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Detroit Auto Show canceled in preparation for FEMA to turn venue into field hospital



The North American International Auto Show, which was scheduled for June in Detroit, has been canceled as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread and the city prepares to repurpose the TCF Center into a temporary field hospital.

NAIAS is held each year in the TCF Center, formerly known as the Cobo Center. Organizers said they expected the Federal Emergency Management Agency to designate the TCF Center as a field hospital.

“Although we are disappointed, there is nothing more important to us than the health, safety and well-being of the citizens of Detroit and Michigan, and we will do what we can to support our community’s fight against the coronavirus outbreak,” NAIAS Executive Director Rod Alberts said in an emailed statement.

The NAIAS is the latest in a long line of events and conventions that have been canceled as COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has spread from China to Europe, and now the U.S. and the rest of the world.

More than 100 convention centers and facilities around the country are being considered to potentially serve as temporary hospitals. Alberts said it became clear that TCF Center would be an inevitable option to serve as a care facility.

The NAIAS, also known as the Detroit Auto Show, will be held in June 2021. Organizers are discussing plans for a fundraising activity later this year to benefit the children’s charities that were designated as beneficiaries of the 2020 Charity Preview event.

This year’s show was highly anticipated because it had moved from January to summer, following years of encouragement to schedule it during the warmer months.

All tickets purchased for the 2020 NAIAS show, including tickets for the Public Show, Industry Preview and Charity Preview will be fully refunded, organizers said. Charity Preview ticket holders will be given the option of a refund, or the opportunity to donate the proceeds of their refund to one of the nine designated Charity Preview beneficiaries. The NAIAS ticket office will be in contact with all ticket holders, according to the organizers.

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Startups Weekly: A new era for consumer tech



TechCrunch is out hunting for bright spots in the startup world as we all come to grips with the pandemic — particularly where checks are actually being written despite everything.

D2C is back to the future

First up this week, we surveyed top direct-to-consumer investors, and they seemed pretty optimistic despite the struggles of some sector leaders. Here’s Lightspeed Venture Partners Nicole Quinn, for example, on investor activity versus current opportunity:

I would argue it is too weak as investors look at the unit economics of some of the recent IPOs and think that is true for all of D2C. In reality, there are sectors such as beauty where many companies have product margins >90% or true brands such as Rothy’s where there is such a strong word-of-mouth effect and this gives them an unfair advantage with far better unit economics than the average.

Other respondents include: Ben Lerer and Caitlin Strandberg from Lerer Hippeau, Gareth Jefferies from Northzone, Matthew Hartman of Betaworks Ventures, Alexis Ohanian of Initialized Capital and Luca Bocchio of Accel.

Arman Tabatabai has the full investor survey on Extra Crunch, while Connie Loizos has a separate interview with Ohanian over on TechCrunch.

Proptech will be going (more) remote

Arman also ran a popular investor survey on real estate and proptech a few months back, so a virus update edition was warranted given the existential questions facing the future of physical space. Here’s one clarifying explanation from Andrew Ackerman of Dreamit Ventures:

Startups targeting residential landlords and property managers could be big winners. Anything that makes tenants more comfortable like residential tenant amenity platforms (e.g. Amenify) or automates maintenance requests (e.g. TravtusAptly), simplifies maintenance itself (e.g NestEgg) or eases operations like package receiving (e.g. Luxer One) are suddenly top of mind.

VC investors have a saying, “Don’t make me think,” and right now, we are thinking hard about what COVID-19 means for our portfolio, so don’t be surprised if we are a little slower than normal to write checks. That said, we are acutely aware of the fact that some of our best returns came from investments made during difficult times. Fortunately, we think quickly.

Read the full thing on Extra Crunch.

A new era for consumer tech

It’s no surprise that SaaS companies are seeing new growth from millions staying at home. But what else is going on besides work? Josh Constine pulls together the rebirth of Houseparty, the integration of Zoom into popular social networks and other trends today to elegantly explain the big picture: social tools actually being used like everyone had hoped(!).

What is social media when there’s nothing to brag about? Many of us are discovering it’s a lot more fun. We had turned social media into a sport but spent the whole time staring at the scoreboard rather than embracing the joy of play. But thankfully, there are no Like counts on Zoom . Nothing permanent remains. That’s freed us from the external validation that too often rules our decision-making. It’s stopped being about how this looks and started being about how this feels. Does it put me at peace, make me laugh, or abate the loneliness? Then do it. There’s no more FOMO because there’s nothing to miss by staying home to read, take a bath, or play board games. You do you.

Check it out on TechCrunch, then be sure to check out our ongoing coverage of where this is headed: virtual worlds(!?). Eric Peckham analyzed the sprawling topic in an eight-part series last month, then sat down for an in-house TechCrunch interview this week to explain how he sees the pandemic impacting the existing trends. 

More than two billion people play video games in the context of a year. There’s incredible market penetration in that sense. But, at least for the data I’ve seen for the U.S., the percent of the population who play games on a given day is still much lower than the percent of the population who use social media on a given day.

The more that games become virtual worlds for socializing and hanging out beyond just the mission of the gameplay, the more who will turn to virtual worlds as a social and entertainment outlet when they have five minutes free to do something on their phone. Social media fills these small moments in life. MMO games right now don’t because they are so oriented around the gameplay, which takes time and uninterrupted focus. Virtual worlds in the vein of those on Roblox where you just hang out and explore with friends compete for that time with Instagram more directly.

Some SEM prices are going down due to the pandemic

Danny Crichton put on his data scientist hat for Extra Crunch and analyzed more than 100 unicorns across tech sectors and looked how how the pricing of their keywords has changed due to the pandemic/recession.

The results aren’t surprising — there has been a collapse in prices for almost all ads (with some very interesting exceptions we will get to in a bit). But the variations across startups in their online ad performance says a lot about industries like food delivery and enterprise software, and also the long-term revenue performance of Google, Facebook and other digital advertising networks.

Big tech should do more to help startups now

Besides offering wily developer platforms, I mean. Josh argued on TechCrunch that hosting costs and associated expenses should be spared or delayed by the dominant companies to be nice, and to avoid crushing their own ecosystems.

Google, Amazon and Microsoft are the landlords. Amidst the coronavirus economic crisis, startups need a break from paying rent. They’re in a cash crunch. Revenue has stopped flowing in, capital markets like venture debt are hesitant and startups and small-to-medium sized businesses are at risk of either having to lay off huge numbers of employees and/or shut down. Meanwhile, the tech giants are cash rich. Their success this decade means they’re able to weather the storm for a few months. Their customers cannot.

On the other hand, now is also a good time for mid-sized startups to try to take market share from incumbents who don’t act friendly enough to the rest of the startup world…..

Odds and ends

  1. Eliot Peper, author of a variety of popular sci-fi and tech fiction stories (and occasional TechCrunch contributor), has a new book out called “Uncommon Stock: Version 1.0” about a small startup that accidentally crosses paths with a drug cartel. Current subscribers to this newsletter will find that the link above takes them to a free download (that ends Sunday).
  2. I had been planning to moderate a panel at SXSW on the topic of remote work, but other events flipped that on its head. The panel, featuring Katrina Wong, VP of Marketing at Hired, Darren Murph, Head of Remote at Gitlab, and Nate McGuire, Founder of Buildstack, happened on Zoom. And now the video is available here — check out to get key tips on going remote-first from these experts.

Across the week

TechCrunch

Now might be the perfect time to rethink your fundraising approach

How child care startups in the U.S. are helping families cope with the COVID-19 crisis

Private tech companies mobilize to address shortages for medical supplies, masks and sanitizer

One neat plug-in to join a Zoom call from your browser

Extra Crunch

When is it time to stop fundraising?

Slack’s slowing growth turns around as remote work booms

A look inside one startup’s work-from-home playbook

Lime’s valuation, variable costs and diverging categories of on-demand companies

#EquityPod

From Alex:

The three of us were back today — NatashaDanny and Alex — to dig our way through a host of startup-focused topics. Sure, the world is stuffed full of COVID-19 news — and, to be clear, the topic did come up some — but Equity decided to circle back to its roots and talks startups and accelerators and how many pieces of luggage does an urban-living person really need?

The answer, as far as we can work it out, is either one piece or seven. Regardless, here’s what we got through this week:

  • Big news from 500 Startups, and our favorite companies from the accelerator’s latest demo day. Y Combinator is not the only game in town, so TechCrunch spent part of the day peekin’ at 500 and its latest batch of companies. We got into some of the startups that stuck out, tackling problems within the influencer market, trash pickup and esports.
  • Plastiq raised $75 million to help people and businesses use their credit card anywhere they want. And no, it wasn’t closed after the pandemic hit.
  • We also talked through Fast’s latest $20 million round led by Stripe. Stripe, as everyone recalls, was most recently a topic on the show thanks to a venture whoopsie in the form of a check from Sequoia to Finix.1 But all that’s behind us. Fast is building a new login and checkout service for the internet that is supposed to be both speedy and independent.
  • All the Stripe talk reminded us of one of the startups that launched so it could beat it out: Brex. The startup, which has amassed over $300 million in known venture capital to date, recently acquired three companies.
  • We chatted through the highlights of our D2C venture survey, focused on rising CAC costs in select channels, the importance of solid gross margins and why Casper wasn’t really a bellwether for its industry.

Listen here!

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'Stranger Things' star Noah Schnapp joins Charli D'Amelio for some TikTok dances



As of this week, Charli D’Amelio has the TikTok account with the most followers. So she’s the one you want teaching you TikTok dances.

According to a YouTube video uploaded on Friday, Charli gave Stranger Things star Noah Schnapp a dance lesson before they both started social distancing earlier this month. (Responsible!)

In the clip, the two run through a few TikTok dances (including “Supalonely”), and while Noah is probably not headed to the Hype House anytime soon, he gives them all his best effort. Charli is a very patient teacher.

Plus, he returned the favor: Charli also uploaded a video of him giving her acting lessons. Read more…

More about Stranger Things, Tiktok, Charli D Amelio, Culture, and Movies Tv Shows

This Week in Apps: Apple launches a COVID-19 app, the outbreak’s impact on social and video apps and more



Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the Extra Crunch series that recaps the latest OS news, the applications they support and the money that flows through it all.

The app industry saw a record 204 billion downloads and $120 billion in consumer spending in 2019, according to App Annie’s “State of Mobile” annual report. People are now spending 3 hours and 40 minutes per day using apps, rivaling TV. Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus.

In this Extra Crunch series, we help you keep up with the latest news from the world of apps, delivered on a weekly basis.

This week, we’re continuing our special coverage of how the COVID-19 outbreak is impacting apps and the wider mobile app industry as more COVID-19 apps appear — including one from Apple built in partnership with the CDC, among others. We also take a look at the gains made by social and video apps in recent weeks as people struggle to stay connected while stuck at home in quarantine. In other headlines, we dig into Instagram’s co-watching feature, the Google for Games conference news, Apple’s latest releases and updates, Epic Games expansion into publishing and more.

Coronavirus Special Coverage

Social video apps are exploding due to the COVID-19 pandemic

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Original Content podcast: ‘Tiger King’ might be the wildest show on Netflix



Netflix’s “Tiger King” is a docuseries focusing on the man who calls himself Joe Exotic — owner of a private park full of tigers and other big cats. We learn in the opening minutes of the first episode that he’s been accused of hiring a contract killer to murder an animal rights activist.

A documentary that was solely about Joe would be pretty memorable on its own, but he’s surrounded by characters who are nearly as colorful, including the operators of several other big cat parks, as well as his nemesis, Carole Baskin.

On the latest episode of the Original Content podcast, we’re joined by Jason from the TechCrunch events team to review “Tiger King.” It’s an incredibly addictive and bingeable show, with shocks and twists in virtually every episode.

At the same time, we debate whether the show treats its colorful subjects ethically, and whether anything was lost as the focus shifted from a “Blackfish”-style exposé of large cat owners into something more lurid.

You can listen in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

And if you’d like to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:
0:00 Intro
0:29 “Tiger King” review
24:56 “Tiger King” spoilers

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Get your Disney theme park fix with these virtual roller coaster rides



With Disneyland and Disney World closed indefinitely during the coronavirus outbreak, you may be looking for a way to get that Disney ride fix right now from the safety of your home. Luckily you can.

While it may not be as thrilling as the real thing, the YouTube channel Virtual Disney World has been amassing a collection of Disney park roller coaster rides over the years, giving everyone the ability to experience Disney attractions as if they were strapped in themselves.

All of the videos on the channel are shot with 360-degree cameras, which means you can click and drag while watching the video to look around at all the scenery going by on the rides. If you have some virtual realty goggles, you can also strap those on and look around while watching the ride for an extra immersive experience. Read more…

More about Disney, Theme Parks, Coronavirus, Entertainment, and Other

'Game of Thrones' direwolf dog named Odin passes away



Odin, a Northern Inuit Dog who starred in the first episode of Game of Thrones as the direwolf Summer, passed away due to complications from cancer, his family announced on Instagram Thursday.

Odin passed away in his sleep shortly after being diagnosed with mouth cancer. He was 10 years old.

View this post on Instagram

Our family are at immense heartbreak to announce that Odin passed away early this morning. It’s difficult to put into words how this has impacted us as a family for Odin lead a life like no other dog. Odin was a family member first and we got him when he was a pup at 7 weeks old all we wanted were big dogs to take hiking and to sleep at our feet in the evening beside the fire, everything after that was a bonus. Odins passing marks the end of a decade and the end of an era as he taught our friends and family a lot of lessons about life for one dog he has more stories to tell than some people would. Odin has far too many achievements to announce in this post but just look at our social media pages over the past 5 years and see. We can all take great comfort in knowing that he is forever immortalised in the great TV Show Game of Thrones as Summer Bran Starks Direwolf Pup in Season 1 episode 1 . To everyone that was lucky enough to meet him and put a smile on your face please remember that moment. It’s an incredible piece of luck to have a pet you love so well become world famous and touch so many peoples hearts. He was always fond of the beach and his favourite treats which he had almost everyday before his passing. He was met with further illness as the week continued and the vets did everything they could to keep him going but he passed away in his sleep. We are incredibly grateful for the donations made towards Odin treatment and we will use what is needed to pay his vet bill and we will donate the rest between our favourite dog charities the donations will help further dogs in need at this tough time. If you have photos or videos or stories about Odin then please send them or share them with us. Please understand we will try reply to all your messages at this very difficult time in our lives. Read more…

More about Television, Dogs, Game Of Thrones, Entertainment, and Game Of Thrones

The best limited series to binge while you’re social distancing



Read more…

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More about Streaming, Watchmen, Coronavirus, Social Distancing, and Best Limited Series

3 streaming services you (probably) don't subscribe to already, all on sale



At first, staying home seemed great: You wake up, watch Netflix, play Animal Crossing, change into a new pair of pajamas, switch over to Disney+, and then go to sleep. A week into social distancing, however, and you are probably desperate for some new forms of entertainment. 

To help you out, we rounded up three streaming services you can watch that are most likely different from the ones you already subscribe to — there’s even one your dog will love.

Let the binge-watching commence!

For the documentary enthusiast: CuriosityStream

This award-winning streaming service was launched by Discovery Communications founder, John Hendricks back in 2015. Included in your subscription is access to more than 2,000 documentary features and series, as well as immersive experiences featuring experts like Stephen Hawking and David Attenborough. Plus, with more than 360 reviews online, CuriosityStream currently has an impressive five-star rating. Get yourself a two-year subscription on sale for $29.99 (25% off). Read more…

More about Streaming Services, Mashable Shopping, Entertainment, and Consumer Tech

A new FDA-authorized COVID-19 test doesn’t need a lab and can produce results in just 5 minutes



There’s a new COVID-19 test from healthcare technology maker Abbott that looks to be the fastest yet in terms of producing results, and that can do so on the spot right at point-of-care, without requiring a round trip to a lab. This test for the novel coronavirus causing the current global pandemic has received emergency clearance for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and will begin production next week, with output of 50,000 per day possible starting next week.

The new Abbott ID NOW COVID-19 test uses the Abbott ID NOW diagnostics platform, which is essentially a lab-in-a-box that is roughly the size of a small kitchen appliance. It’s size, and the fact that it can produce either a positive result in just five minutes, or a negative one in under 15, mean that it could be a very useful means to extend coronavirus testing beyond its current availability to more places including clinics and doctor’s offices, and cut down on wait times both in terms of getting tested and receiving a diagnosis.

Unlike the rapid tests that have been used in other countries, and that received a new type of authorization under an FDA guideline that doesn’t confirm the accuracy fo the results, this rapid testing solution uses the molecular testing method, which works with saliva and mucus samples swabbed from a patient. This means that it works by identifying a portion of the virus’ DNA in a patient, which means it’s much better at detecting the actual presence of the virus during infection, whereas other tests that search the blood for antibodies that are used in point-of-care settings can only detect antibodies, which might be present in recovered patients who don’t actively have the virus.

The good news for availability of this test is that ID NOW, the hardware from Abbott that it runs on, already “holds the largest molecular point-of-care footprint in the U.S.,” and is “widely available” across doctor’s offices, urgent care clinics, emergency rooms and other medical facilities.

In total, Abbott now says that it believes it will produce 5 million tests in April, split between these new rapid tests and the lab tests that it received emergency use authorization for by the FDA on March 18.

Testing has been one of the early problems faced by the U.S. in terms of getting a handle on the coronavirus pandemic: The country has lagged behind other nations globally in terms of per capita tests conducted, which experts say has hampered its ability to properly track and trace the spread of the virus and its resulting respiratory disease. Patients have reported having to go to extreme lengths to receive a test, and endure long waits for results, even in cases where exposure was likely and their symptoms match the COVID-19 profile.

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