Snapchat loses 2M more users in Q3 as shares sink to new low

Snapchat loses 2M more users in Q3 as shares sink to new low

Snapchat continued to shrink in Q3 2018 but its business is steadily improving. Snapchat’s daily active user count dropped again, this time by 1 percent to 186 million, down from 188M and a negative 1.5 percent growth rate in Q2. User count is still up 5 percent year-over-year, though. Snapchat earned $298 million in revenue with an EPS loss of $0.12, beating Wall Street’s expectations of $283 million in revenue and EPS loss of $0.14, plus a loss of a half a million users.

Snap entered earnings with a $6.99 share price, close to its $6.46 all-time low and way down from its $24 IPO opening price. Snap lost $325 million this quarter compared to $353 million in Q2, so it’s making some progress with its cost cutting. That briefly emboldened Wall Street, which pushed the share price up 8.3 percent to around $7.57 right after earnings were announced.

But then Snap’s share price came crashing down to -9.3 percent to $6.31 in after-hours trading. The stock had been so heavily shorted by investors that it only needed modest growth in its business for shares to perk up, but the fear that Snap might shrink into nothing has investors weary. Projections that Snap will lose users again next quarter further scared off investors.

Worringly, Snapchat’s average revenue per user dropped 12.5 percent in the developing world this quarter. But strong gains in the US and Europe markets grew global ARPU by 14 percent. Snap projects $355 million to $380 million in holiday Q4 revenue, in line with analyst estimates.

In his prepared remarks, CEO Evan Spiegel admitted that “While we have incredible reach among our core demographic of 13- to 34-year-olds in the US and Europe, there are billions of people worldwide who do not yet use Snapchat.” He explained that the 2 million user loss was mostly on Android where Snapchat doesn’t run as well as on iOS. Noticibly absent was an update on monthly active users in the US and Canada. Snap said that was over 100 million monthly users last quarter, probably in an effort to distract from the daily user shrinkage. The company didn’t update that stat, but did say the “over 100 million” stat was still accurate.

Snap CEO Evan Spiegel

Spiegel had said in a memo that his stretch goal was break-even this year and full-year profitability in 2019. But CFO Tim Stone said that “Looking forward to 2019, our internal stretch output goal will be an acceleration of revenue growth and full year free cash flow and profitability. Bear in mind that an internal stretch goal is not a forecast, and it’s not guidance.”

During the call, Spiegel responded to questions about the Android overhaul’s schedule saying, “Quality takes time. We’re going wait until we get it right”. But analysts piled on with inquiries about how Snap would turn things around in 2019. He admitted Snaps created per day had dropped from 3.5 billion to 3 billion per day, but tried to reassure investors by saying over 60% of our users are still creating snaps every day.

Spiegel said that expanding beyond the 13 to 34-year-old age group in the US and Europe, plus scoring more users in the developing world via the improved Android app would be how it restores momentum. But the problem is that courting older users could sour the perception of its younger users who don’t want their parents, teachers, or bosses on the app.

Now down to $1.4 billion in cash and securities, Snap will need to start reaching more of those international users or improving monetization of those it still has to keep afloat without outside capital.

An Uphill Battle

Q3 saw Snapchat’s launch its first in-house augmented reality Snappable games, while plans for an third-party gaming platform leak.  The Snappable Tic-Tac-Toe game saw 80 million unique users, suggesting gaming could be the right direction for Snap to move towards.

It launched Lens Explorer to draw more attention to developer and creator-built augmented reality experiences, plus its Storyteller program to connect social media stars to brands to earn sponsorship money. It also shut down its Venmo-like Snapcash feature. But the biggest news came from its Q2 earnings report where it announced it’d lost 3 million users. That scored it a short-lived stock price pop, but competition and user shrinkage has pushed Snap’s shares to new lows.

Snapchat is depending on the Project Mushroom engineering overhaul of its Android app to speed up performance, and thereby accelerate user growth and retention. Snap neglected the developing world’s Android market for years as it focused on iPhone-toting US teens. Given Snapchat is all about quick videos, slow load times made it nearly unusable, especially in markets with slower network connections and older phones.

Looking at the competitive landscape, WhatsApp’s Snapchat Stories clone Status has grown to 450 million daily users while Instagram Stories has reached 400 million dailies — much of that coming in the developing world, thereby blocking Snap’s growth abroad as I predicted when Insta Stories launched.. Snap Map hasn’t become ubiquitous, Snap’s Original Shows still aren’t premium enough to drag in tons of new users, Discover is a clickbait-overloaded mess, and Instagram has already copied the best parts of its ephemeral messaging. Snap could be vulnerable in the developing world if WhatsApp similarly copies its disappearing chats.

At this rate, Snap will run out of money before it’s projected to become profitable in 2020 or 2021. That means the company will likely need to sell new shares in exchange for outside investment or get acquired to survive.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

White House belatedly begins planning for 5G with memo asking for policy recommendations

White House belatedly begins planning for 5G with memo asking for policy recommendations

The White House has issued a memorandum outlining the need for a new national wireless connectivity strategy; the document doesn’t really establish anything new, but does request lots of reports on how things are going. Strangely, what it proposes sounds a lot like what the FCC already does.

The memorandum, heralded by a separate post announcing that “America Will Win the Global Race to 5G,” is not exactly a statement of policy, though it does put a few things out there. It’s actually more of a request for information on which to base a future policy — apparently one that will win us a global race that began years ago.

In fact, the U.S. has been pursuing a broad 5G policy for quite a while now, and under President Obama we were the first country to allocate spectrum to the nascent standard. But since then progress has stalled and we have been overtaken by the likes of South Korea and Spain in policy steps like spectrum auctions.

After some talk about the “insatiable demand” for wireless spectrum and the economic importance of wireless communications, the memo gets to business. Reports are requested within 180 days from various Executive branch departments and agencies on “their anticipated future spectrum requirements,” as well as reviews of their current spectrum usage.

The Office of Science and Technology Policy is asked to report in the same time period on how emerging tech (smart homes and grids, for instance) could affect spectrum demand, and how research and development spending should be guided to improve spectrum access.

Another report from the Secretary of Commerce will explain “existing efforts and planned near- to mid-term spectrum repurposing initiatives.”

Then, 270 days from today the various entities involved here, including the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the FCC, will deliver a “long-term National Spectrum Strategy” that hits a number of targets:

  • Increase spectrum access, security and transparency
  • Create flexible spectrum management models, including standards, incentives and enforcement mechanisms
  • “Develop advanced technologies” to improve spectrum access and sharing
  • Improve the global competitiveness of U.S. “terrestrial and space-related industries” (which seems to encompass all of them)

It’s not exactly ambitious; the terms are vague enough that one would expect any new legislation or rules to accomplish or accommodate these things. One would hardly want a spectrum policy that decreased access and transparency. In fact, the previous administration issued spectrum memos much like these, years ago.

Meanwhile, this fresh start may frustrate those in government who are already doing this work. The FCC has been pursuing 5G and new spectrum policy for years, and it’s been a particular focus of Chairman Ajit Pai. He proposed a bunch of rules months ago, and just yesterday there was a proposal to bring Wi-Fi up to a more compatible and future-proof state.

It’s entirely possible that the agency may have to justify and re-propose things it’s already doing, or see those actions and rules questioned or altered by committees over the next year. From what I heard this whole effort from the White House was pursued without much participation from the FCC. I’ve contacted the Chairman’s office for details (he’s out of the country presently and had no prepared statement, which may give you an idea of his level of involvement).

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel was not enthusiastic about the memo.

“We are ripping up what came before and starting with a new wireless policy sometime late next year. But the world isn’t going to wait for us,” she said in a statement provided to TechCrunch. “Other nations are moving ahead with strategies they are implementing now while we’re headed to study hall — and in the interim we’re slapping big tariffs on the most essential elements of 5G networks. If you stand back and survey what is happening, you see that we’re not expediting our 5G wireless leadership, we’re making choices that slow us down.”

Whether this new effort will yield worthwhile results, we’ll know in 270 days. Until then the authorities already attempting to make the U.S. the leader in 5G will continue doing what they’re doing.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Facebook launches Candidate Info where politicians pitch on camera

Facebook launches Candidate Info where politicians pitch on camera

Facebook wants to make YouTube-style monologue videos the new way for politicians to talk straight with their constituency. Today, Facebook launches Candidate Info, featuring thousands of direct-to-camera vertical videos where federal, state and local candidates introduce themselves and explain their top policy priority, qualifications and biggest goal if they win office. Elizabeth Warren (D – MA Senate), Scott Walker (R – WI Governor) and Beto O’Rourke (D – TX Senate) have already posted, and Facebook expects more candidates to jump in shortly.

These videos will soon be available as part of an Election 2018 bookmark in the Facebook mobile app’s navigation drawer. And starting next week, the clips will begin appearing to potential constituents in the News Feed.

Facebook tells me these videos will make it easier for people to learn about and compare different candidates. The effort extends the Town Hall feature Facebook launched in 2017 that offers a personalized directory of candidates they could vote for. Candidate Info will similarly only show videos from politicians running in elections relevant to a given user, so if you’re in California you won’t see videos from the Texas senate race between O’Rourke and Ted Cruz. But you can still find their videos on their Facebook Pages.

With the mid-terms fast approaching, Facebook is trying to do everything it can to protect against election interference by foreign and domestic attackers, offer transparency about who bought campaign adsconnect users to candidates and encourage people to register and vote. With fake news that spread through the social network thought to have influenced the 2016 election, and ill-gotten Facebook user data from Cambridge Analytica applied to Donald Trump’s campaign ad targeting, Facebook is hoping to avoid similar problematic narratives this time around.

You can see some examples of Candidate Info videos below from O’Rourke and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

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Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Facebook confirms it’s building augmented reality glasses

Facebook confirms it’s building augmented reality glasses
“Yeah! Well of course we’re working on it,” Facebook’s head of augmented reality Ficus Kirkpatrick told me when I asked him at TechCrunch’s AR/VR event in LA if Facebook was building AR glasses. “We are building hardware products. We’re going forward on this . . . We want to see those glasses come into reality, and I think we want to play our part in helping to bring them there.”
This is the clearest confirmation we’ve received yet from Facebook about its plans for AR glasses. The product could be Facebook’s opportunity to own a mainstream computing device on which its software could run after a decade of being beholden to smartphones built, controlled and taxed by Apple and Google.

Fresh off the heels of its first hardware launch, Facebook's Fiscus Kirkpatrick says the company is also working on an AR headset https://t.co/AS8IMIO56b #TCARVR pic.twitter.com/eWW6JX22yc
— TechCrunch (@TechCrunch) October 24, 2018

This month, Facebook launched its first self-branded gadget out of its Building 8 lab, the Portal smart display, and now it’s revving up hardware efforts. For AR, Kirkpatrick told me, “We have no product to announce right now. But we have a lot of very talented people doing really, really compelling cutting-edge research that we hope plays a part in the future of headsets.”
There’s a war brewing here. AR startups like Magic Leap and Thalmic Labs are starting to release their first headsets and glasses. Microsoft is considered a leader thanks to its early HoloLens product, while Google Glass is still being developed for the enterprise. And Apple has acquired AR hardware developers like Akonia Holographics and Vrvana to accelerate development of its own headsets.
Mark Zuckerberg said at F8 2017 that AR glasses were 5 to 7 years away
Technological progress and competition seems to have sped up Facebook’s timetable. Back in April 2017, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, “We all know where we want this to get eventually, we want glasses,” but explained that “we do not have the science or technology today to build the AR glasses that we want. We may in five years, or seven years.” He explained that “We can’t build the AR product that we want today, so building VR is the path to getting to those AR glasses.” The company’s Oculus division had talked extensively about the potential of AR glasses, yet similarly characterized them as far off.
But a few months later, a Facebook patent application for AR glasses was spotted by Business Insider that detailed using “waveguide display with two-dimensional scanner” to project media onto the lenses. Cheddar’s Alex Heath reports that Facebook is working on Project Sequoia that uses projectors to display AR experiences on top of physical objects like a chess board on a table or a person’s likeness on something for teleconferencing. These indicate Facebook was moving past AR research.
Facebook AR glasses patent application
Last month, The Information spotted four Facebook job listings seeking engineers with experience building custom AR computer chips to join the Facebook Reality Lab (formerly known as Oculus research). And a week later, Oculus’ Chief Scientist Michael Abrash briefly mentioned amidst a half-hour technical keynote at the company’s VR conference that “No off the shelf display technology is good enough for AR, so we had no choice but to develop a new display system. And that system also has the potential to bring VR to a different level.”
But Kirkpatrick clarified that he sees Facebook’s AR efforts not just as a mixed reality feature of VR headsets. “I don’t think we converge to one single device . . . I don’t think we’re going to end up in a Ready Player One future where everyone is just hanging out in VR all the time,” he tells me. “I think we’re still going to have the lives that we have today where you stay at home and you have maybe an escapist, immersive experience or you use VR to transport yourself somewhere else. But I think those things like the people you connect with, the things you’re doing, the state of your apps and everything needs to be carried and portable on-the-go with you as well, and I think that’s going to look more like how we think about AR.”
Oculus Chief Scientist Michael Abrash makes predictions about the future of AR and VR at the Oculus Connect 5 conference
Oculus virtual reality headsets and Facebook augmented reality glasses could share an underlying software layer, though, which might speed up engineering efforts while making the interface more familiar for users. “I think that all this stuff will converge in some way maybe at the software level,” Kirkpatrick said.
The problem for Facebook AR is that it may run into the same privacy concerns that people had about putting a Portal camera inside their homes. While VR headsets generate a fictional world, AR must collect data about your real-world surroundings. That could raise fears about Facebook surveilling not just our homes but everything we do, and using that data to power ad targeting and content recommendations. This brand tax haunts Facebook’s every move.
Startups with a cleaner slate like Magic Leap and giants with a better track record on privacy like Apple could have an easier time getting users to put a camera on their heads. Facebook would likely need a best-in-class gadget that does much that others can’t in order to convince people it deserves to augment their reality.
You can watch our full interview with Facebook’s director of camera and head of augmented reality engineering Ficus Kirkpatrick from our TechCrunch Sessions: AR/VR event in LA:

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

Mobvoi launches new $200 smartwatch and $130 AirPods alternative

Mobvoi launches new 0 smartwatch and 0 AirPods alternative
Chinese AI company Mobvoi has consistently been one of the best also-rans in the smartwatch game, which remains dominated by Apple. Today, it launched a sequel to its 2016 TicWatch, which was a viral hit raising over $2 million on Kickstarter, and it unveiled a cheaper take on Apple’s AirPods.
The new TicWatch C2 was outed at a London event and is priced at $199.99. Unlike its predecessor, it has shifted from Mobvoi’s own OS to Google’s Wear OS. That isn’t a huge surprise, though, since Mobvoi’s newer budget watches and ‘pro’ watch have both already made that jump.
The C2 — which stands for classic 2 — packs NFC, Bluetooth, NFC and a voice assistant. It comes in black, platinum and rose gold. The latter color option — shown below — is thinner so presumably it is designed for female wrists.

However, there’s a compromise since the watch isn’t shipping with Qualcomm’s newest Snapdragon Wear 3100 chip. Mobvoi has instead picked the older 2100 processor. That might explain the price, but it will mean that newer Android Wear watches shipping in the company months have better performance, particularly around battery life. As it stands, the TicWatch C2 claims a day-two life but the processor should be a consideration for would-be buyers.
Mobvoi also outed TicPods Free, its take on Apple’s wireless AirPods. They are priced at $129.99 and available in red, white and blue.
The earbuds already raised over $2.8 million from Indiegogo — Mobvoi typically uses crowdfunding to gather feedback and assess customer interest — and early reviews have been positive.

They work on Android and iOS and include support for Alex and Google Assistant. They also include gesture-based controls beyond the Apple-style taps for skipping music, etc. Battery life without the case, which doubles as a charger, is estimated at 18 hours, or four hours of listening time.
The TicPods are available to buy online now. The TicWatch C2 is up for pre-sale ahead of a “wide” launch that’s planned for December 6.
Mobvoi specializes in AI and it includes Google among its investors. It also has a joint venture with VW that is focused on bringing Ai into the automotive industry. In China it is best known for AI services but globally, in the consumer space, it also offers a Google Assistant speaker called TicHome Mini.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

Quoth the Robo-Raven, “Recharge me!”

Quoth the Robo-Raven, “Recharge me!”

Researchers at the University of Maryland A. James Clark School of Engineering have been working on the so-called Robo Raven for years. The ongoing project resulted in the first flying drone with independent wing movement, a feature that made these U of M UAV’s closer to birds than ever before.
Now Lena Johnson, a Ph.D. candidate in mechanical engineering, has created the Robo Raven V, an advanced version of the flying drone.
“Robo Raven has given me an entire platform to explore how engineers can take advantage of avian flight to improve drone capabilities,” she told IEEE< ?A>. “As a Ph.D. student, my research is focused on achieving something new with this UAV platform that has already made aviation history by flying on wings that can move independently of each other.”
The new raven has two propellers for faster takeoff and has improved maneuverability thanks to better wing design. As you can see above, it flies like a big butterfly, lightly taking to the breeze with massive mylar wings. It’s a pretty – and clever – version of the typical flying drone and it will be interesting to see how far Johnson can take the technology.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

A closer look at Mirror

A closer look at Mirror
At Disrupt SF, CEO Brynn Putnam demoed and launched Mirror, a smart gadget that sits on your wall and offers virtual fitness classes.
The $1500 device can be paired with a monthly subscription to let the user browse fitness classes, mark their progress, and follow along with other Mirror users. The idea here is that people spend thousands of dollars on gym memberships and/or huge fitness machines like the Peloton, but that Mirror offers a way to get a similar experience at home without taking up all that space.
We caught up with Putnam at the Mirror offices in NYC to check out the product and get more info.
Enjoy the video!

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

Subscription management startup RevenueCat raises $1.5M

Subscription management startup RevenueCat raises .5M

RevenueCat, a startup that helps developers manage their in-app subscriptions, has raised $1.5 million in new funding.

The company was part of the most recent batch at Y Combinator, and CEO Jacob Eiting said growth has been “a rocket ship” for the past few months. As of this week, RevenueCat is working with 100 live apps, and it’s crossing $1 million in tracked revenue.

The startup offers an API to address what sounds like a straightforward task, supporting in-app subscriptions in iOS and Android. As Eiting put it when I first interviewed him a few months ago, it’s “boring work” solving a “boring problem” — but that’s one of the reasons why developers don’t want to deal with it. It also means they don’t have to spend time dealing with bugs and updates on the subscription side of either platform.

And RevenueCat continues to add new features, like allowing developers to bring their revenue data into analytics and attribution services. That, in turn, makes it easier for them to see which ads are driving real revenue.

The long-term goal is to build what Eiting (who’s pictured above with his co-founder Miguel Carranza) calls a “revenue management platform.”

“Our mission as a company is to help developers make more money,” he said. “I think we do become this one-stop shop, a service that you integrate with all the payment touch points in your app to help you track your revenue and help you understand how customers are spending.”

The new funding (which is on top of the $120,000 RevenueCat received from YC) was led by Jason Lemkin of SaaStr. Eiting said it’s “an obvious fit,” since the software-as-a-service entrepreneurs who read SaaStr articles, listen to its podcasts and attend its events form “this huge community of companies that are potential customers for us.”

FundersClub, Oakhouse Partners, Buckley Endeavours, Josh Buckley and OneSignal CEO George Deglin also invested.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Apple patent shows new way to create 3D printed models

Apple patent shows new way to create 3D printed models
A patent filed by Apple Inc. shows a new method to print 3D models using triangular tessellation. The patent office approved the method, which breaks smooth surfaces into little triangles that approximate the shape of the original model, on October 23, 2018.
The unique aspect of the patent involves the infill and surface. The infill are little patterns inside an object that help it retain rigidity. Most infill is usually fairly simple and involves drawing shapes or squiggles inside an object in a uniform way to keep the shape from collapsing. This means that the entire inside of the object is uniform, leading to cracking or brittleness in the finished product. Apple’s solution would change the shape of the internal infill to differently-sized triangles, depending on the print, ensuring that there is more infill on the edges of the object. The same system is used on the surface of the print to approximate smooth surfaces.

Apple listed Michael R. Sweet, Senior Printing System Engineer at Apple Inc., Canada, as the sole inventor. Sweet has patented at least 13 other 3D printing inventions according to 3D Printing Industry.
“In one embodiment, the triangles making up the triangular tessellations are fixed-size triangles. In another embodiment, the triangles making up the triangular tessellations are dynamically sized triangles. By way of example, small triangles could be used to form an object’s edges or other regions in which strength/support is needed. Larger triangles could be used to build-up or construct areas where strength/support is not as critical,” wrote Sweet in the patent. The patent notes that this system can speed up printing considerably as the print head does not have to move back and forth and instead only moves forward to make the triangular shapes. As an example, Sweet points out that circular infill, as shown below, is inefficient.

This obviously doesn’t meet Apple is making a 3D printer. It simply means that a printing researcher at Apple is looking into the problem and has created a slightly more efficient method for designing 3D printed parts.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

Naya Health, once a promising breast pump startup, now leaving customers in the dark

Naya Health, once a promising breast pump startup, now leaving customers in the dark
With their loud noises and hard plastic flanges, breast pumps are the bane of many a new mother’s existence. Founded in 2013, Naya Health is one of the most notable tech startups working on a better pump. But the company’s support site is now shutdown and it’s stopped updating its social media accounts. In a report today, CNBC spoke to several customers who said their pumps, which cost $1,000 and aren’t covered by insurance, had stopped working, and Naya Health had not provided them with adequate support or replacement parts.
While the Naya Health breast pump’s price tag is significantly more than most competing devices, customers were willing to give it a chance because of its unique flange design, which used silicone and water instead of plastic cups to recreate a nursing baby’s mouth.
Users have left a series of complaints on Naya Health’s Facebook page since May about performance issues, poor customer service, and long shipping times or non-delivery of pumps they ordered months ago. A Kickstarter campaign created for Naya Health’s smart baby bottle, which raised more than $100,000, is also filled with complaints about orders not being fulfilled (the last response from co-founder and CEO Janica Alvarez was posted six months ago).
Naya Health’s Facebook and Instagram accounts haven’t been updated since summer, even though users are still using them to post complaints, while its Twitter account has been set to protected mode. As CNBC noted, many customers have begun turning to the Better Business Bureau’s site to post complaints after saying their messages and calls to Naya Health went unanswered.
An email sent to Alvarez, who co-founded the company with her husband Jeffery Alvarez, Naya Health’s CTO, received an auto-reply. TechCrunch has also contacted Naya Health investors Tandem Capital and Bojiang Capital, the co-leads of its seed round, for comment. The company has raised $4.6 million in angel and seed funding, according to Crunchbase.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch