Cherry lets startup employees choose their own office perks

Forget the office ping pong table, Cherry, a startup in Y Combinator’s latest batch, wants to let employees take company perks into their own hands.

Cherry co-founders (and sisters) Gillian and Emily O’Brien say their Slackbot marketplace will let employees completely personalize the lifestyle benefits they get from their company, allowing them to set up a Spotify Premium account or buy a subscription to ClassPass instead of just taking what perks their company dishes out at face value.

Companies will pay huge amounts of money to deliver sweeping employee memberships or build a company gym even if there are only a few people interested in using them. Cherry could potentially eliminate a lot of wasted efforts while still managing to lure potential recruits. The available subscriptions run the gamut from things like ClassPass, Netflix, Spotify, Peloton, Postmates and other services that allow employees to feel like they’re getting personalized perks.

A sampling of Cherry’s 40+ available services.

“There’s money that [companies] are wasting that they could save by just giving everyone this budget and letting them choose for themselves,” CEO Gillian O’Brien told TechCrunch. “We also feel [our service] really stands out on an offer — it could be a big differentiator in terms of hiring or just having that on a company’s careers page.”

Users set up their own subscription accounts; Cherry handles paying for employee perks via gift codes and lets them make changes to their cyber-benefits whenever they’d like.

Cherry is charging startups $149 per month to manage the first 10 employees. You can designate as little as $15 per month per employee, but given that it costs that much per employee to even use the service, it’s more likely that customers will be throwing down a bit more.

For now, all of this takes place in Slack via a Cherry chatbot — you can pick from available options by tapping buttons — it’s all pretty lightweight and simple.

The service seems like something that would be especially attractive to remote teams, giving employees who aren’t able to stop in for a free lunch or get a monthly massage the ability to treat themselves on the company dime. This also enables smaller startups to just throw money at an attractive employee perks solution without having to add more responsibilities to someone’s job.

Cherry’s platform is live now; you can sign-up and check things out on their website.


Source: Tech Crunch Startups | Cherry lets startup employees choose their own office perks

Facebook admits 18% of Research spyware users were teens, not

Facebook has changed its story after initially trying to downplay how it targeted teens with its Research program that a TechCrunch investigation revealed was paying them gift cards to monitor all their mobile app usage and browser traffic. “Less than 5 percent of the people who chose to participate in this market research program were teens” a Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch and many other news outlets in a damage control effort 7 hours after we published our report on January 29th. At the time,  Facebook claimed that it had removed its Research app from iOS. The next morning we learned that wasn’t true, as Apple had already forcibly blocked the Facebook Research app for violating its Enterprise Certificate program that supposed to reserved for companies distributing internal apps to employees.

It turns out that wasn’t the only time Facebook deceived the public in its response regarding the Research VPN scandal. TechCrunch has obtained Facebook’s unpublished February 21st response to questions about the Research program in a letter from Senator Mark Warner, who wrote to CEO Mark Zuckerberg that “Facebook’s apparent lack of full transparency with users – particularly in the context of ‘research’ efforts – has been a source of frustration for me.”

In the response from Facebook’s VP of US public policy Kevin Martin, the company admits that (emphasis ours) “At the time we ended the Facebook Research App on Apple’s iOS platform, less than 5 percent of the people sharing data with us through this program were teens. Analysis shows that number is about 18 percent when you look at the complete lifetime of the program, and also add people who had become inactive and uninstalled the app.” So 18 percent of research testers were teens. It was only less than 5 percent when Facebook got caught. Given users age 13 to 35 were eligible for Facebook’s Research program, 13 to 18 year olds made of 22 percent of the age range. That means Facebook clearly wasn’t trying to minimize teen involvement, nor were they just a tiny fraction of users.

WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 10: Facebook co-founder, Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a combined Senate Judiciary and Commerce committee hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill April 10, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Warner asked Facebook “Do you think any use reasonable understood Facebook was using this data for commercial purposes includingto track competitors?” Facebook response indicates it never told Research users anything about tracking “competitors”, and instead dances around the question. Facebook says the registration process told users the data would help the company “understand how people use mobile apps,” “improve . . . services,” and “introduce new features for millions of people around the world.”

Facebook had also told reporters on January 29th regarding teens’ participation, “All of them with signed parental consent forms.” Yet in its response to Senator Warner, Facebook admitted that “Potential participants were required to confirm that they were over 18 or provide other evidence of parental consent, though the vendors did not require a signed parental consent form for teen users.” In some cases, underage users merely had to check a box to claim they had parental consent, and there was no verification of users’ ages or that their parents actually approved.

So to quickly recap:

Facebook targeted teens with ads on Instagram and Snapchat to join the Research program without revealing its involvement

The contradictions between Facebook’s initial response to reporters and what it told Warner, who has the power to pursue regulation of the the tech giant, shows Facebook willingness to move fast and play loose with the truth when it’s less accountable. It’s no wonder the company never shared the response with TechCrunch or posted a blog post or press release about it.

Facebook’s attempt to minimize the issue in the wake of backlash exemplifies the trend of of the social network’s “reactionary” PR strategy that employees described to BuzzFeed’s Ryan Mac. The company often views its scandals as communications errors rather than actual product screwups or as signals of deep-seeded problems with Facebook’s respect for privacy. Facebook needs to learn to take its lumps, change course, and do better rather than constantly trying to challenge details of negative press about it, especially before it has all the necessary information. Until then, the never-ending news cycle of Facebook’s self-made disasters will continue.

Below is Facebook’s full response to Senator Warner’s inquiry, and following that is Warner’s original letter to Mark Zuckerberg.



Additional reporting by Krystal Hu

Source: Tech Crunch Mobiles | Facebook admits 18% of Research spyware users were teens, not

Huawei pleads not guilty to stealing US trade secrets

In a US federal court in Seattle, Chinese tech firm Huawei pleaded not guilty to several charges that allege the company engaged or attempted to engage in theft of trade secrets, the Associated Press reported. US District Judge Richardo S. Martinez,…
Source: Engadget | Huawei pleads not guilty to stealing US trade secrets

Tesla starts charging $7,000 to add Full Self-Driving features post-delivery

Tesla is splitting its self-driving function into two tiers — Autopilot and Full Self-Driving Capability — and charging a few thousand extra dollars for Navigate on Autopilot, Autopark, Summon and other features coming out later this year.
Source: Engadget | Tesla starts charging ,000 to add Full Self-Driving features post-delivery

Elon Musk: Expect a cheaper Tesla in '2 – 3 years'

While Elon Musk just announced that Tesla's Model 3 is available for the $35,000 price he's been promising for years, the plan isn't to stop there. On a call with the media to announce the move, as well as its new policy of selling cars exclusively o…
Source: Engadget | Elon Musk: Expect a cheaper Tesla in '2 – 3 years'

It’s a new era for fertility tech

Women’s health has long been devoid of technological innovation, but when it comes to fertility options, that’s starting to change. Startups in the space are securing hundreds of millions in venture capital investment, a significant increase to the dearth of funding collected in previous years.

Fertility entrepreneurs are focused on a growing market: couples are choosing to reproduce later in life, an increasing number of female breadwinners are able to make their own decisions about when and how to reproduce, and overall, around 10% of women in the US today have trouble conceiving, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Startups, as a result, are working to improve various pain points in a women’s fertility journey, whether that be with new-age brick-and-mortar clinics, information platforms, mobile applications, wearables, direct-to-consumer medical tests or otherwise.

Although the investment numbers are still relatively small (compared to, say, scooters), the trend is up — here’s the latest from founders and investors in the space.

VCs want to help you get pregnant

Clue, a period and ovulation-tracking app, co-founder and CEO Ida Tin talks at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin 2017 (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

This fall, TechCrunch received a tip that SoftBank, a prolific venture capital firm known for its nearly $100 billion Vision Fund, was investing in Glow, a period-tracking app meant to help women get pregnant. Max Levchin, Glow’s co-founder and a well-known member of the PayPal mafia, succinctly responded to a TechCrunch inquiry regarding the deal via e-mail: “Fairly sure you got this particular story wrong,” he wrote. Glow co-founder and chief executive officer Mike Huang did not respond to multiple requests for comment at the time.

Needless to say, some semblance of a SoftBank fertility deal got this reporter interested in a space that seldom populates tech blogs.

Femtech, a term coined by Ida Tin, the founder of another period and ovulation-tracking app Clue, is defined as any software, diagnostics, products and services that leverage technology to improve women’s health. Femtech, and more specifically the businesses in the fertility and contraception lanes, hasn’t made headlines as often as AI or blockchain technology has, for example. Probably because companies in the sector haven’t closed as many notable venture deals. That’s changing.

The global fertility services market is expected to exceed $21 billion by 2020, according to Technavio. Meanwhile, private investment in the femtech space surpassed $400 million in 2018 after reaching a high of $354 million the previous year, per data collected from PitchBook and Crunchbase. This year already several companies have inked venture deals, including men’s fertility business Dadi and Extend Fertility, which helps women freeze their eggs.

“In the last three to six months, it feels like investor interest has gone through the roof,” Jake Anderson-Bialis, co-founder of FertilityIQ and a former investor at Sequoia Capital, told TechCrunch. “It’s three to four emails a day; people are coming out of the woodwork. It feels like somebody shook the snow globe here and it just hasn’t stopped for months now.”

Dadi, Extend Fertility and FertilityIQ are among a growing list of startups in the fertility space to crop up in recent years. FertilityIQ, for its part, provides a digital platform for fertility patients to research and review doctors and clinics. The company also collects data and issues reports, like this one, which ranked businesses by fertility benefits. Anderson-Bialis launched the platform with his wife, co-founder Deborah Anderson-Bialis, in 2016 after the pair overcame their own set of infertility issues.

Anderson-Bialis said he has recently fielded requests from seed, Series A and growth-stage investors interested in exploring the growing fertility market. His company, however, has yet to raise any outside capital. Why? He doesn’t see FertilityIQ as a venture-scale business, but rather a passion project, and he’s skeptical of the true market opportunity for other businesses in the space.


Source: Tech Crunch Startups | It’s a new era for fertility tech

Russia is going to test an internet ‘kill switch,’ and its citizens will suffer

Russia is planning to disconnect itself from the global internet in a test sometime between now and April. The country says it is implementing an internal internet (intranet) and an internet "kill switch" to protect itself against cyberwar. The quest…
Source: Engadget | Russia is going to test an internet ‘kill switch,’ and its citizens will suffer