TIL: Camels can eat long-needled cactus

Do not mess with a Dromedary camel. Their mouths are adapted to eat whole pieces of prickly pear cactus, six-inch long needles and all. Watch this video by Camels and Friends if you don't believe me.

A zoologist on reddit chimed in on how this is possible:

Camel mouths are full of cone-shaped papillae that look like this. These protrusions are partly keratinised - keratin being the hard stuff your nails are made out of - which makes them tough n' semi-rigid, feeling a bit like the middle of tupperware lids when you squish 'em. The plastic-ey cones not only help protect the mouth from internal damage - scratches, abrasions etc. - when they feed on thorns and other nasties, but they also manipulate the food to go down in one direction.

Worth mentioning that modern camels wouldn't be eating cactus like this in the wild either; instead it'd be scrubby, thorny acacia bushes and the like. They also likely do feel some pain and discomfort eating this stuff, as much of their mouths - particularly their lips - are very sensitive, despite the papillae. Being metal as fuck though, camels just get on with it. They have an oddly voracious appetite for prickly pear and similar cacti native to North America, so clearly there's something about those plants that camels love, despite the irritating prickles. Makes them sort of sadomasochistic diners, really.

Anywho, the same sorts of papillae structures have independently evolved multiple times across the animal kingdom; notably inside the mouths and throats of leatherback turtles. The shelled beasties likewise use 'em to prevent themselves getting stung by their jellyfish prey, whilst also helping to keep the jellies moving down towards their demise, to be slowly digested in the darkness.

https://twitter.com/TetZoo/status/766237098999443456

(reddit)

Macron defends the European way of tech regulation

French President Emmanuel Macron gave a speech at VivaTech in Paris, alternating between French and English. He defended a third way to regulate tech companies, which is different from the U.S. and from China.

Macron thinks Europe should have a say when it comes to regulation — and it shouldn’t be just about privacy. Of course, he defended GDPR and online privacy, but he also talked about taxes, cyberbullying, the protection of independent workers and more.

What is at stake is how we build a European model reconciling innovation and common good Emmanuel Macron

Yesterday, Macron hosted 50 tech CEOs to talk about leveraging tech for the common good, especially when it comes to education, labor and diversity. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella talked about the event before Macron took the stage.

Macron first started with a few numbers on the French tech ecosystem. “I want to talk to the entire French ecosystem here today. What we’re all doing is essential for our country and the world,” he said.

Based on his numbers, startups raised $2.9 billion in France last year (€2.5 billion). That’s three times as much as in 2015. He then listed some of the recent changes, from corporate taxes to France’s open data policy and the French Tech Visa.

He didn’t have much to say about the tech industry in particular. You could feel that he has a lot on his plate right now and that tech is more or less an afterthought.

“France is changing like crazy. And that's why we can say that France is back,” he said in English to conclude the first part of his speech.

“My second message is for Africa because you decided to invite Africa to VivaTech this year,” he said.

Macron then announced that France is going to invest some public money in the most promising African startups. “For the past six months, the French Development Agency has worked hard on this,” he said. “And the French Development Agency is going to announce in the coming weeks a new specific program of €65 million [$76 million] in order to invest small amounts, €30,000 to €50,000 per startup.”

Michel Euler / AFP / Getty Images

A message to big tech companies

Finally, Macron talked about the Tech for Good Summit and tech regulation in general. “We’re currently experiencing a revolution. I truly believe in that revolution and our country believes in it too,” he said. “But you can’t deny that some people in our country and in the world fear change.”

“Tech companies haven’t always been exemplary. Some haven’t complied with taxation laws and it has fostered mistrust — even from French entrepreneurs.”

Macron then defended France’s project to create a European tax on big tech companies. If the French Government can convince other European Governments, big tech companies would be taxed on local revenue in each European country. It could be a way to avoid tax optimization schemes. Smaller European countries with a lower corporate tax rate don’t seem convinced yet.

“I'm a big tech optimist and this country does believe in innovation,” he said. “But it's not enough — making money, creating jobs and making shareholders happy is great. Especially creating jobs as far as I'm concerned.”

Macron also criticized U.S. regulation on tech companies, saying that the U.S. Government is not doing enough when it comes to online harassment, taxes, labor and more.

He then criticized the Chinese model, saying that the Chinese Government is not doing enough when it comes to privacy, human rights and gender equality.

“What is at stake is how we build a European model reconciling innovation and common good,” he said. “We have to work together to build this common framework.”

After yesterday’s commitments, the French Government is going to track tech companies every six months to see if they actually implement what they promised when it comes to tech for good.

He also finished by saying that the Tech for Good Summit should become an annual initiative. Tech CEOs will be invited once again to the Élysée next year ahead of VivaTech.

Qualcomm Announces Snapdragon 710 Platform For Midrange Android Phones

An anonymous reader quotes a report from AnandTech: Today Qualcomm announces a new entry to the Snapdragon lineup with the first 700-series SoC platform. The Snapdragon 710 is a direct successor to the Snapdragon 660 but comes with a new branding more worthy of the increased performance characteristics of the SoC. The big IP blocks found on the Snapdragon 710 are very much derivatives of what's found on the flagship Snapdragon 845. On the CPU side we see the same 2.2GHz maximum clock on the big cores, but the Kryo 360 Cortex A75 based CPUs are microarchitectural upgrade over last year's A72 based Kryo 260. The little cores are also based on the newer Cortex A55's and are clocked at up to 1.7GHz. The performance improvements are quoted as an overall 20% uplift in SPECint2000 and 25% faster performance in Octane and Kraken versus the SD660. The SoC now also uses the new system cache first introduced in the Snapdragon 845 -- although I'm expecting a smaller, yet unconfirmed 1MB size in the SD710. The 700-series SoC platform sports the new 600 series Adreno GPUs. They have an expected frequency of around 750MHz and up to 35% higher performance versus the Adreno 512 in the SD660. "In terms of connectivity the new SoC implements an X15 modem which is capable of UE Category 15 in the downstream with up to 800Mbps in 4x carrier aggregation and up to UE Category 7 in the upload with up to 2x CA and 256 QAM," reports AnandTech. "The new chipset now also offers 2x2 802.11ac digital backend for Wi-Fi -- however it'll still need an external discrete analog RF frontend."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Coding for Catastrophe: Contest Seeks Apps to Mitigate Effects of Natural Disasters

Got a great idea for an app to help people deal with a natural disaster? Call for Code wants to hear from you
Illustrations: iStockphoto and Shutterstock

The United Nations’ Human Rights Office, the American Red Cross, the David Clark Cause, and IBM today announced Call for Code, a contest seeking applications that address natural disasters—aiding either prevention, response, or recovery.  The disasters of 2017—fires, floods, earthquakes, and storms—stretched the capacity of traditional response methods, and sparked the United Nations to look for innovative ways to improve the situation, a press release from IBM indicated.

The contest’s application window opens 18 June; the last day for submissions is 31 August. Every entrant will, during the contest period, receive access to a number of IBM’s technologies, including its Cloud, Blockchain, Watson, PowerAI, and Z mainframe platforms. The winner of the Call for Code Global Prize, to be announced in October, will receive US $200,000, and two semifinalists will receive $25,000 each.

Entrants will also be encouraged to attend hackathons, to be held in 50 cities around the world, including Amsterdam, Bengaluru, Berlin, Delhi, Dubai, London, New York, Sao Paulo, and Tel Aviv, as well as San Francisco.

Generally, contest entrants should show that they are “reducing vulnerability by mitigating disaster risk over the long run, anticipating impending threats to improve precautionary short and long-term measures, responding to medical needs during the disaster, and improving the overall resiliency of communities to rebuild health services in the wake of major disruptions,” said the press release.

What kind of apps will win? Only the judging panel—which will include Linus Torvalds—knows. But IBM chief developer advocate William Tejada told me that software that combines technologies and data in unique and helpful ways are of particular interest.

One example from the press release: “developers might create an application that alerts pharmacies to increase their stocks of antibiotics, insulin, bottled water, and vaccines based on predicted weather-related disruptions.” In a similar vein, Tejada suggested, an app might be able to analyze the impact of hurricane preparedness on hardware stores and make sure the most important items are easily available.

In addition to the cash prizes, winning teams will get help from the Linux Foundation, introductions to venture capitalists, and assistance with rolling out their technologies from IBM’s Corporate Services Corps, Tejada said.

More details are available at CallforCode.org.

Instapaper on pause in Europe to fix GDPR compliance “issue”

Remember Instapaper? The Pinterest-owned, read-it-later bookmarking service is taking a break in Europe — apparently while it works on achieving compliance with the region’s updated privacy framework, GDPR, which will start being applied from tomorrow.

Instapaper’s notification does not say how long the self-imposed outage will last.

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation updates the bloc’s privacy framework, most notably by bringing in supersized fines for data violations, which in the most serious cases can scale up to 4% of a company’s global annual turnover.

So it significantly ramps up the risk of, for example, having sloppy security, or consent flows that aren’t clear and specific enough (if indeed consent is the legal basis you’re relying on for processing people’s personal information).

That said, EU regulators are clearly going to tread softly on the enforcement front in the short term. And any major fines are only going to hit the most serious violations and violators — and only down the line when data protection authorities have received complaints and conducted thorough investigations.

So it’s not clear exactly why Instapaper believes it needs to pause its service to European users. It’s also had plenty of time to prepare to be compliant — given the new framework was agreed at the back end of 2015. We’ve reached out to Pinterest with questions and will update this story with any response.

In an exchange on Twitter, Pinterest product engineering manager Brian Donohue — who, prior to acquisition was Instapaper’s CEO — flagged that the product’s privacy policy “hasn’t been changed in several years”. But he declined to specify exactly what it feels its compliance issue is — saying only: “We’re actively working to resolve the issue.”

In a customer support email that we reviewed, the company also told one European user: “We’ve been advised to undergo an assessment of the Instapaper service to determine what, if any, changes may be appropriate but to restrict access to IP addresses in the EU as the best course of action.”

“We’re really sorry for any inconvenience, and we are actively working on bringing the service back online for residents in Europe,” it added.

The product’s privacy policy is one of the clearer T&Cs we’ve seen. It also states that users can already access “all your personally identifiable information that we collect online and maintain”, as well as saying people can “correct factual errors in your personally identifiable information by changing or deleting the erroneous information” — which, assuming those statements are true, looks pretty good for complying with portions of GDPR that are intended to give consumers more control over their personal data.

Instapaper also already lets users delete their accounts. And if they do that it specifies that “all account information and saved page data is deleted from the Instapaper service immediately” (though it also cautions that “deleted data may persist in backups and logs until they are deleted”).

In terms of what Instapaper does with users’ data, its privacy policy claims it does not share the information “with outside parties except to the extent necessary to accomplish Instapaper’s functionality”.

But it’s also not explicitly clear from the policy whether or not it’s passing information to its parent company Pinterest, for example, so perhaps it feels it needs to add more detail there.

Another possibility is Instapaper is working on compliance with GDPR’s data portability requirement. Though the service has offered exports options for years. But perhaps it feels these need to be more comprehensive.

As is inevitable ahead of a major regulatory change there’s a good deal of confusion about what exactly must be done to comply with the new rules. And that’s perhaps the best explanation for what’s going on with Instapaper’s pause.

Though, again, there’s plenty of official and detailed guidance from data protection agencies to help.

Unfortunately it’s also true that there’s a lot of unofficial and dubious quality advice from a cottage industry of self-styled ‘GDPR consultants’ that have sprung up with the intention of profiting off of the uncertainty. So — as ever — do your due diligence when it comes to the ‘experts’ you choose.

The national security implications of Chinese venture capitalists are overblown

Washington — as Washington does — is barreling towards a new reform plan designed to protect American innovation from overseas investors (which should really just be read as the Chinese these days). Earlier this week, congressional committees passed a measure designed to strengthen CFIUS, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., which we have written extensively about on TechCrunch. The bill would expand the powers of the committee to review transactions in more contexts, beyond its current mandate of looking only at changes in controlling interests.

Washington — as Washington does — has turned the debate, which was once deeply technical about the machinations of a mostly unknown government agency created during the Korean War, into a histrionic fight about the future of American innovation. Along the way, this classic DC dramatization threatens to rollback the robust market of Chinese venture capital flowing to Silicon Valley startups.

Limiting those flows of dollars to U.S.-based companies would be a tremendous mistake. Silicon Valley is the strongest innovation region in the world, and in no small part because of the robust venture capital dollars that fund risky startups to go big. While rules should be enacted to protect American intellectual property, Silicon Valley should be left alone to handle these problems in a more market-centric way.

Unfortunately, the histrionics of DC are already pushing this reform bill too far. To see this in action, let’s look at this in-depth Politico article that has been making the rounds on Capitol Hill this week. It’s title, “How China acquires ‘the crown jewels’ of US technology” already gets at its conclusion, but it is the section on venture capital that left me stupefied. Take this quote:

One major concern among specialists like Ware is that Beijing officials could use early Chinese investments in next-generation technology to map the software the federal government and even the Defense Department may one day use — and perhaps even corrupt it in ways that would give China a window into sensitive U.S. information.

“There’s a tremendous amount of intelligence value there,” Ware said. “All governments desire to know what other governments are doing. And knowing the technologies and how they work I think is a big part of that.”

Here’s the thing — the American government buys a lot of its products right out in the open through the procurement process. It actively signals what it is looking to buy at trade shows and in keynotes to encourage industry to build products that solve its problems. There exists an entire class of DC consultant that will tell you what the government is looking to buy in one, five, and ten years down the line. None of this is secret, nor should it be.

Now, that isn’t to say there isn’t confidential information that can be exchanged during the procurement process with sensitive agencies like the Defense Department. Obviously, integrating software with their existing systems will reveal a lot about the architecture of American national security computing, and the government has an interest in preventing the spread of that information widely.

The solution in my mind is not to block the hundreds of millions of dollars of Chinese venture capital flowing into the Valley, but rather to empower national security agencies to only work with contractors with clean equity. For instance, if a Chinese investor owns 5% of a startup, then that startup could no longer be eligible for sensitive government contracts. Clear rules here empowers startup founders to decide whether the capital they take is worth the potential loss of any government contracts that they may become ineligible for. In other words, there is a clear market dynamic that allows participants to decide what the benefit of capital is compared to the risk of intellectual property theft.

The other concern from Washington is that Chinese venture capitalists will get access to technical information as part of their investment. Again from Politico:

But Bryan Ware, CEO of Haystax Technology, which works with law enforcement, defense and intelligence clients on securing their technologies, cast some doubt on the idea that the owners of tech startups would naturally refuse to share details of their technology with their investors: “If you’ve got a Chinese investor and that’s the lifeblood that’s going to allow you to get your product out the door, or allow you to hire your next developer, telling them, ‘No, you can’t do that,’ or, ‘No you shouldn’t do that,’ while you have no other alternatives for financing — that’s just the nature of the dilemma.”

Ware’s solution to the dilemma is to just block the venture capital, thereby guaranteeing that the technology wouldn’t be built. You can’t steal intellectual property that hasn’t been invented!

Having worked in venture capital for a number of years, all I can say is that I have never seen venture capital investors ask for a level of technical information on an on-going basis that would be of any use in creating a competing engineering effort. The one time that most VCs even slightly care about the technical side of these businesses is during the due diligence process, when coding libraries need to be checked for copyright and some firms do further technical due diligence on the codebase to verify a team’s competence.

The due diligence tasks can be solved through trusted third-party intermediaries, which frankly is what most firms already use for these processes (there aren’t a lot of investors who also happen to be coders anyway). Furthermore, lawyers already make it abundantly clear about what information an investor can access through an investment, and that language can be even more stringent in cases where a Chinese investor is involved.

Rather than a federal block on investment (or just the friction that an interagency process creates), let the market handle this particular problem. Let me be frank: any CEO of a startup that would give all of their technical information willy-nilly to their investors or customers — Chinese or otherwise — is so laughably incompetent about trade secrets that I can’t imagine their business surviving long-term anyway. Every startup has to make a call on when to share technical details and when not to (for instance, should you share your technical stack with a foreign corporation who wants to buy your product but needs to verify GDPR compliance?), and getting sophisticated about sharing is critical for surviving in the cutthroat Silicon Valley market.

I am focused on minority-stake venture investments in Silicon Valley with this argument. Obviously, the rules can and should be very different in takeover situations, or in bankruptcies where the acquirer will receive the complete technical details of a company. I share the concerns of many analysts around how easy it can be to learn U.S. intellectual property, and I do believe the Chinese have a robust program to exploit the American economy’s openness.

But in our rush to try to plug this flow of information, let’s not lose sight of what actions are dangerous, and which are mutually beneficial for all parties involved. Venture capital gives companies the ability to hire workers (almost always domestically) and build products that can create impactful value for the economy. Washington — as Washington does — is taking these CFIUS reforms too far, and that risks undermining the very region that is the pinnacle of innovation in the world today.

Adyen confirms an IPO in Amsterdam, valuing the payments giant at $7B-$11B

The floodgates are definitely open for IPOs in the tech world right now, and the latest is coming out of Europe. Adyen, a company that powers payments for large and smaller e-commerce merchants and others, has said that it plans to publicly list on the Euronext Amsterdam exchange, keeping the company’s financial future close to where Adyen itself was founded and is based rather than taking it to the US markets as some other European unicorns, like Spotify, have opted to do.

The news comes in the wake of reports that it was planning to announce its plans this week.

Adyen’s offering prospectus does not detail how much it plans to raise, or what sort of valuation it’s likely to reach in a public listing. It confirmed will be selling up to 15 percent of its shares, valued at a valuation of between €6 billion and €9 billion ($7 billion – $11 billion) after the IPO. We have reached out to the company for further detail on that front.

For some context, Adyen last confirmed its valuation publicly back in 2015, when it raised funding from Iconiq, the investment firm that manages funds from Mark Zuckerberg’s family and other high-net-worth tech leaders, at a $2.3 billion valuation. In other words, it’s a big jump, reflecting the company’s growth over the last couple of years.

Adyen to date has raised $266 million in outside funding, with other investors including Index (its largest shareholder), Felicis, Temasek and General Atlantic.

Adyen said in the prospectus that its net revenues for the year that ended December 2017 were €218 million, up 38 percent on 2016, with total processed volumes of €108 billion in 2017 up from €66 billion in 2016, or 63 percent growth. It’s also profitable, with an EBITDA of €99 million, or a margin of 45.5 percent. Net income for Q1 was €24.1 million, up €10 million over the same period a year before.

Adyen has also clinched some key deals that point to continuing growth. Competing against the likes of Worldpay and PayPal, Adyen stole a march on the latter when it moved in to become the primary payments provider to eBay. After the former parent of PayPal spun out the company, it subsequenly put the deal out for tender and Adyen clinched it. (PayPal will still remain an option, but will not be the main provider.)

“We feel that we are still in the early stages of a remarkable journey. Our focus remains on building new functionality and on helping our merchants grow,” Pieter van der Does, the CEO and co-founder of Adyen, said in a statment. “This offering provides us with the freedom to keep building the company, while offering our shareholders a path to liquidity. Adyen will remain a company that is driven by a long-term vision and strategy.”

Other key customers include Uber (itself still growing like a weed, despite its many setbacks and divestments), Netflix, Facebook, Spotify, Etsy, Vodafone, Sephora, Tory Burch, L’Oréal and booking.com — underscoring how the company’s own growth is mirroring the increasing ubiquity and acceptance of digital payments.

The other area to watch and note with Adyen is that it’s looking to extend beyond basic payment processing technology: the company picked up a banking license at the end of last year and plans to expand in settlement services that would have previously been provided by banks. This will also help it grow its margins and overall revenues.

It will also be worth watching to see what happens next: last week, just one week after another European payments company iZettle announced its own IPO plans, it got snapped up by PayPal. I can’t help but wonder if someone is waiting in the wings again, and also what sort of a role Adyen’s bullish move played in PayPal’s own deal to secure growth.

 

Disrupt Berlin 2-for-1 passes go live next week: Sign up today

Achtung, meine Damen und Herren! Dust off your German, hop on a plane, a train or the Autobahn and join us, along with thousands of tech founders, makers, innovators, investors and early-stage startups, at Disrupt Berlin 2018 on November 29-30. Better yet, join us at our most affordable price. On May 30 at 12pm CEST / 6am EDT we’re offering a limited number of two Innovator passes for just €695Sign up for our newsletter, and we’ll send you an email letting you know when they are available for purchase. You’ll want to act quick as we are only releasing a limited quantity of these passes.

Disrupt Berlin features two program-packed days focused on the latest technology innovations, rising-star startups and world-class networking opportunities. As always, you’ll get to hear a phenomenal group of European and international speakers talking about the critical issues facing technology, venture capital strategies and what it takes to build a successful startup. We’re still finalizing the list, so if you have someone you’d like to hear speak, head on over to our Disrupt Berlin speaker nomination page.

Watch a curated cohort of pre-Series A companies compete for the $50,000 grand prize in the Startup Battlefield competition, a world-class pitch competition that’s launched over 800 companies — including Dropbox, Yammer, TripIt and Mint, to name just a few. Or don’t just watch: apply to compete. Sign up for our newsletter, and we’ll tell you when applications open.

Don’t miss out on Startup Alley, where you’ll find more than 400 early-stage startups from all around the globe showcasing a remarkable range of products, services and talent spanning the tech spectrum. It’s the energetic heart of Disrupt that generates inspiration, ideas and opportunities.

Last year more than 2,600 people passed through the Alley at Disrupt Berlin, which makes exhibiting there one of the best ways to get your early stage startup in front of potential customers and investors. You might even score media coverage from one of the many accredited media outlets or your company might be selected to be a Wildcard competitor in the Startup Battlefield competition. How cool would that be?

There’s so much more we could list, but one thing is crystal clear. Disrupt Berlin offers outstanding value. And you can double that value with two-for-one pricing on Innovator passes. Here’s what an Innovator Pass gets you:

You receive access to three Disrupt stages — The Main Stage, the Next Stage and the Q&A Stage — all of which offer distinct types of content. You receive the complete Disrupt attendee list and you can contact attendees using the Disrupt Mobile App. You can take part in interactive workshops, network your way through Startup Alley and enjoy the infamous TC After Party. But even when Disrupt Berlin ends, the value lives on. After the conference, you’ll receive access to our library of exclusive event video content.

Disrupt Berlin takes place on November 29-30 at Arena Berlin. Next week we’ll release our limited-time offer on Innovator passes: two for €695. Sign up for our newsletter today, so you don’t miss out.

Klevio launches its smart intercom and app that lets you open doors remotely

Klevio, a smart home startup out of the U.K., is officially launching its first product: a smart intercom system that lets you control your front door lock via an iOS and Android app on your phone and remotely.

Dubbed “Klevio One,” the device is designed to be retrofitted to existing electric strike-enabled locks, and also interfaces with intercom systems found on the communal doors of apartment blocks. This, say its makers, means that it is better suited to flats than smart locks already on the market.

In a call with Klevio co-founder and CEO Aleš Špetič, he explained that the approach the London-based company has taken is different to smart locks that typically use a motor to turn the lock and require tearing out and replacing your existing lock. In contrast, if you already have an electric strike as part of your lock — which a lot of apartments do — the Klevio One can simply be wired to interface with it. If you don’t, a Klevio installer can fit one to your existing lock for you.

This major upside of this approach is that Klevio isn’t re-inventing the whole wheel, but taking years old, tried and tested electric strike technology, and simply adding smart connectivity to it.

It means the Klevio One works with multiple doors and there’s no need to modify the communal area of apartment buildings when installing it, since the device is located within an individual apartment. You can also still use your old physical keys as a backup, and the company says the use of Klevio won’t be obvious to anyone outside the building.

And as you’d expect, the Klevio system is cloud-connected so that you can control your lock remotely, and issue virtual and one-time use keys. It comes in a WiFi only version, and a subscription version with added 4G.

The startup’s back story is noteworthy, too. The Klevio’s original concept and eureka moment came at Onefinestay, the ‘upscale Airbnb’ acquired by Accor in 2016. After the exit, Onefinestay co-founder Demetrios Zoppos teamed up with CubeSensors’ Aleš Špetič and Marko Mrdjenovič to start the new company, including purchasing the needed patents from Onefinestay.

In addition, Onefinestay co-founder Greg Marsh is an investor in Klevio, alongside LocalGlobe’s partner Robin Klein (who I’m told has invested in a personal capacity). To date Klevio has raised £1.2 million in funding.

Meanwhile, Špetič tells me that prior to today’s wider launch — where it can be ordered via the Klevio website — the Klevio One has been piloted with 1,000 users across London.