Tech

Review: The Kube speaker is overpriced and underwhelming

This speaker is huge. It’s the size of a cooler a person would take camping for a week. It weighs 48 lbs. And for a good reason, too. The Kube speaker from Thomas and Darden is solid and packed with power. The company says it can put out 122 dB of sound. But it’s not a good sound. That’s the rub. This is a massive speaker that gets really loud but doesn’t sound great at any volume. This speaker costs $2,999. It’s not worth half of that. Let’s start with the good. The Kube speaker feels and looks like it’s worth its multi-thousand-dollar price tag. It’s as solid as a tank and looks like it belongs poolside at a boutique hotel I cannot afford. I feel like I need to drink cocktails around it. The company says the speaker is marine certified. The center is skinned in aluminum while the two end...

Slab raises $2.2M to build tools for an internal employee information nexus

When Jason Chen first ended up at Salesforce through the acquisition of his last company Stypi, he had the tough task of integrating within Salesforce’s complex infrastructure — and not a lot of documentation to go on. Fortunately, Chen’s company had just been acquired and he was able to get the attention of the higher-ups and find that information, which was actually buried within a document internally somewhere. But not every team might have that buy-in to get the attention of the right people right away, and as companies get bigger and bigger it becomes more difficult to track the most important information internally. That’s why Chen and his cofounders decided to start Slab, a company that’s looking to build a better way to store company knowledge internally. Slab today announce it has...

Tyson Foods invests in Tovala’s new oven and meal kit business

Tovala, the startup that’s designed a new steam-based oven and accompanying meal kit subscription service, has inked an investment and partnership agreement with the food prep giant Tyson Foods. Through Tyson Ventures, the company’s investment arm, Tovala will get an undisclosed amount of new financing as the two companies pursue collaborations on Tyson-branded Tovala meals. Tovala chief executive David Rabie envisions his company as a “Netflix of food”. “Food is our content — and we’d like to offer the variety, convenience and quality of Netflix one day — with the scale and ubiquity (e.g. catering to all different demos/people) they’ve built,” Rabie wrote to me in an email. With the investment from Tyson it’s as if the company had received an investment from Apple. The Chicago-based compa...

Battery Ventures ups the ante, raising $1.25 billion across two new funds

Battery Ventures is a 35-year-old, global investment firm that tends to keep its nose down. Its bench of 10 general partners have mostly been operating quietly in the business for many years if not decades, yet none are household names. Partly, that owes to the fact that Battery prefers to promote from within — often after many years of service. General Partner Neeraj Agrawal, who joined the firm in 2000, was made a general partner in 2007. A brand-new general partner, Morocco native Morad Elhafed, joined Battery in 2008. Battery’s partners also more or less eschew social media, opting to rely instead on intensive research and aggressive behind-the-scenes networking to land the firm in interesting deals. In fact, its partners will proudly tell you that excluding seed-stage deals, Battery h...

At last an end to geoblocking in Europe? Nope, not by a long chalk…

The European Commission is holding a press conference later today to trumpet progress made on ending “unjustified geoblocking”, as it tells it, with the stated aim of greasing the wheels of pan-EU ecommerce in time for Christmas. Which, from a consumer point of view, sounds great. Unfortunately it’s not quite as great as it sounds. Especially if you were imagining it would apply to popular digital media streaming services like Spotify and Netflix. Nope, sorry. Geoblocks for digital media are not being vanquished in this round of EU Digital Single Market regulation chess. What is being agreed by EU lawmakers is an end to geoblocks for the sale of goods and services — just not if the electronic services in question happen to be stuff like, er, streaming music, TV, video and so on… Don’t be f...

Apple is sending some developers ad spend and install details for other people’s apps

An issue at Apple appears to be resulting in app developers getting emails of ad spend and install summaries for apps belonging to other developers. The issue — which appears specific right now to developers using Search Ads Basic, pay-per-install ads that appear as promoted apps when people search on the App Store  — was raised on Twitter by a number of those affected, including prominent developer Steve Troughton-Smith, who posted a screenshot of an email that summarized January’s ad spend and install data another developer’s two apps. Several others replied noting the same issue, listing more developers and random apps. We have contacted a few of them and two, Louis D’hauwe and Rafael Costa, confirmed that the mis-sent email appears to be the only issue right now. We have also contacted...

Apple continues to dominate the tablet market as sales decline once again

Bitcoin and crypto aren’t the only things on the decline, sales of tablet devices once again dropped in 2017, according to new data. Figures from analyst firm IDC show that overall tablet shipments fell by 6.5 percent to 163.5 million units last year. That’s down from 174.9 million in 2016, when the annual decrease was in double digits. Despite demanding falling overall, Apple managed to grow its shipments from 42.6 million to 43.8 million, giving it a leading 27 percent market share, up from 24 percent a year previous. Samsung (second) and Lenovo (joint fourth) saw their sales drop, but Amazon (third) and Lenovo (also fourth) registered gains. In a show of just how dominant Apple is, “others” accounted for 34 percent of the market with only Samsung and (just about) Amazon registering doub...

The unbeatable advantage of Apple and Amazon

Anshu Sharma is a serial entrepreneur and a former venture partner at Storm Ventures. More posts by this contributor: There are a handful of companies that have an unbeatable advantage — the fiduciary moat. In finance world, when you hire an advisor who is a fiduciary — he’s legally bound to put your financial interests ahead of his. There are many paths to business success and financial models that go with it. You can make money directly from the end user or you can find an interested third party who’s interests you serve — advertisers, financiers, CIOs, employers are often the real customers while the end user is reduced to a metric. We are seeing this play out as ad driven businesses compete with the likes of Apple and Amazon. In B2B, companies that sell primarily to the CIO and procure...

Watch SpaceX launch its Falcon Heavy rocket for the first time here

[embedded content] SpaceX is test launching its Falcon Heavy rocket, the first ever launch of the new heavy-lift orbital rocket. The Heavy’s thrust is generated by its 27 Merlin engines, which is three times the number of engines you’d find in the current Falcon 9 rocket. That amounts to over 5 million pounds of thrust, and a total cargo capacity of around 119,000 pounds. That gives it more than double the total freight moving power of its next closest competitor. In fact, the last active rocket with a greater payload capacity was NASA’s Saturn V rocket, which flew its last mission in 1973. It won’t be carrying anything all that heavy this time around, however – the payload for this first test launch is a Tesla Roadster, loaded up with a dummy wearing SpaceX suit for its planned Dragon cre...

Seattle says Facebook broke one of its campaign advertising laws

Seattle’s election commission says Facebook broke a city law that requires it to disclose who paid for campaign ads. Reuters reports that the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission’s executive director, Wayne Barnett, said Facebook must reveal advertising spending information for last year’s city elections or potentially face fines of up to $5,000 per ad purchase. Facebook, Twitter and Google have been under scrutiny since being called to testify as part of a Senate investigation into how social media might have been used by Russians to interfere with the presidential election. Last fall, Facebook promised more transparency into political ads on its platform, including tools that allow users to see who paid for them, after admitting that more than 3,000 ads related to the 2016 U.S. presid...

Badi bags $10M to build out its room rentals platform in Europe

Barcelona-based Badi launched a marketplace for urban room rentals in September 2015 with the goal of making it easier to find flatmates. The startup has now closed a $10 million Series A investment, led by Spark Capital, with the aim of ramping up its presence across Europe. Spark’s general partner Alex Finkelstein is the lead here, and joins Badi’s board. The startup’s room rental platform caters to both sides of the equation: People will a room to rent where they also live, and people looking for a room to rent (and flatmates) in a city. It’s built out a major presence in Spain and is also live in a handful of cities in Italy, saying it has circa 700,000 registered users now, and a 10M “rental requests run rate” in Spain. “We want to be the platform with the best user experience in the ...

Where do we go now?

The crypto crash is reverberating through the Internet while the “rest” of the economy – namely the stock market – enters free fall. Commentary on the very human and thus flawed stock market is still well within the realm of pundits and guys who press funny buttons on TV, whither crypto? First, the die hards are chiming in noting that they are retaining their investments – HODLing, as it were. Still others are buying. My favorite crypto-pundit, Jameson Lopp, chimed in today: The more loudly folks proclaim that Bitcoin is dying, the more dollars I dump for BTC. I’m not a professional trader, but this strategy has worked well for me over the years. — Jameson Lopp (@lopp) February 5, 2018 And the mysterious “Bitcoin content creator” Vortex brings up a very important point: 1/3 Yes it ap...