Teen monitoring app TeenSafe exposes thousands of passwords

UK-based security researcher Robert Wiggins has found two exposed TeenSafe servers, leaking the passwords and information of some users of the monitoring service.

TeenSafe is meant to protect teenagers by letting their parents monitor their texts, phone calls, web history, location, and app downloads. The breach was first reported by ZDNet.

According to the report, TeenSafe left two of their servers, which were hosted on AWS, exposed and viewable by anyone. Moreover, the database included information such as the parent’s email address, child’s Apple ID email address, device name, device unique identifier, and plaintext passwords for the teenager’s Apple ID.

So… just about everything.

TeenSafe requires that teenagers abstain from using two-factor authentication so that parents can keep an eye on their activity, making those teenagers even more vulnerable to malicious actors now that their personal information has been exposed.

TeenSafe claims on its website that it encrypts data so that it wouldn’t be accessible in the case of the breach.

According to ZDNet, the server held at least 10,200 records from the past three months containing customer data. The publication also included that some of those records were duplicates and that one of the servers appeared to store test data.

That said, it’s unclear if there are other leaky servers with exposed data yet to be discovered.

TeenSafe says it has more than 1 million parents using the platform.

“We have taken action to close one of our servers to the public and begun alerting customers that could potentially be impacted,” a TeenSafe spokesperson told ZDNet on Sunday.

We reached out directly to TeenSafe and will update the post if/when we hear back.

Fortnite Battle Royale’s Solo Showdown lets players compete for up to 50,000 V-Bucks

For the first time ever, Fortnite Battle Royale players have the chance to compete with one another for a huge amount of V-Bucks, the game’s virtual currency.

Fortnite Battle Royale often adds new wacky game modes, like 50 vs 50 or the much-memed Thanos game type made in conjunction with Marvel for Avengers: Infinity War.

Unlike those other game modes, however, Solo Showdown will not change the underlying game in any way — there is no extra shield, the storm doesn’t move any faster, and there are no extra weapon sizes or different team sizes.

Instead, Solo Showdown is a way to compete with other Battle Royale players in solo mode to discover who is the true GOAT.

Players must compete in 50 matches to join the leaderboard, and placement in each of those first 50 matches will determine overall ranking.

Prize pools are as follows:

  • First Place: 50,000 V-Bucks
  • Second Place to Fourth Place: 25,000 V-Bucks
  • Fifth Place to Fiftieth Place: 13,500 V-Bucks
  • Remaining Players in Top 100: 7,500 V-Bucks

    Up until this point, V-Bucks could only be earned in increments of 100 after purchasing the Battle Pass, which lets players complete challenges and rank up to earn various cosmetic rewards and V-Bucks. Earning V-Bucks, rather than purchasing them with real money, has never netted much of a return. You can only earn enough V-Bucks to purchase maybe one mid-range item per season, or you can save them over the course of multiple seasons to purchase a high-end item.

    For perspective, the most expensive items on Fortnite Battle Royale often cost around 2,000 V-Bucks, so a player with 50,000 V-Bucks is a rich player indeed.

    Fortnite Battle Royale has been free to play since its launch, and its virtual currency represents a major revenue stream for Epic Games . While items purchased in the store offer no competitive advantage, they make the game fun and fresh.

    However, the ability to earn these V-Bucks (in this large of a sum) is a welcome change to the current meta.

FCTRY wants to be a new type of startup studio

Startup Studios are becoming more and more prevalent, with big name companies like Giphy and Girlboss coming from the studio model. The premise is strong: use venture on a small, concentrated number of ideas, fostered by experts and internal resources, to create strong businesses.

But a new startup studio is prepping to launch in NYC with a different idea in mind.

FCTRY, led by Jules Ehrhardt, doesn’t necessarily think that money is always the best way to help startups grow. Ehrhardt thinks of FCTRY as more of a Creative Capital Studio, wherein experts from various fields (with a particular focus on creative, design, and engineering) offer their insight and knowledge to help startups grow rather than venture capital. Of course, these startups would still trade equity in exchange for these services.

Ehrhardt comes from UsTwo, the digital product studio that helped develop the wildly popular game Monument Valley.

The focus of FCTRY won’t be the foundry model, where studios come up with their own ideas in conjunction with smart serial entrepreneurs and build them from scratch in house. Rather, FCTRY will help existing early-stage and mid-stage companies with their creative strategy, processes and culture.

“The typical advisory system is broken,” said Ehrhardt. “Usually the advisory structure comes from a one to five percent equity pool and usually ends up in disappointment, where the advisor was supposed to make introductions or provide actionable insight that never comes through.”

Ehrhardt says he wants to bring more charity to that, tapping into the same pool of expert advisors but with the proper structure in place for offering that expertise and delivering on the task.

FCTRY will focus on three pillars of startup success: product, people, and growth.

“Product” might sound a bit obvious and nebulous all at once, but FCTRY is particularly concerned with building a framework for delivering on product, helping set up the processes and organizational structure that allow companies to build great products. Of course, the FCTRY team will also be contributing directly to the products themselves, but with the added goal of ensuring that the startup can continue to iterate and build great brands and products beyond their time with FCTRY.

Ehrhardt also noticed that recruitment and personal development are two big obstacles for companies trying to develop and express their own culture. Founders suddenly go from being chief product officer to hiring people to take over various roles at the company, requiring a totally different set of skills.

FCTRY wants to help startups develop and express their mission and culture so that it can scale from 10 people to 200 without a lot of friction. FCTRY also wants founders to focus on their own personal development, and that of their employees. Ehrhardt noted that Travis Kalanick, founder and CEO of one of the fastest scaling companies on the planet, didn’t scale himself up alongside the company.

“Failures often come down to the human part of a company,” said Ehrhardt. “People haven’t been aware of the need for their own personal development.”

As part of that, FCTRY will not only help with recruitment and hiring but with feedback frameworks within companies.

The last part of the puzzle for FCTRY is growth. The company will help with paid, viral and sticky marketing strategies drawing from a pool of talent in the creative agency space. Ehrhardt says that around 20 percent of the FCTRY team will come from creative agencies, with the rest coming from other fields of expertise, such as machine learning, design, engineering, etc.

Ehrhardt stressed that one of the greatest opportunities with the Creative Capital model is offering a new path to wealth creation for some of the leading experts in their respective fields. These experts, though they may not be able to write a big check to a VC firm or even as an angel to a startup, can exchange their own insight for equity through the Creative Capital model.

“Traditionally, LPs are people who can cut a check, who tend to be white men who have benefitted from their privelege,” said Ehrhardt. “We can do a lot to open up the chance for wealth creation to far more people than the usual suspects.”

While FCTRY is in its early days, Ehrhardt envisions gathering around 20 people to join the FCTRY team, with plans to work with around 10 startups over the course of a year, with engagements varying in size and duration.

Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong to talk the future of cryptocurrency at Disrupt SF

Coinbase has come a long way since its launch in 2012. The company has raised more than $225 million and paved the way for cryptocurrencies to enter the mainstream by providing a digital currency exchange. Which is why we’re absolutely thrilled to have Coinbase co-founder and CEO Brian Armstrong join us on the main stage at TechCrunch Disrupt SF in September.

Armstrong worked as a developer for IBM and consultant at Deloitte before joining Airbnb as a software engineer in 2011. At Airbnb, Armstrong focused on fraud prevention, giving him the opportunity to learn about payment systems across the 190 countries Airbnb serves.

In 2012, Armstrong co-founded Coinbase and gave a budding demographic of cryptocurrency enthusiasts the opportunity to trade in their USD for bitcoins, and later the digital currency of their choice. Coinbase currently serves over 10 million customers across 32 countries, providing custody for more than $10 billion in digital assets.

In fact, Coinbase was valued at $1.6 billion following a $100 million funding round in August 2017.

In April, the company unveiled an early-stage fund for cryptocurrency startups, and acquired Earn.com for $100 million. As part of the acquisition, the company brought on Balaji Srinivasan as its first CTO.

There were also reports that Coinbase approached the SEC to become a licensed brokerage firm and electronic trading venue, which would allow the company to expand beyond the four coins (Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, Litecoin) that trade on the platform now.

Just yesterday, Coinbase announced that it would offer a new suite of services aimed at institutional investors, who are beginning to warm up to cryptocurrencies.

There is plenty to discuss with Armstrong come September, and we’re absolutely thrilled to have him join the stellar Disrupt SF agenda. You can head over here to buy yourself tickets. See you there!

Lemonade wants to rewrite the insurance policy itself

Lemonade has made some big moves in the world of insurance. The company uses AI and bots to sell insurance, and has flipped the business model to ensure that Lemonade is never in conflict with customers filing insurance claims.

But the product itself, the actual insurance policy, hasn’t changed much at all. For decades, insurance companies have been held to long, tedious legalese in their insurance contracts. In Lemonade’s case, the document is more than 40 pages long and incredibly difficult to understand.

For a company that wants to make buying insurance as easy and as consumer-centric as possible, the very product they sell is in complete opposition to that. Which is why Lemonade is re-writing the policy from scratch.

“I’m a recovering attorney, and I’ve been clean for 20 years,” said Lemonade CEO and cofounder Daniel Schreiber. “I think my English is pretty good, and I have a passing familiarity with insurance and generally I can’t understand this insurance policy. To do the next big thing in insurance means changing insurance. It’s not been done in generations. This is a historic document that’s been optimized around lawyers.”

So Lemonade has re-written the whole thing to read like a blog post. Policy 2.0, according to Schreiber, is meant to give consumers a clear and easy way to understand what is and what is not covered in their insurance policy.

But, in a little bit of a twist, Lemonade is open-sourcing the policy on GitHub. Anyone, from state regulators to consumer advocacy groups to Lemonade competitors or even interested customers can make edits and contributions to the policy. Plus, Lemonade is opening up use of the policy to other insurance providers under the GNU’s Free Documentation License.

Part of this has to do with transparency to consumers, but another part is simply about Lemonade’s greater mission of making insurance simple.

“We sold you a policy on your phone,” said Schreiber. “We want a policy that makes sense on a five-inch screen.”

I asked Schreiber whether or not there is any concern over rewriting a policy in more plain language when historically, lawyers use specific language to stay within the realms of legal precedent and remove any grey areas that may be litigated.

“Anytime you abandon language that’s been litigated for years you invite legal uncertainty,” answered Schreiber. “But we think if you’re optimizing for the consumer, giving them clarity into exactly what’s covered and exactly what isn’t, you won’t feel cheated if we can’t cover things because you’ll see that you had that info all along, in plain English.”

One hurdle, however, will be regulators. A good deal of the language in that 10,000 word-long insurance policy is legally required to be in the document. This change from Lemonade requires the company to work with regulators to allow the new policy to be sold, and that conversation differs from state to state.

That’s why Schreiber believes Policy 2.0 won’t be available for purchase until sometime in 2019, rolling out on a statewide basis as is approved by regulators.

That said, Schreiber said he’s already in conversation with regulators and is seeing willingness to be flexible on this.

When Policy 2.0 does come to the main stage, current Lemonade subscribers will be able to immediately change over to the new policy or keep their original policy.

Lemonade has raised a total of $180 million, including a whopping $120 million round led by SoftBank from December.

Instacart names David Hahn as new Chief Product Officer

Instacart, the on-demand grocery delivery platform that finds itself at the center of ever-increasing competition, has today announced that David Hahn will be taking over as Instacart’s new Chief Product Officer.

Hahn previously served as VP of Product at LinkedIn, after which time he went to Greylock to serve as an entrepreneur in residence, helping portfolio companies think through their products and monetization strategies.

Most recently, Hahn was President and Chief Product Officer at GoFundMe.

Hahn joins Instacart during an interesting time for the grocery space. Online grocery shopping a delivery has reached “a tipping point,” in the words of Hahn, as incumbents like Walmart and Target formulate their own delivery options. Meanwhile, as we all know, Amazon is working to integrate newly acquired Whole Foods into its Prime delivery portfolio.

“Just a few years from now, everyone will get their groceries this way,” said Hahn. “I’m excited to be part of a company leading that change in such a large and important market.”

Hahn said that he’ll be prioritizing a few things as he acclimates to the role, including the front-end product for consumers and back-end products for retailers that help with inventory management.

Indeed, one of the biggest hurdles at Instacart is integrating with dozens of retailers, many of whom use varying inventory management systems, to consistently and accurately list what is available now in stores to Instacart users.

When this information isn’t correct, it sets off a series of events wherein the shopper has to replace ordered items, which could result in a less-than-perfect delivery.

While the task may seem daunting, Hahn is excited to join Instacart at this particular part of its journey. 

“It’s quite rare to find a business at this particular stage,” said Hahn. “Instacart has reached a super impressive scale with an impressive growth rate, but there is a lot of opportunity ahead and lots of building to do.”

Lost In Space is coming back for a second season

Netflix today announced that it will release a second season of Lost In Space, the big-budget sci-fi program that debuted in April.

The series is a revamp of the original show from the 1960s. Season One, which included 10 episodes, follows the Robinson family on their journey from Earth to Alpha Centauri. Along the way, they stumble across extraterrestrial life and a wide array of life-or-death situations.

Many of the elements from the original show have been reimagined, not least of which being the role of Mr. Smith going to Parker Posey, who plays the delightfully wicked villain.

We reviewed the show on the Original Content podcast in this episode, and struggled to find any meaningful flaws.

Emily Weiss and Kirsten Green will join us on the Main Stage at TC Disrupt SF

Since forever, companies have made products for people to buy, but the evolution and reach of the internet has given rise to entirely new brands, some of which are growing at unprecedented speeds thanks to platforms like Instagram and other social media channels — not to mention strong storytelling.

Two of the people leading the e-commerce charge are Glossier’s Emily Weiss and Forerunner Ventures founding partner and managing director Kirsten Green . We’re thrilled to announce that both of them will sit down on stage at TC Disrupt SF to discuss Glossier’s continued rise and the evolution of e-commerce.

Emily Weiss – Glossier

Glossier isn’t even four years old yet, and the brand has already become a household name. The company was launched in 2014 off the back of Weiss’ staggeringly successful beauty blog Into The Gloss.

The premise of the brand is simple. Glossier products are designed for women who love makeup but don’t love looking garish. Part of selling that effortlessly beautiful aesthetic centers on marketing  a narrow product line, one that’s focused on skin care products; a handful of lipsticks, cream cheek colors, and eyebrow mascaras; and well as a single fragrance called “You” that comes in both liquid and solid form.

Beyond the success of the products, Weiss has become a role-model, even a superstar, to many of Glossier’s young customers. Weiss built a foundation of trust with her audience on Into The Gloss, and that has carried over to the Glossier brand.

The originally direct-to-consumer company has also started an offline business with a pop-up shop in NYC, a now converted Dunkin Donuts that generates more sales revenue per square foot than the average Apple Store, according to Weiss.

Glossier has attracted a number of large investments from VCs like Index Venture Partners, Thrive Capital and Forerunner Ventures, bringing its total amount raised to more than $86 million. And sitting on the board is none other than Kirsten Green.

Kirsten Green – Forerunner Ventures

Eight years ago, Kirsten Green launched Forerunner Ventures. Since then, she’s risen to be one of the most prominent and successful investors in Silicon Valley and beyond, with a particular knack for e-commerce investments.

Green has raised more than $300 million and invested in more than 50 companies. Portfolio companies include Glossier, Outdoor Voices, Ritual, Inturn and Indigo Fair, as well as exited companies like Jet.com, Dollar Shave Club, and Bonobos.

She’s a founding member of All Raise, a female mentorship collective, and has been named one of Time’s 100 Most influential people, in Forbes’ 2017 and 2018 Midas List and World’s 100 Most Powerful Women. And lest we forget, she was also named VC of the year at the 2017 Crunchies Awards.

Green’s ability to identify stellar founders and foster e-commerce brands is unparalleled across the ecosystem, and we’re thrilled to learn from her on the Disrupt SF stage.

On Fridays, HQ Trivia will let you see your friends’ answers during the game

HQ, the live trivia game that is now seeing up to 2 million players per game, is introducing some new social features, including answer sharing with friends.

The company has been testing this feature across a small group of users already, but on Friday the feature will roll out to all HQ users.

Here’s how it works: Users can connect their address book to HQ and add their friends. Once they have added friends, they can see which of their friends are playing the game alongside them. Users can put their own avatar on the answer to a question to share their choice, which is viewable by friends.

The idea is that answer sharing mimics what many people do while playing HQ IRL, yelling out answers to their coworkers in the office or sharing with their friends and family in a bar or at home.

“We understand the power of the crowd and playing together,” said HQ product manager James Ruben. “That doesn’t necessarily exist everywhere. Our goal is to spread that power to people who maybe aren’t playing in the office together.”

This comes on the heels of HQ’s introduction of “Friends on HQ” from April, which let users see friends playing in the same quiz and see their progress through the game. Answer sharing simply takes that a step further.

Interestingly, answer sharing won’t be available on each HQ Trivia quiz. Instead, the feature will debut on Friday of this week, and continue to be available on Friday games.

“We understand that it’s a change to the game play,” said Ruben. “Friday is an interesting time to experiment and try out answer sharing because Fridays tend to be a bit more social than other days.”

Alongside answer sharing, HQ is also adding yet another social layer to the game with Nearby Friends. The feature will allow HQ players to see other people (not in their address book) who are in the same quiz as them and physically nearby, perhaps in the same office building or in the same bar or restaurant.

Finally, HQ is making it easier to upload the address book and connect with friends on the app.

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HQ is an interesting business in that it’s taking an almost old-school approach to advertising/sponsorship. As opposed to social networks like Facebook, which collect as much data as possible about users to sell advertisements against that data, HQ is focused more on getting as many engaged eyeballs in the same place as possible, a bit like television advertising.

HQ doesn’t have that much information on users beyond their phone number, device type, username, and other basic information commonly gleaned by app developers. With the introduction of Friends on HQ, the company gets a bit more insight into users. But that’s not necessarily the reason for the update.

Instead, HQ wants to make these games as engaging as possible, and what’s more engaging than competing with or cheering along your friends and family.

The company is also taking a measured approach to advertising and sponsorship, working with partners that make sense for the HQ community and making those sponsorships as native as possible.

For example, HQ recently ran a $250,000 game with Warner Brothers as a sponsor, plugging the film Ready Player One within the graphics and even in some of the questions. The company also had Duane “The Rock” Johnson host a $300,000 game as part of the actor’s promotion of his upcoming movie Rampage.

Answer sharing will be available to everyone on Friday, but easier address book upload and Nearby Friends are soon to come for Android users.

Walmart ends grocery delivery deal with Uber and Lyft

In 2016, Walmart announced that it would begin testing grocery delivery in conjunction with Uber and Lyft.

Today, however, Reuters reports that those partnerships have come to an end, which was confirmed by Walmart and Uber.

TechCrunch first reported in 2015 about Uber’s plans to launch a merchant delivery system, wherein goods from retailers would be delivered (via the trunk) and Uber users would be transported to their destination simultaneously.

The deal with Walmart, alongside rival services like Lyft and Deliv, marked massive progress for this merchant delivery system. But things haven’t panned out long term.

“It is incredibly hard to deliver people and packages together,” said one of Reuters’ sources with a delivery company that works with Walmart and has direct knowledge of the matter. “They are two completely different business models.”

Walmart has a number of other channels through which it can offer delivery.

It has partnered with Postmates and DoorDash, but has excluded Instacart from its delivery partners list. According to Re/Code, Instacart was excluded from the partnership opportunity because Instacart wanted Walmart to list its retail items within the Instacart app, whereas Walmart wanted to use Instacart as a delivery partner while exclusively selling items on its own digital property.

This obviously comes at a time where the grocery delivery game is heating up. Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods has put pressure on incumbent grocery retailers to step up their digital presence and delivery capabilities.

Target acquired Alabama-based Shipt for $550 million in December of 2017. Meanwhile, Instacart has raised another $150 million this year, and recently announced a partnership with Walmart-owned Sam’s Club.

We’ve reached out to Uber and will update if/when we hear back.

Update: Uber has responded and provided the following statement:

UberRUSH fell under the team called “UberEverything” which is a collection of big bets, and the beginning of Uber as a platform. Recently we’ve been leveraging our platform into new products like Uber Eats, Uber Health or our aquisition with Jump Bikes. When we launched UberRUSH in 2014, we followed the same thinking, and wanted apply the model to help large and small businesses quickly and reliably move their goods.

After analyzing what made the most sense for our broader efforts, we decided to sunset UberRUSH worldwide on June 30th. Walmart has been an incredible partner for Uber these past few years and we have enjoyed serving Walmart’s customers and delivering their groceries through the UberRUSH platform. We are coordinating with Walmart to make this change as seamless as possible.

We’re already applying a lot of the lessons we learned together to our Uber Eats food delivery business. Since launching Eats two years ago, we’ve seen the business take off, growing through new markets, and forming new partnerships with restaurant owners around the world.