Amazon launches autoscaling service on AWS

One of the primary advantages of cloud computing has always been the ability to scale up to meet short-term needs and scale back when that need has been met. In other words, you don’t have to pay for infrastructure that you don’t need to hedge against heavy usage. That has mostly meant server capacity, but over time it has been applied to other cloud services. Now, developers can configure auto scaling across a set of AWS services in a single unified interface.

Companies typically use multiple AWS services to build their applications, and up until now that required some work to make sure the various pieces were scaling as the application required it. In a company blog post announcing the new feature, Amazon’s Jeff Barr explained how the new service greatly simplifies auto-scaling for developers.

“You no longer need to set up alarms and scaling actions for each resource and each service. Instead, you simply point AWS Auto Scaling at your application and select the services read more

More money for Utah startups as Kickstart closes on its fourth seed fund at $74 million

One of the most prominent seed investors in Utah, Kickstart Seed Fund, has closed on its fourth fund at $74 million — nearly doubling from the last funding of $39 million and toppling Peak Ventures as the fund with the mostest raised in the region.

The large increase was driven by several institutional investors as well as several notable Utah entrepreneurs including Aaron Skonnard of Pluralsight, Jeremy Andrus ofTraeger Grills, Ryan Smith of Qualtrics and Stephen Neeleman of HealthEquity.

However, strategy won’t change with the new coin. Kickstart tells TechCrunch it will continue to make “meaningful seed- and early-stage investments in startups and elite entrepreneurs based in the Mountain West.”

Utah has seen impressive growth in tech startups in the region in the past few years and now includes five unicorn companies in the Wasatch Front region (an area spanning from Ogden to Provo, Utah). According to Grow Utah, read more

Storytelling app Wattpad raises $51M at a $398M valuation

Content, as they say, is king — but these days, that may be true only for as long as you can figure out a good business model to deliver it. And today, a startup based out of Toronto, Canada is re-upping its coffers to fill out its ambition to do just that.

Wattpad, a storytelling and reading/viewing app that combines crowdsourced content with professionally produced material, has picked up another $51 million (C$61.25 million) in venture funding — money that it plans to use to invest in its tech (such as the machine learning that helps match its creators with consumers, and which identifies stories that are ‘trending’ and worth revisiting for more creative writing and video shooting around them as themes); and in its expansion into more formats.

The company has raised $117.8 million (US) to date, and post-money is valued at just under $398 million, according to read more

Clinic reports Natural Cycles app for 37 unwanted pregnancies since September

Swedish startup Natural Cycles, which offers an app-based product which it bills as a ‘digital contraceptive’, has been reported to Sweden’s Medical Products Agency (MPA) by a local hospital after it recorded 37 unwanted pregnancies among women who said they had been using the app as their contraception method.

The women’s clinic of Södersjukhuset, in Stockholm, told us that it wants the MPA to investigate how the app functions.

“We want the Swedish Medicines Agency to gather information about side effects, such as unwanted pregnancies, and look at how the app works,” said Lena Marions, a senior doctor at the clinic and associate professor in obstetrics and gynaecology.

“The midwives of our abortion reception found that there were many women who were unwanted pregnant and who stated that they used this app… Since September 2017, they noted how many women there were and then reported the number to the Swedish Medicines Agency.”

“We always report to the Medical Products read more

Uber rival Grab acquires Indian startup to bulk up its mobile payment platform

Grab, Uber’s main rival in Southeast Asia, is continuing to develop its mobile payment strategy after it announced the acquisition of India-based startup iKaaz.

The deal — which is undisclosed — will see iKaaz’s engineering team join the Bangalore-based engineering office which Grab opened last year. The firm declined to say how many new recruits are moving over from iKaaz, but a spokesperson disclosed that Grab currently has 75 engineers in Bangalore with plans to grow the number to 200 before this year.

Grab also has engineering teams in Singapore, Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh City, Beijing and Seattle. The company claims it is Southeast Asia’s top ride-hailing app with more 70 million downloads.

Southeast Asia has a cumulative population of more than 600 million consumers. Ride-hailing in the region is predicted to grow into a $20.1 billion per year industry by 2025 up from $5.1 billion in 2017, according to a report co-authored by Google.

iKaaz was founded in 2012 by former read more

2018 could bring the IPOs that tech has been promised for years

Alex Wilhelm Contributor

Alex Wilhelm is the editor-in-chief of Crunchbase News and co-host of Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast.

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After years of drought and parched conditions, the U.S. tech IPO market could see a number of well-known players push forward with their debuts in 2018. That sentiment is grounded in the number of companies currently rumored to have filed or started preparation for a public debut.

However, the wave may not manifest. In the past few years, there has been a surprising dearth of IPO activity.

That lack of tech IPOs matters for the technology industry as liquidity is often the stuff that drives reinvestment. Notably, raising capital hasn’t been a problem for venture capitalists. But different forms of money are distorting the tech ecosystem’s makeup. It may be harder to raise seed money than before. That said, it may be easier to raise super-late-stage funds. Hell, even pre-seed has cropped up due to the market’s current oddities.

But venture capitalists read more

Hike unbundles its messaging app to reach India’s next wave of smartphone users

How do you compete with the world’s largest chat app in its strongest market?

Hike, the Indian messaging app valued at more than $1 billion, is taking a unique approach to battling WhatsApp which involves dismantling its service, layering it on budget Android phones and offering free connectivity.

The company, which is backed by the likes of Tencent and Foxconn, today unveiled ‘Total, built by Hike’ — a new service aimed at reaching novice smartphone owners and first-time internet users in India.

Hike is in the unenviable position of competing squarely with WhatsApp, the world’s most popular chat app, which counts India as its largest single market with over 200 million active users. For perspective: that’s two-thirds of India’s internet using public. By contrast, Hike said it had collected 100 million registered users in January 2016, but there’s been no further update since then.

CEO Kavin Bharti Mittal plays down the competition — WhatsApp “doesn’t have to read more

Revolut launches geolocation-powered travel insurance

Fintech startup Revolut is launching international medical and dental insurance. You can subscribe using the company’s app for £1 per day or more depending on the options.

But the best part is that you can set it up and forget about it as Revolut uses your device’s location data to automatically turn insurance coverage on and off.

By default, insurance coverage costs £1 per day for medical and dental insurance. You can add an option for winter sports and you can also cover your friends and family.

But if you’re always on the road and tend to spend weeks or even months abroad, Revolut is going to cap its travel insurance after a certain amount of time. You can also pay a fixed upfront price for an annual policy.

Revolut isn’t becoming an insurance company. Just like with its mobile device insurance product, the startup is working with third-party insurance companies. read more

DJI teases its latest device ahead of next week’s reveal

Seems DJI was keeping its powder dry last week at CES. The drone giant announced a pair of camera gimbals at the show, but the big news was still a couple of weeks away. The company has sent out invites for its next big announcement, set for January 23 in New York City.

The location could be a hint as far as what to expect here. In recent years, the company has preferred Los Angeles as the backdrop for its film-related announcements. New York, on the other hand, has been the setting for both the Mavic Pro and Spark consumer drone announcements.

The company’s also giddily leaking out various tidbits through social media, teasing a “big” announcement in quotes, and titling the event, “Adventure Unfolds,” which could well be a reference to the backpack-friendly nature read more

In a close vote, the Senate ends debate on warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens

On Tuesday, the Senate undertook a cloture vote to end debate on a bill that would renew a controversial legal loophole that provides U.S. intelligence agencies with a means for the warrantless surveillance of American citizens. With 60 for and 38 against, the Senate voted in favor of cloture, a considerable blow to privacy advocates who have long pushed for reform.

A two-thirds majority cloture vote of 60 is necessary to end a Senate filibuster. The vote ran for over an hour, slowing down considerably as the final votes trickled in and eventually slowing to a halt at 58-38.

The bill in question is known as S. 139 or the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017, a six-year reauthorization of Section 702. The bill, which renews an NSA surveillance program, cleared the House read more