Browsing Tag: Gadgets

    Reviews and Gadgets

    Traeger buys wireless thermometer company Meater

    July 6, 2021

    Smart grill maker Traeger has bought wireless meat thermometer company Meater, which it says marks the next step in creating the “ultimate connected grilling experience.” Traeger allows users to monitor and control connected grills through a smartphone or Apple Watch. Bringing Meater on board will help people to get an accurate temperature reading for their food from just about anywhere, Traeger said.

    Meater makes several Bluetooth and WiFi-enabled thermometers, while Traeger currently only sells wired thermometers. Traeger said the acquisition will enable it to “accelerate entry into the adjacent accessories market with a highly complementary technology-enabled product.” It’s unclear whether Traeger plans to bundle Meater products with its grills or sell them separately — Meater will continue to run as a standalone company. Still, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Traeger integrate Meater readings into its own apps for a more seamless outdoor cooking experience.

    Smart grill maker Traeger has bought wireless meat thermometer company Meater, which it says marks the next step in creating the “ultimate connected grilling experience.” Traeger allows users to monitor and control connected grills through a smartphone or Apple Watch. Bringing Meater on board will help people to get an accurate temperature reading for their food from just about anywhere, Traeger said.Meater makes several Bluetooth and WiFi-enabled thermometers, while Traeger currently only sells wired thermometers. Traeger said the acquisition will enable it to “accelerate entry into the adjacent accessories market with a highly complementary technology-enabled product.” It’s unclear whether Traeger plans to bundle Meater products with its grills or sell them separately — Meater will continue to run as a standalone company. Still, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Traeger integrate Meater readings into its own apps for a more seamless outdoor cooking experience.Read MoreConsumer Discretionary, Investment & Company Information, Technology & Electronics, Handheld & Connected Devices, site|engadget, provider_name|Engadget, region|US, language|en-US, author_name|Kris Holt


    What I learned the hard way from naming 30+ startups

    July 6, 2021

    There’s a lot wrapped up in a name: feelings, emotions, connotation, unconscious bias, personal history. It’s an identity — it gives something meaning and importance.

    In leading marketing and brand at High Alpha, I think about naming quite a bit. As a venture studio, we co-found and launch five to 10 new software startups every year. It is my team’s responsibility to create and build out the brands for all the new companies we start, including everything from naming and domain acquisition to brand identity and websites. Over the past five years, we’ve named more than 30 software startups at High Alpha.

    Over the past five years, we’ve named more than 30 software startups.

    As a soon-to-be first-time parent, the idea of naming has taken on a whole new meaning and importance in my life. Even though I help name new companies for a living, I now fully understand the paralysis that often comes when faced with the task of deciding the name for someone or something that’s especially important to you.

    Because of this, I’ve always tried to take an objective, pragmatic approach to naming a company with our CEOs and other startups. Naming is an incredibly difficult and nuanced process. It’s fraught with subjectiveness and personal preference. And to top it all off, most founders have zero (or very little) experience in naming.

    The truth is that business names fall on a bell curve — you have a small number of outliers that actively contribute to your success and a small number of outliers that actively impair your ability to succeed. The vast majority, though, fall somewhere in the middle in their impact on your business.

    So, how should a founder go about effectively naming their baby startup and not picking a name that will hurt them? I’m sharing my own criteria and lessons for how to go about naming your startup, how to evaluate a company name and what makes for a good company name.

    Is the name ownable?

    As a founder, one of the first criteria to look at is ownability and URL availability. Nowadays, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a name where the .com is still available. I oftentimes will look at .io, .co,, or as my top alternatives to a .com, but I always still prefer if the .com is potentially attainable in the future. It may be parked by a domain investor or someone asking a ridiculous price, but that’s always better than an established business using your .com. If not, you will always be fighting a search battle with some other brand that owns your .com.

    This goes much further than just the availability of the coveted .com domain, though. You should evaluate the competitiveness and search congestion around your branded keywords. A company named “Apple” or “Lumber” is going to have a really hard time competing for search placements, even if they don’t sell computers or building supplies. An established name and word is also going to come with existing connotations and previous experiences in your audience’s mind. You want a name free from as much baggage as possible so you can easily build your own connotations and memories.

    How should a founder go about effectively naming their baby startup and avoid picking a name that will hurt them?Read MoreColumn, Startups, TC, brand management, domain name, EC Column, intellectual property law, Marketing, product management, TrademarkStartups – TechCrunch

    Reviews and Gadgets

    Sony’s next State of Play will focus on ‘Deathloop’

    July 6, 2021

    Sony’s next State of Play showcase will focus on Deathloop, the upcoming PlayStation 5 console exclusive from Arkane Studios. The stream will feature a nine-minute look at the first-person time-loop adventure, with the stealth and combat features getting some time to shine.

    Following a couple of delays, Deathloop should arrive on PS5 and PC on September 14th. Microsoft and Bethesda will be in an unusual situation where they’re releasing a game you can’t play on Xbox for an entire year.

    Also on the docket for the 30-minute State of Play are updates on other third-party games, as well as some indie titles. What you won’t see during the showcase is anything about Horizon Forbidden West, the God of War sequel or the next PlayStation VR hardware. Even though Sony recently showed off 19 minutes of Horizon Forbidden West gameplay, it’s smart of the company to set expectations about what won’t be featured to mitigate disappointment. That said, Sony urged fans to “stay tuned throughout the summer” as updates are on the way soon. 

    Sony skipped E3 once again this year, but PlayStation was announced as a partner for Summer Game Fest, which suggested a State of Play was imminent. You’ll be able to watch the stream on Thursday, July 8th, at 5PM ET on Twitch or YouTube.

    Reviews and Gadgets

    Sony’s neck speakers are back and now they’re for remote workers

    July 6, 2021

    Just when you think Sony doesn’t have any more weird and fanciful designs left in it, the company surprises you. Building on devices like the SRS-WS1, it announced the SRS-NB10 on Tuesday. It’s a neckband speaker the company says it designed with remote workers in mind. Set to cost $150 when it goes on sale later this year, the NB10 promises up to 20 hours of audio playback “optimized for your ears alone” with drivers that are angled upward.


    As long as you’re listening to something at a relatively low volume, Sony says you “don’t need to worry about distracting colleagues, roommates or family.” But let’s be real here, you’re wearing a speaker on your shoulders. That’s the kind of energy that’s matched only by the co-worker who insists on bringing their mechanical keyboard to work.

    The SRS-NB10 isn’t only a speaker, however. You can also use it for voice and video calls. Thanks to two beamforming microphones and its built-in voice processing technology, Sony claims the NB10 will make it easy for people on the other end of a call to hear you. What’s more, the “open-ear” design makes it so that you can hear what’s going on around you.


    The NB10 can connect to two Bluetooth-capable devices simultaneously, allowing you to switch between them as needed. Should you have the courage to wear the NB10 to say the gym, they’re also IPX4-certified water-resistant. And thanks to USB-C charging, you can get an additional hour of playback after 10 minutes at the outlet.

    The SRS-NB10 will be available in two colors — charcoal grey and white — when it goes on sale in September.

    Tech News

    DOD cancels $10 billion JEDI contract at center of Microsoft and Amazon feud

    July 6, 2021

    The Department of Defense is canceling its $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud contract. The Pentagon said it “initiated contract termination procedures” in a press release it shared on Tuesday, noting “the Department has determined that, due to evolving requirements, increased cloud conversancy, and industry advances, the JEDI Cloud contract no longer meets its needs.”

    With JEDI, the Defense Department had planned to modernize its IT infrastructure, but the contract hadn’t moved forward since the Pentagon awarded it to Microsoft in 2019 on account of a legal challenge from Amazon. One month after JEDI went to Redmond, Amazon filed a formal challenge with the US Court of Federal Claims, alleging the Pentagon showed “unmistakable bias” when it evaluated the two companies.

    When the lawsuit was eventually unsealed later that same year, it came out that Amazon believed it lost the contract due to interference from former President Donald Trump. According to the company, Trump “launched repeated public and behind-the-scenes attacks to steer the JEDI Contract away from AWS to harm his perceived political enemy — Jeffrey P. Bezos.”

    Shortly after the Defense Department announced it wasn’t moving forward with JEDI, Microsoft published a blog post on the decision. “We understand the DOD’s rationale, and we support them and every military member who needs the mission-critical 21st century technology JEDI would have provided. The DOD faced a difficult choice: continue with what could be a years-long litigation battle or find another path forward,” the company said. “The security of the United States is more important than any single contract, and we know that Microsoft will do well when the nation does well.”

    Microsoft went on to say the episode highlights the need for lawmakers to look at the contract challenge process. “The 20 months since DOD selected Microsoft as its JEDI partner highlights issues that warrant the attention of policymakers: when one company can delay, for years, critical technology upgrades for those who defend our nation, the protest process needs reform,” it said.  

    We’ve reached out to Amazon for its response to the situation, and we’ll update this article when we hear back from the company.

    Alongside the cancelation, the Pentagon announced a new multi-vendor contract called the Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability (JWCC). The agency plans to collect proposals from both Amazon and Microsoft. It contends they’re the two vendors best suited to meet its needs, though it also plans to see if other companies can help it modernize its IT infrastructure.  



    Allozymes looks to upend chemical manufacturing with rapid enzyme engineering and $5M seed

    July 6, 2021

    Part of the complex process that turns raw materials into finished products like detergents, cosmetics and flavors relies on enzymes, which facilitate chemical transformations. But finding the right enzyme for a new or proposed drug or additive is a drawn out and almost random process — which Allozymes aims to change with a remarkable new system that could set a new standard in the industry, and has raised a $5M seed round to commercialize.

    Enzymes are chains of amino acids, the “building blocks of life” among of the many things encoded in DNA. These large, complex molecules bind to other substances in a way that facilitates a chemical reaction, say turning sugars in a cell into a more usable form of energy.

    One also finds enzymes in the world of manufacturing, where major companies have identified and isolated enzymes that perform valuable work like taking some cheap base ingredients and making them combine into a more useful form. Any company that sells or needs lots of any particular chemical that doesn’t appear abundantly in nature probably has enzymatic processes to aid in creating more of it.

    But it’s not like there’s just an enzyme for everything. When you’re inventing new molecules from scratch, like a novel drug or flavoring, there’s no reason why there should be a naturally occurring enzyme that reacts with or creates it. No animal synthesizes allergy medicine in its cells. So companies must find or create new enzymes that do what’s needed. The problem is that enzymes are generally at least 100 units long, and there are 20 amino acids to choose from, meaning for even the simplest novel enzyme you’re looking at uncountably numerous variations.

    By starting with known enzymes and systematically working through variations that seem intuitively like they might work, researchers have been able to find new and useful enzymes, but the process is complex and slow even when fully automated: at most a couple hundred a day, and that’s if you happen to have a top-of-the-line robotic lab.

    So when Allozymes comes in with a claim that it can screen up to ten million per day, you can imagine the level of change that represents.

    Image Credits: Allozymes

    Allozymes was founded by Peyman Salehian (CEO) and Akbar Vahidi (CTO), two Iranian chemical engineers who met while pursuing their PhDs at the National University of Singapore. The three years of research leading up to the commercial product also occurred at NUS, which holds the patent and exclusively licenses it to the company.

    “The state of the art hasn’t changed in 20 years,” said Salehian. “When we talk with GSK, Pfizer, Merck, they have whole departments for this, they have $2 million robots, and it still takes a year to get a new enzyme.”

    The Allozymes platform will speed up the process by several orders of magnitude, while decreasing the cost by an order of magnitude, Salehian said. If these estimates bear out, it effectively trivializes the enzyme search and obsoletes billions in investments and infrastructure. Why pay more to get less?

    Traditionally, enzymes are isolated and selected over a multi-step process that involves introducing DNA templates into cells, which are cultured to create the target enzymes, which once a certain growth state is achieved, are analyzed robotically. If there are promising results, you go down that road with more variations, otherwise start again from the beginning. There’s a lot of picking and placing little dishes, waiting for enough cells to produce enough of the stuff, and so on.

    The process Salehian and Vahidi designed is fully contained with a little benchtop device the size of a microwave, and generates almost no waste. Instead of using culture dishes, the device puts the necessary cells, substrate, and other ingredients in a tiny droplet in a microfluidic system. The reactions occur inside this little drop, which is incubated, tracked, and eventually collected and tested in a fraction of the time a larger sample would take.

    Allozymes isn’t selling the device, though. It’s enzyme engineering as a service, and for now their partners and customers seem content with that. Its primary service is cut-to-size, depending on the needs of the project. For instance, maybe a company has a working enzyme already and just wants a variant that’s easier to synthesize or less dependent on certain expensive additives. With a solid starting point and flexible goal that might be a project on the smaller side. Another company may be looking to completely replace hard chemistry processes in their manufacturing, know the start and the end of the process but need an enzyme to fill in the gaps; that might be a more wide ranging and expensive project.

    Peyman Salehian, left, and Akbar Vahidi.

    Vahidi explained that the goal is not to “democratize” enzyme engineering. It’s still expensive and large-scale enough that it will primarily be done by large companies, but now they can get a hundred thousand times more out of their R&D dollar. The speed and value put them above the competition, said Sahelian, with companies like Codexis, Arzeda, and Ginkgo Bioworks also doing enzyme bioengineering but at lower rates and with different priorities.

    Occasionally the company might strike a bargain to take part ownership of an IP or product, but that’s not really the business model, Sahelian said. Some early work consisted of actually making the final compound, but ultimately the core product is expected to be the service. (Still, a million-dollar order is nothing to sneeze at.)

    It may have occurred to you that in the process of doing a job, Allozymes might sort through hundreds of millions of enzymes. Rest assured, they are well aware of the value these may represent. The service transitions seamlessly into the inevitable data play.

    “If you have a big data set that shows ‘if you change this amino acid this will be the function,’ you don’t even need to engineer it, you can eliminate it [i.e. from consideration]. You can even design enzymes if you know enough,” Salehian said.

    The company’s recent $5M seed round was led by SOSV and Temasek, Singapore’s sovereign fund. Salehian explained that they planned to incorporate in the U.S. following interest from American venture firms, but Temasek’s early stage investor convinced them to stay.

    “Biotransformation is in huge demand on this side of the world,” Salehian said. “Chemical, agriculture, and food companies need to do it, but no platform company can deliver these services. So we tried to fill that gap.”


    Meet, the Mexico City-based insurtech that raised $7.2M from VCs and unicorn CEOs

    July 6, 2021, an insurtech startup based in Mexico City, has raised $7.2 million in a Series A round led by ALLVP.

    Co-founded in 2019 by a trio of former insurance industry executives,’s self-proclaimed mission is to design insurance for “the emerging Latin American middle class,” according to CEO Sebastian Villarreal.

    “That means insurance that is easy to buy – it can be bought on a cell phone in minutes – and that pays quickly with no adjusters,” he said. The company has built its offering with proprietary models that are used both on the underwriting side to predict risk and on the claims side to make payments automatically. 

    Goodwater Capital, Kairos Angels and Bridge Partners also participated in the Series A round in addition to angels such as Joe Schmidt IV, vice president of business development at insurtech Ethos and former investor at Accel and Kyle Nakatsuji, founder and CEO of auto insurance startup Clearcover (and also a former VC). Better Tomorrow Ventures led’s $2.4 million seed round, which also saw capital from 500 Startups Mexico, Village Global, Anthemis and Broadhaven Ventures, among others.

    Unlike most insurtech startups in Latin America, Villarreal emphasizes that is neither an aggregator nor a carrier. Instead, it’s an MGA, or managing general agent.

    “This lets us have a ‘best of both worlds’ approach,” Villarreal said. “We handle the entire user experience just like a direct to consumer carrier, but with the breadth of product choice offered by an aggregator.”

    That product choice includes property, natural disasters and life insurance. The company soon plans to expand to also offer health insurance. 

    The founding team brings a variety of insurance experience to the table. Villarreal previously co-founded Chicago-based Kin Insurance (which raised over $150 million in funding from the likes of Flourish Ventures, Commerce Ventures and QED Investors). He was also once head of auto product at Avant, a growth-stage company funded by General Atlantic and Tiger Global, among others.

    With over two decades of insurance industry experience, Dario Luna once served as Mexico’s insurance regulator and helped develop Mexico’s disaster risk management strategy. Marco Ahedo has designed parametric insurance products for 19 Caribbean countries. He was also once a solvency expert for life and health insurance lines at MetLife, and has developed financial models for several P&C carriers.

    Villarreal lived in the U.S. for a while before deciding to move back to Mexico, which he recognized was home to an “underinsurance problem.”

    “That’s actually a very acute problem,” he said. “People in Latin America buy a lot less insurance than they do in the U.S., and people in Mexico, in particular, buy a lot less insurance than they do in other Latin countries.”

    Some have blamed the lack of insurance coverage on the country’s culture but operates under the belief that this notion is “total BS.”

    “It’s not a cultural problem,” Villarreal said. “The problem is that the insurance products that exist in the market just suck. They’re super expensive. They’re really hard to buy, and they pay very little.”

    Image Credits:

    So far, has sold “thousands of policies” but is more focused now on increasing the number of products that it’s selling. The company started out by selling earthquake insurance before adding COVID insurance, and more recently, in April, it launched life insurance. Next, it’s going to offer property, renter’s and health insurance.

    “It’s really a different strategy than what you would find in the U.S.,” Villarreal said. “In the U.S, when you look at insurtechs, it’s like everyone just does one thing, but here, it’s very different because when someone says ‘I want insurance,’ really what they’re saying is ‘Hey, something happened that makes me nervous that didn’t make me nervous before.’”

    That something could be a new child, for example, that prompts a need for life insurance.

    “What we’re trying to do is like Lemonade, Roots and Hippo or Kin all rolled into one,” he added. It’s a big, big play.”

    Digital adoption in Mexico, and Latin America in general, has increased exponentially in recent years. The bigger hurdle for, according to Villarreal, has less to do with technology and more to do with Mexicans getting over what he describes a “deep mistrust” based on bad experiences in the past.

    “People are really distrustful and that’s a huge hurdle, but once you show them that you actually are different,” Villarreal told TechCrunch, “that you actually do things in a different way, you get this incredible emotional response.”

    Eventually, plans to outside of Mexico to other countries in Latin America.

    ALLVP’s Federico Antoni said his Mexico City-based firm had been looking for a team building in this space “for years” before investing in The venture firm was impressed with the company’s technical knowledge and industry expertise. It was also drawn to their multi-product approach and “capacity to ship highly complex products to the market quickly” — both of which he believes are “unique” in the region.

    Citing statistics from MAPFRE Economics, Antoni pointed out that globally, the insurance market has been growing over the last 10 years. During that time, Latin America expanded faster on average (4.4% vs. 2.4% worldwide), albeit with more volatility. Life insurance has been driving this growth, at 6.1%, over the period. 

    “Insurtech may be even bigger than fintech. Also, harder,” he told TechCrunch via email. “We knew the team to unlock the market potential would need to be highly competent and highly disruptive.”

    Antoni said he is also convinced that Insurtech is the “next frontier” in financial inclusion in Latin America especially as digitization continues to increase.

    “Providing risk coverage to individuals and businesses in the region, brings financial stability to families and unlocks economic potential for SMEs,” he said. “Moreover, the insurance incumbents have been unable to address a growing and underserved market.”



    Will Didi’s regulatory problems make it harder for Chinese startups to go public in the US?

    July 6, 2021

    Shares of Chinese ride-hailing business Didi are off 22% this morning after the company was hit by more regulatory activity over the holiday weekend. The recently public company traded as high as $18.01 per share since it held an IPO last week; today, shares of Didi are worth just $12.09, off around a third from their 52-week high.

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    The decline in value follows a review by a Chinese cybersecurity agency that led to Didi being unable to onboard new users, a decision that arrived as last week rolled to a close.

    Over the weekend, Didi was hit with more regulatory action. This time, the Cyberspace Administration of China said, via an internet translation, that “after testing and verification, the ‘Didi Travel’ App [was found to have] serious violations of laws and regulations in collecting and using personal information,” which led the agency to command app stores “to remove the ‘Didi Travel’ app, and required [the company] to strictly follow the legal requirements and refer to relevant national standards to seriously rectify existing problems.”

    Being yanked from relevant app stores was enough for Didi to alert investors that its mobile app “had the problem of collecting personal information in violation of relevant PRC laws and regulations.” Didi said that the change in its app availability “may have an adverse impact on its revenue in China.”

    Understatement of the year, I reckon.

    But there’s more going on than what Didi is enduring. As CNBC reported:


    Didi gets hit by Chinese government, and Pleo raises $150M

    July 6, 2021

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

    This is Equity Monday Tuesday, our weekly kickoff that tracks the latest private market news, talks about the coming week, digs into some recent funding rounds and mulls over a larger theme or narrative from the private markets. You can follow the show on Twitter here and myself here.

    What a busy weekend we missed while mostly hearing distant explosions and hugging our dogs close. Here’s a sampling of what we tried to recap on the show:

    Didi vs. China: The Chinese government’s crackdown on Didi continued over the weekend, after announcing a cybersecurity review of the company on Friday. That decision blocked new user signups. Now Didi has had its app removed from pertinent app marketplaces. That’s going to hit revenue. Shares of the company are sharply lower in pre-marketing trading here in the United States. The company went public last week.
    Twitter vs. India: India’s attempts to cow Twitter into not enacting its own content moderation policies continues. Now India has taken away legal protections from the well-known American company. It’s not great news for India’s growing technology sector, or the investors backing the upstarts.
    Funding rounds: Lots of companies raised money, including Byrd, with $19 million in a Series B, Pleo with a huge $150 million unicorn round, and Obviously AI, which just extended its Seed round.

    It’s going to be a busy week! Chat tomorrow.

    Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 a.m. PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!


    Wagmo raises $12.5 million to offer pet insurance (and a lot more)

    July 6, 2021

    The pet care industry has boomed over the past several years. From Chewy’s IPO to the various veterinarian startups that have sprung up, VC money (and consumer cash) is flowing into the space.

    Wagmo is no different. The pet insurance and perks startup has closed on a $12.5 million Series A financing, led by Revolution Ventures with participation from Female Founders Fund, Clocktower Technology Ventures, and Vestigo Ventures. Angels, including Jeffrey Katzenberg, Jim Grube, Marilyn Hirsch, David Ronick, and Michael Akkerman, also participated in the round.

    The company was founded by Christie Horvath and Ali Foxworth, who both came from the world of finance and insurance and realized the gap in the market when it comes to pet insurance. Most pet insurance providers cover the big emergencies, such as surgeries, broken bones, etc. But anyone with a pet, and especially a new puppy (like myself), knows that the costs of basic care can add up very quickly.

    Wagmo offers the same basic coverage as your usual pet insurance, but also offers a wellness service. The Wellness Program reimburses pet parents for the more basic stuff, like vaccinations, grooming, regular vet visits, fecal tests, and bloodwork.

    Users simply pay anywhere between $20/month and $59/month and submit photos of their receipts in the app. Wagmo then reimburses what’s covered via Venmo, PayPal, or direct deposit within 24 hours.

    The premise here is two-fold. A healthy dog, who has access to all the basics listed above, is less likely to have major issues later on. The second piece is that the earliest costs associated with owning a dog are these basic ones, like vaccinations, vet visits, fecal tests and grooming.

    Wagmo offers the wellness plan without an insurance plan. That means that users can onboard to the platform with what they need first, and upgrade to an insurance plan later on.

    Wagmo generates revenue through both the wellness and insurance plan, but is actively looking into an enterprise model, as well, signing on larger organizations as part of their benefits package to employees.

    The now-14-person team has onboarded thousands of users, with 20 percent user growth month over month since the beginning of the pandemic, and has processed 30,000 wellness claims.

    The team is 58 percent female identifying, with Black, Asian and Latinx making up 17 percent of the workforce each.

    “The greatest challenge is figuring out how to break down the opportunity ahead of us, particularly in the employer benefit space,” said Horvath. “What keeps us up at night is thinking about where to start, what to prioritize, how to allocate limited resources and limited time.”