A Lime scooter rider died this morning in Washington, D.C., marking the second fatality this month

Lime, the 18-month-old, San Francisco-based company whose bright green bicycles and scooters now dot cities throughout the U.S., launched a pilot program in Tacoma, Washington, today, but that tiny victory might have felt short-lived. The reason: on the opposite side of the country, a Lime rider was killed today by an SUV while tooling around Washington D.C.’s DuPont neighborhood. The local fire department shared video of the rescue, which shows that the victim, an adult male, had to be pulled from the undercarriage of the vehicle.

It’s the second known fatality for the company following a death earlier this month in Dallas, when a 24-year-old Texas man fell off the scooter he was riding and died from blunt force injuries to his head.

On the one hand, the developments, while unfortunate, can hardly come as a surprise to anyone given how vulnerable riders or e-scooters are. E-scooter use is on the rise, with both Lime and its L.A.-based rival Bird, announcing this week that their customers have now taken north of 10 million rides. At the same time, city after city has deemed their use on sidewalks illegal out of fear that fast-moving riders will collide with and injure pedestrians. That leaves riders sharing city streets with the same types of giant, exhaust-spewing machines that they hope to increasingly displace. In fact, sales of traditional SUVs has continued to surge, thanks in part to low unemployment, high consumer confidence, and Americans’ enduring love with gigantic vehicles.

One solution to the issue, and one for which the e-scooter companies and their investors have been advocating, are protected lanes that would allow e-scooters to be operated more safely. Bird has even publicly offered to help fund new infrastructure that keeps cyclists and scooter riders safer.

Another possible answer would appear to be mandating the use of helmets with e-scooters, though California evidently disagrees. On Wednesday, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into a law that states Californians riding electric scooters will no longer be required to wear helmets as of January 1.

The bill was reportedly sponsored by Bird.

Japan’s Hayabusa 2 mission lands on the surface of a distant asteroid

The coolest mission you haven’t heard of just hit a major milestone: the Japanese Hayabusa 2 probe has reached its destination, the asteroid Ryugu, and just deployed a pair of landers to its surface. Soon it will touch down itself and bring a sample of Ryugu back to Earth! Are you kidding me? That’s amazing!

Hayabusa 2 is, as you might guess, a sequel to the original Hayabusa, which like this one was an asteroid sampling mission. So this whole process isn’t without precedent, though some of you may be surprised that asteroid mining is essentially old hat now.

But as you might also guess, the second mission is more advanced than the first. Emboldened by and having learned much from the first mission, Hayabusa 2 packs more equipment and plans a much longer stay at its destination.

That destination is an asteroid in an orbit between the Earth and Mars named Ryugu. Ryugu is designated “Type C,” meaning it is thought to have considerable amounts of water and organic materials, making it an exciting target for learning about the possibilities of extraterrestrial life and the history of this (and perhaps other) solar systems.

It launched in late 2014 and spent the next several years in a careful approach that would put it in a stable orbit above the asteroid; it finally arrived this summer. And this week it descended to within 55 meters (!) of the surface and dropped off two of four landers it brought with. Here’s what it looked like as it descended towards the asteroid:

These “MINERVA” landers (seen in render form up top) are intended to hop around the surface, with each leap lasting some 15 minutes due to the low gravity there. They’ll take pictures of the surface, test the temperature, and generally investigate wherever they land.

Waiting for deployment are one more MINERVA and MASCOT, a newly developed lander that carries more scientific instruments but isn’t as mobile. It’ll look more closely at the magnetic qualities of the asteroid and also non-invasively check the minerals on the surface.

The big news will come next year, when Hayabusa 2 itself drops down to the surface with the “small carry-on impactor,” which it will use to create a crater and sample below the surface of Ryugu. This thing is great. It’s basically a giant bullet: a 2-kilogram copper plate mounted in front of an explosive, which when detonated fires the plate towards the target at about two kilometers per second, or somewhere around 4,400 miles per hour.

Hayabusa 2’s impactor in a test, blowing through targets and hitting the rubble on the far side of the range.

The orbiter will not just observe surface changes from the impact, which will help illuminate the origins of other craters and help indicate the character of the surface, but it will also land and collect the “fresh” exposed substances.

All in all it’s a fabulously interesting mission and one that JAXA, Japan’s NASA equivalent, is uniquely qualified to run. You can bet that asteroid mining companies are watching Hayabusa 2 closely, since a few years from now they may be launching their own versions of it.

Mithril Capital Management, cofounded by Ajay Royan and Peter Thiel, is leaving the Bay Area

From its glass-lined offices in San Francisco’s leafy Presidio national park, six-year-old Mithril Capital Management has happily flown under the radar. Now it’s leaving altogether and relocating its team to Austin, a spot that, among others the firm had considered, has “enough critical mass of a technical culture, an artisanal culture, an artistic culture, and [is] not necessarily looking to Silicon Valley for validation,” says firm cofounder Ajay Royan.

The move isn’t a complete surprise. Royan, who cofounded the growth-stage investment firm in 2012 with renowned investor Peter Thiel, hasn’t done much in the way of public relations outside of announcing MIthril’s existence. Thiel and Royan — who’d previously been a managing director at Clarium Capital Management, Thiel’s hedge fund — largely travel in social circles outside of Silicon Valley.

The firm has always prided itself on finding startups that don’t fit the typical ideal of a Silicon Valley startup, too. One of its newer bets, for example, is a nine-year-old dental robotics company in Miami, Fla. that says it performs implant surgery faster and more effectively, which is a surprisingly big market. More than 500,000 people now receive implants each year.  “It was a hidden team, because it’s in Miami, and it was a field that was under invested in,” says Royan, noting that one of the few breakthrough companies in the dental world in recent years, Invisalign, which makes an alternative to braces, caters to a much younger demographic.

Even still, Mithril’s departure is interesting taken as a data point in a series of them that suggest that Silicon Valley may be losing some of its appeal for a variety of reasons. One of these is so-called groupthink, which had already driven Thiel to make Los Angeles his primary home. An even bigger factor: the unprecedentedly high cost of living. As The Economist recently reported about the Bay Area’s narrowing lead over other tech hubs,  a median-priced home in the region costs $940,000, which is four-and-a-half times the American average. “It’s hard to imagine doing another startup in Silicon Valley; I don’t think I would,” said Jeremy Stoppelman — who cofounded the search and reviews site Yelp and took it public in 2012 — to The Economist.

Late last week, to learn more about Mithril’s move out of California and to get a general sense of how the firm is faring, we sat down with Royan at the space the firm will formally vacate next year, when its lease expires. We talked for several hours; some outtakes from that conversation, lightly edited for length, follow.

TC: You and I haven’t sat down together in years. When did you start thinking about re-locating the firm?

AR: In 2016. I started seeing a lot more correlation in the companies that we were seeing; they were looking more similar to each other than before, and the volume was going up as well. So to put that in context, 2017 was our largest volume in the pipeline, meaning the number of companies coming through the system. And it was also the year that we did the least number of investments. We made one investment, in Neocis [the aforementioned dental robotics company].

TC: You don’t think this owes to a lack of imagination by founders but rather serious flaws in the overarching way that startups get funded. 

AR: The problem is what I call time horizon compression. So a pension fund is supposed to invest on a 30-year time horizon, but if you look at the internal incentives, the bonuses are paid on an annual basis [and the investors making investing decisions on behalf of that pension] are evaluated every six months or every quarter. So you shouldn’t be surprised when people do really short-term things.

There are very short-term versions of investing in the private markets, as well. It’s the 15th AI company, or the 23rd big data company, or the 256th online-to-offline services company. A lot of the people making these investments are very smart. The question is: why are they funding these companies? And why are people starting them? I would suggest it’s because both are under tremendous time pressure, and pressure not to take real risk. If you’re really smart, and you’re told that you’ve got to make returns tomorrow and you can’t take a lot of risk, then you do a me-too company and you look for momentum funding and you try to get out as quickly as possible. It’s a perfectly rational response to bad incentives, and that’s part of what we started to see a lot of in Silicon Valley. I think you have a lot of it going on right now.

TC: It feels like the “getting out” part has become a problem. The IPO market has picked up, but it’s not exactly vibrant. Do you buy the argument that going public limits what a team can do because of public shareholder expectations?

AR: I think that’s fake. Private investors are maybe even more demanding than public investors, because we have material amounts invested generally. Certainly, we do at Mithril. When it comes to governance at our companies, it’s pretty tough, and we get a lot of insight into their activities. It’s not like a public board, where you get a quarterly meeting and a pretty presentation and then people go home.

I do think it’s risk budget and time horizon, bottom line. So the ability to take risks in ways that are not supported by historical models would be: if it goes well, people are happy; if it goes south, the public markets I don’t think will forgive you.

TC: What about Amazon, which went out early, lost money for years, was hammered by analysts, yet is now flirting with a $1 trillion market cap? 

AR: Amazon is like the sovereign exception that proves the rule. It’s like [Jeff Bezos] was structured to basically not care both in terms of governance, or he cared in the way that was actually constructive to building Amazon, which is, ‘I’m just going to keep reinvesting all my profits into things that I think are important, and you all can just wait,’ right? And not a lot of people have the intestinal fortitude to do that or the governance structure to sustain it.

TC: You’ve made some big bets on companies that have been around a while, including the surveillance technology company Palantir, which I recall is one of your biggest bets. How patient are your own investors?

AR: Palantir is still doing extremely well as a company. What’s interesting is 80 percent of our capital in [our first of three funds] is concentrated in, like, 10 companies. Our two biggest investments were Palantir and [the antibody discovery platform] Adimab [in New Hampshire], and I’d argue that Adamab is even bigger than Palantir. We actually helped them not go public in 2014 when they were thinking about it.

TC: How, and why was it better for the company to stay private? 

AR: Adimab was founded in 2007, so it was already seven years old when we encountered them. And I was looking for a company that would be not a drug company but instead [akin to] a technology company in biotech, and Adimab is that. The’ve built a custom-designed yeast whose DNA was redesigned based on the inputs from a multi-year study of about 120 human beings, I think at Harvard, where they assessed the immune responses of the humans to various diseases, then encoded what they understood about the human immune system into the yeast. So the yeast essentially are humanized proxies for the immune system.

TC: Which means . . . .

AR: You can attack the yeast with disease, and the antibodies the yeast produces are essentially human antibodies. Think of it as a biological computer that responds to disease vectors. We now have a database of 10 billion antibodies that we can use to figure out how best to interrogate the yeast for the next generation of diseases that needed an immunotherapy solution.

TC: Is the company profitable?

AR: It is. They don’t need any new money. We’ve just begun a program to help them restructure their cap table so they can take out early investors.

TC: An 11-year-old company. What about employees who are waiting to cash out?

AR: They want more stock, so we’ve created the equivalent of stock options that are tied to value creation.

A lot of biotech companies go public very early on. If Adimab had, they would have been under tremendous pressure to actually build a drug company. People would have said, ‘Hey, if you’re discovering all these antibodies and they’re empowering other people’s drugs, why don’t you just make your own drug?” But the founder, Tillman Gerngross, who’s also the head of bioengineering at Dartmouth, he doesn’t want to be in the position of having to sell or be under tremendous pressure [to create a drug company] when he thinks the full impact of what Adimab is building won’t be realized for another decade.

TC: In Austin, you’ll be closer to this company and some of your other portfolio companies. But are you really certain you want to leave sunny California?

AR: The cost of trying is what I’m worried about [here]. It’s that simple. That applies to people who are starting jobs in someone’s company, or trying to start a company themselves. If it’s expensive for the company to take risk, it’s going be expensive for you to take risk inside the company, which means your career will take a different path than than otherwise

After [I was an] undergrad at Yale, New York was a natural place to go, but I never worked there. It just felt like a place that was externally very pressurized. You had to conform to the external pressures that dictated your daily life. Your rent was $4,000 to $6,000 a month for craziness for like a walk-up in Hell’s Kitchen. Social structures were fairly set, like, you had to go to the Hamptons in the summer or something. There were these weird things that felt very dictated and you had to fit and you had to climb the pyramid schemes that people had established for you. Otherwise, you were out.

What made [Silicon Valley] really attractive was it was a one giant incubator as a society, with a lot of pay-it-forward forward culture and a low cost of trying. Now I’m worried about all three of those.

I’m not saying that just by moving, that gets fixed. That’s facile. But if you conclude that this is an issue that you need to think through, and try to find thoughtful ways to get around, you have to enlist every ally you can. And one of those allies might be reducing unidirectional environmental noise, and having more voices that you can listen to and being exposed to more lived experiences that are varied. . . It builds your capacity for empathy, and I think that’s important for good investing and being a good founder.

TC: What are your early impressions of Austin?

AJ: It’s a great town. Everyone’s been super friendly. I get to wear my cowboy boots. You can actually do a four-hour tour of food trucks without running out of food trucks. Also, most of the people I’ve met are registered Democrats and like, half of them own really nice guns. And these are not considered contradictory at all.

VCs say Silicon Valley isn’t the gold mine it used to be

In the days leading up to TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2018, The Economist published the cover story, ‘Why Startups Are Leaving Silicon Valley.’

The author outlined reasons why the Valley has “peaked.” Venture capital investors are deploying capital outside the Bay Area more than ever before. High-profile entrepreneurs and investors, Peter Thiel, for example, have left. Rising rents are making it impossible for new blood to make a living, let alone build businesses. And according to a recent survey, 46 percent of Bay Area residents want to get the hell out, an increase from 34 percent two years ago.

Needless to say, the future of Silicon Valley was top of mind on stage at Disrupt.

“It’s hard to make a difference in San Francisco as a single entrepreneur,” said J.D. Vance, the author of ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ and a managing partner at Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Fund, which backs seed-stage companies based outside Silicon Valley. “It’s not as a hard to make a difference as a successful entrepreneur in Columbus, Ohio.”

In conversation with Vance, Revolution CEO Steve Case said he’s noticed a “mega-trend” emerging. Founders from cities like Pittsburgh, Detroit or Portland are opting to stay in their hometowns instead of moving to U.S. innovation hubs like San Francisco.

“The sense that you have to be here or you can’t play is going to start diminishing.”

“We are seeing the beginnings of a slowing of what has been a brain drain the last 20 years,” Case said. “It’s not just watching where the capital flows, it’s watching where the talent flows. And the sense that you have to be here or you can’t play is going to start diminishing.”

J.D. Vance says that most entrepreneurs don't need to move to Silicon Valley.

Here's why. #TCDisrupt pic.twitter.com/0mFPeTuHLe

— TechCrunch (@TechCrunch) September 6, 2018

Farewell, San Francisco

“It’s too expensive to live here,” said Aileen Lee, the founder of seed-stage VC firm Cowboy Ventures, amid a conversation with leading venture capitalists Spark Capital general partner Megan Quinn and Benchmark general partner Sarah Tavel .

“I know that there are a lot of people in the Bay Area that are trying to work on that problem and I hope that they are successful,” Lee added. “It’s an amazing place to live and we’ve made it really challenging for people to live here and not worry about making ends meet.”

One of Cowboy’s portfolio companies opted to relocate from Silicon Valley to Colorado when it came time to scale their business. That kind of move would’ve historically been seen as a failure. Today, it may be a sign of strong business acumen.

Quinn said that of all 28 of Spark’s growth-stage portfolio companies, Raleigh, North Carolina-based Pendo has the easiest time recruiting folks locally and from the Bay Area.

She advises her Bay Area-based late-stage companies to open a second office outside of the Valley where lower-cost talent is available.

“We often say go to [flySFO.com], draw a three-hour circle around San Francisco where they have direct flights, find a city that has a university and open up a second office as quickly as possible,” Quinn said.

Still, all three firms invest in a lot of companies based in San Francisco. Of Benchmark’s 10 most recent investments, for example, eight were based in SF, according to Crunchbase.

“I used to believe really strongly if you wanted to build a multi-billion dollar company you had to be based here,” Tavel said. “I’ve stopped giving that soap speech.”

Aileen Lee (Cowboy Ventures), Megan Quinn (Spark Capital), and Sarah Tavel (Benchmark Capital) on whether or not Silicon Valley is on the wane for investors #TCDisrupt pic.twitter.com/SOpn7p0eNQ

— TechCrunch (@TechCrunch) September 5, 2018

Underestimated talent

A lot of Bay Area VCs have been blind to the droves of tech talent located outside the region. Believe it or not, there are great engineers in America’s small- and medium-sized markets too.

At Disrupt, Backstage Capital founder Arlan Hamilton announced the firm would launch an accelerator to further amplify companies led by underestimated founders. The program will have cohorts based in four cities; San Francisco was noticeably absent from that list.

Instead, the firm, which invests in underrepresented founders and recently raised a $36 million fund, will work with companies in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, London and one more city, which will be determined by a public vote. Aniyia Williams, the founder of Tinsel and Black & Brown Founders, will spearhead the Philadelphia effort.

“For us, it’s about closing that wealth gap to address inequity in tech,” Williams said. “There needs to be more active participation from everyone.”

Hamilton added that for her, the tech talent in LA and London is undeniable.

“There is a lot of money and a lot of investors … it reminds me of three years ago in Silicon Valley,” Hamilton said.

Silicon Valley vs. China

Silicon Valley’s demise may not be just as a result of increased costs of living or investors overlooking talent in other geographies. It may be because of heightened competition abroad.

Doug Leone, an early- and growth-stage investor at Sequoia Capital, said at Disrupt that he’s noticed a very different work ethic in China.

Chinese entrepreneurs, he explained, are more ruthless than their American counterparts and they’re putting in a whole lot more hours.

Doug Leone of Sequoia Capital says founders in the US and China both want to change the world, but Chinese founders are a little more desperate (and you see it in the crazy work ethic they have).#TCDisrupt pic.twitter.com/dPxsRTbJoq

— TechCrunch (@TechCrunch) September 6, 2018

“I’ve had dinner in China until after 10 p.m. and people go to work after 10 p.m.,” Leone recalled.

“We don’t see that in the U.S. I’m not saying the U.S. founders oughta do that but those are the differences. They are similar in character. They are similar in dreams. They are similar in how they want to change the world. They are ultra-driven … The Chinese founders have a half other gear because I think they are a little more desperate.”

Much of this, however, has been said before and still, somehow, Silicon Valley remained the place to be for investors and startup entrepreneurs.

The reality is, those engaged in tech culture are always anxiously awaiting for the bubble to pop, the market to crash and for “peak Valley” to finally arrive.

Maybe, just maybe, Silicon Valley is forever.

Here’s more of our coverage of Disrupt 2018.

Polestar unveils first production EV with aim to overtake Tesla

Polestar debuted its first production EV and previewed its electric car line in New York with the CEO squarely taking aim at Tesla.

The Volvo subsidiary pulled the cover off its Polestar 1, which it positioned less as a hybrid and more as a fully electric (gas optional) car to attract fence sitters to EVs.

The $155,000 auto—that will hit streets in 2019—has 3 electrical motors powered by twin 34kWh battery packs and a turbo and supercharged gas V4 up front (more details here).

All electric range is up to 100 miles—which the company claims gives the Polestar 1 the longest all electric range of any production hybrid.

Polestar drivetrain

The Polestar 1 brings 600 horsepower and 738 ft-lbs of torque. It is the first in a series, with an all electric Polestar 2 to debut in 2019 and a Polestar 3 SUV after that.

“Polestar 2 will be a direct competitor to the Tesla Model 3…” CEO Thomas Ingenlath said on the launch stage.

He told TechCrunch the company will focus more on creating converts to EVs than pulling away Tesla’s existing market share.

Thomas Ingenlath, chief executive officer, Polestar

One advantage Ingenlath described was using Polestar 1 as a gateway car for getting laggards to go all electric. “There are many people out there who still think a car has to have a combustion engine,” he said. “Polestar 1 is an extremely good vehicle to get people across that line and once they drive it…understand what an amazing experience an electric car is.”

Polestar converts shouldn’t get too attached to that gasoline/voltage combo, however.

Polestar 1 will be the company’s first and last electric and gas vehicle, according to Ingenlath. “The future is electric. We will not do a hybrid car again,” he told TechCrunch.

At their New York Polestar 1 debut, the company devoted about as much time to the Polestar sales and service experience as the actual car. It will be multi-channel—from app to physical—leveraging parts of Volvo’s dealer network for certain things and staying completely separate for others. For one, Polestar will not have dealers or use Volvo dealers to showcase their cars, according to Ingenlath.

The buyer experience will start on the company’s app, then move into what it refers to as a network of “Polestar Spaces” across the U.S., Europe, and China where buyers can view and test cars. Purchased cars can be delivered to one’s home and service coordinated by app and home pickup—though Polestar will use Volvo dealers (not their spaces) on the service end.

“We will become a company that produces around a 100,000 cars a year and this will definitely scale-up,” said Ingenlath. “We’ll never become a Volvo, but we certainly need a certain scale to come in to a profitable range.”

The company oversubscribed orders for the Polestar 1 with 200 cars coming to North American buyers.

While Polestar’s HQ is in Gothenburg, Sweden, it will manufacture cars at a plant in Chengdu China.

The company’s EV debut comes as Tesla’s $49,000 to $64,000 Model 3 earned the NHTSA’s top safety rating and Audi introduced it $74,800 all electric e-tron SUV (covered here at TechCrunch)

In the U.S. market Tesla still dominates plugin sales by make and model and its Model 3 is expected to boost that lead, according to EV Volumes.

Twitter says bug may have exposed some direct messages to third-party developers

Twitter said that a “bug” sent user’s private direct messages to third-party developers “who were not authorized to receive them.”

The social media giant began warning users Friday of the possible exposure with a message in the app.

“The issue has persisted since May 2017, but we resolved it immediately upon discovering it,” the message said, which was posted on Twitter by a Mashable reporter. “Our investigation into this issue is ongoing, but presently we have no reason to believe that any data sent to unauthorized developers was misused.”

A spokesperson told TechCrunch that it’s “highly unlikely” that any communication was sent to the incorrect developers at all, but informed users out of an abundance of caution.

Sorry, what ?! My DMs may have been sent to developers for a more than a year?? pic.twitter.com/0ry6pyZIdI

— Karissa Bell (@karissabe) September 21, 2018

Twitter said in a notice that only messages sent to brand accounts — like airlines or delivery services — may be affected. In a separate blog post, Twitter said that it’s investigation has confirmed “only one set of technical circumstances where this issue could have occurred.”

The bug was found on September 10, but took almost two weeks to inform users.

“If your account was affected by this bug, we will contact you directly through an in-app notice and on twitter.com,” said the advice.

The company said that the bug affected less than 1 percent of users on Twitter. The company had 335 million users as of its latest earnings release.

“No action is required from you,” the message said.

It’s the second data-related bug this year. In May, the company said it mistakenly logged users’ passwords in plaintext in an internal log, used by Twitter staff. Twitter urged users to change their password.

Instagram denies it’s building Regramming. Here’s why it’d be a disaster


Instagram tells me Regramming, or the ability to instantly repost someone else’s feed post to your followers like a retweet, is “not happening”, not being built, and not being tested. And that’s good news for all Instagrammers. The denial comes after it initially issued a “no comment” to The Verge’s Casey Newton, who published that he’d seen screenshots of a native Instagram resharing sent to him by a source.

Regramming would be a fundamental shift in how Instagram works, not necessarily in terms of functionality, but in terms of the accepted norms of what and how to post. You could always screenshot, cite the original creator, and post. But Instagram has always been about sharing your window to the world — what you’ve lived and seen. Regramming would legitimize suddenly assuming someone else’s eyes.

The result would be that users couldn’t trust that when they follow someone, that’s whose vision would appear in their feed. Instagram would feel a lot more random and unpredictable. And it’d become more like its big brother Facebook whose News Feed has waned in popularity – susceptible to viral clickbait bullshit, vulnerable to foreign misinformation campaigns, and worst of all, impersonal.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Newton’s report suggested Instagram reposts would appear under the profile picture of the original sharer, and regrams could be regrammed once more in turn, showing a stack of both profile thumbnails of who previously shared it. That would at least prevent massive chains of reposts turning posts into all-consuming feed bombs.

Regramming could certainly widen what appears in your feed, which some might consider more interesting. It could spur growth by creating a much easier way for users to share in feed, especially if they don’t live a glamorous life themself. I can see a case for this being a feature for businesses only, which are already impersonal and act as curators. And Instagram’s algorithm could hide the least engaging regrams.

These benefits are why Instagram has internally considered building regramming for years. CEO Kevin Systrom told Wired last year “We debate the re-share thing a lot . . . But really that decision is about keeping your feed focused on the people you know rather than the people you know finding other stuff for you to see. And I think that is more of a testament of our focus on authenticity.”

See, right now, Instagram profiles are cohesive. You can easily get a feel for what someone posts and make an educated decision about whether to follow them from a quick glance at their grid. What they share reflects on them, so they’re cautious and deliberate. Everyone is putting on a show for Likes, so maybe it’s not quite ‘authentic’, but at least the content is personal. Regramming would make it impossible to tell what someone would post next, and put your feed at the mercy of their impulses without the requisite accountability. If they regram something lame, ugly, or annoying, it’s the original author who’d be blamed.

Instagram already offers a demand release valve in the form of re-sharing posts to your Story as stickers

Instagram already has a release valve for demand for regramming in the form of the ability to turn people’s public feed posts into Stickers you can paste into your Story. Launched in May, you can add your commentary, complimenting on dunking on the author. There, regrams are ephemeral, and your followers have to pull them out of their Stories tray rather than having them force fed via the feed. Effectively, you can reshare others’ content, but not make it a central facet of Instagram or emblem of your identity. And if you want to just make sure a few friends see something awesome you’ve discovered, you can send them people’s feed posts as Direct messages.

Making it much easier to repost to your feed instead of sharing something original could turn Instagram into an echo chamber. It’d turn Instagram even more into a popularity contest, with users jockeying for viral distribution and a chance to plug their SoundCloud mixtapes like on Twitter. Personal self-expression would be overshadowed even further by people playing to the peanut gallery. Businesses might get lazy rather than finding their own styles. If you want to discover something new and unexpected, there’s a whole Explore page full of it.

Newton is a great reporter, and I suspect the screenshots he saw were real, but I think Instagram should have given him the firm denial right away. My guess is that it wanted to give its standard no comment because if it always outright denies inaccurate rumors and speculation, that means journalists can assume they’re right when it does “no comment.”

But once Newton published his report, backlash quickly mounted about how regramming could ruin Instagram. Rather than leaving users worried, confused, and constantly asking when the feature would launch and how it would work, the company decided to issue firm denials after the fact. It became worth diverging from its PR playbook. Maybe it had already chosen to scrap its regramming prototype, maybe the screenshots were just of an early mock-up never meant to be seriously considered, or maybe it hadn’t actually finalized that decision to abort until the public weighed in against the feature yesterday.

In any case, introducing regramming would risk an unforced error. The elemental switch from chronological to the algorithmic feed, while criticized, was critical to Instagram being able to show the best of the massive influx of content. Instagram would eventually break without it. There’s no corresponding urgency to fix what ain’t broke when it comes to not allowing regramming.

Instagram is already growing like crazy. It just hit a billion monthly users. Stories now has 400 million daily users, and that feature is growing six times faster than Snapchat as a whole. The app is utterly dominant in the photo and short video sharing world. Regramming would be an unnecessary gamble.

Early-bird tickets close today, 9/21

TC Sessions: AR/VR on October 18 at UCLA is gearing up to be a great show.
Early-bird sales end after today, September 21. Don’t miss out on the biggest savings for this event — book your $99 tickets here before prices go up by $100.

The stage will feature some of the industry’s most groundbreaking companies and thought leaders from Oculus, Emmy-winning Baobab Studios, Facebook, Survios and more.


Why attend TC Sessions: AR/VR?

Big Conversations
Hear today’s innovators, leaders and experts share their experiences and insights

Exclusive Demos
Get a first-look at several never-before-seen augmented and virtual technology demos

Community Building
Meet the key players and contributors in AR/VR throughout the day and expand your network


Agenda Highlights:

Ditching Headsets for Holograms with Ashley Crowder (VNTANA), Shawn Frayne (Looking Glass Factory) and Brett Jones (Lightform)
Augmented reality may be a powerful sight, but it requires participants to own expensive hardware. Is there a workaround? Startups are working to centralize the experience but it’s going to look a lot different.

Building Inclusive Worlds with Cyan Banister (Founders Fund)<br />
If you had the chance to redesign society, where would you even start? As game developers continue designing massive online virtual worlds where we will spend more and more time, how should we look to correct issues we encounter and how can we build a better future?

Kickstarting an Industry with Yelena Rachitzky (Oculus)
Oculus has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into funding VR content, and while the headset market is still small, developers have built plenty of games and experiences. Facebook’s VR future rests on people finding new worlds that they want to step into; how will Oculus make this happen?

See the full agenda here.


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Interiors startup Clippings raises $15.4M Series B with Advance Venture Partners

Back in April we saw that eporta, a London-based B2B interiors marketplace startup, had raised $8 million in a Series A funding round led by US investor Canvas Ventures. Eport has digitized the catalogues of furnishing manufacturers and allowed businesses to order direct, cutting out the middle-men.

Now London is continuing its obsession with interior decoration startups with the news that Clippings has raised a Series B round of funding, raising $15.4 million. Advance Venture Partners (AVP) lead the round and existing investor C4Ventures also participated.

Founded in 2014 by architecture-trained entrepreneurs Adel Zakout and Tom Mallory, Clippings now plans to grow in the US.

Currently, the furniture industry is worth €9.6 billion in Europe, and around $120 billion in the US, but only 6% of this spend is online.

Clippings aggregates data on over 7 million products from over a thousand brands to simplify discovery and combines that with interactive mood boards that replace Pinterest to identify and buy a product. Then it throws in collaboration tools for teams, multiple quote requests, orders, invoices and timelines into one place.

It now claims to have about 50,000 people – including teams designing for WeWork, Citroe?n and British Land – using Clippings.

Adel Zakout, co-founder and CEO of Clippings told me “We’ve built software that enables full management of an interior project, offer a layer of service and logistics so that when you do buy, we manage it all for you vs Eporta where it’s fully self-serve. This doesn’t fix major pain point of customer.”

He also says they have full pricing control, meaning “we can take a view of a whole project value / customer spend and offer optimal prices vs Eporta who can’t do that as the seller controls price.”

He says a typical large co-working space project may have a budget in the £100k range and will have products from 40-50 different vendors, “so you need to be able to consolidate pricing, service, logistics and offer tech to manage it all.”

Other players in the industry (but not competitors) include Houzz and made.com.

Luxury fashion marketplace Farfetch closes at $28.45, up 42% on its first day of trading on NYSE

It’s been a strong year for tech IPOs so far, and it looks like today’s debut of Farfetch — a UK-based shopping site for luxury fashion — is on trend, so to speak. The company opened trading today — on NYSE under the ticker FTCH — at $27, making for a decent pop of 35 percent. The opening followed the company announcing late Thursday evening that it had priced its IPO at $20/share to raise $885 million from the sale of 44,243,749 Class A shares. This was above the expected range of $17 to $19, and gives the company a market cap of $5.8 billion.

The stock went as high as $30.58/share during the day before closing at the end of the day at $28.45.

This is generally a strong showing for Farfetch, for e-commerce, and also for those who are working in the area of online sales focused not on bargains and the middle-to-lower end of the market, but the higher-priced end aimed at luxury goods — a market that was estimated to be worth $307 billion in 2017 and projected to reach $446 billion by 2025 (according to Bain, and cited in the original IPO filing).

Notably, in that filing, the company had put in a provisional marker for raising $100 million, which in the end was much lower than what it raised. At the time it was speculated that Farfetch would reach a valuation of anywhere between $6 billion and $8.37 billion — but it fell short of that.

As we have noted before, Farfetch was an early mover in the area of building e-commerce marketplaces specifically catering to the luxury fashion and other luxury goods industries. This end of the market was somewhat slow to embrace digital shopping: the belief was that for higher-end goods, you needed higher-end, more personalised and in-person service at beautiful boutiques.

With that backdrop, Farfetch started out by working with boutiques and fashion houses that had yet to establish any kind of online commerce profile of their own. “These sellers have been cautious in their adoption of emerging commerce technologies,” as Farfetch puts it in their IPO filing.

By pooling them together, Farfetch was able to create a high-end experience that was bolstered by its scale and reach. In the meantime, the average shopper for luxury goods has come a long way: at the younger end they are digital natives and expect to buy online (some even bypass sites altogether and only do so through messaging platforms), and there are a lot more of them, coming from cities far from fashion centers like London, Paris and New York. They may not always be able to fly instantly to buy pieces, but they can always click a mouse or tap their smartphone screens.

It’s still a relatively nascent market all the same.

“The luxury market is such a massive market, and so under-penetrated online. Only nine percent of sales happen online, and it’s a $100 billion opportunity,” said Danny Rimer, a partner at Index, one of Farfetch’s biggest investors.

(Farfetch’s most recent acquisition and major investment were both out of China to target these specific shoppers.)

“Farfetch is the leading technology platform for the global luxury fashion industry,” it notes in the prospectus. “We operate the only truly global luxury digital marketplace at scale, seamlessly connecting brands, retailers and consumers. We are redefining how fashion is bought and sold through technology, data and innovation. We were founded ten years ago, and through significant investments in technology, infrastructure, people and relationships, we have become a trusted partner to luxury brands and retailers alike.”

The company has turned into one of the leaders of the turn that the luxury fashion world has made to e-commerce. Farfetch had nearly 1 million (935,772) active consumers as of December 31, 2017, with that figure growing 43.6 percent over the year, making it the world’s largest marketplace for luxury goods.

But growth is somewhat slowing: in December 31, 2016, it had 651,674 active consumers, which was up 56.8 percent in the previous year.

In terms of its financials, in 2017 Farfetch had revenues of was $386 million, up 59.4 percent versus 2016; and $242.1 million in 2016, up 70.1 percent versus 2015.

The company says that it made an operating profit of $136.9 million for the first six months of this year (vs $94.4 million the year before in the same period), but it is also making a net loss (after deducting tax etc.): $68.4 million for the first six months of this year, up from $29.3 million in the same period a year before.

Gross merchandise value is growing. GMV in 2017 was $909.8 million, 55.3 percent up on 2016. The previous year it grew 53.4 percent ($585.8 million in 2016).

It’s also still early days for Farfetch and other companies (Matches is one big competitor) that are targeting the luxury fashion sector.

We’ll update this post throughout the day.

On-demand trucking app Convoy raises $185M at $1B valuation

CapitalG, the growth equity arm of Alphabet, has led the $185 million round in Convoy, its first investment in the Seattle-based, tech-enabled trucking network.

The round brings Convoy’s total raised to $265 million and values the company at $1 billion. New investors T. Rowe Price and Lone Pine Capital participated in the financing alongside existing investors.

Convoy has long been backed by Greylock Partners, which led the startup’s Series A in 2015. Y Combinator is also a backer. In an unusual move last year, Y Combinator led a $62 million round in Convoy in what was the first time the accelerator deployed capital from its continuity fund into a late-stage company that was not a YC graduate.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, Dropbox CEO Drew Houston, Bezos Expeditions and former Starbucks president Howard Behar are also Convoy investors.

Founded by a pair of former Amazonians, Dan Lewis and Grant Goodale, Convoy is trying to transform the $800 billion trucking industry, which is no easy feat. Dubbed the ‘Uber for trucks,’ Convoy’s app connects truckers with people who need freight moved. With the new funding, it’ll expand nationwide and move beyond just freight matching.

“Trucks run empty 40% of the time, and they often sit idle due to inefficient scheduling,” Convoy CEO Dan Lewis said in a statement. “This is a drag on the economy, the environment, and the bottom lines of shippers and carriers alike.”

According to GeekWire, Convoy is working on a new suite of tools to help truckers combine tasks so they waste less time. And it’s working to provide shippers access to tracking and pricing data through its platform.

As part of the deal, CapitalG partner David Lawee will join Convoy’s board of directors.

Trump’s new cyber strategy eases rules on use of government cyberweapons

The Trump administration’s new cyber strategy out this week isn’t much more than a stringing together of previously considered ideas.

In the 40-page document, the government set out its plans to improve cybersecurity, incentivizing change, and reforming computer hacking laws. Election security about a quarter of a page, second only to “space cybersecurity.”

The difference was the tone. Although the document had no mention of “offensive” action against actors and states that attack the US, the imposition of “consequences” was repeated.

“Our presidential directive effectively reversed those restraints, effectively enabling offensive cyber-operations through the relevant departments,” said John Bolton, national security advisor, to reporters.

“Our hands are not tied as they were in the Obama administration,” said Bolton, throwing shade on the previous government.

The big change, beyond the rehashing of old policies and principles, was the tearing up of an Obama-era presidential directive, known as PPD-20, which put restrictions on the government’s cyberweapons. Those classified rules were removed a month ago, the Wall Street Journal reported, described at the time as an “offensive step forward” by an administration official briefed on the plan.

In other words, it’ll give the government greater authority to hit back at targets seen as active cyberattackers — like Russia, North Korea, and Iran — all of which have been implicated in cyberattacks against the US in the recent past.

Any rhetoric that ramps up the threat of military action or considers use of force — whether in the real world or in cyberspace — is all too often is met with criticism, amid concerns of rising tensions. This time, not everyone hated it. Even ardent critics like Sen. Mark Warner of the Trump administration said the new cyber strategy contained “important and well-established cyber priorities.”

The Obama administration was long criticized for being too slow and timid after recent threats — like North Korea’s use of the WannaCry and Russian disinformation campaigns. Some former officials pushed back, saying the obstacle to responding aggressively to a foreign cyberattack was not the policy, but the inability of agencies to deliver a forceful response.

Kate Charlet, a former government cyber policy chief, said that policy’s “chest-thumping” rhetoric is forgivable so long as it doesn’t mark an escalation in tactics.

“I felt keenly the Department’s frustration over the challenges in taking even reasonable actions to defend itself and the United States in cyberspace,” she said. “I have since worried that the pendulum would swing too far in the other direction, increasing the risk of ill-considered operations, borne more of frustration than sensibility.”

Trump’s new cyber strategy, although a change in tone, ratchets up the rhetoric but doesn’t mean the government will suddenly become trigger-happy overnight. While the government now has greater powers to strike back, it may not have to if the policy serves as the deterrent it’s meant to be.

Eventbrite goes public, and everyone else is raising hella money

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This week we worked with an (excellent) skeleton crew. Our own Connie Loizos held down the fort with a guest that knew quite a lot: March Capital’s Jamie Montgomery.

There was a healthy blizzard of news to get through, so Connie and Jamie plowed ahead.

Up top, the Eventbrite IPO was big news. After a long path to going public, Eventbrite reported interesting revenue growth acceleration, attached to a standard set of GAAP net losses. (Standard in that most tech IPOs these days do not feature profitable companies.)

But Eventbrite’s IPO was just one thing going on the IPO front. X Financial also went public this week after a somewhat muted pricing event. But even that wasn’t all the IPO news. There was one more tidbit to hang our hat on: NIO’s recent IPO price see-saw.

Moving along, Uber may be going on a shopping spree, picking up either Careem (a rival car-sharing service) or Deliveroo (a competing food-delivery service), or both. Or neither! We’ll have to see when all the dust comes to rest.

But that wasn’t all! Ro has new capital to spend, bringing more drugs to the male health space. Oh, and UiPath raised a few hundred million as well.

And I think that that is it. Thanks for hanging with us over so many dozens and dozens of episodes. We think that you are just great!

Equity drops every Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercast, Pocket Casts, Downcast and all the casts.

uBiome is jumping into therapeutics with a healthy $83 million in Series C financing

23andMe, IBM and now uBiome is the next tech company to jump into the lucrative multi-billion dollar drug discovery market.

The company started out with a consumer gut health test to check whether your intestines carry the right kind of bacteria for healthy digestion but has since expanded to include over 250,000 samples for everything from the microbes on your skin to vaginal health — the largest data set in the world for these types of samples, according to the company.

Founder Jessica Richman now says there’s a wider opportunity to use this data to create value in therapeutics.

To support its new drug discovery efforts, the San Francisco-based startup will be moving its therapeutics unit into new Cambridge, Massachusetts headquarters and appointing former Novartis CEO Joseph Jimenez to the board of directors as well.

The company has a healthy pile of cash to help build out that new HQ, too, with a fresh $83 million Series C, lead by OS Fund and in participation with 8VC, Y Combinator, Dentsu Ventures and others.

The drug discovery market is slated to be worth nearly $86 billion by 2022, according to BCC Research numbers. New technologies — those that solve logistics issues and shorten the time between research and getting a drug to market in particular — are driving the growth and that’s where uBiome thinks it can get into the game.

“This financing allows us to expand our product portfolio, increase our focus on patent assets and further raise our clinical profile, especially as we begin to focus on commercialization of drug discovery and development of our patent assets,” Richman said.

Though its unclear at this time which drug maker the company might partner up with, Richman did say there would be plenty to announce later on that front.

So far, the company has published over 30 peer-reviewed papers on microbiome research, has entered into research partnerships with the likes of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and leading research institutions such as Harvard, MIT and Stanford and has previously raised $22 million in funding. The additional VC cash puts the total amount raised to $105 million to date.

Eight Roads Ventures targets Southeast Asia deals

Eight Roads Ventures, the investment arm of financial giant Fidelity International, is moving into Southeast Asia where it sees the potential to plug the later stage investment gap.

The firm has funds across the world including the U.S, China and Europe, and it has invested nearly $6 billion in deals over the past decade. The firm has been active lately — it launched a new $375 million fund for Europe and Israeli earlier this year — and now it has opened an office in Singapore, where its managing partner for Asia, Raj Dugar, has relocated to from India.

The firm said it plans to make early-growth and growth stage investments of up to $30 million, predominantly around Series B, Series C and Series D deals. The focus of those checks will be startups in the technology, healthcare, consumer and financial services spaces. Already, it has three investments across Southeast Asia — including virtual credit card startup Akulaku, Eywa Pharma and fintech company Silot.

There’s a huge amount of optimism around technology and startups in Southeast Asia, where there’s an emerging middle-class and access to the internet is growing. A report from Google and Singapore sovereign fund Temasek forecasted that the region’s ‘online economy’ will grow to reach more than $200 billion. It was estimated to have hit $49.5 billion in 2017, up from $30.8 million the previous year.

Despite a growing market, investment has focused on early stages. A number of VC firms have launched newer and larger funds that cover Series B deals — including Openspace Ventures and Golden Gate Ventures — but there remains a gap further down the funding line and Eight Roads could be a firm that can help fill it.

“Southeast Asia has several early-stage and late-stage funds that cater well to the start-ups and more mature companies. The growth-stage companies, looking at raising Series B/C/D rounds have had limited access to capital given the lack of global funds operating in the region. We see phenomenal opportunity in this segment, and look forward to helping entrepreneurs as they scale their business, providing access to our global network of expertise and contacts,” Eight Roads’ Dugar said in a statement.