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Atlanta gets a billion dollar startup business as Greenlight’s family-focused fintech nabs $215 million



Greenlight Financial Technology, the fintech company that pitches parents on kid-friendly bank accounts, has raised $215 million in a new round of funding.

The round gives the Atlanta-based startup a $1.2 billion valuation thanks to backing from Canapi Ventures, TTV  Capital, BOND, DST Global, Goodwater Capital and Fin VC.

It’s a huge win for the Canadian-based venture investor Relay Ventures .

Since it launched its debit cards for kids in 2017, the company has managed to set up accounts for more than 2 million parents and children, who have saved more than $50 million through the app.

“Greenlight’s rapid growth is a testament to the value they bring to millions of parents and kids every day. My wife and I trust Greenlight to give us the modern tools to teach our children how to manage money,” said Gardiner Garrard, Founding Partner at TTV Capital, in a statement. “TTV Capital is thrilled to provide continued investment to help the company empower more parents.”

The company pitches itself as more than just a debit card, with apps that give parents the ability to deposit money in accounts and pay for allowance, manage chores and set flexible controls on how much kids can spend.

It’s a potentially massive business that can lock in a whole generation to a financial services platform, which is likely one reason why a whole slew of companies have launched with a similar thesis. There’s Kard, Step, and Current which are pitching similar businesses in the U.S. and Mozper recently launched from Y Combinator to bring the model to Latin America.

“Greenlight’s smart debit card is transforming the way parents teach their kids about responsible money management and financial literacy,” said Noah Knauf, general partner at BOND. “Having achieved phenomenal growth year-over-year, this is a company on the fast-track to becoming a household name. We look forward to working alongside the Greenlight team to support their continued growth.”

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Our childcare system needs fixing. Here's how.



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More about Parenting, Parental Leave, Parenting Family, Childcare, and Social Good

E-commerce platform Whitebox raises $18M



Whitebox, a startup that manages e-commerce logistics and fulfillment for a variety for brands, has raised $18 million in Series B funding.

While discussing the new funding, CEO Marcus Startzel repeated a point he made after Whitebox raised its $5 million Series A last year — that the startup is differentiated by combining tools for managing e-commerce listings across a variety of marketplaces with the ability to store and ship products from its own warehouse spaces across the United States.

“We really saw an opportunity for a platform that could both sell stuff and move stuff,” Startzel said.

However, he suggested that more recently, “The thing that really shined for us through this period has been third layer of that platform, which is our decisioning layer.” That’s the layer that allows brands to use data to answer questions like, “Should I fulfill this big wholesale order or hold inventory for the marketplaces? Should I inbound a bunch of stuff into Amazon, or do I keep it here in my Whitebox warehouses to potentially fulfill wholesale orders?”

And of course, this is happening as e-commerce has become increasingly important during the pandemic. Startzel suggested that initially, Whitebox’s ideal customer was a “challenger brand” whose business was mostly coming from Shopify, and who needed help as it expanded to Amazon and other marketplaces. But increasingly, the startup is also working with more traditional customers.

“Twenty-five years ago, if you wanted to buy a bottle of ketchup, you had to go to a store and discover a bottle of ketchup as you walked down the condiment aisle,” Startzel said. “Today, the store brands can no longer count on foot traffic, and they’re beginning to recognize how important it is on to be on e-commerce.”

As a result, Whitebox said it saw 40% quarter-over-quarter revenue growth in the first three months of 2020, followed by 78% growth in Q2. And its direct-to-consumer shipments grew 300% over the first half of the year.

Startzel also said that the company took “a very aggressive and conservative approach” to managing its fulfillment facilities during this period — aggressive in the sense that it wanted to ensure that there was no disruption in shipments, conservative in its efforts to make sure the facilities were safe.

The Series B was led by Alan Taetle of Noro-Moseley Partners, with participation from TDF Ventures, TCP Venture Capital’s Propel Baltimore Fund, Merkle global chairman David Williams and Millennial Media co-founder Chris Brandenburg.

“Whitebox remains a leader in this extremely busy and competitive space, and is uniquely positioned to see continued growth,” Taetle said in a statement. “The team has built a technology platform that not only expands the tools and insights that brands need to manage their sales and fulfillment processes from top to bottom, but also powers the larger e-commerce economy by eliminating marketplace complexities. Our investment signifies our confidence in Whitebox and the capabilities that we know the company can bring to the table for new and current customers.”

Startzel said the company will use the new funding to expand its sales and marketing teams, continue developing its technology platform and build out its fulfillment centers — it currently has centers in Baltimore (where Whitebox is headquartered), Las Vegas and Memphis, with plans to expand in the Midwest next year.

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India’s ShareChat raises $40 million, says its short-video platform Moj now reaches 80 million users



ShareChat, an Indian social network that focuses entirely on serving users in non-English languages, said on Thursday it has raised $40 million from a clutch of investors after the Indian startup added tens of millions of new users in recent months.

The five-year-old Bangalore-based startup said Dr. Pawan Munjal, chief executive and chairman of giant two-wheeler manufacturer Hero MotoCorp, Ajay Shridhar Shriram, chairman of chemical manufacturing company DCM Shriram, and existing investors Twitter, SAIF Partners, Lightspeed Ventures, and India Quotient financed the new round of capital.

Ankush Sachdeva, co-founder and chief executive of ShareChat, told TechCrunch in an interview that the startup’s new fundraise is part of its pre-Series E financing round. TechCrunch understands the startup is engaging with several major VC funds and corporate giants to raise more than $100 million in the next few months.

The new capital will help ShareChat better support creators on its platform, Sachdeva said. ShareChat launched the short-video app Moj in early July, days after New Delhi banned TikTok, which at the time had about 200 million users in India.

In the weeks following TikTok’s ban in India, scores of startups have launched short-video apps in the country. DailyHunt has launched Josh, and Times Internet’s MX Player has launched TakaTak. But Moj has clearly established dominance1 among short-form video apps.

ShareChat said Moj has amassed over 80 million monthly active users, who are spending about 34 minutes on the platform each day.

ShareChat’s marquee and eponymous app, which caters users in 15 Indian languages, itself has grown significantly. The app has amassed 160 million monthly active users 2, up from 60 million during the same period last year. A user on an average spends about 31 minutes on the app each day, the startup said.

“ShareChat has grown phenomenally this calendar year,” he said. The growth of ShareChat in the social media category is a rare success story for the Indian startup ecosystem.

“India could never have dreamt of having a homegrown social media platform, had ShareChat not embarked on the impossible in 2015. ShareChat’s success has given immense hope to India’s startup fraternity, and motivated entrepreneurs to take audacious bets in India’s internet ecosystem,” said Madhukar Sinha, Partner at India Quotient, one of the earliest backers of ShareChat.

In yet another move that is not very common among Indian startups, ShareChat announced earlier this week that it was adding $14 million to its employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) pool, taking the total to $35 million.

Sachdeva told TechCrunch that for a startup of ShareChat’s scale, it is crucial that its employees feel valued, because there are enough other giants in the market looking for their talent. “Our biggest competitors are global peers from the U.S. and Beijing,” he said.

The new capital will also help the startup further invest in its AI prowess and build new products and establish deeper partnerships with music labels, Sachdeva said. TechCrunch reported earlier this year that ShareChat had quietly launched a fantasy sports app called Jeet11.

Sachdeva said Jeet11 is gaining good traction and the startup’s foray into fantasy sports and short-video app categories demonstrates how fast it moves.

ShareChat has also been working with advertisers as it solidifies its monetization avenues, he said.

The startup is also thinking about expanding outside of India, though such plans are in early stage, he said. A fraction of ShareChat’s users today already live outside of India. The app has attracted many users of Indian diaspora, he said.

More to follow…


1 Instagram reaches about 150 million monthly active users in India, but it’s unclear if more than half of the app’s userbase has embraced Reels yet.

2  Many players in the industry rely on mobile insight firm AppAnnie and Sensor Tower to track the performance of their apps, their portfolio startups’ apps, and those of their competitors. We often cite AppAnnie and Sensor Tower data, too.

According to AppAnnie, ShareChat had fewer than 20 million monthly active users in India last month. Startup founders and other tech executives who TechCrunch has spoken to say that AppAnnie’s data is usually very reliable, and I can tell you that most of the figures companies claim publicly match with what you see on AppAnnie’s dashboard.

But another thing I have heard from many startup founders is that AppAnnie’s data often misses the mark for apps that have a significant portion of their user base in smaller cities and towns — as is the case with ShareChat.

I asked Sachdeva about it, and he said that ShareChat and many other apps that are popular in smaller Indian cities have not integrated AppAnnie’s SDK into their apps. AppAnnie relies on developers integrating its SDK into their apps to be able to assess the performance of that app and others installed on the handset.

This would explain why AppAnnie estimates that WhatsApp, which claims to have over 400 million users in India and is also popular among users in smaller Indian cities and towns and villages, has about 330 million users.

The contrast between the numbers ShareChat has officially shared and what one of the most reliable and widely used third-party firms offers was too significant, and I thought I should mention this. AppAnnie did not share ShareChat’s figure with TechCrunch — an industry executive did.

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United Airlines is making COVID-19 tests available to passengers, powered in part by Color



There’s still no clear path back to any sense of ‘business-as-usual’ as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, but United Airlines is embarking on a new pilot project to see if easy access to COVID-19 testing immediately prior to a flight can help ease freedom of mobility. The airline will offer COVID-19 tests (either rapid tests at the airport, or mail-in at home tests prior to travel) to passengers flying from SFO in San Francisco to Hawaiian airpots, beginning on October 15.

United worked directly with the Hawaiian government and health regulators to meet the state’s requirements when it comes to quarantine measures, so that travellers who return a negative result with this pre-trip tests won’t have to observe the mandatory quarantine period in place upon their arrival. That’s obviously a major barrier to travel to a popular tourist destination like Hawaii, since a two-week quarantine eats up all or more of the typical period of stay for anyone coming from the mainland.

The airline has partnered with two companies to provide the tests: Color for the at-home kit, which is ordered by a physician and provides results within 1-2 days of receiving the sample, and GoHealth Urgent Care, which will be provided the on-site tests at the airport using the Abbot ID NOW rapid COVID-19 test that returns results in just 15 minutes.

If passengers choose the Color option, they’re advised to request the test kit at least 10 days before they fly, and then to provide their sample for testing within 72 hours before they fly, in order to ensure first that they receive the sample kit in time, and second that the results are recent enough that it’s extremely unlikely they’ve contracted COVID-19 in the ensuing time prior to their flight. Passengers choosing this method can even return the sample via a drop box at SFO, with the results arriving after their landing, but still curtailing their mandatory quarantine period once received.

The on-site option will require scheduling a visit to the testing facility in SFO’s international terminal in advance, with tests available between 9 AM to 6 PM PT every day at the airport.

This is just a pilot program, and that’s a very good thing, because it will be crucially important to see what happens as a result of this kind of deployment, and its ability to skip the quarantine period. The two-week quarantine after travelling, which is fairly widely adopted globally at this stage in the pandemic, is intentionally meant to apply in most locations regardless of test results, no matter the source or recency.

That’s because at this stage in testing, the results aren’t anywhere near foolproof – testing has potentially less efficacy at detecting COVID-19 in asymptomatic individuals, for instance, and when viral loads aren’t yet high enough to provide reliable measurement. Those situations can result in false negatives, which isn’t an issue when the 14-day quarantine periods are mandatory and universal.

Tourism, especially domestic U.S. tourism, is vital to the economic wellbeing of states like Hawaii – and widespread testing could be a lever to open up more of this kind of economic activity both elsewhere in the U.S. and internationally. But it’ll require close and careful study, scrutinized by health professionals, as well as improvements in the accuracy and consistency of diagnostics before these measure should expand beyond the pilot stage.

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YouTube will add mail-in voting info box next to videos that discuss voting by mail



YouTube has been relatively quiet about its strategy to battle the flow of misinformation leading into the 2020 U.S. election, but the platform has a few new measures in store.

The video sharing site will begin attaching a box with vetted facts about mail-in voting on any videos that discuss the topic. The new mail-in voting info boxes will link out to the Bipartisan Policy Center, a bipartisan think tank.

YouTube first rolled these info panels out in 2018 and this year expanded them to address misinformation around COVID-19. The platform’s fact-checking info boxes resemble similarly unobtrusive info labels on Twitter and Facebook. While Twitter in particular has begun taking stronger action on election-related posts that break platform rules, social platforms have opted to broadly serve up contextual facts rather than targeting misinformation with more eye-catching warnings.

Example of YouTube COVID-19 info panel

YouTube is a little late to the party, but it will also add a few features encouraging users to register to vote. Searches about voter registration will soon point users to an info box at the top of the page leading them to state-specific resources like registration deadlines and how to check voter registration status.

Similarly, queries about “how to vote” will point YouTube users to vetted information from non-partisan third-party partners about state voting rules, requirements and deadlines. These searches will surface voting resources in both English and Spanish. The company will also begin surfacing new information in searches for federal candidates for Congress or the presidency.

Like Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook, YouTube is also launching its own set of original informational election videos that will package facts on voting in the U.S. The YouTube videos take a playful approach, spoofing popular video trends like cooking tutorials. YouTube will also add reminders during “key moments” for the 2020 election reminding users to register and telling them how and where to vote.

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Snyk acquires DeepCode to boost its code review smarts



Switzerland-based machine learning code review startup DeepCode — which bills itself as ‘Grammarly for coders’ — has been acquired by Snyk, a post-unicorn valuation cybersecurity startup which is focused on helping developers secure their code.

Financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed. But the ‘big code’ parsing startup had only raised around $5.2M since being founded back in 2016, per CrunchBase — mostly recently closing a $4M seed round from investors including Earlybird, 3VC and btov Partners last year.

DeepCode CEO and co-founder Boris Paskalev confirmed the whole team is “eagerly” joining Snyk to continue what he couched as “the mission of making semantic AI-driven code analysis available for every developer on the planet”.

“DeepCode as a company will continue to exist (fully owned by Snyk), we will keep and plan to grow the Zurich office and tap into the amazing talent pool here and we will continue supporting and expanding the cutting-edge product offering for the global development community,” Paskalev told TechCrunch.

Asked whether DeepCode’s product will continue to exist as a standalone in the future or whether full assimilation into Snyk’s platform will include closing down the code-review bot it currently offers developers he said no decision has yet been taken.

“We are still to evaluate that in details but the main goal is to maintain/expand the benefits that we offer to all developers and specifically to grow the open-source adoption and engagement,” he said, adding: “Initially clearly nothing will change and the DeepCode product will remain as a standalone product.”

“Both companies have a very clear vision and passion for developer-first and helping developers and security teams to further reduce risk and become more productive,” Paskalev added.

In a statement announcing the acquisition Snyk said it will be integrating DeepCode’s technology into its Cloud Native Application Security platform — going on to tout the benefits of bolting on its AI engine which it said would enable developers to “more quickly identify vulnerabilities”.

“DeepCode’s AI engine will help Snyk both increase speed and ensure a new level of accuracy in finding and fixing vulnerabilities, while constantly learning from the Snyk vulnerability database to become smarter,” wrote CEO Peter McKay. “It will enable an even faster integration for developers, testing for issues while they develop rather than as an additional step. And it will further increase the accuracy of our results, almost eliminating the need to waste time chasing down false positives.”

Among the features that have impressed Snyk about DeepCode, McKay lauded code scanning that’s “10-50x faster than alternatives”; and what he described as an “exceptional developer UX” — which allows for “high precision semantic code analysis in real-time” because scanning is carried out at the IDE and git level.

In its own blog post about the acquisition of the ETH Zurich spin-off, the university writes that the AI startup’s “decisive advantage” is that ‘it has developed the first AI system that can learn from billions of program codes quickly, enabling AI-​based detection of security and reliability code issues”.

“DeepCode is an excellent example of a modern AI system that can learn from data, program codes in this case, yet remain transparent and interpretable for humans,” it adds.

The university research work underpinning DeepCode dates back to 2013 — when its co-founders were figuring out how to combine data-​driven machine learning methods with semantic static code analysis methods based on symbolic reasoning, per the blog post.

DeepCode’s tech currently reaches more than 4M contributing developers, with more than 100,000 repositories subscribed to its service.

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'The world is in trouble,' so Sir David Attenborough has joined Instagram



Now you can follow another one of your faves: Sir David Attenborough has joined Instagram. 

In his debut video on the app, the 94-year-old natural historian and broadcaster said he’s joined because “saving our planet is now a communications challenge. We know what to do, we just need the will.” 

“This is my first time on Instagram,” Attenborough said. “And I’m making this move and exploring this new way of communication to me, because as we all know, the world is in trouble. Continents are on fire. Glaciers are melting. Coral reefs are dying. Fish are disappearing from our oceans. The list goes on and on and on.” Read more…

More about Instagram, Climate Change, Sir David Attenborough, Social Good, and Social Media Companies

UK launches COVID-19 exposure notification app for England and Wales



The last two regions of the UK now have an official coronavirus contacts tracing app, after the UK government pushed the button to launch the NHS COVID-19 app across England and Wales today.

Northern Ireland and Scotland launched their own official apps to automate coronavirus exposure notifications earlier this year. But the England and Wales app was delayed after a false start back in May. The key point is that the version that’s launched now has a completely different app architecture.

All three of the UK’s official coronavirus contacts tracing apps make use of smartphones’ Bluetooth radios to generate alerts of potential exposure to COVID-19 — based on estimating the proximity of the devices.

A very condensed version of how this works is that ephemeral IDs are exchanged by devices that come into close contact and stored locally on app users’ phones. If a person is subsequently diagnosed with COVID-19 they are able to notify the system, via their public health authority, which will broadcast the relevant (i.e. ‘risky’) IDs to all other devices.

Matching to see whether an app user has been exposed to any of the risky IDs also takes place locally — meaning exposure alerts are not centralized.

The use of this decentralized, privacy-preserving architecture for the NHS COVID-19 app is a major shift vs the original app which was being designed to centralize data with the public health authority.

However the government U-turned after a backlash over privacy and ongoing technical problems linked to trying to hack its way around iOS limits on background access to Bluetooth.

Switching the NHS COVID-19 app to a decentralized architecture has allowed it to plug into coronavirus exposure notification APIs developed by Apple and Google — resolving technical problems related to device detection which caused problems for the earlier version of the app.

In June, the government suggested there were issues with the APIs related to the reliability of estimating distance between devices. Asked about the reliability of the Bluetooth technology the app is used on BBC Radio 4’s Today program this morning, health secretary Matt Hancock said: “What we know for absolute sure is that the app will not tell you to self isolate because you’ve been in close contact with someone unless you have been in close contact. The accuracy with which it does that is increasing all of the time — and we’ve been working very closely with Apple and with Google who’ve done a great job in working to make this happen and to ensure that accuracy is constantly improved.”

The health secretary described the app as “an important tool in addition to all the other tools that we have” — adding that one of the reasons he’d delayed the launch until now was because he didn’t want to release an app that wasn’t effective.

“Everybody who downloads the app will be helping to protect themselves, helping to protect their loves one, helping to protect their community — because the more people who download it the more effective it will be. And it will help to keep us safe,” Hancock went on.

“One of the things that we’ve learnt over the course of the pandemic is where people are likely to have close contacts and in fact the app that we’re launching today will help to find more of those close contacts,” he added.

The England and Wales app does have some of unique quirks — as the government has opted to pack in multiple features, rather than limiting it to only exposure notifications.

These bells & whistles include: risk alerts based on postcode district; a system of QR code check-in at venues (which are now required by law to display a QR code for app users to scan); a COVID-19 symptom checker and test booking feature — including the ability to get results through the app; and a timer for users who have been told to self-isolate to help them keep count of the number of days left before they can come out of quarantine, with pointers offered to “relevant advice”.

“[The app] helps you to easily go to the pub or a restaurant or hospitality venue because you can then click through on the QR code which automatically does the contact tracing that is now mandatory,” said Hancock explaining the thinking behind some of the extra features. “And it helps by explaining what the rules are and the risk in your area for people easily and straightforwardly to be able to answer questions and consult on the rules so it has a whole series of features.”

It remains to be seen whether it was sensible product design to bolt on all these extras — and QR code venue check-ins could carry a risk of confusing users. However the government’s logic appears to be that more features will encourage more people to download the app and thereby increase uptake and utility.

Once widespread, the mandatory venue QR codes will also effectively double as free ads for the app so that could help drive downloads.

More saliently, the Bluetooth exposure notification system depends on an effective testing regime and will therefore be useless in limiting the spread of COVID-19 if the government can’t improve coronavirus test turnaround times — which it has been struggling with in recent weeks, as major backlogs have built up.

Internet law expert, professor Lilian Edwards — who was on an ethics advisory panel for the earlier, now defunct version of the England & Wales app — made this point to BBC Radio 4’s World at One program yesterday.

“My main concern is not the app itself but the interaction with the testing schedule,” she said. The app only sends out proximity warnings to the contacts on upload of a positive test. The whole idea is to catch contacts before they develop symptoms in that seven-day window when they won’t be isolating. If tests are taking five to seven days to get back then by that time the contacts will have developed symptoms and should hopefully be isolating or reporting their symptoms themselves. So if we don’t speed up testing then the app is functionally useless.”

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