.
“Despite the explosive growth of new national over-the-top (OTT) services, local TV station’s programming, especially local news, has remained some of the most popular and desired content to audiences and advertisers alike,” said Adam Ware, STIRR’s General Manager, in a statement. “By creating the STIRR CITY channel format, local TV stations can now extend their programming strength to OTT,” he added.

Ware also points out that STIRR will give advertisers a way to reach a different demographic who is no longer watching traditional TV.
“Local broadcast traditional skews older. Streaming skews younger,” he tells TechCrunch. “This brings the two together for the first time,” he says.
STIRR’s ad sales will be coordinated between Sinclair Digital, OTT Compulse and Sinclair’s local stations. And its ad revenue is shared with content partners. (The company hasn’t ruled out a premium version that eliminates ads, we understand, but has nothing like that at launch.)
Also of note, you don’t have to live in a particular city to tune into its local programming via STIRR. That’s good, too, because STIRR doesn’t have a presence in all major metros. But it will suggest your closest markets when you load the app.
One caveat about STIRR: while local programming is available, STIRR won’t stream the primetime shows that these networks carry – you’ll still need your antenna or a paid streaming service for that. (Or, if you’re like a growing number of TV viewers, you don’t watch much network TV these days, in favor of streaming shows on Netflix and Amazon.)
In time, STIRR’s selection of content could be enhanced by more regional sports channels, as it’s a top bidder for those being sold by Disney and Fox. That could make the service more compelling.
STIRR is available for free on the web, iOS, Android, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, and Roku.
*We’ve run into some launch bugs when testing STIRR, and have gotten page load errors when trying to access the Channel Guide. Hopefully these will smooth out in time as traffic stabilizes.

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Email security company Tessian is closing in on a $40M round led by Sequoia Capital

Continuing a trend that VCs here in London tell me is seeing an increasing amount of deal-flow in Europe attract the interest of top-tier Silicon Valley venture capital firms, TechCrunch has learned that email security provider Tessian is the latest to raise from across the pond.
According to multiple sources, the London-based company has closed a Series B round led by Sequoia Capital. I understand that the deal could be announced within a matter of weeks, and that the round size is in the region of $40 million. Tessian declined to comment.
Founded in 2013 by three engineering graduates from Imperial College — Tim Sadler, Tom Adams and Ed Bishop — Tessian is deploying machine learning to improve email security. Once installed on a company’s email systems, the machine learning tech analyses an enterprise’s email networks to understand normal and abnormal email sending patterns and behaviours.
Tessian then attempts to detect anomalies in outgoing emails and warns users about potential mistakes, such as a wrongly intended recipient, or nefarious employee activity, before an email is sent. More recently, the startup has begun addressing in-bound email, too. This includes preventing phishing attempts or spotting when emails have been spoofed.
Meanwhile, Tessian (formerly called CheckRecipient) raised $13 million in Series A funding just 7 months ago in a round led by London’s Balderton Capital. The company’s other investors include Accel, Amadeus Capital Partners, Crane, LocalGlobe, Winton Ventures, and Walking Ventures.

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Sources: Email security company Tessian is closing in on a $40M round led by Sequoia Capital

Continuing a trend that VCs here in London tell me is seeing an increasing amount of deal-flow in Europe attract the interest of top-tier Silicon Valley venture capital firms, TechCrunch has learned that email security provider Tessian is the latest to raise from across the pond.
According to multiple sources, the London-based company has closed a Series B round led by Sequoia Capital. I understand that the deal could be announced within a matter of weeks, and that the round size is in the region of $40 million. Tessian declined to comment.
Founded in 2013 by three engineering graduates from Imperial College — Tim Sadler, Tom Adams and Ed Bishop — Tessian is deploying machine learning to improve email security. Once installed on a company’s email systems, the machine learning tech analyses an enterprise’s email networks to understand normal and abnormal email sending patterns and behaviours.
Tessian then attempts to detect anomalies in outgoing emails and warns users about potential mistakes, such as a wrongly intended recipient, or nefarious employee activity, before an email is sent. More recently, the startup has begun addressing in-bound email, too. This includes preventing phishing attempts or spotting when emails have been spoofed.
Meanwhile, Tessian (formerly called CheckRecipient) raised $13 million in Series A funding just 7 months ago in a round led by London’s Balderton Capital. The company’s other investors include Accel, Amadeus Capital Partners, Crane, LocalGlobe, Winton Ventures, and Walking Ventures.

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