Sunsama’s $10/month task management calendar cleans up your online productivity

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard friends lament how difficult it is to find a decent calendar app. The stock calendar apps are certainly serviceable, but there’s so much that they can’t handle in terms of managing and prioritizing tasks.

Sunsama, launching out of Y Combinator’s latest batch, is taking a crack at solving the calendar conundrum with a $10-per-month professionals-focused productivity planner.

Co-founders Ashutosh Priyadarshy and Travis Meyer began with the idea that the relationship between task managers and calendars were a mess. Devotees to “get things done” to-do apps end up re-typing tasks they’ve been assigned on project-based systems like Trello and Asana, which just leads to a whole lot of confusion. Sunsama’s third-party integrations make it easy to drag these tasks into your to-do list every morning and keep things updated as your tasks evolve and priorities need to shift.

“[Sunsama is] more than just a bunch of integrations,” Meyer told TechCrunch. “It’s a methodology for planning your day and streamlining your daily workflow, on your own, or with the teammates you work closely with.”

The company takes some pretty clear design inspiration from existing enterprise apps. The influences from Google Calendar, Slack and Trello are pretty clear, but the resulting interface all works together very thoughtfully with a drag-and-drop organizational flow that lets you import projects from linked services. It all makes for a very friendly, pretty system that can enable you to fly through the often cumbersome work of populating your to-do list in the first place. The company currently supports integrations with Asana, Trello, Slack, GitHub, GitLab, Jira and Todoist.

While a lot of other task management apps rely on a freemium model or low annual subscription, Sunsama takes $10-per-month for their service. It’s definitely an expense, but the founders see apps like $30-per-month email service Superhuman as a sign that professionals are willing to drop some cash on a service that cleans up their digital life.

The company wants to snag individual users, but getting small teams onto the service could be their clearest route to wider adoption. When your entire team is on Sunsama, you’re able to check out what other members of your channels have on deck when they’re working on a particular project. There’s the risk of getting lost in the fray of other necessary platforms on the company level, but the founders think the deep integrations will keep people turning to Sunsama when they want to see how a project is going.

The startup seems to have taken more than a few on-boarding cues from Superhuman, which takes you off the waitlist only after they’ve gotten a chance to personally talk you through their service and see whether you’re a good fit. You can sign-up to request Sunsama access on their site now.

California to close data breach notification loopholes under new law

California, which has some of the strongest data breach notification laws in the U.S., thinks it can do even better.

The golden state’s attorney general Xavier Becerra announced a new bill Thursday that aims to close loopholes in its existing data breach notification laws by expanding the requirements for companies to notify users or customers if their passport and government ID numbers, along with biometric data, such as fingerprints, and iris and facial recognition scans, have been stolen.

The updated draft legislation lands a few months after the Starwood hack, which Becerra and Democratic state assembly member Marc Levine, who introduced the bill, said prompted the law change.

Marriott-owned hotel chain Starwood said data on fewer than 383 million unique guests was stolen in the data breach, revealed in September, including guest names, postal addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth, genders, email addresses, some encrypted payment card data and other reservation information. Starwood also disclosed that five million passport numbers were stolen.

Although Starwood came clean and revealed the data breach, companies are not currently legally obligated to disclose that passport numbers or biometric data have been stolen. Under California state law, only Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, banking information, passwords, medical and health insurance information and data collected through automatic license plate recognition systems must be reported.

That’s set to change, under the new California assembly bill 1130, the state attorney general said.

“We have an opportunity today to make our data breach law stronger and that’s why we’re moving today to make it more difficult for hackers and cybercriminals to get your private information,” said Becerra at a press conference in San Francisco. “AB 1130 closes a gap in California law and ensures that our state remains the nation’s leader in data privacy and protection,” he said.

Several other states, like Alabama, Florida and Oregon, already require data breach notifications in the event of passport number breaches, and also biometric data in the case of Iowa and Nebraska, among others.

California remains, however, one of only a handful of states that require the provision of credit monitoring or identity theft protection after certain kinds of breaches.

Thursday’s bill comes less than a year after state lawmakers passed the California Privacy Act into law, greatly expanding privacy rights for consumers — similar to provisions provided to Europeans under the newly instituted General Data Protection Regulation. The state privacy law, passed in June and set to go into effect in 2020, was met with hostility by tech companies headquartered in the state, prompting a lobbying effort to push for a superseding but weaker federal privacy law.

Lime hires its first CFO

Lime is hiring Ted Tobiason, former managing director in tech equity capital markets at Morgan Stanley, to serve as its chief financial officer.

This comes following Lime’s behemoth $310 million Series D round earlier this month. Led by Bain Capital Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, Fidelity Ventures, GV and IVP, the round values Lime at $2.4 billion.

Lime, which got its beginnings as a bike-share company, has deployed its scooters and bikes in more than 100 cities in the U.S. and 27 international cities. Since June, Lime has more than doubled the number of cities where it operates in the U.S. Lime has also partnered with Uber to offer Lime scooters within the Uber app.

Additionally, Lime recently brought on Nancy Lee, formerly of Google, to lead its human resources efforts as chief human resources officer. Lee formerly worked at Google as its head of diversity. She retired from the company in December 2016, but has since found a new home with Lime.

“During her tenure at Google, Nancy played a key role in encouraging Google to disclose its diversity demographic data publicly,” Lime wrote in a blog post. “Her commitment to inclusion and transparency will be instrumental in leading Lime’s cross-cultural team throughout 2019 and beyond.”

Lime has been on a hiring spree as of late, filling out the ranks in its executive team. Earlier this month, Lime appointed its head of engineering, Li Fan, to CTO and hired Duke Stump, formerly of Lululemon, to serve as its CMO.

“Both Ted and Nancy have outstanding experience at companies that have scaled from small to large,” Lime CEO Toby Sun said in a statement. “With their leadership, we’re excited to take Lime to the next level in building a world-class business and people-first company.”

Stop limiting quantum computing to speed

William ("Whurley") Hurley
Contributor

William Hurley, commonly known as whurley, is an American entrepreneur and the founder of Chaotic Moon Studios, Honest Dollar, and Equals: The Global Partnership for Gender Equality in the Digital Age. He is currently chairing the Quantum Computing Working Group for the IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA), and is the founder and chief executive of Strangeworks.
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The classical computing paradigm has always been tied to speed, at least in the popular imagination. Sure, in reality the goals for classical computing have always been more complex: the increasing ability to handle bigger, more numerous or just more nuanced data sets, manipulated in new ways to suss out valuable insights, and so forth. But speed is how we judge our smartphones, tablets and laptops: how fast are they? Therefore, which one is the “best”?

So it’s little wonder this illusory yardstick has carried over into discussions of quantum computing. When you read the popular press about quantum computing, it’s all about speed, speed, speed. Everything is about speed. And that sort of thinking will prevent us from grasping just what quantum computing can do for us.

First of all, classical computing’s preoccupation with speed is now viewed as antiquated and potentially harmful, as the search for speed blinded us to energy efficiency, arguably the focus of the most urgent current research and development work.

Extrapolating this quantitative fixation to quantum computing is a distraction and doesn’t capture the qualitative difference between classical computing and quantum computing.

Everyone is talking about the limitations of classical machines and how they might be overcome with a quantum computer. But too often the focus is on speed, transactional speed. I’ve literally been asked how much faster quantum computers will be at executing trades. Better yet, I’ve been asked for a chart showing speed comparisons between your standard rack mount computers you would find in a data center and quantum computers.

This simply isn’t the way we should be looking at this amazing new technology. Instead, we should be thinking of problem-solving in a way we never even thought of. That’s what quantum computers are for. These machines aren’t designed to solve problems that we’re solving today, only faster — they’re designed to solve problems we haven’t even imagined. They’re a completely new class of machine with completely new capabilities.

Think instead of the classic traveling salesman challenge: if provided with a list of towns and the distances between each one, what is the shortest possible route that includes every town yet returns to the point of origin?

We need to use our imagination to discover what quantum computing can do for us.

Or consider the Seven Bridges of Königsberg. This formerly Prussian city occupied both sides of the Pregel River, including two islands in the river, all connected to each other by seven bridges. Could a walk through the city be devised that crossed each of these bridges only once? Leonhard Euler proved in 1736 that it couldn’t. This brain teaser really demanded analytical techniques that could be tested mathematically. And that “negative” finding led Euler to create what is widely considered to be the first theorem of graph theory and the first proof in the theory of networks.

An odd problem with no answer led to mathematical breakthroughs. What if Euler had had a quantum computer? Would that have helped? I confess I have no idea, but my point is that we need to use our imagination to discover what quantum computing can do for us, divorced from the speed-obsessed world of classical computing, which isn’t really analogous.

Quantum computers are completely different than classical computers in their design and they are capable of doing things we’ve never even dreamed of.

Quantum computers will not replace classical computers, we’re going to have both, because they’re designed to do different things.

Classical computers use bits, represented by a 0 or 1. They perform calculations in essentially the same way we did when we used an abacus. Because of this, the types of problems we can solve with classical computers are effectively the same we can solve by hand. This means the types of problems classical computers are good for are limited to problems in which the evaluation time doesn’t grow too quickly with the size of the input. In other words, if the evaluation time increases exponentially with input, you’re probably going to be dead by the time a classical computer gets around to getting you an answer (if it ever does).

Quantum computers use qubits, or quantum bits. A qubit can be 0 or 1 just like its classical counterpart; however, it also can be in a superposition of these states, which looks like this:

a|0?  + b|1?

Where a and b are complex numbers. When we measure a qubit, we get 0 with probability |a^2| or 1 with probability |b^2|. Quantum computers use unitary transformations on the state of the qubits to perform calculations. So combine these two factors and now you have computational possibilities simply not possible by hand — or classical computer. This means better factoring, searching and simulation of quantum mechanics. All of which mean a completely new era of computing that in my belief will change computing more in the next 10 years than it has changed in its entire history.

Instead of fixating on speed, we need to imagine what sorts of computational challenges will be quantum computing’s sweet spot? If these computers aren’t meant for the calculations of the past, then they’re not meant to be utilized to solve the problems of the past either. What quantum computing is meant for is to solve completely new problems we haven’t even dreamed of yet.

Pokémon GO will soon let you change teams for about $8

Early on in Pokémon GO, you’re asked to make a decision: Which team do you want to be on? Instinct (Yellow)? Valor (Red)? Mystic (Blue)?

The question comes a bit out of the blue. Especially amongst those who started early and have stuck with the game, it’s not uncommon to hear people grumble about how they wish they’d chosen differently. But once you choose, it’s final; changing teams means making a whole new account and starting the grind from Level 1. Well, until now.

Pokémon GO will soon let you change your team by way of an in-game “Team Medallion” item. Realizing that there are too many Mystic in your area and want to mix it up a bit? You can switch to Valor. Are most of your friends Instinct and you want to help them hold gyms? You can.

But there are catches: It’ll cost money, and you can only do it once a year. It’ll cost you 1,000 Pokécoins — that’s the in-game currency, (slowly) obtainable by holding in-game locations or in exchange for real money via in-app purchase. A pack of 1,200 coins currently goes for $10, so 1,000 coins works out to a little over $8.

As for why there’s a once-per-year cap? It helps make sure people have some degree of loyalty to their chosen teams… but it also helps maintain the game’s mechanics. There are some advantages to playing alongside members of your team — stat boosts in the big group boss battles (or “Raids”), a few extra Pokéballs when your team does the most damage in said raids, etc. — and letting people change too much might screw that up a bit.

This is the latest in a streak of recent additions meant to fulfill longstanding requests from the playerbase, and perhaps respark the interest of some players who moved on. They added trading (a staple of the main series) in June of last year, and player-vs-player battles (another staple) in December. App Annie says the game is currently the 67th most popular title in the iOS app store.

Niantic says the team medallion should roll out on February 26th.

As shared kitchens heat up, a China-based startup, Panda Selected, nabs $50 million led by Tiger Global

A few weeks ago, we told you that former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick looks to be partnering with the former COO of the bike-sharing startup Ofo, Yanqi Zhang, to bring his new L.A.-based company, CloudKitchens, to China. Kalanick didn’t respond to our request for more information, but according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP), his plan is to provide local food businesses with real estate, facilities management, technology and marketing services.

He might want to move quickly. Kitchens that invite restaurants to share their space to focus on take-out orders is a concept that’s picking up momentum fast in China. And one company looks to have just assumed pole position in that race: Panda Selected, a Beijing-based shared-kitchen company that just raised $50 million in Series C funding led by Tiger Global Management, with participation from earlier backers DCM and Glenridge Capital. The round brings its total funding to $80 million.

Little wonder there’s a contest afoot. China’s food-delivery market is already worth $37 billion dollars, according to the SCMP, which says 256 million people in China used online food ordering services in 2016, and the number is expected to grow to 346 million this year.

And that’s still a little less than a quarter of the country’s population of 1.4 billion people.

Panda Selected is wasting little time in trying to reach them. While SCMP says that online delivery services already blanket 1,300 cities. Panda Selected, founded just three years ago, says it already operates 120 locations that cover China’s biggest centers, including Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen and Hangzhou. It claims to work with more than 800 domestic catering brands, including Luckin Coffee, Kungfu and TubeStation. The company also says that its kitchens are typically 5,000-square-feet in size and can accommodate up to 20 restaurants in each space.

With its new funding, it expects to double that number over the next eight months, too, its  founder, Haipeng Li, tells Bloomberg. That’s going to make it difficult to challenge, especially by any U.S.-based company, given overall relations between the two countries and the ever-changing regulatory environment in China.

Then again, this may be just the first inning. Stay tuned.

DoorDash raises $400M round, now valued at $7.1B

Delivery company DoorDash is announcing that it has raised $400 million in Series F financing.

Earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal reported that the company was looking to raise $500 million at a valuation of $6 billion or more. In fact, DoorDash now says the funding came at a $7.1 billion valuation.

The round was led by Temasek and Dragoneer Investment Group, with participation from previous investors SoftBank Vision Fund, DST Global, Coatue Management, GIC, Sequoia Capital and Y Combinator.

DoorDash has been raising money at an impressive rate, with a $535 million round last March followed by a $250 million round (valuing the company at $4 billion) in August.

Co-founder and CEO Tony Xu told me the round is “a reflection of superior performance over the past year.” Apparently, the company is currently seeing 325 percent growth, year-over-year, and it points to recent data from Second Measure showing that the service has overtaken Uber Eats in U.S. market share for online food delivery — DoorDash now comes in second to Grubhub.

“I think the numbers speak for themselves,” Xu said. “If you just run the math on DoorDash’s course and speed, we’re on track to be number one.”

Tony Xu of DoorDash

He attributed the company’s growth to three factors: its geographic reach (3,300 cities in the United States and Canada), its selection of partners (not just restaurants — Walmart is using DoorDash for grocery deliveries) and DoorDash Drive, which allows businesses to use the DoorDash network to make their own deliveries.

He added that DoorDash has been “growing in a disciplined way, turning markets towards profitability.”

The funding, Xu said, will allow the company to continue investing in Drive, in its DashPass subscription service (where you pay $9.99 per month for free deliveries on orders of $15 or more from select restaurants) and in more hiring. And while DoorDash is currently available in all 50 states, Xu said there’s still plenty of room to cover additional territory in the U.S. and especially Canada.

“To me, this round … really changes the position of the company, not only as we march towards market leadership, but as we go beyond restaurants and become the last mile for commerce,” he said.

Not all of DoorDash’s recent news has been good. Along with Instacart, the company has been under scrutiny for subsidizing its driver payments with customer tips.

When asked about the criticism, Xu said the current compensation system was tested “not in a quarter, not in a month, but tested for months” before being implemented in 2017, and since then, there’s been a “significant increase” in retention among “dashers,” along with improved dasher satisfaction and on-time deliveries.

“When it comes to this pay model that has been in the press, the most important thing, I would say, is looking again at the facts and results,” he said.