April 25, 2019 Off

Movie subscription service Sinemia is ending US operations

By Jill T Frey

Over the past few months, Sinemia has gone from promising MoviePass competitor to the source of frustration for moviegoers across the country. After rumors surfaced earlier this week that it would be backing away from its troubled subscription-based movie ticket offering, it posted official word tonight that it will be shutting down operations in the U.S.

“Today, with a heavy heart, we’re announcing that Sinemia is closing its doors and ending operations in the US effective immediately,” the company writes in a statement posted to its front page.

The service has also struggled with issues of monetization (not unlike MoviePass), leading onlookers to wonder ultimately how sustainable the subscription model is. Those issues have been coupled by increased competition from movie theater chains like AMC offering up their own services, even as Sinemia attempted to create a white label version for theaters.

In recent months, the company has been plagued … Read the rest

April 25, 2019 Off

Tesla to open up Model 3 orders in UK

By Jill T Frey

Tesla is poised to open up orders for the Model 3 in the U.K. by early May, as well as other markets that have right-hand drive vehicles, according to a tweet from CEO Elon Musk.

The Model 3 order page will go live May 1 or 2 in the U.K., followed by Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong. Tesla’s U.K. web page says “deliveries in right-hand drive markets will begin in the second half of 2019.”

The first Model 3 vehicles were handed over to U.S. customers beginning in July 2017 at a splashy event at its factory in Fremont, Calif. Those first vehicles went to Tesla employees and deliveries limped along for months due to production bottlenecks. Deliveries began in earnest in 2018.

The expansion into more right-hand drive markets … Read the rest

April 25, 2019 Off

Zwift CEO Eric Min on fitness-gaming and bringing esports into the Olympics

By Jill T Frey

The rumored IPO plans of $4 billion spinning brand Peloton marks the rise of a wave of interactive fitness startups like Mirror, Tonal, Hydrow and At Home 360 that combine a monthly subscription to recorded and/or live video classes with workout hardware.

There’s opportunity beyond this initial “Peloton for X” model, however, when you look at where the gamification of at-home workout experiences can overlap with actual games. We’re in the midst of rapid growth in the gaming industry, the rise of esports and the mainstream-ing of socializing within games due to Fortnite

The virtual cycling business Zwift is a five-year-old startup that has raised more than $170 million as a pioneer of fitness-gaming ― physical sport carried out in a virtual world. Athletes join together for group rides and races within a cycling game that hooks up to their own bike trainers at … Read the rest

April 25, 2019 Off

Luminary ‘retooling’ after podcasters request removal from service

By Jill T Frey

Last month, a New York Times piece heralded the arrival of Luminary. The story focused on the startup’s healthy funding (almost $100 million) and its “subscription-based business model that it hopes will push the medium into a new phase of growth.” You’d be hard-pressed to find better circumstances under which to launch your startup.

A month and a half later, Luminary is live, and most of that good will seems to have evaporated. A number of prominent podcast hosts have requested that their shows be pulled from the “Netflix of podcasts.”

The $8 a month premium service has added shows to its walled-off network without the permission of creators. There are several TechCrunch shows up there, including Original Content, Mixtape, Equity and several now defunct … Read the rest

April 25, 2019 Off

A quick look at how Series A and seed rounds have ballooned in recent years, fueled by top investors

By Jill T Frey

Wing, an eight-year-old, Silicon Valley venture firm co-founded by veteran VCs Peter Wagner and Gaurav Garg, produces interesting research about its own industry every now and then, based on smaller data sets than firms like PitchBook or CB Insights tend to use. Instead of looking at funding activity broadly, the firm tracks deal-making at the top 21 venture firms in the U.S. to “really focus on the signal,” as Wagner has explained to us in the past. Last year, for example, the firm determined that the funding pullback that everyone was worried about had actually happened in 2016.

More recently, Wing has been tracking deal sizes, capturing the details of 6,205 financings of 2,982 companies funded by one of those 21 firms over the last nine years to discern the ways in which round sizes are changing. And the results, while not shocking, are still eye-opening.

Starting with seed … Read the rest

April 25, 2019 Off

MuseNet generates original songs in seconds, from Bollywood to Bach (or both)

By Jill T Frey

Have you ever wanted to hear a concerto for piano and harp, in the style of Mozart by way of Katy Perry? Well, why not? Because now you can, with OpenAI’s latest (and blessedly not potentially catastrophic) creation, MuseNet. This machine learning model produces never-before-heard music based on its knowledge of artists and a few bars to fake it with.

This is far from unprecedented — computer-generated music has been around for decades — but OpenAI’s approach appears to be flexible and scalable, producing music informed by a variety of genres and artists, and cross-pollinating them as well in a form of auditory style transfer. It shares a lot of DNA with GPT2, the language model “too dangerous to release,” but the threat of unleashing unlimited music on the world seems small compared with undetectable computer-generated text.

April 25, 2019 Off

The Markup faces staff exodus and funder scrutiny following ouster of Julia Angwin

By Jill T Frey

The Markup appears to be facing a staff revolt — and its financial backers may be reconsidering their support — following the firing of editor-in-chief Julia Angwin.

When the site was announced last fall, it was backed by $20 million from Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, with additional funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Ford Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The goal was to do data-driven journalism about the impact of technology on society.

Angwin and her co-founder Jeff Larson seemed particularly well-suited for the job — both are award-winning journalists who worked together at ProPublica, where they did impactful reporting around topics like Facebook’s ad practices.

However, Angwin was fired on Monday, a move she blamed in interviews on executive director Sue Gardner’s plan to turn the site into “a cause, not a publication,” with headlines like “Facebook … Read the rest

April 25, 2019 Off

The venture firm SOSV has already raised its biggest fund to date, and it isn’t quite closed

By Jill T Frey

SOSV, a multi-stage venture firm that was founded as the personal investing vehicle of entrepreneur Sean O’Sullivan after his company went public in 1994, then re-launched as a traditional venture firm with outside backers in 2015, has raised $218 million for its third fund.

The vehicle has a $250 million target that SOSV expects to meet by year’s end, but already, it’s substantially larger than the firm’s previous fund, which closed with $150 million.

SOSV is best-known for the numerous accelerators it has created and oversees, including hardware-focused HAX, and IndieBio for life sciences startups. Yesterday, we were in touch with SOSV partner Daniel Eichner — who’s in charge of raising capital for the outfit, as well as introducing its portfolio companies to potential future investors — to learn more about what else is new at its eight offices around the world, including in Cork, Ireland; Princeton, N.J.;

Read the rest
April 25, 2019 Off

Apple patches iOS App Store bug that was preventing app downloads

By Jill T Frey

Apple is rolling out a fix for an App Store bug that was preventing users from downloading new iOS apps or app updates. The issue, which impacted an unknown number of users, involved a Terms & Conditions dialog box that would continue to pop up even when users tapped the “Agree” button.

The issue had frustrated users who took to Twitter in an attempt to get help from Apple Support.

9to5Mac and AppleInsider previously reported on the problem, citing the social media complaints. The Apple Support account had not responded publicly to those who reached out, beyond asking customers to get in touch on DM with more details or pointing those with more vague complaints to a support doc about connection issues.

The bug was affecting a small percentage of Apple’s iOS user base worldwide, we understand from people familiar with the problem at Apple. However, even a … Read the rest

April 25, 2019 Off

AWS expands cloud infrastructure offerings with new AMD EPYC-powered T3a instances

By Jill T Frey

Amazon is always looking for ways to increase the options it offers developers in AWS, and to that end, today it announced a bunch of new AMD EPYC-powered T3a instances. These were originally announced at the end of last year at re:Invent, AWS’s annual customer conference.

Today’s announcement is about making these chips generally available. They have been designed for a specific type of burstable workload, where you might not always need a sustained amount of compute power.

“These instances deliver burstable, cost-effective performance and are a great fit for workloads that do not need high sustained compute power but experience temporary spikes in usage. You get a generous and assured baseline amount of processing power and the ability to transparently scale up to full core performance when you need more processing power, for as long as necessary,” AWS’s Jeff Barr wrote in a blog post.

These instances … Read the rest