Tech

Facebook’s Brexit probe unearths three Russian-bought “immigration” ads

Facebook has provided more details about the extent of Russian digital interference related to the UK’s Brexit vote last year. Last month the social media giant confirmed that Russian agents had used its platform to try to interfere in the UK’s referendum on EU membership — but said it had not found “significant coordination of ad buys or political misinformation targeting the Brexit vote”. Today’s findings apparently bear out that conclusion, with Facebook claiming it’s unearthed just three ads and less than $1 spent. The Brexit related Russian-backed ads ran for four days in May, ahead of the UK’s June referendum vote, and apparently garnered around 200 views on Facebook. It says the ads targeted both UK and US audiences — and “concerned immigration”, rather than being explicitly about t...

EBay acquires Terapeak to provide more analytics to marketplace sellers

EBay today announced another acquisition today that underscores the company’s current focus on building out better data tools for third-party sellers on its platform, to help it compete better with the likes of Amazon and other marketplaces to attract their business. It’s acquiring Terapeak, a Toronto-based startup that has built a platform that crunches data about supply, demand and pricing to help guide companies on what to sell and how to price it. Financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed. Terapeak had raised around $5 million in funding with the only investor disclosed on Crunchbase being Georgian Partners. This is eBay’s 60th acquisition, and notably the last three (including this one of Terapeak) have all been geared at providing better data to eBay users — specifically it...

ispace just raised $90 million to launch two private moon missions by 2020

Japanese company ispace has raised $90.2 million in a Series A funding round, an amount it’s calling the “largest ever” Series A in commercial space financing. The funding comes from Innovation Network Corporation of Japan, Development Bank of Japan, Tokyo Broadcasting System, Konika Minolta and others, and will help the company continue its progress towards a very ambitious target: Launching not one, but two lunar missions within the next three years. ispace intends to launch its first Moon mission, aptly dubbed ‘Mission 1,’ by the fourth quarter of 2019, and then to do a second by the end of 2020. The first will put its lander into orbit around the Moon for observation, and then the second will see the same lander descend to the Moon’s surface, where it will deploy mapping rovers to cond...

T-Mobile plans pay TV service in 2018 fueled by Layer3 acquisition

T-Mobile is getting into the paid TV business, with the acquisition of Layer3 TV, a TV tech company, and plans announced to launch its own offering sometime next year. T-Mobile’s John Legere revealed the pay TV ambitions for the so-called “Un-carrier” on its YouTube channel today. [embedded content] The plan involves building a service that avoids long-term contracts, as well as complex bundles and billing. Layer3 TV, which offers streaming TV and online video combined into a single service offering, might provide some idea of what it’ll look like in practice once it launches, though the acquisition could also be more about its underlying technology. T-Mobile already offers preferential streaming for select video services using its “Binge On” unlimited streaming program – it’ll be interest...

Scientists make kale plants glow in the dark with firefly enzymes

A team of MIT research have engineered plants that glow in the dark, using luciferase, the enzyme that lights up firefly butts. The answer to the question of why, precisely, anyone would want to do such a thing is clearly, “because science is cool.” The longer and slightly more boring answer, however, has to do with energy savings. Thus far, the scientists have only been able to replicate the the results on arugula, kale, spinach and watercress, but their plans for the future are much grander, including trees that could stand in for outdoor electric light. “The vision is to make a plant that will function as a desk lamp — a lamp that you don’t have to plug in,” says Professor Michael Strano, the study’s senior author. “The light is ultimately powered by the energy metabolism of the plant i...

This app will help you figure out if you can fit that Costco-sized paper towel box in your apartment

You’re probably going to get a better deal when you buy consumer products — like paper towels — wholesale, but at the same time you’re also buying a very, very large package of said consumer products. So, they might not always fit in your apartment. Wholesale goods are the primary play for a startup called Boxed, a retailer looking to play the sort of digital-to-your-door Costco game. But there might be a bit of a challenge visualizing how big those packages are, so the company built an augmented reality tool to demo the sheer size of that massive box of Mac and Cheese you might buy through the app. All things said the AR demo is a little bit of a joke. Built during a hackathon, Fong said that it’s primarily a way to help get the brand out there. It’s a fun little application, though there...

Indiegogo now lets you fund via token sale

Crowdfunding service and Kickstarter-competitor Indiegogo is now offering an ICO service alongside its partner, MicroVentures. The company will allow users to participate in SEC-complaint ICOs and, like its slow-burning equity crowdfunding service, will pick and choose startups that match certain exacting criteria. These tokens sales will be SEC complaint and the sales are performed within current SEC regulations. Their first client, a fan-controlled football league, is in pre-sales now. “Our ICO service is designed to allow the maximum number of investors to participate in ICO token pre-sales and sales,” said Slava Rubin, Indiegogo Founder and Chief Business Officer. “We believe cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies constitute an important step towards democratizing finance and intro...

Amazon expands same-day delivery and one-day shipping to thousands more cities

Amazon announced today it has expanded its same-day delivery and one-day shipping service to thousands more markets across the U.S., just in time for last-minute holiday shopping. Before, these services were available to Prime members in 5,000 cities and towns, the retailer tells us. Now, they’re available in over 8,000. The market expansion is not just focused on serving major metros, but brings the services to both larger cities and smaller towns in states including Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and others. The move could put Amazon at an advantage over rival online retailers who sometimes lose out on sales later in the shopping season – and in particular those last few days leading...

Amazon Echo’s multi-room music streaming feature now supports Spotify and SiriusXM

Just in time for all of those ridiculous holiday playlists, Amazon’s added two key players to the Echo’s multi-room streaming feature. Spotify and SiriusXM now join the ranks of TuneIn, iHeartRadio, Pandora and, naturally, Amazon’s own Music Unlimited service. The feature, which hit the smart speakers over the summer, makes it possible to stream songs to multiple Echos on a single network. It’s also possible to play music on individual devices in various parts of one’s home, by telling Alexa to “play my music” and then specifying the a location. So, you know, like, “Alexa, play The Kinks on upstairs from Spotify.”   As we noted back in August, the feature is a sort of cheaper alternative to traditional premium multi-room music options like Sonos. Of course, since then, Sonos has also gotte...

Events management platform Bizzabo raises $15M growth round

Just eight months after its last round of funding, events management platform Bizzabo has raised another $15 million. The new round, which brings Bizzabo’s total funding so far to $30 million, was led by Pilot Growth Equity, with participation from Maor Investments and returning investors. Co-founder and chief executive officer Eran Ben-Shushan told TechCrunch that Bizzabo raised more capital because the company is growing quickly and wants to expand its cloud-based event software platform to take advantage of market demand. “We have both a product market fit and a scalable repeatable business model. This growth round will help us scale faster and bring our event innovations to more brands around the world,” he said. The company claims its annual revenue is in the millions and that its ann...

NSI Ventures hits first close on new $125M fund for Southeast Asia

There’s been pause since Southeast Asia last welcomed fresh venture capital, but one reload is on its way after NSI Ventures, an early investor in Indonesian unicorn and Uber rival Go-Jek, announced a first close of its second fund. The target is $125 million, which represents a significant increase on its first fund of $90 million. The firm said it has pulled in $75 million of committed capital from existing LPs for the new fund. A full close is expected in the first half of 2018. Beyond an early investment in Go-Jek, which is closing in on new investment at a valuation exceeding $2.5 billion, NSI’s maiden fund backed health-focused insurance brokerage CXA Group, online credit service FinAccel and restaurant reservation startup Chope among others in Southeast Asia. The plan is to continue...

Blue Origin flies its Crew Capsule 2.0 for the first time

Jef Bezos’ space company Blue Origin recorded a new milestone today – an inaugural flight for Crew Capsule 2.0, the latest version of the vehicle it’s creating to bring astronauts into space for its first passenger flights. The Crew Capsule 2.0 craft flew atop a New Shepard reusable booster, traveling up to an altitude of over 322,000 feet. The New Shepard rocket, which also carried additional commercial and research payloads, came back to earth for a powered landing around 10 minutes after launch. It’s the seventh time that Blue Origin has flown the reusable New Shepard rocket, and the Capsule itself also returned to earth via unpowered, parachute assisted descent. [embedded content] Crew Capsule 2.0 wasn’t carrying anyone on board for this test ride, but it did have a dummy onboard to pr...

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