Coinbase acquires Distributed Systems to build ‘Login with Coinbase’

Coinbase acquires Distributed Systems to build ‘Login with Coinbase’

Coinbase wants to be Facebook Connect for crypto. The blockchain giant plans to develop “Login with Coinbase” or a similar identity platform for decentralized app developers to make it much easier for users to sign up and connect their crypto wallets. To fuel that platform, today Coinbase announced it has acquired Distributed Systems, a startup founded in 2015 that was building an identity standard for dApps called the Clear Protocol.

The five-person Distributed Systems team and its technology will join Coinbase. Three of the team members will work with Coinbase’s Toshi decentralized mobile browser team, while CEO Nikhil Srinivasan and his co-founder Alex Kern are forming the new decentralized identity team that will work on the Login with Coinbase product. They’ll be building it atop the “know your customer” anti-money laundering data Coinbase has on its 20 million customers. Srinivasan tells me the goal is to figure out “How can we allow that really rich identity data to enable a new class of applications?”

Distributed Systems had raised a $1.7 million seed round last year led by Floodgate and was considering raising a $4 million to $8 million round this summer. But Srinivasan says, “No one really understood what we’re building,” and it wanted a partner with KYC data. It began talking to Coinbase Ventures about an investment, but after they saw Distributed Systems’ progress and vision, “they quickly tried to move to find a way to acquire us.”

Distributed Systems began to hold acquisition talks with multiple major players in the blockchain space, and the CEO tells me it was deciding between going to “Facebook, or Robinhood, or Binance, or Coinbase,” having been in formal talks with at least one of the first three. Of Coinbase the CEO said, they “were able to convince us they were making big bets, weaving identity across their products.” The financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

Coinbase’s plan to roll out the Login with Coinbase-style platform is an SDK that others apps could integrate, though that won’t necessarily be the feature’s name. That mimics the way Facebook colonized the web with its SDK and login buttons that splashed its brand in front of tons of new and existing users. This turned Facebook into a fundamental identity utility beyond its social network.

Developers eager to improve conversions on their signup flow could turn to Coinbase instead of requiring users to set up whole new accounts and deal with crypto-specific headaches of complicated keys and procedures for connecting their wallet to make payments. One prominent dApp developer told me yesterday that forcing users to set up the MetaMask browser extension for identity was the part of their signup flow where they’re losing the most people.

This morning Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong confirmed these plans to work on an identity SDK. When Coinbase investor Garry Tan of Initialized Capital wrote that “The main issue preventing dApp adoption is lack of native SDK so you can just download a mobile app and a clean fiat to crypto in one clean UX. Still have to download a browser plugin and transfer Eth to Metamask for now Too much friction,” Armstrong replied “On it :)”

In effect, Coinbase and Distributed Systems could build a safer version of identity than we get offline. As soon as you give your Social Security number to someone or it gets stolen, it can be used anywhere without your consent, and that leads to identity theft. Coinbase wants to build a vision of identity where you can connect to decentralized apps while retaining control. “Decentralized identity will let you prove that you own an identity, or that you have a relationship with the Social Security Administration, without making a copy of that identity,” writes Coinbase’s PM for identity B. Byrne, who’ll oversee Srinivasan’s new decentralized identity team. “If you stretch your imagination a little further, you can imagine this applying to your photos, social media posts, and maybe one day your passport too.”

Considering Distributed Systems and Coinbase are following the Facebook playbook, they may soon have competition from the social network. It’s spun up its own blockchain team and an identity and single sign-on platform for dApps is one of the products I think Facebook is most likely to build. But given Coinbase’s strong reputation in the blockchain industry and its massive head start in terms of registered crypto users, today’s acquisition well position it to be how we connect our offline identity with the rising decentralized economy.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Facebook buys Vidpresso’s team and tech to make video interactive

Facebook buys Vidpresso’s team and tech to make video interactive

Zombie-like passive consumption of static video is both unhealthy for viewers and undifferentiated for the tech giants that power it. That’s set Facebook on a mission to make video interactive, full of conversation with broadcasters and fellow viewers. It’s racing against Twitch, YouTube, Twitter and Snapchat to become where people watch together and don’t feel like asocial slugs afterward.

That’s why Facebook today told TechCrunch that it’s acqui-hired Vidpresso, buying its seven-person team and its technology but not the company itself. The six-year-old Utah startup works with TV broadcasters and content publishers to make their online videos more interactive with on-screen social media polling and comments, graphics and live broadcasting integrated with Facebook, YouTube, Periscope and more. The goal appears to be to equip independent social media creators with the same tools these traditional outlets use so they can make authentic but polished video for the Facebook platform.

Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but it wouldn’t have taken a huge price for the deal to be a success for the startup. Vidpresso had only raised a $120,00 in seed capital from Y Combinator in 2014, plus some angel funding. By 2016, it was telling hiring prospects that it was profitable, but also that, “We will not be selling the company unless some insane whatsapp like thing happened. We’re building a forever biz, not a flip.” So either Vidpresso lowered its bar for an exit or Facebook made coming aboard worth its while.

For now, Vidpresso clients and partners like KTXL, Univision, BuzzFeed, Turner Sports, Nasdaq, TED, NBC and others will continue to be able to use its services. A Facebook spokesperson confirmed that customers will work with the Vidpresso team at Facebook, who are joining its offices in Menlo Park, London and LA. That means Facebook is at least temporarily becoming a provider of enterprise video services. But Facebook confirms it won’t charge Vidpresso clients, so they’ll be getting its services for free from now on. Whether Facebook eventually turns away old clients or stops integrating with competing video platforms like Twitch and YouTube remains to be seen. For now, it’s giving Vidpresso a much more dignified end than the sudden shutdowns some tech giants impose on their acquisitions.

We’ve had a lot of false starts along the way . . . We finally landed on helping create high quality broadcasts back on social media, but we still haven’t realized the full vision yet. That’s why we’re joining Facebook,” the Vidpresso team writes. “This gives us the best opportunity to accelerate our vision and offer a simple way for creators, publishers, and broadcasters to use social media in live video at a high quality level . . . By joining Facebook, we’ll be able to offer our tools to a much broader audience than just our A-list publishing partners. Eventually, it’ll allow us to put these tools in the hands of creators, so they can focus on their content, and have it look great, without spending lots of time or money to do so.”

Facebook Live has seen 3.5 billion broadcasts to date, and they get six times as many interactions as traditional videos. But beyond public figures, game streamers, and the odd moment of citizen journalism, it’s become clear that most users don’t have compelling enough content to stream. Interactivity could take some pressure off the broadcaster by letting the audience chip in.

Facebook already has some interactive video experiments out in the wild. For users, it recently rolled out its Watch Party tool for letting Groups view and chat about videos together. It’s also trying new games like Lip Sync Live and a Talent Show feature where users submit videos of them singing. For creators, Facebook now let streamers earn tips with its new Stars virtual currency, and lets fans subscribe to donating money to their favorite video makers like on Patreon. And on the publisher side, Facebook Live has also built tools to help publishers pull in social media content. It’s even got an interactive video API that it’s developing to allow developers to launch their own HQ Trivia-game shows.

But the last line of Vidpresso’s announcement above explains Facebook’s intentions here, and also why it didn’t just try to build the tools itself. It doesn’t just want established news publishers and TV studios making video for its platform. It wants semi-pro creators to be able to broadcast snazzy videos with graphics, comments and polls that can aesthetically compete with “big video” but that feel more natural. This focus on creators over news outlets aligns with reports of Facebooks head of journalist relations Campbell Brown allegedly saying that Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t care about publishers and that “We are not interested in talking to you about your traffic and referrals any more. That is the old world and there is no going back.” Facebook has contested these reports.

Every internet platform is wising up to the fact that web-native creators who grew up on their sites often create the most compelling content and the most fervent fan bases. Whichever video hub offers the best audience growth, creative expression tools and monetization options will become the preferred destination for creators’ work, and their audiences will follow. Vidpresso could help these creators look more like TV anchors than selfie monologuers, but also help them earn money by integrating brand graphics and tie-ins. Facebook couldn’t risk another tech giant buying up Vidpresso and gaining an edge, or wasting time trying to build interactive video technology and expertise from scratch.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Nokia closes digital health sale to Withings founder Eric Carreel, who plans relaunch by EOY

Nokia closes digital health sale to Withings founder Eric Carreel, who plans relaunch by EOY
Nokia has closed the books on its unlucky foray into digital health devices and services, and with it, a business is marking its return to the world of startups. Today, the Finnish telecoms giant announced that it has closed the sale of its digital health division, along with 200 employees, to Eric Carreel, the former chairman and co-founder of Withings. Now Carreel plans to relaunch the business once again under the Withings brand by the end of this year, with products focused on preventive health.
Withings had formed the core of Nokia’s digital health business after it acquired the company, famous for its smart scales, in 2016 for €170 million. Nokia later rebranded the business as Nokia Digital Health.
“I am delighted to start working again with the brilliant teams that made the brand such a great success” said Carreel in a statement. “We have an exciting challenge ahead of us as we continue to push the boundaries of connected health.”
The deal comes less than a month after Nokia announced that it had entered into exclusive negotiations with Carreel for the sale, part of a larger reorganization at the company to refocus away from unprofitable businesses.
There were no financial terms revealed in the sale, nor any details about how the new Withings will be financed. (We are asking.) In its previous incarnation as a startup before its exit to Nokia, Withings had raised just under $34 million with investors including Bpifrance, Ininvest and and Ventech starting in 2008. The new startup will be based out of Paris with operations also in the U.S. and Asia.
Alongside the news about Withings, there are some executive changes at Nokia, too.
Gregory Lee — who joined the Nokia Technologies division in part to restructure the business by hiving off unprofitable operations like digital health — is now leaving the company altogether. Maria Varsellona, who is the company’s Chief Legal Officer, will now also be the president of Nokia Technologies.
This change makes some (disheartening) sense: Nokia has a huge trove of patents from its long history, which included helping forge and for a long time leading the mobile phone industry. While Nokia’s mobile phone business eventually collapsed, quite dramatically, it has held on to a number of patents, and has added to that in recent years. And this is why it is unsurprising to have Nokia’s legal head also leading its Technologies division: it shows where the company’s priorities are today. 
Back at Withings, in addition to connected scales, the company today makes activity tracking watches, blood pressure monitors, a smart thermometer, and a sleep tracking pad, which work with an app it calls Health Mate. The focus on preventive health sounds like it will keep all of these in place.
The story of hardware startups is one of many optimistic and often exciting ideas, but also a lot of failures, as the realities set in of developing supply chains, trying to find the right economies of scale and of course finding customers for your shiny new gadgets. Withings is some way out of the initially hard part of simply getting products designed, working, made and out into the market, but it will still have to contend with keeping the business operating and growing — challenges that Nokia clearly could not surmount.
One thing in its favor is the rise of AI and the general expansion of possibilities that come with all the data that can now be collected. Putting aside clunkers like Theranos, a number of startups — such as Ava, which is focusing on women’s health — have been exploring not just what kind of data they can gather from wearables and other devices, but how to “read” that data and match it up with new understanding about disease pathology and health, to gain more insights about us and how we work.
This seems to be the direction that Withings hopes to go, too.
“We are still only just starting to discover what connected health can really bring to people,” said Carreel in a statement. “From now on we must concentrate our efforts on developing tools capable of advanced measurements and the associated services that can help prevent chronic health conditions. Today’s technologies allow us to imagine solutions that have the potential to benefit the lives of millions of people, and our ambition is to ensure that we, as Withings, lead the way with technological advances and intuitive designs.”

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

A beverage company bought — and shuttered — the Poncho weather app

A beverage company bought — and shuttered — the Poncho weather app

They say you can’t predict the weather. Acquisitions are often the same way. If you had told me yesterday, for instance, that adorable weather app Poncho was about to be acquired and effectively shuttered by a direct-to-consumer beverage company, I’d have told you that’s about as plausible as a cat who’s also a meteorologist.

And yet, here we are. Dirty Lemon, a high-end drink maker that sells products through text message for ~$10 a pop, has purchased the beloved app. The company confirmed the acquisition in a press release that contains the following buzzwordy quote from CEO Zak Normandin: “This partnership advances our vision to build a frictionless conversational platform by expanding our technological capabilities as an organization.”

Well, yeah, obviously.

Poncho was a bit more straightforward in describing what all of this means for the fate of the app. “It means no more weather…forecasts,” reads the note on the company’s front page. “Obvi there will still be weather, duh lol. And I hope you think of me every time you look at it, unless it’s nasty weather in which case pls think of a competitor weather service instead.”

As far as what this means for Poncho itself, the company’s CEO Sam Mandel will be serving as an adviser for Dirty Lemon, and the rest of the team will be folded into its parent company. The employees will work to help improve the drink company’s SMS-based sales model.

Mandel tells Fast Company that the service ultimately wasn’t able to monetize its product, in spite of raising $2 million courtesy of an appearance on Planet of the Apps last year. “We weren’t able to achieve critical mass,” he says. “It’s been a challenge […] to build a product that was independently compelling.”

The same, apparently, can’t be said for Dirty Lemon’s pricey beverage business.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Ring’s Jamie Siminoff and Clinc’s Jason Mars to join us at Disrupt SF

Ring’s Jamie Siminoff and Clinc’s Jason Mars to join us at Disrupt SF
Disrupt SF is set to be the biggest tech conference that TechCrunch has ever hosted. So it only makes sense that we plan an agenda fit for the occasion.
That’s why we’re absolutely thrilled to announce that Ring’s Jamie Siminoff will join us on stage for a fireside chat and Jason Mars from Clinc will be demo-ing first-of-its-kind technology on the Disrupt SF stage.
Jamie Siminoff – Ring
Earlier this year, Ring became Amazon’s second largest acquisition ever, selling to the behemoth for a reported $1 billion.
But the story begins long ago, with Jamie Siminoff building a WiFi-connected video doorbell in his garage in 2011. Back then it was called DoorBot. Now, it’s called Ring, and it’s an essential piece of the overall evolution of e-commerce.
As giants like Amazon move to make purchasing and receiving goods as simple as ever, safe and reliable entry into the home becomes critical to the mission. Ring, which has made neighborhood safety and home security its main priority since inception, is a capable partner in that mission.
Of course, one doesn’t often build a successful company and sell for $1 billion on their first go. Prior to Ring, Siminoff founded PhoneTag, the world’s first voicemail-to-text company and Unsubscribe.com. Both of those companies were sold. Based on his founding portfolio alone, it’s clear that part of Siminoff’s success can be attributed to understanding what consumers need and executing on a solution.
Dr. Jason Mars – Clinc
AI has the potential to change everything, but there is a fundamental disconnect between what AI is capable of and how we interface with it. Clinc has tried to close that gap with its conversational AI, emulating human intelligence to interpret unstructured, unconstrained speech.
Clinc is currently targeting the financial market, letting users converse with their bank account using natural language without any pre-defined templates or hierarchical voice menus.
But there are far more applications for this kind of conversational tech. As voice interfaces like Alexa and Google Assistant pick up steam, there is clearly an opportunity to bring this kind of technology to all facets of our lives.
At Disrupt SF, Clinc’s founder and CEO Dr. Jason Mars plans to do just that, debuting other ways that Clinc’s conversational AI can be applied. Without ruining the surprise, let me just say that this is going to be a demo you won’t want to miss.
Tickets to Disrupt are available here.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

Teradyne snatches up robot maker MiR in $272M deal

Teradyne snatches up robot maker MiR in 2M deal
Teradyne, a prosaic-sounding but flush company that provides automated testing equipment for industrial applications, has acquired the Danish robotics company MiR for an eye-popping $148 million, with $124 million on the table after meeting performance goals.
MiR, which despite the lowercase “i” stands for Mobile Industrial Robots, does what you might guess. Founded in 2013, the company has grown steadily and had a huge 2017, tripling its revenues to $12 million after its latest robot, the MiR200, received high marks from customers.
MiR’s robots are of the warehouse sort, wheeled little autonomous fellows that can lift and pull pallets, boxes and so on. They look a bit like the little ones that are always underfoot in Star Wars movies. It’s a natural fit for Teradyne, especially with the latter’s recent purchase of the well-known Universal Robotics in a $350 million deal in 2015.
Testing loads of electronics and components may be a dry business, but it’s a booming one, because the companies that test faster ship faster. Anytime efficiencies can be made in the process, be it warehouse logistics or assisting expert humans in sensitive procedures, one can be sure a company will be willing to pay for them.
Teradyne also noted (the Robot Report points out) that both companies take a modern approach to robots and how they interact and must be trained by people — the old paradigm of robotics specialists having to carefully program these things doesn’t scale well, and both UR and MiR were forward-thinking enough to improve that pain point.
The plan is, of course, to take MiR’s successful technology global, hopefully recreating its success on a larger scale.
“My main focus is to get our mobile robots out to the entire world,” said MiR CSO and founder Niels Jul Jacobsen in the press release announcing the acquisition. “With Teradyne as the owner, we will have strong backing to ensure MiR’s continued growth in the global market.”

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

Foxconn buys peripheral maker Belkin for $866M

Foxconn buys peripheral maker Belkin for 6M
Foxconn, best known for manufacturing practically everything in the world, has just announced the purchase of Belkin, the PC peripherals company, for $866 million in cash. That certainly makes it one of the larger consumer electronics acquisitions in recent memory.
You probably know Belkin for its various lines of accessories, peripherals, and assorted consumer electronics; Linksys, surely the most recognizable router brand, is a subsidiary. Wemo and Phyn might also ring a bell.
The purchase is likely aimed at giving Foxconn a foothold of its own in the peripherals and networked devices market. Belkin’s CEO and founder (35 years on), Chet Pipkin, will continue to operate the company as a wholly owned subsidiary and may join Foxconn’s management team.
No indication was given that Belkin’s companies would change much, either in makeup or in product lineup. I asked both companies for more details, and got a polite no comment in record time.
Interestingly, the FCC just today announced that it would soon propose that it would ban spending on companies that “pose a national security threat.” Huawei and ZTE were the obvious (but unnamed) targets of the proposed rule, but now Belkin and Linksys may also be included.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

Broadcom gives up and drops Qualcomm bid

Broadcom gives up and drops Qualcomm bid
It was already a complicated deal, but it now looks like Broadcom’s plans to take over Qualcomm are done. The company announced that it would respect Donald Trump’s block and drop its Qualcomm bid.
“Although we are disappointed with this outcome, Broadcom will comply with the order,” Broadcom said in a statement.
At one point, Broadcom was willing to pay $121 billion to acquire Qualcomm. It would have been the biggest tech acquisition of all time and a risky deal. But Qualcomm rejected the offer (without closing the door entirely).
After months of discussions, some Qualcomm shareholders became impatient. It led to a board shakeup with Executive Chairman Dr. Paul E. Jacobs leaving the board. Retrospectively, resisting Broadcom’s offer may have been the smartest move given the regulatory risks of the deal.
Trump’s administration said that Qualcomm’s acquisition represented a security risk. Broadcom is currently based in Singapore, and the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States didn’t want to let Qualcomm become a foreign company.
Broadcom has mentioned plans to relocate its headquarters to the U.S. And Reuters confirmed that it would still move to the U.S.
Qualcomm has been manufacturing systems-on-a-chip for Android phones as well as modems and other communications chips. In addition to this semiconductor business, Qualcomm earns a significant portion of its revenue from patent licensing deals. But Apple, South Korea and others don’t want to pay those fees anymore.
Broadcom also produces a ton of chips that you can find in all sorts of electronics devices, from networking to modems, GPUs and more. Chances are that all the devices that you have around you have one or multiple Qualcomm and Broadcom chips.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch