Y Combinator-backed Trella brings transparency to Egypt’s trucking and shipping industry

Y Combinator has become one of the key ways that startups from emerging markets get the attention of American investors. And arguably no clutch of companies has benefitted more from Y Combinator’s attention than startups from emerging markets tackling the the logistics market.

On the heels of the success the accelerator had seen with Flexport, which is now valued at over $1 billion — and the investment in the billion-dollar Latin American on-demand delivery company, Rappi, several startups from the Northern and Southern Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia have gone through the program to get in front of Silicon Valley’s venture capital firms. These are companies like Kobo360, NowPorts, and, most recently, Trella.

The Egyptian company founded by Omar Hagrass, Mohammed el Garem, and Pierre Saad already has 20 shippers using its service and is monitoring and managing the shipment of 1,500 loads per month.

“The best way we would like to think of ourselves is that we would like [...]  read more

We’re all doomed, 2019 edition

Every year the great and good (and bad) of the hacker/information-security world descend on Las Vegas for a week of conferences, in which many present their latest discoveries, and every year I try to itemize the most interesting (according to me) Black Hat talks for TechCrunch. Do not assume I attended all or even most of these. There are far too many for anyone to attend. But hopefully they’ll give you a sense of the state of the art.

First, though, let me just note that this post title is intended as sardonic. Yes, there is a lot of sloppy software out there, and yes, a lot of smart people keep finding holes, bugs, exploits, and design flaws even in good software, but we are not actually all doomed, and the belief that we are, and that anything connected to the Internet can be and probably has been hacked — an attitude which I like to call “security nihilism” — is spectacularly counterproductive.

In truth there is a lot of extremely good security out there, especially amid [...]  read more

Adobe’s Amit Ahuja will be talking customer experience at TechCrunch Sessions: Enterprise

As companies collect increasingly large amounts of data about customers, the end game is about improving the customer experience. It’s a term we’re hearing a lot of these days, and we are going to be discussing that very topic with Amit Ahuja, Adobe’s vice president of ecosystem development, next month at TechCrunch Sessions: Enterprise in San Francisco. Grab your early-bird tickets right now — $100 savings ends today!

Customer experience covers a broad array of enterprise software and includes data collection, analytics and software. Adobe deals with all of this, including the Adobe Experience Platform for data collection, Adobe Analytics for visualization and understanding and Adobe Experience Cloud for building applications.

The idea is to begin to build an understanding of your customers through the various interactions you have with them, and then build applications to give them a positive experience. There is a lot of talk about “delighting” customers, but it’s really [...]  read more

How safe are school records? Not very, says student security researcher

If you can’t trust your bank, government or your medical provider to protect your data, what makes you think students are any safer?

Turns out, according to one student security researcher, they’re not.

Eighteen-year-old Bill Demirkapi, a recent high school graduate in Boston, Massachusetts, spent much of his latter school years with an eye on his own student data. Through self-taught pen testing and bug hunting, Demirkapi found several vulnerabilities in a his school’s learning management system, Blackboard, and his school district’s student information system, known as Aspen and built by Follett, which centralizes student data, including performance, grades, and health records.

The former student reported the flaws and revealed his findings at the Def Con security conference on Friday.

“I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of hacking,” Demirkapi told TechCrunch prior to his talk. “I started researching but I learned by doing,” he said.

Among one of the more damaging [...]  read more

How a Swedish saxophonist built Kobalt, the world’s next music unicorn

You may not have heard of Kobalt before, but you probably engage with the music it oversees every day, if not almost every hour. Combining a technology platform to better track ownership rights and royalties of songs with a new approach to representing musicians in their careers, Kobalt has risen from the ashes of the 2000 dot-com bubble to become a major player in the streaming music era. It is the leading alternative to incumbent music publishers (who represent songwriters) and is building a new model record label for the growing “middle class’ of musicians around the world who are stars within niche audiences.

Having predicted music’s digital upheaval early, Kobalt has taken off as streaming music has gone mainstream across the US, Europe, and East Asia. In the final quarter of last year, it represented the artists behind 38 of the top 100 songs on U.S. radio.

Along the way, it has secured more than $200 million in venture funding from investors like GV, Balderton, and Michael [...]  read more

Robocall blocking apps caught sending your private data without permission

Robocall-blocking apps promise to rid your life of spoofed and spam phone calls. But are they as trustworthy as they claim to be?

One security researcher said many of these apps can violate your privacy as soon as they are opened.

Dan Hastings, a senior security consultant cybersecurity firm NCC Group, analyzed some of the most popular robocall-blocking apps — including TrapCall, Truecaller, and Hiya — and found egregious privacy violations.

Robocalls are getting worse, with some getting tens or dozens of calls a day. These automated calls demand you “pay the IRS” a fine you don’t owe or pretend to be tech support. They often try to trick you into picking up the phone by spoofing their number to look like a local caller. But as much as the cell networks are trying to cut down on spam, many are turning to third-party apps to filter their incoming calls.

But many of these apps, said Hastings, send user or device data to third-party data analytics companies — often to monetize your [...]  read more

The smartwatch category is growing, as Apple remains dominant

Fitbit and Samsung have capitalized as well — can Google do the same?

Brian Heater

HarmonyOS is Huawei’s homegrown operating system for smartphones and smart home devices

After months of conflicting statements from Huawei executives, the Chinese networking giant on Friday officially unveiled HarmonyOS, the much-anticipated mobile operating system it has developed to power smartphones, laptops, and smart home devices as the company attempts to cut its reliance on international giants.

HarmonyOS will be made available for smart screen products such as TV later this year, said Richard Yu, CEO of the Huawei consumer division at company’s developer conference. In next three years, Huawei, the world’s second largest smartphone vendor, will look to bring HarmonyOS to more devices, he said.

The availability of the mobile operating system, which is open source, will be limited to China for now, though the company has plans to bring it to international markets at a later stage.

The announcement today comes months after the U.S. government put Huawei and more than 60 affiliates in an entity [...]  read more

The Russians are coming! The Russians are … complicated!

Did you know that Russia’s security services, particularly those related to hacking / information security, have been in the throes of vicious high-stakes infighting for years? Did you know that the perceived Russian doctrine which informed much Western analysis of Russian strategies never actually existed? Did you know that the Kremlin’s secrecy has built an entire cottage industry of largely-unfounded rumors and conspiracy theories based on the few tantalizing details which do leak?

OK, you probably knew that last part. Everyone, or at least everyone who calls a social-media stranger with whom they disagree a “Russian bot,” is a Russian conspiracy theorist nowadays. And of course the evidence of widespread malevolent Russian activity, ranging from assassinations to hacking to social-media bombing, is copious.

But exactly which Russian organizations are doing what, and why — that’s a lot harder to establish. I’m reminded of old Cold War spy novels in which Kremlinologists [...]  read more

A.Capital Partners, founded by Ronny Conway, targets $140 million for its third fund

Silicon Valley investor Ronny Conway is raising his third early-stage venture fund, shows a new SEC filing that states the fund’s target is $140 million and that the first sale has yet to occur.

The now six-year-old firm, A.Capital, focuses on both consumer and enterprise tech, and has offices in Menlo Park and San Francisco.

Among the many brand-name companies in its portfolio are Coinbase, Airbnb, Pinterest, and Reddit. (You can find its other investments here.)

Conway led the seed-stage program of Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) for roughly four years in its earliest days and left in 2013 to raise his debut fund, which closed with $51 million in capital commitments. He also raised two, smaller parallel funds at the time.

According to SEC filings, he sought out $140 million for his second fund, though he never announced its close.

A.Capital is today run by Conway, along with General Partner Ramu Arunachalam (also formerly of a16z) and Kartik Talwar, who worked previously with Conway’s brother, [...]  read more