15 weeks after Facebook announced its “Your Time On Facebook” tool that counts how many minutes you spend on the app, the feature is finally rolling out around the world. Designed to help you manage your social networking, the dashboard reveals how many minutes you’ve spent on Facebook’s app on that device each day for the past week and on average.
You can set a daily limit and receive a reminder to stop after that many minutes each day, plus access shortcuts to notification ,News Feed, and Friend Request settings. Those last two shortcuts are new, but otherwise the feature works the same as when it was previewed. You can access it by going to Facebook’s More tab -> Settings & Privacy -> Your Time On Facebook.
TechCrunch first broke the news that Facebook was working on the feature in June. Facebook gave some explanation for the delayed access to the feature, with spokespeople telling me “We typically rollout features slowly so we can catch bugs early and resolve them quickly. We slowed the rollout of the tools after launch so our teams could fix a few bugs before we expanded globally” and that “the tools will continue rolling out over the next few weeks.” Social consultant Matt Navarra had spotted the tool reaching more users today.
With the launches of similar tools as part of the latest versions of iOS and Android, plus the roll out of the similar Your Activity tab on Instagram last week, digital well-being features are becoming available to a wide swath of smart phone users. The question is whether simply burying these features in the Settings menus is enough to actually get people to shift towards healthier behavior.
Facebook and Instagram’s versions are particularly toothless. There are no options to force you to ease off your usage, just a quick daily limit notification to dismiss. iOS 12’s Screen Time at least delivery’s a weekly usage report by default so the feature finds you even if you don’t go looking for it. And Android’s new Digital Wellbeing dashboard is by far the most powerful, graying out app icons and requiring you to dig into your settings to unlock apps once you hit your daily limit. Facebook doesn’t necessarily need to force heavier restrictions on us, but it should at least provide more compelling optional tools to actually make us put our phones down and look up at the real world.
Facebook’s dashboard doesn’t integrate with Instagram’s, which would give people a more holistic sense of their activity on the social networks. You also won’t have your desktop Facebooking or time on secondary mobile devices like tablets tabulated here either.
But the biggest flaw remains that Your Time On Facebook treats all time the same. That seems to ignore the research Facebook itself has presented about digital well-being on social networks, as well as CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s comments on what constitutes healthy and unhealthy behavior. Zuckerberg said on the Q1 2018 earnings call “the well-being research that we’ve done . . . suggests that when people use the Internet for interacting with people and building relationships, that is correlated with all the positive measures of well-being that you’d expect — like longer term health and happiness, feeling more connected and less lonely – whereas just passively consuming content is not necessarily positive on those dimensions.”
Yet you can’t tell active and passive Facebooking apart from the dashboard. There’s no way to see a breakdown of how long you spend browsing the News Feed, watching Stories, or exploring photos on profiles versus creating posts or comments, messaging, or interacting in Groups. That segmentation would give users a much clearer view of where they’re spending or wasting hours, and what they could do to make their usage healthier. Hopefully with time, Facebook gives the dashboard more nuance so we can track not just time, but time well spent.
The latest Falcon 9 mission launched successfully, but its reusable booster just missed sticking the landing thanks to a stalled hydraulic pump on the grid fin, according to a tweet by Elon Musk.
Grid fin hydraulic pump stalled, so Falcon landed just out to sea. Appears to be undamaged & is transmitting data. Recovery ship dispatched.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 5, 2018
Footage captured by the Twitch streamer DazValdez, who was on the ground for the launch, managed to record the whole missed landing. And, as the footage shows, the Falcon 9’s first stage booster just missed the landing zone at Cape Canaveral.
The Tuesday flight from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida is delivering 5,600 pounds of equipment and supplies to the International Space Station that are supporting roughly 250 science experiments expected to occur on the station. And the flight marks the 16th supply run SpaceX has made out to the Space Station.
The Dragon craft separated from Falcon 9’s second stage as planned — at about roughly 10 minutes after liftoff. It’s now headed to the space station where it will attach on Saturday, December 8, according to a statement from the company. It’s the second flight out to the ISS for this particular Dragon spacecraft, which made its first run out in February 2017.
The next critical step for the latest SpaceX mission will be attaching the Dragon spacecraft to the station. To do that, ISS crew members will use the station’s 57.7 foot robotic arm to catch the capsule and attach it to the station’s orbiting laboratory.
The Dragon is scheduled to return to Earth in early January with about 4,000 pounds of cargo; it will splash down in the Pacific Ocean just off the coast of Baja, Calif.
SpaceX has had a busy week already. Yesterday the company launched a commercial flight with a payload of 64 small satellites commissioned by the private space scheduling and freight hauling company Spaceflight Industries.
It was the first commissioned flight from Spaceflight, which has raised more than $200 million in venture capital financing to build a private spaceflight scheduling and rideshare service.
The first dedicated mission from Spaceflight to low Earth orbit proved successful as it launched the largest single rideshare mission from a U.S.-based launch vehicle to date.
Included in that mission were 15 microsats and 49 cubesats from commercial and government entities, including universities, startup companies and even a middle school, according to a statement from SpaceX.
In all, 17 countries were represented in the launch, including the U.S., Australia, Italy, Netherlands, Finland, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, the U.K., Germany, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Thailand, Poland, Canada, Brazil and India.
Japan wants to formally encourage domestic startups to pursue the growing opportunities in commercial space. The Japanese government has earmarked around $1 billion in public funds to startups working on space solutions. At the same time, the government revealed that it’s working on a legal path towards establishing commercial development on the moon.
This is a big injection in the private space race, and the funds will be allocated both as investments and as loans, spanning five years and beginning during this fiscal year. The goal is to boost the Japanese space business, hoping to help amplify its growth and propel it to a 2.4 trillion yen ($22.5 billion) market by the beginning of the 2030s, per the Nikkei.
Startups that qualify will be able to receive aid of up to 10 million yen per company, or around $100,000 U.S., for things like research costs and the price of applying for patents.
Japanese space startup ispace applauded the move in a statement provided to TechCrunch.
“Not only will this move improve the competitiveness of the Japanese private space sector, but it will have positive implications for the sector globally. We believe this will be remembered as a turning point for our burgeoning industry,” wrote ispace founder and CEO Takeshi Hakamada. “Further, investments in the space industry ultimately benefit society on Earth through the vast number of innovations that develop as a result.”
Special for kids — and importantly parents of kids — now you can get designs on visiting Disney — and dropping a small fortune in the process — thanks to Google Maps after it added Street View images for 11 Disney Parks. The feature looks to cover parks in the U.S. only at this point, but that alone might help you relive a recent visit, or else familiarize yourself for… Read More
Smart Displays were the talk of Google’s big push at CES this year — but there’s been nary a peep in the intervening months. As expected, we got a little more insight into the company’s Echo Show competitor at today’s big I/O kickoff — though the actual devices are still a few months out, officially launching in July.
The company walked through a demo of Lenovo’s devices, easily the best looking of the bunch. It’s clear that the company’s invested some resources into building a visual-first version of Assistant, justifying the addition of a screen to the experience.
The key to the offering, naturally, is YouTube, which was at the center of a tug of war between Google and Amazon around the Echo Show’s launch. Google notably pulled its video offering from Amazon’s device, with the company now rumored to be working on its own video offering specifically for the product.
Along with Lenovo, JBL, Lenovo, LG and Sony have all announced plans to get in on the category, offering a much broader selection than Amazon’s first-party Show and Spot offerings. The new devices will no doubt be on-hand at today’s event. We’ll be taking a deeper dive shortly after the keynote.
Vynn Capital, a new entrant to Southeast Asia’s startup ecosystem, is gearing up to close its maiden fund after it landed an undisclosed sum from Malaysia Venture Capital Management Bhd (MAVCAP) as one of its anchor LPs.
Founded by former Gobi Ventures VC Victor Chua and Singaporean investor Darren Chua (no relation) one year ago, Kuala Lumpur-based Vynn is targeting a $40 million fund for Southeast Asia. The firm has already made four investments and, on the LP side, gone after traditional businesses and Southeast Asia’s family corporations. Landing MAVCAP — which is Malaysia’s largest investor and has backed VC funds including Gobi — is a major coup for a debut fund.
“The investment from MAVCAP is a very good validation for Vynn Capital,” said Victor Chua, who is Malaysian. “Personally, having been active in the local and regional ecosystem, I’ve benefited from the growth trajectory of the ecosystem and am now able to launch a new fund that is addressing the need of the traditional businesses to be innovative.”
“The thesis of the fund is Southeast Asia, but through our investment we are focused on how it will be invested in Malaysian deals,” MAVCAP’s Shahril Anas told TechCrunch in an interview. “We have some carry and expect returns that we can invest into local entrepreneurs in Malaysia, we are also keen to look at how other countries’ economies interact with startups.”
Anas said the approach is to be very hands-off; MAVCAP has various other fund investments, but he reiterated that there may be specific data or insight that the organization looks to glean.
Southeast Asia is emerging from the shadows of China and India to become a target market for startups and, by extension, the investors who write the checks to finance them.
Beyond a cumulative population of more than 600 million people, the region’s “digital economy” is tipped to grow to $240 billion by 2025 from $31 million in 2015, according to a report from Google and Singapore sovereign fund Temasek.
Some of the other investors vying for a slice of the opportunity include new funds from Openspace Ventures ($135 million), Indonesia-focused Intudo ($50 million), Qualgro ($100 million), Golden Gate Ventures ($100 million) and Sequoia India ($695 million).
VCs give us their predictions for startups and tech in Southeast Asia in 2019
No matter what cloud you build on, if you want to build something that’s highly available, you’re always going to opt to put your applications and data in at least two physically separated regions. Otherwise, if a region goes down, your app goes down, too. All of the big clouds also offer a concept called ‘availability zones’ in their regions to offer developers the option to host their applications in two separate data centers in the same zone for a bit of extra resilience. All big clouds, that is, except for Azure, which is only launching its availability zones feature into general availability today after first announcing a beta last September.
Ahead of today’s launch, Julia White, Microsoft’s corporate VP for Azure, told me that the company’s design philosophy behind its data center network was always about servicing commercial customers with the widest possible range of regions to allow them to be close to their customers and to comply with local data sovereignty and privacy laws. That’s one of the reasons why Azure today offers more regions than any of its competitors, with 38 generally available regions and 12 announced ones.
“Microsoft started its infrastructure approach focused on enterprise organizations and built lots of regions because of that,” White said. “We didn’t pick this regional approach because it’s easy or because it’s simple, but because we believe this is what our customers really want.”
Every availability zone has its own network connection and power backup, so if one zone in a region goes down, the others should remain unaffected. A regional disaster could shut down all of the zones in a single region, though, so most business will surely want to keep their data in at least one additional region.
With one fell swoop, President Trump just swapped out the “warrior scholar” for the warmonger.
I am pleased to announce that, effective 4/9/18, @AmbJohnBolton will be my new National Security Advisor. I am very thankful for the service of General H.R. McMaster who has done an outstanding job & will always remain my friend. There will be an official contact handover on 4/9.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 22, 2018
Today Trump tweeted that General H.R. McMaster will step down as John Bolton, a deeply controversial former U.S. ambassador, steps into the role of national security advisor. Bolton will move into the high-ranking foreign policy advisor position just as the U.S. is approaching talks with North Korea, an extremely delicate diplomatic maneuver between two volatile leaders.
Last month, Bolton argued the legal case for a pre-emptive strike on North Korea — an extreme position in which even the best case scenario could result in broad carnage for the U.S. and its allies.
Bolton established his extreme and hawkish reputation during his tenure as the undersecretary of state for arms control during the Bush administration. In that advisory position, Bolton argued strongly in favor of the Iraq war, tying his justification to the supposed presence of weapons of mass destruction.
If most people could agree that McMaster was a respectable choice for national security advisor, just as many seem to oppose Bolton becoming a prominent figure in shaping Trump’s foreign policy. When Bolton’s name was floated just after the election, Republican Senator Rand Paul penned an op-ed denouncing Bolton as “hell-bent on repeating virtually every foreign policy mistake the US has made in the last 15 years.”
While McMaster was sometimes characterized as a cautious futurist, Bolton’s record on tech is less clear. We’re sure to learn more about the new advisor’s various postures quickly, as Bolton stirs up bipartisan anxiety around U.S. foreign policy, particularly in Iran and North Korea.
After the swift fall of Michael Flynn in early 2017 and the quick appointment of McMaster, Bolton will become Trump’s third national security advisor in less than two years.
Trill Project, founded by three high school girls, recently launched out of private beta to help people safely express themselves online. For those unfamiliar with the word “trill,” it’s a combination of “true” and “real.” An investor described it to me as a positive Yik Yak .
Trill Project began as a community for teenagers, especially for transgender teens who felt like they didn’t have a safe space to be themselves. It has since expanded it to a platform for everyone to express anything from their struggles with addiction, mental illnesses to workplace issues.
“We’re reinventing the narrative of social networking and we kind of elevate social media by being private and anonymous,” Trill Project co-founder Georgia Messinger told TechCrunch over the phone.
On Trill Project, everything is anonymous (there are no usernames) and monitored by 50 moderators around the clock. Trill Project also has machine learning algorithms as work to learn from reported posts to be able to recognize problematic posts in the future. And if someone feels unsafe or thinks someone has figured out their trill identity, they can always just change it.
In addition to wanting to prevent bullying and harassment, Trill Project wants to be helpful to those suggesting they want to harm themselves or those reporting being hurt by others. That’s why Trill Project has partnered with non-profit organizations that specifically support people experiencing mental health crises.
Trill Project will always be free to the users, but the idea is to possibly license its machine learning algorithms, sell ad space and sponsorships for communities, Trill Project co-founder Ari Sokolov told TechCrunch.
Anonymous social networks, of course, are nothing new. Startups like Whisper, Secret and Yik Yak have all tried and arguably failed.
“People have tried before but as teenagers in particular, we really are closer to our users,” Messinger said. “It gives us access and insight those companies have been lacking.”
Trill Project is currently participating in Founders Bootcamp, an accelerator for high schoolers. Through the accelerator, Trill Project has received $50,000 in funding. Next month, Trill Project intends to start raising a seed round.
Bike and scooter company Lime recently hit 11.5 million rides, a couple of months after it surpassed six million rides. This milestone comes just 14 months after Lime deployed its first bikes.
Today, Lime is in more than 100 markets throughout the U.S. and Europe. Last December, Lime brought its bikes to a number of European cities and in June, Lime brought its scooters to Paris. By the end of this year, Lime plans to launch in an additional 50 cities.
The rise of shared personal electric vehicles has also led to a new type of side hustle for some people. Through Lime’s Juicer program, which enables anyone to make money from charging scooters overnight, the company has paid out millions of dollars to those workers.
Lime has raised $467 million in funding, with its most recent round coming in at $335 million. The round, led by GV, included participation from Uber.
If you thought the Oracle v. Google saga was over at last, we have some bad news for you. On Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit breathed new life into the case, ruling that Google violated copyright law when it used Oracle’s Java APIs to create the Android mobile operating system. You can read the full ruling here.
The case revolves around a central question: Is a programming language like Java covered by copyright protection? The advent of a third Oracle v. Google trial demonstrates that the far-reaching copyright debate is far from over.
Google has maintained that its use of Java fell under fair use, an argument that a jury agreed with in 2016. Google also won the first round, when Oracle sued the company in 2010. Oracle was previously seeking $9 billion in damages, making the financial stakes just as massive as the implications for the broader software development world.
Asia’s fintech scene is poised to get a little larger after Jumo, a company that offers loans to the unbanked in Africa, revealed plans to expand into the continent. To get the ball rolling, Jumo has opened an office in Singapore to lead the way and landed a massive $52 million investment led by banking giant Goldman Sachs to fuel the growth.
The new round takes Jumo to $90 million raised from investors. While Goldman is the lead — and standout name — the round also saw participation from existing backers that include Proparco — which is attached to the French Development Agency — Finnfund, Vostok Emerging Finance, Gemcorp Capital, and LeapFrog Investments.
Jumo launched in 2014 and it specializes in social impact financial products. That means loans and saving options for those who sit outside of the existing banking system, and particularly small businesses. To date, it claims to have helped nine million consumers across its six markets in Africa and originated over $700 million in loans. The company, which has some 350 staff across 10 offices in Africa, Europe and Asia, was part of Google’s Launchpad accelerator last year and it is led by CEO Andrew Watkins-Ball, who has close to two decades in finance and investing.
Watkins-Ball told TechCrunch that he believes Jumo’s experience working in Africa sets it up perfectly to offer similar services in markets across Asia.
“We grew up in a very tough play yard,” he said in an interview. “We built our initial success in Tanzania which is probably one of the hardest [financial] markets in the world. A lot of these environments [in Asia] look more attractive.”
Unlike the West, where challengers are trying to unseat banks, fintech startups in emerging markets work with the existing system. That isn’t some cop-out, it actually makes perfect sense. Banks simply aren’t equipped to deal with customers seeking small loans in the hundreds of U.S. dollar bracket.
Jumo CEO Andrew Watkins-Ball believes his company’s work in Africa is ideal preparation for its expansion into Asia
Financially, the returns aren’t there from these customers and it doesn’t make sense for banks to invest resources sounding out a prospective loan. Even if they wanted to, they couldn’t vet these would-be customers, though. Many emerging markets simply don’t have the formalized credit checking systems that exist in the West, while many of the unbanked (or ‘less banked’) consumers wouldn’t even show up if they did due to a range of factors.
That’s where a new approach is needed. Fintech startups essentially act like a funnel. They manage the customer acquisition and retention, develop systems to assess credit based on alternative signals and, over time, build up a customer profile that reduces credit risk. That suits banks because they don’t need to handle the nitty-gritty and, when it works well, the startups bring them larger enough volumes of small loans that are a worthwhile opportunity for financial institutions.
Just looking at recent funding deals, the model is evident in markets like India — where ZestMoney pulled in funds last month — and Southeast Asia, where Experian backed fintech startup C88.
Watkins-Ball said Jumo is aiming to do the same having already proven its model in Africa. He acknowledged that a number of startups are also tackling the problem and welcomed the increase competition and growth potential across the fintech and micro-financing space.
“We’ve offered services to millions of new customers who weren’t part of the banking ecosystems,” he explained. “Essentially we grow the addressable market for banks.”
Already, Jumo has begun offering services in Pakistan and it has plans to open up in more markets in Asia, although Watkins-Ball isn’t saying which ones or when right now. But, in addition to proving its model, he believes that Jumo has already shown it can adapt to new markets.
“The differences between countries like Ghana, Tanzania and Zambia are as great as those between India, China and Indonesia,” he told TechCrunch. “So we’ve had to learn to use our platform, which we built to be flexible, and localize in order to fit the customer.”
That’s backed up by Goldman Sachs executive director Jules Frebault, who said in a statement: “There’s an immense opportunity across Africa and beyond for Jumo to build on their successful track record developing digital marketplace infrastructure to offer mobile subscribers access to relevant financial products.”
In addition to Asian expansions, Jumo’s new capital will also go towards expanding its current selection of productions in Africa. In particular, Watkins-Ball says the company is working to partner with more banks and it plans to introduce “new generations” of saving products.
While it isn’t taking its foot off the pedal in Africa, he said Jumo will likely devote the majority of its resources to the Asia expansion plan. That’ll make Jumo a very notable addition to a fintech scene that is already showing significant potential across the Asian region.