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Zoom’s A Lifeline During COVID-19: This Is Why It’s Also A Privacy Risk

I admit it, I’ve been using Zoom during the COVID-19 crisis to carry on with my yoga classes without having to leave my home. It’s been a lifeline using the video conferencing app to take an exercise class, and Zoom’s so functional it allows multiple people to be in the same “virtual” room at once.

Other friends are using it for virtual parties, and of course, business meetings and conferences. Even UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was seen using Zoom for his recent cabinet meeting.

As someone who works in the security industry, I hear a lot about the privacy risks associated with the big tech firms Facebook and Google.

But now the COVID-19 crisis is increasing the frequency people use the video chat service Zoom, it’s important we are aware of the implications for our privacy. And Zoom might not be the best choice for privacy-conscious users, it seems.

Facebook COVID-19 Fallout: Why Is The Social Network Taking Down Legitimate Posts?

 

How private and secure are your Zoom calls? So, what’s the problem? For a start, Zoom’s privacy policy outlines some rather concerning data collection practices, according to research by consumer advocacy organization Consumer Reports.

On the surface of it, Zoom’s privacy policy is similar to the likes of Facebook and Google–it collects and stores personal data and shares it with third parties such as advertisers.

But Zoom’s policy also covers what it labels “customer content,” or “the content contained in cloud recordings, and instant messages, files, whiteboards … shared while using the service.”

This includes videos, transcripts that can be generated automatically, documents shared on screen, and the names of everyone on a call.

Consumer Reports points out that your instant messages and videos can be used to target advertising campaigns or develop a facial recognition algorithm, like videos collected by other tech companies. “That’s probably not what people are expecting when they contact a therapist, hold a business meeting, or have a job interview using Zoom.”

Consumer Reports reached out to the company for comment on its privacy practices. A Zoom spokesperson told me via email that the firm “does not sell user data of any kind to anyone.”

Zoom isn’t necessarily doing anything users would object to with the data, says Bill Fitzgerald, a Consumer Reports privacy researcher who analyzed the company’s policies. However, the firm’s terms of use provide “a whole lot of leeway to collect information and share it, both now and in the future.”

Data that can be collected and shared by your meeting host

The information that Zoom itself can share and collect is a worry, but what about the data handled by your host? Another big concern about Zoom, which you might not be aware of, is that the video app offers hosts “rights that might not be immediately apparent to other participants—or, in some cases, to the hosts themselves,” Consumer Reports states.

You might be using Zoom for work, so your boss could be the host, or you might be buying a service such as a class. Perhaps even more concerningly during this COVID-19 crisis, you may be using Zoom to talk to a health professional about your symptoms.

“Zoom puts a lot of power in the hands of the meeting hosts,” says Justin Brookman, director of privacy and technology policy at Consumer Reports. “The host has more power to record and monitor the call than you might realize if you’re just a participant, especially if he or she has a corporate account.”

Another particularly intrusive Zoom feature offers hosts the ability to turn on “attention tracking” to check whether you are paying attention during the call. This allows the hosts–who could be your boss or client–to monitor whether you click away from the Zoom window for more than 30 seconds while a screen is being shared.

Meet Lockdown, The App That Reveals Who’s Tracking You On Your iPhone

 

Zoom privacy: “A bucket of red flags” 

I asked Rowenna Fielding, a privacy expert and head of individual rights and ethics at Protecture, what she thought. She says Zoom’s privacy policy “is a bucket of red flags.”

“They collect a potentially huge amount of personal data from accounts, calls made through the service and from scraping social profiles, but there’s no way to opt out of specific use purposes while continuing to use the service.”

In addition, she says, although the policy is careful to state that no data is “sold”, it is still used for targeting and marketing purposes. “This in many cases is the harmful use that individuals most object to, especially if programmatic advertising, such as real-time-bidding, is involved.”

Fielding warns: “For an employee or contractor whose boss or clients require them to use Zoom, this is bad news because they are required to expose, or accept the passive collection of, personal data which is not strictly necessary for the operation of the call, and which is then used for a variety of vaguely-described purposes by Zoom.”

She says that while the policy might meet U.S. privacy standards, she’d give it a C- for transparency and accountability according to the more stringent EU data protection regulation’s (GDPR) standards.

Can you use Zoom while protecting your privacy?

Given these concerning privacy flaws, it almost seems impossible to see Zoom as a privacy conscious option. However, sometimes it’s your only choice, especially when the decision is made by a boss or provider of a service.

Consumer Reports experts advise you to keep your camera and mic turned off unless you’re actually speaking. If you feel that you need to have the camera turned on, the experts advise you use a background image so the host can’t see inside your home.

If you care about your privacy, Fielding advises using a unique email address specifically for Zoom, clearing cookies and blocking trackers after every call, opting out of all secondary data uses where possible, and leaving feedback that explains the problems with the service’s privacy.

And if you don’t have to use Zoom, why not choose something else? Many of us are stuck inside for a while during COVID-19, and Houseparty might be a good idea for social chats, while Signal provides a much more secure video service. Jitsi, an open source app that supports multiple chats, is also a good option.

Whatever you choose, check the privacy policy: When you’re on video, it matters even more.

 

Zoom has now sent me a longer statement in response to this story. “Zoom takes its users’ privacy extremely seriously,” a spokesperson told me via email. “Zoom only collects data from individuals using the Zoom platform as needed to provide the service and ensure it is delivered as effectively as possible. Zoom must collect basic technical information like users’ IP address, OS details and device details in order for the service to function properly. 

“Zoom has layered safeguards in place to protect our users’ privacy, which includes preventing anyone, including Zoom employees, from directly accessing any data that users share during meetings, including – but not limited to – the video, audio and chat content of those meetings. Importantly, Zoom does not mine user data or sell user data of any kind to anyone.”

Meanwhile, Zoom says its attention tracking feature is “built for training purposes.”

This is “so hosts can tell if participants have the app open and active when the screen-sharing feature is in use,” the spokesperson says, adding that the feature is off by default and only the account admin can enable it. 

“It is important to note the attention tracking feature only tracks if a participant’s Zoom video window is open and in focus when the host is sharing their screen. It does not track any aspects of the audio or video content of a call, and it also does not track any other applications or activity on your device.”

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I’m a freelance cybersecurity journalist with over a decade’s experience writing news, reviews and features. I report and analyze breaking cybersecurity and privacy stories with a particular interest in cyber warfare, application security and data misuse. Contact me at kate.oflaherty@techjournalist.co.uk.

Source: Zoom’s A Lifeline During COVID-19: This Is Why It’s Also A Privacy Risk

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The Best Machine Learning Startups To Work For In 2020 Based On Glassdoor

  • Duolingo, HOVER, Ironclad, Orbital Insight, People.ai, Dataiku, DeepMap, Cobalt, Aktana, Chorus.ai, Noodle Analytics, Inc. (Noodle.ai), Signal AI, Augury, SparkCognition, and KONUX are the most likely to be recommended by their employees to friends looking for a machine learning startup to work for in 2020.
  • 96% of the employees of the 15 highest rated machine learning startups would recommend their company to a friend looking for a new job, and 98% approve of their CEOs.
  • Across all machine learning startups with Glassdoor ratings, 74% of employees would recommend the startup they work for to a friend, and 81% approve of their CEO.
  • There are over 230 cities globally who have one or more machine learning startups in operation today with Crunchbase finding 144 in San Francisco, 60 in London, 69 in New York, 82 in Tel Aviv, 22 in Toronto, 20 in Paris, 18 in Seattle and the remainder distributed over 223 global locations.

These and many other insights are from a Crunchbase Pro analysis completed today using Glassdoor data to rank the best machine learning startups to work for in 2020. Demand reminds high for technical professionals with machine learning expertise.  According to Indeed, Machine Learning Engineer job openings grew 344% between 2015 to 2018 and have an average base salary of $146,085 according their  Best Jobs In The U.S. Study. You can read the study shows that technical professionals with machine learning expertise are in an excellent position to bargain for the average base salary of at least $146,085 or more.

1

Methodology

In response to readers’ most common requests of which machine learning startups are the best to work for, a Crunchbase Pro query was created to find all machine learning startups who had received Seed, Early Stage Venture, or Late Stage Venture financing. The 2,682 machine learning startups Crunchbase is tracking were indexed by Total Funding Amount by startup to create a baseline.

Next, Glassdoor scores of the (%) of employees who would recommend this company to a friend and (%) of employees who approve of the CEO were used to find the best startups to work for. 79 of the 150 machine learning startups have 15 or more Glassdoor reviews and are included in the analysis. 41 have less than 15 reviews and 30 have no reviews. The table below is a result of the analysis, and you can find the original Microsoft Excel data set here.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

I am currently serving as Principal, IQMS, part of Dassault Systèmes. Previous positions include product management at Ingram Cloud, product marketing at iBASEt, Plex Systems, senior analyst at AMR Research (now Gartner), marketing and business development at Cincom Systems, Ingram Micro, a SaaS start-up and at hardware companies. I am also a member of the Enterprise Irregulars. My background includes marketing, product management, sales and industry analyst roles in the enterprise software and IT industries. My academic background includes an MBA from Pepperdine University and completion of the Strategic Marketing Management and Digital Marketing Programs at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. I teach MBA courses in international business, global competitive strategies, international market research, and capstone courses in strategic planning and market research. I’ve taught at California State University, Fullerton: University of California, Irvine; Marymount University, and Webster University. You can reach me on Twitter at @LouisColumbus.

Source: The Best Machine Learning Startups To Work For In 2020 Based On Glassdoor

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Should you cash in on the AI hype train? Should you build a more sustainable software business? I’ll share my thoughts on whether or not you should start your own startup or not. Books I mention in the video: Unscripted: https://amzn.to/347wDRC The Millionaire Fastlane: https://amzn.to/2rhmfcF The fastlane forum: https://www.thefastlaneforum.com/comm… Also, some great blog posts on bootstrapping your SaaS https://bit.ly/2Yv4bI3 Courses: https://www.manning.com/livevideo/rei… https://www.udemy.com/course/deep-q-l… Website: https://www.neuralnet.ai Github: https://github.com/philtabor Twitter: https://twitter.com/MLWithPhil

 

This 31-Year-Old’s Company Rocketed To A $1 Billion Valuation Helping Workers Get Degrees

Its 9 a.m. two days before Thanksgiving, and Walmart executives are dragging their suitcases around a windowless Arkansas office building in search of a large conference room. They settle on an interior lunchroom with dull gray carpet, claiming one side of a long table in the corner and gesturing for their guests to sit opposite them.

Ellie Bertani, Walmart’s director of workforce strategy, says she’s struggling to find qualified people to staff the company’s expanding network of 5,000 pharmacies and 3,400 vision centers. Her fellow Walmart execs are silent, but Rachel Romer Carlson, 31, cofounder and CEO of Guild Education, sees her opening. Without hesitation she says her team can work with Walmart and find a solution fast. “You guys and us,” she says, “let’s do it!”

Carlson flew to Bentonville from Guild’s Denver headquarters the day before. Dressed in a sensible navy blazer and black slacks, she’s hardly bothered with makeup. Since 7:30 that morning she’s been huddling with teams of Walmart brass, going over options to train workers for those new jobs. They range from a one-year pharmacy technician certificate program offered by a for-profit online outfit called Penn Foster to an online bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration at nonprofit Southern New Hampshire University.

Carlson’s groundbreaking idea when she launched Guild four years ago: help companies offer education benefits that employees will actually use. Many big employers will pay for their workers to go to school (it’s a tax break), but hardly any workers take advantage of the opportunity. Applying and signing up for courses can be cumbersome, and in most instances employees have to front the tuition and wait to be reimbursed.

Meanwhile, many colleges are desperate for students because they have small—or nonexistent—endowments and are financially dependent on tuition. Many nonselective online programs spend more than $3,000 to attract each new student. Carlson charges schools a finder’s fee (she won’t say how much) for the students she delivers from her corporate partners.

So far Guild has signed up more than 20 companies, including Disney and Taco Bell. Guild gets paid only if students complete their coursework, so a full 150 of the company’s 415 staffers serve as coaches who help employees apply to degree programs and plan how to balance their studies with work and family.

When a company like Walmart requests a customized training course, Guild solicits proposals from as many as 100 education providers (nearly all of them online) and recommends the programs it deems best. It also negotiates tuition discounts and facilitates direct payments between employers and schools, a big plus for workers who would otherwise have to wait months to be reimbursed.

Carlson, an alumna of the 2017 Forbes 30 Under 30 list and a judge on the 2020 list, says she has already channeled more than $100 million in tuition benefits to workers this year alone. Forbes estimates 2019 revenue will top $50 million, and Guild investor Byron Deeter of Bessemer Venture Partners predicts 2020 revenue of more than $100 million.

In mid-November Carlson closed her fifth round of financing, led by General Catalyst, bringing her total money raised to $228 million at a $1 billion valuation. In the sleepy, well-intentioned world of edtech, Guild is one of only a few startups whose values have soared, says Daniel Pianko, a New York-based edtech investor with no stake in the company.

“I can see a path for Guild to be a $100 billion company,” says Paul Freedman, CEO of San Francisco venture firm Entangled Group, who has known Carlson since she was in business school and was one of Guild’s earliest ­investors.

When asked to detail Guild’s inner workings, like its strategy for soliciting custom courses, Carlson eschews specifics and delivers what sounds like a political stump speech: “The economy’s moving so fast,” she says. “We can’t let higher education dictate the skills and competencies that we need five to ten years from now.”

There’s a reason she talks this way. Her grandfather Roy Romer was a three-term (1987–1999) Democratic governor of Colorado before spending six years as superintendent of Los Angeles’ public schools. Carlson started riding along on his campaign bus when she was 6 years old; occasionally she would even speak at his rallies. When her father, Chris Romer, a former Colorado state senator, ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Denver in 2011, she served as his finance director. (“The loss was devastating,” she says.)

                            

Along with politics, the Romers were committed to increasing access to education, especially for working adults. Roy Romer helped start Salt Lake City-based Western Governors University, a pioneer in online adult education. In the wake of Chris Romer’s mayoral bid, in 2011, he cofounded American Honors, a for-profit company that offered honors courses at community colleges (the company struggled, and the brand is now owned by Wellspring International, a student recruitment firm).

After graduating from Stanford undergrad and working briefly in the Obama White House, Carlson launched her first venture, Student Blueprint, while getting her M.B.A. (also at Stanford) in 2014. Student Blueprint sought to use technology to match community college students with jobs.

It was a noble idea, but she decided to finish school and sold the software she had developed to Paul Freedman’s Entangled Group in 2014 for a negligible sum. In 2015, after she wrapped up her M.B.A., she pitched the idea for Guild to one of her professors, Michael Dearing, and to seed investor Aileen Lee, of Cowboy Ventures, raising $2 million.

                          

After relocating to her home turf in Denver, she landed her first major corporate partner in the summer of 2016 when she sent a LinkedIn message to a Chipotle benefits manager that played up the fast-food chain’s “strong Denver roots and social mission.”

With help from Guild, Chipotle’s $12-an-hour burrito rollers are now pursuing online bachelor’s degrees from Bellevue University in Nebraska or taking computer security courses at Wilmington University in Delaware. In October 2019, Carlson persuaded Chipotle to lift its cap on tuition benefits above the $5,250 the IRS allows companies to write off.

Guild’s biggest competitor is a division of ­Watertown, Massachusetts-based ­publicly traded daycare provider Bright Horizons, which has offered tuition benefit services since 2009. It works with 210 companies including Home Depot and Goldman Sachs. Under Bright Horizons’ system, the companies—not the colleges—pay. Much of the genius of Guild’s business model is that it correctly aligns incentives: The colleges are the most ­financially motivated party, so they foot the bill. ­Another ­competitor, Los Angeles-based InStride, launched in 2019 with funding from Arizona State University, and like Bright Horizons it charges the corporations.

“I see our competition as the status quo,” Carlson says. “Classically, employers have offered tuition-reimbursement programs, but no one is using those programs.”

The nonprofit Indianapolis-based Lumina Foundation has done five case studies showing returns on investment as high as 140% for companies that offer tuition-reimbursement programs. “We saw powerful impacts on retention,” says Lumina’s strategy director, Haley Glover.

“Walmart and Amazon are in a death struggle,” proclaims Joseph Fuller, a professor at Harvard Business School. “If a Walmart worker can say, ‘I got an education that allowed me to get promoted,’ they’re going to be someone who speaks generously about Walmart and they are more likely be a Walmart shopper.”

Like a good politician, Carlson is working to please everyone. “We found a win-win,” she says, “where we can help companies align their objectives with helping their employees achieve their goals.”

Get Forbes’ daily top headlines straight to your inbox for news on the world’s most important entrepreneurs and superstars, expert career advice and success secrets.

As an associate editor at Forbes, I cover young entrepreneurs and edit the 30 Under 30 lists. I’m particularly interested in companies finding unique ways to make our world more sustainable. I previously wrote for The American Lawyer, Corporate Counsel and the Weekend Argus in Cape Town, South Africa. I graduated from Northwestern University where I studied Journalism, Environmental Policy and Political Science. Follow me on Twitter @AlexandraNWil.

Source: Class Act: This 31-Year-Old’s Company Rocketed To A $1 Billion Valuation Helping Workers Get Degrees

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Bertani says Walmart is using technology to increase productivity and help workers focus on customer service.

It Took Canva a Year to Make Its First Technical Hire. Now It’s a Hiring Machine

Plenty of entrepreneurs adhere to the mantra of “hire slow, fire fast” and for good reason. Then there’s Melanie Perkins, the co-founder and CEO of Sydney-based design software company Canva. She spent a year trying to find her first technical hire.

While Perkins didn’t intend to spend so much time filling her first engineering position, looking back on it now, she wouldn’t have done it any other way. The year-long quest informed how she’s made every other hire since. And it’s hard to argue with the results: With 700 employees, Canva is a hiring machine, and it’s been doubling in size every year.

In an industry that sees engineers switch jobs with frightening speed, many of Canva’s early technical hires are still with the company. While Canva won’t discuss revenue, Perkins, the company’s co-founder and CEO, says the company has been profitable since 2017. Canva has 20 million monthly users in 190 countries. In October, Canva announced an $85 million investment, with a valuation of $3.2 billion.

This is going to be bigger than yearbooks

When Perkins started the predecessor company to Canva in 2007, she was just 19. She was frustrated by how hard it was to use design software. When she started teaching design at university, she noticed that her students were similarly frustrated. With her boyfriend (now fiance), Cliff Obrecht, she built a website called Fusion Books that helped students design and publish yearbooks.

It did well–becoming the largest yearbook company in Australia and moving into France and New Zealand. Perkins quit university to work on it full-time. By 2011, Perkins and Obrecht realized Fusion Books could be much more: an engine to make it easy for anyone to design any publication. But to build that more ambitious product, they’d need outside investment.

Perkins headed to San Francisco to visit angel investor Bill Tai, who is known for making about 100 investments in startups that have yielded 19 initial public offerings. She’d met him in Perth a year earlier, where she had collected an award for innovation. “If you come to California, come see me,” he remembers telling her. “Without me knowing exactly what she was doing, she engineered a trip. She’s a very ballsy woman, if that makes sense. And I’m thinking, you know, I should help her. I know hundreds of engineers.”

Early in her San Francisco visit, Tai introduced her to Lars Rasmussen, the co-founder of the company that became Google Maps. Tai told her that if she could hire a tech team that met Rasmussen’s standards, he’d invest. “I didn’t realize at the time what that meant,” says Perkins. She bought an Ikea mattress, and planted it on the floor of her brother’s San Francisco apartment. “Obviously, that was free rent,” she says. “I had food to get by and I felt safe.”

Perkins set out initially to hire by doing the obvious: She went to every single conference she could get into. She’d speak if the organizers let her. Tai invited her to his MaiTai Global networking event in Hawaii, even though, for most attendees, a big draw was kitesurfing, which she’d never attempted. “It was great fun,” she says gamely. Then, “I really don’t like it. I have the scars to prove it. I’ve … retired from kitesurfing.”

Back in San Francisco, Perkins passed out flyers, trying to pique people’s interest. She cold-called engineers, and approached suspects on buses. She scoured LinkedIn, but Rasmussen wouldn’t even deign to meet most of her finds. “He didn’t think they had enough startup gumption or experience with a world-scale company, or with complex technology,” she said. She says fewer than five LinkedIn finds ended up interviewing with Rasmussen. He’d give them a problem-solving challenge that, inevitably, they flubbed.

After a year of this, Perkins was thoroughly frustrated. Surely it’s better to at least make some progress, she told Rasmussen, than to continue to do nothing. But he was adamant.

The perfect candidate and the bizarre pitch deck

That same year, Rasmussen introduced her to two candidates that he thought might be a good fit and recruitable. The first, Cameron Adams, a user interface designer who had worked at Google, was busy trying to raise money for his own startup. The second, Dave Hearnden, a senior engineer at Google, initially said he wasn’t interested. In 2012, both had a change of heart.

“We were absolutely over the moon,” says Perkins. Adams came on board first, as a co-founder. Hearnden, on the other hand, started to have second thoughts: Google wasn’t happy with his leaving, obviously, and was trying to get him to stay. He worried that his project would be abandoned without him, and he didn’t want to disappoint his team.

At this point, Perkins sent him something that has since become known as the Bizarre Pitch Deck. In 16 slides, the deck tells the story of a man named Dave, who longed for adventure but was torn by his loyalty for Google. In the pitch deck, as in life, Dave eventually joined Canva. It helped that Google had already poached his replacement.

In 2012, Perkins was able to raise a seed round of $1.6 million, and got another $1.4 million from the Australian government. Tai finally agreed to put in $100,000. “It was really hard for her to raise,” he says. “You’ve got a young girl in her 20s from Australia who had never worked at a company, with her live-in boyfriend as COO. People would say to me, What if they break up? I didn’t have a good answer.” Now, things look much different: Tai says Obrecht is Canva’s “secret weapon,” and that “Cliff has just blown me away.”

Keeping the bar high, hundreds of hires later

While Tai drove her nuts at the beginning, Perkins appreciates his stubbornness now. “We’ve been able to attract top talent across the globe,” she says. “It wouldn’t have been possible without setting such a high technical bar early on.” Tai says he hasn’t made exactly this condition with other startups. But he’s done it in reverse: He’s backed highly technical people without knowing what, exactly, the business opportunity would turn out to be.

The experience also showed her, the hard way, just how much effort she’d have to put into hiring if she wanted to build a successful tech company. By Canva’s second year, the company had a recruiting team. “We knew we needed to invest heavily in hiring,” she says. Now, each open position gets a strategy brief. That document lays out the goals for the person in that role and the project they will be working on. It also identifies the people who will be involved in the hiring process. “Getting everyone on the same page is really critical,” says Perkins. “It sets that person up for success.”

And like Rasmussen looking for the first technical hire, Canva asks each candidate to take a challenge. Candidates have a choice of doing a four-hour challenge or a one-hour challenge. “Maybe they’re working parents and they can do it in an hour,” says Perkins. “Other people prefer to have a longer time and work at their own pace. We’re looking for people happy to take on challenges and who get a real buzz out of being able to solve hard things.”

In in-person interviews, someone on the Canva team will almost always ask the candidate, “How would your previous boss or manager talk about your work or rate you?” Perkins says people are “surprisingly honest” in their responses. The answers help her get a window into what type of leadership allows a particular candidate to thrive. Some people require a lot of structure or hierarchy, she says, and Canva doesn’t have much of either.

“One of the things I believe quite strongly is having a really strong idea of where you’re going,” says Perkins. “I have this visual metaphor. Plant 100 seeds. Until eventually one flowers or sprouts. For most people, if you’re rejected, you feel really hurt and don’t want to continue. The reality is that you have to push through. If I had given up quickly, I certainly wouldn’t be here today.”

By Kimberly WeisulEditor-at-large, Inc.com

Source: It Took Canva a Year to Make Its First Technical Hire. Now It’s a Hiring Machine

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A behind the scenes look at the amazing team behind Canva, hope you enjoy watching the video as much as we enjoyed making it!

Former Uber CEO Adapts A Copy From China Idea With His U.S. Startup CloudKitchens

The latest example of the copy from China innovation trend comes from former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and his new startup CloudKitchens, a kitchen sharing concept for restaurants and take-out orders.

This shared kitchen model originated in China, with a Beijing-based startup named Panda Selected. Little doubt that Kalanick saw this idea at work in China. He has China experience and some scars to show from his ventures a few years ago with Uber in China doing battle with Chinese ride-sharing leader Didi and eventually selling to the rival.

These shared food preparation services are part of the sharing economy that has blossomed in China. Sharing has extended from taxi rides to bikes to even shared umbrellas and battery chargers.

The shared kitchen could disrupt the traditional restaurant business. It caters to a young on-the-go population who order food by mobile app and get quick take-out deliveries. No need for large dining areas or kitchens that serve just one restaurant. The shared model lowers the cost of doing business for commercial restaurants and makes it easier to do business around the clock in a hurry and manage operations.

Today In: Innovation

The model has already caught on in China, where new business ideas particularly for mobile gain traction quickly and have no problem in attracting customers. Panda Selected, which was started in 2016 by CEO Li Haipeng, has more than 120 locations in China’s major business hubs.

This shared kitchen concept could gain quick uptake in the U.S. too. On-demand instant delivery for take-out food ordered by mobile app hasn’t yet caught on in the U.S. like it has in China’s congested cities but that doesn’t mean that the model can’t work in the U.S.

Venture capital investors have already decided the business could scale quickly and have funded the shared kitchen business model. CloudKitchens has funding of $400 million from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund on top of initial seed capital from Kalanick. Panda Selected has attracted $80 million in funding from DCM Ventures, Genbridge Capital and Tiger Global.

It is interesting to see successful serial entrepreneurs like Kalanick trying their hand at new ideas they’ve seen work in China. No doubt more ideas from China’s advanced digital economy will filter into the U.S. Already, we have digital entertainment app. How long before we see the social commerce model that Pinduoduo has perfected in China get transported over to the U.S.?

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website or some of my other work here.

Rebecca A. Fannin is a leading expert on global innovation. As a technology writer, author and media entrepreneur, she began her career as a journalist covering venture capital from Silicon Valley. Following the VC money, she became one of the first American journalists to write about China’s entrepreneurial boom, reporting from Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Today, Rebecca pens a weekly column for Forbes, and is a special correspondent for CNBC.com. Rebecca’s journalistic career has taken her to the world’s leading hubs of tech innovation, and her articles have appeared in Harvard Business Review, Fast Company and Inc., and Techonomy. Her next book. Tech Titans of China, is being published this year. (Hachette Book Group, 2019).Rebecca’s first book, Silicon Dragon: How China is Winning the Tech Race (McGraw-Hill 2008), profiled Jack Ma of Alibaba and Robin Li of Baidu, and she has followed these Chinese tech titans ever since. Her second book, Startup Asia (Wiley 2011), explored how India is the next up and comer, which again predicted a leading-edge trend. She also contributed the Asia chapter to a textbook, Innovation in Emerging Markets (Palgrave Macmillan 2016). Inspired by the entrepreneurs she met and interviewed in China, Rebecca became a media entrepreneur herself. In 2010, she formed media and events platform Silicon Dragon Ventures, which publishes a weekly e-newsletter, produces videos and podcasts, and programs and produces events annually in innovation hubs globally. Rebecca also frequently speaks at major business, tech and policy forums, and has provided testimony to a US Congressional panel about China’s Internet. She resides in New York City and San Francisco, and logs major frequent flier miles in her grassroots search to cover the next, new thing.

Source: Former Uber CEO Adapts A Copy From China Idea With His U.S. Startup CloudKitchens

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Business Insider reports that former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is making progress with his food-delivery and “dark kitchen” startup. CloudKitchens is the venture, it’s one of the units of Kalanick’s company City Storage Systems. The CloudKitchens unit builds kitchens for chefs who want to start food-delivery businesses. CloudRetail builds facilities to support online retailers. The company has hired dozens of people including former Uber employees. Employees are being asked to keep mum about it all, not even publicly acknowledging they work there. Kalanick is said to be focused on growing his food delivery fast as he did with Uber. https://www.businessinsider.com/stock… http://www.wochit.com This video was produced by YT Wochit Tech using http://wochit.com

Next Billion-Dollar Startups: Truepill’s Dose Of Digital Disruption To The $400 Billion Pharmacy Industry

I was barely getting any sleep,” Umar Afridi, cofounder and CEO of Truepill, says of the tech-enabled pharmacy company’s early days. From 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day, he worked at Truepill’s distribution center in Hayward, California. Then he drove to his job as a pharmacy manager at a 24-hour CVS in East San Jose. On the side, he studied for a dozen state pharmacy exams so that Truepill, which at the time had no other pharmacists on staff, could legally ship to those states. “It was a pretty crazy first year,” he says with characteristic understatement.

That craziness has paid off for Afridi, 37, and his cofounder, Sid Viswanathan, 35, who hope to upend the staid, heavily regulated pharmacy business with technology. Truepill, which is based in San Mateo, California, shipped its first prescriptions in 2016. Last year its revenue reached $48 million, helped by the fast growth of direct-to-consumer customers like Nurx, which sells birth control, and Hims, which focuses on remedies for hair loss, erectile dysfunction and acne. This year Truepill could double its revenue to $100 million, as it expands its customer base beyond direct-to-consumer medications to prescriptions that treat more serious illnesses.

Those revenue numbers gained Truepill a spot on Forbes’ Next Billion-Dollar Startups list this year, despite its having raised just $13 million in venture funding led by Initialized Capital at a valuation of $80 million in its last round. That valuation makes Truepill an outlier on the list, as does the fact that Afridi and Viswanathan own the majority of the business and plan to continue to do so after raising the next round of capital, expected before the year’s end.

Afridi and Viswanathan—and their investors—are betting that Truepill will see a big payoff as consumers move away from in-person doctor visits and to a new model of telemedicine. “This is the building block of digital health and the future of healthcare,” says Initialized managing partner Garry Tan.

Pharmacy is a roughly $400 billion business in the United States, yet only recently have entrepreneurs begun tackling the market. In 2013, two young founders launched PillPack, a retail pharmacy startup that was acquired by Amazon last year for around $750 million. Other newcomers followed, including New York City’s Capsule, which grabbed $270 million in funding to do same-day prescription delivery refilled via text.

Truepill’s difference: Its business-to-business model makes it a behind-the-scenes player, invisible to retail customers, who will never have reason to know its name. That’s by design, and it allows Truepill to sign agreements with drugmakers and pharmacy benefit managers, those industry intermediaries that sit between insurers and drugmakers, without directly competing with them. “We’re not a traditional mail-order pharmacy,” Afridi says. “We’re way more than that.”

Afridi was born in Salt Lake City and grew up in Manchester, England, where his mother’s family was from. He studied pharmacy at the University of Manchester and worked as a relief pharmacist, filling in for those who went on vacation, in England. After passing the tests to practice in the United States, he took a job at Fred Meyer near Seattle. Unlike the typical pharmacist, Afridi always had an entrepreneurial side gig. During college, he imported performance cars, like the Mazda RX-7 and the Mitsubishi Evo 5, from Japan and sold them at a profit.

                              

While working as a pharmacist, he taught himself computer programming and began playing around with the idea of an on-demand pharmacy. His goal: to ease customers’ frustrations with waiting in line to pick up medications and to cut back the phone calls and faxes required for pharmacists to do their job. “I’ve always had a passion for technology, and every time I see a problem, I think, ‘How can technology fix this?’” he says.

Viswanathan, an Indian immigrant, had worked at Johnson & Johnson, then cofounded CardMunch, a business-card scanning app. In 2011, LinkedIn bought the startup for a reported $3 million. Viswanathan stayed at the larger company after the deal, and when LinkedIn went public the stock he owned made him wealthy for the first time. “It was fairly life-changing coming from no money to having some,” he recalls. After nearly four years at LinkedIn, he was ready to leave and work on another startup. “My only criterion was what do I want to spend the next 10 years of my life on,” he says.

While he was pondering what to do next, he stumbled upon Afridi’s profile on LinkedIn—where Afridi had changed his header to “startup founder, pharmacist”—and messaged him cold to talk about healthcare. Soon the two were meeting regularly and brainstorming ideas for a business to start together.

By then, other startup pharmacies, like PillPack, were making inroads with retail customers. Rather than compete in what had become a crowded space vying for retail customers, Afridi and Viswanathan figured they could operate in the background, using technology to build an extremely efficient pharmacy distribution center. “Truepill is what you get when you put together a pharmacist and a software engineer,” Viswanathan says.

“This is the building block of digital health and the future of healthcare,” says Initialized Capital’s Garry Tan.

Their idea coincided with the rise of new direct-to-consumer health brands that needed a distributor that could follow all the pharmacy regulations. To consumers, these Instagrammable health products don’t look like drugs, and often their subscription boxes contain a mix of both prescription and over-the-counter products. But if there’s even one vial of prescription pills going out in the mail, the startup sending it needs a pharmacy to fulfill the order. In talking with Nurx, Viswanathan says, “we came to find out they were literally picking up the phone to mom-and-pop pharmacies in different states.” They gained a customer by offering a better way.

In 2017, Andrew Dudum cofounded Hims, the fast-growing direct-to-consumer therapeutics startup for men, and he, too, signed up with Truepill. “We knew from the beginning we were going to grow very fast,” Dudum says. “We expected 30 to 50 orders per day, and that was the scale we communicated to Umar and Sid that we needed to be prepared for. In the first week, we were getting 500 orders per day.” Today, Hims, which is valued at $1.1 billion, does thousands of orders per day and is one of Truepill’s largest customers. “They figured out a way to scale with us,” Dudum says.

At Truepill’s Hayward distribution center, all orders come in electronically. When Hims sends a prescription for finasteride, the male hair-loss treatment, for example, it goes through electronic vetting and then a robotic machine pulls the 1-milligram tablets from custom-made 1,000-count bottles into a small pill vial that gets labeled with Hims branding. That automation allows Truepill to work more efficiently than a traditional retail pharmacy. So, too, does its focus on a small number of medications: Ten medications, including finasteride and the erectile-dysfunction drug sildenafil, represent 80% of its volume. Its scale in those allows Truepill to turn over its inventory every few days and gives it the power to negotiate prices with drug manufacturers and pharmacy benefit managers on those products.

“Truepill is what you get when you put together a pharmacist and a software engineer,” says cofounder Sid Viswanathan.

For Afridi and Viswanathan, direct-to-consumer medications are just the beginning. They are starting to sign agreements with drugmakers and pharmacy benefit managers, though they won’t name those larger partners yet. This shift comes none too soon, as Hims has announced that it would open its own pharmacy in Ohio to shift a portion of its distribution in-house—a move that Viswanathan says will begin to impact Truepill in 2021. “Hims is a large part of the business in quantity, but not in revenue,” he says, noting that medications reimbursed by insurance are higher cost than lifestyle meds that consumers pay for out of pocket. Truepill currently has two distribution centers and is adding another five.

Afridi and Viswanathan’s next step: building a nationwide network of doctors in every state that will enable their pharmacy startup to play a bigger role in the shift to telemedicine. Those doctors will allow it to work directly with makers of specialty medications, say, so that they can distribute their medications to consumers more easily. Over time, Truepill figures its orders could rise from 5,000 to 10,000 per day to 100,000.

“Lifestyle and ED [erectile dysfunction] medications have allowed us to build the infrastructure to all these other areas,” Afridi says. “There is a lot of innovation that needs to happen in the space.”

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Source: Next Billion-Dollar Startups: Truepill’s Dose Of Digital Disruption To The $400 Billion Pharmacy Industry

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Hi, I’m Garry Tan, venture capitalist and cofounder at Initialized Capital. We were earliest investors in billion dollar startups like Coinbase and Instacart, and we’re spending time with some of our best founders to learn the secrets of their success and see the future they’re building. Today I sat down with Sid Viswanathan, cofounder of Truepill, an API for all needs for telemedicine. Telemedicine has the potential to bring down costs and make high quality care more accessible for every person on the planet. We’re headed to Hayward, California, their west coast HQ and fulfillment center out of which they provide pharmacy services for dozens of telemedicine startups and practices large and small, shipping to all 50 states. Come learn about how as a founder, you need to choose a problem space that you could want to work on for 10 years or more. Please like this video and subscribe to my channel if you want to see more videos like this with top founders. Find Sid on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sidviswanathan Find Garry on Twitter at https://twitter.com/garrytan Learn more about Truepill at https://truepill.com Learn more about the companies we fund, and how we work with them at https://initialized.com

Health Testing Startup UBiome Files For Chapter 7 With Plans To Shut Down

In October 2018, microbiome testing startup uBiome was riding pretty high. Less than a month before, the company had announced a shift to more therapeutic products, raised $83 million in a venture capital round, and added a former Novartis CEO to its board.

Fast forward a year later: the company’s cofounders have resigned, it faces law enforcement scrutiny over its billing practices, it’s currently in bankruptcy proceedings, and it filed a motion Tuesday to move from Chapter 11 to Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which would mean liquidating its assets and shutting down.

A lot can happen in 12 months.

The San Francisco-based company was founded in 2012, and its first product was an at-home kit where people could provide fecal samples and send them in for genomics testing. The company then purported to provide a report about its customer’s microbiome—the bacteria present in the intestines that can have a big impact on people’s health.

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The company then began offering a test for irritable bowel syndrome and a test for vaginal health. These tests required a doctor’s order. The company’s practices involving doctors who ordered those tests are reportedly under scrutiny by law enforcement, and its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing included notes about millions of dollars owed to insurance companies as refunds. In July, the company’s cofounders and co-CEOs, Jessica Richman and Zac Apte, resigned from the company.

During the company’s Chapter 11 filing, the company had indicated that it would be looking into a sale. However, according to the motion it filed in court today, the company wasn’t able to secure lending that would enable it to continue operations. As a consequence, it has requested the court allow it to cease operations and liquidate its assets in order to pay off its creditors.

The bankruptcy court still needs to approve the motion. If it is accepted and the company moves to Chapter 7, the liquidation of uBiome’s assets will happen under the supervision of a court-appointed trustee.

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Source: Health Testing Startup UBiome Files For Chapter 7 With Plans To Shut Down

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Jessica Richman, Co-founder and CEO of uBiome and Kimmy Scotti, Partner at 8VC, discuss making the move from academia to startup world, applying data to health problems and what’s going on in health tech. — In 2017, Slush brought together 20,000 attendees, including 2,600 startups, 1,600 investors and 600 journalists from over 130 countries. The cold and dark Helsinki welcomed these tech-heads to a week long celebration, including Slush Music, new Slush Y verticals, and hundreds of side-events and activities around the city. Slush 2018 takes place on 4.–5.12.2018 Slush 2017 in pictures: https://www.flickr.com/photos/slushme… Website: http://www.slush.org Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/slushHQ Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/slushHQ Instagram: http://instagram.com/SlushHQ Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/company/slush Slush Music: http://music.slush.org Slush Tokyo: http://tokyo.slush.org Slush Shanghai: http://shanghai.slush.org Slush Singapore: http://singapore.slush.org Intro videos by: VAU (http://vau.company) VELI.fx / Veli Creative (http://velicreative.fi) Slush is a non-profit event organized by a community of entrepreneurs, investors, students and festival organizers. Slush has grown from a 300-person event to become the leading event of its kind in the world. The philosophy behind it has remained the same: to help the next generation of great, world-conquering companies forward.

New Billionaire: Dean Stoecker’s 22-Year Journey & The Software That Makes Almost Anyone A Data Savant

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Sun Tzu meets software in mid-August at downtown Denver’s Crawford Hotel. The floors are terrazzo. The chandeliers are accented with gold. And Dean Stoecker, the CEO of data-science firm Alteryx, has summoned his executives for the annual strategy session he calls Bing Fa, after the Mandarin title of The Art of War. “Sun Tzu was all about how you conserve resources,” says Stoecker, 62. “How do you win a war without going into battle?”alteryx

Stoecker knows something about conserving resources. He cofounded Alteryx in 1997, when the data-science industry scarcely existed, and spent a decade growing the firm to a measly $10 million in annual revenue. “We had to wait for the market to catch up,” he says. As he waited, he kept the business lean, hiring slowly and forgoing outside investment until 2011. Then, as “big data” began eating the world, he raised $163 million before taking Alteryx public in 2017. The stock is up nearly 900% since, and Stoecker is worth an estimated $1.2 billion.

“People ask me, ‘Did you ever think it would get this big?’” he says. “And I say, ‘Yeah, I just never thought it would take this long.’ ”

Alteryx makes data science easy. Its simple, click-and-drop design lets anyone, from recent grads to emeritus chairmen, turn raw numbers into charts and graphics. It goes far beyond Excel. Plug in some numbers, select the desired operation—say data cleansing or linear regression—and presto.

There are applications in every industry. Coca-Cola uses Alteryx to help restaurants predict how much soda to order. Airlines use it to hedge the price of jet fuel. Banks use it to model derivatives. Data analysis “is the one skill that every human being has to have if they’re going to survive in this next generation,” says Stoecker. “More so than balancing a checkbook.”

Alteryx’s numbers support that forecast. The company, based in Irvine, California, generated $28 million in profit on $254 million in revenue in 2018, and Stoecker expects to hit $1 billion in annual sales by 2022.

Stoecker grew up the son of a tinkerer. His father built liquid nitrogen tanks for NASA before quitting his job to sell “pre-cut” vacation homes in Colorado. He made them himself. “It was literally just him nine months of the year, and he would cut wood for 50 buildings,” Stoecker recalls. As a teenager he joined his father, and by the time he arrived at the University of Colorado Boulder to study economics, he was able to pay his own way.

After graduating in 1979, Stoecker earned his M.B.A. from Pepperdine, then took a sales job in 1990 at Donnelley Marketing Information Services, a data company in Connecticut. There he met Libby Duane Adams, who worked in the firm’s Stamford office. Seven years later, the pair founded a data company of their own, which they cumbersomely named Spatial Re-Engineering Consultants. (A third cofounder, Ned Harding, joined around the same time; Stoecker, who came up with the idea, took the lion’s share of the equity.)

SRC’s first customer, a junk mail company in Orange County, paid $125,000 to better target its coupons. “We were building big-data analytic cloud solutions back in 1998,” says Stoecker, when many businesses were barely online and terms like “cloud computing” were years away.

SRC was profitable from the outset. “We didn’t spend ahead of revenue. We didn’t hire ahead of revenue,” says Adams, sitting in a remodeled 1962 Volkswagen bus at Alteryx headquarters, theoretically a symbol of the company’s journey. “We never calculated burn rates. That was a big topic in the whole dot-com era. We were not running the business like a dot-com.”

In 2006, as part of a pivot away from one-off consulting gigs, SRC released software to let customers do the number-crunching themselves. They named the software Alteryx, a nerdy joke for changing two variables simultaneously: “Alter Y, X.” Stoecker made Alteryx the company name, too, in 2010.

The market was still small. To grow revenue, “we just kept raising the price of our platform,” Stoecker says. In the beginning, Alteryx sold its subscription-based software for $7,500 per user; by 2013 it was charging $55,000. The next year, as Stoecker felt demand growing, he slashed prices to $4,000. Volume made up for the lower rate. Today Alteryx has 5,300 customers. “We immediately went from averaging eight, nine or ten [new clients] a quarter to north of 250,” he says.

Although data mining and data analytics is a long-established field, encompassing a slew of startups as well as giants like Oracle and IBM, “we see almost no direct competition,” Stoecker insists.

“It’s a pretty wide-open field,” says Marshall Senk, a senior research analyst at Compass Point Research & Trading. “The choice is you buy a suite from Alteryx or you go buy 15 different products and try to figure out how to get them to work together.”

Inside Alteryx’s offices, Stoecker pauses in front of a time line depicting his first 22 years in business. “The good stuff hasn’t even occurred yet,” he says. “I’m going to need a way bigger wall.”

 

I’ve been a reporter at Forbes since 2016. Before that, I spent a year on the road—driving for Uber in Cleveland, volcano climbing in Guatemala, cattle farming in Uruguay, and lots of stuff in between. I graduated from Tufts University with a dual degree in international relations and Arabic. Feel free to reach out at nkirsch@forbes.com with any story ideas or tips, or follow me on Twitter @Noah_Kirsch.

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You’ve disrupted the status quo, dissolved data conventions and altered everything we knew about analytics. This year, we invited you to put your groundbreaking insights on the main stage at our annual user conference. Revisit the fun in Nashville as we celebrated the game changing stories that educated leaders and motivated a community of data experts to shatter more barriers than ever before. This year was all about You.Amplified.

Microloan Startup Tala Raises $110 Million In New Funding

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Tala, a Los Angeles startup that makes microloans to consumers and small business owners in emerging markets, is announcing today that it has raised $110 million in funding. The new Silicon Valley venture capital firm RPS Ventures, cofounded by Kabir Misra, former managing partner at Softbank’s $100 billion Vision Fund, is leading the round. Tala’s backers include PayPal, billionaire Steve Case’s VC firm Revolution, Chris Sacca’s Lowercase Capital and Data Collective, among others. The new funding values Tala at nearly $800 million, according to an investor. Tala has raised more than $200 million in equity investment to date.

Shivani Siroya, 37, founded Tala in 2011 after stints as an investment banking analyst and as an analyst at the U.N. Population Fund, where she did socioeconomic research. Tala’s mobile app lets people in Kenya, the Philippines, Tanzania, Mexico and India take out small loans ranging from $10 to $500. Most use the app to invest in their small businesses, like shops and food stands. To evaluate borrower risk, Tala uses cell phone data instead of credit scores, looking at loan applicants’ habits, like whether they pay their phone bills on time.

Siroya first launched Tala’s app in Kenya in 2014. Today it has more than four million customers who take out three to six loans a year at a 10% average monthly interest rate. Its 600 employees are spread across offices in Santa Monica, Kenya, Mexico, the Philippines and India. The company made Forbes’ Fintech 50 list earlier this year.

Tala’s closest competitor is Branch, a five-year-old San Francisco company led by Matt Flannery, who previously cofounded donation crowdfunding platform Kiva.org. Branch has four million customers and an average monthly interest rate of 15%. Earlier this year, it raised $70 million in equity financing from investors like Visa and Andreessen Horowitz, plus $100 million in debt. Tala also raised $100 million in debt over the past year to help fund its loans.

With its new capital, Tala plans to make a bigger push into India and expand to new countries, potentially in regions like West Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America. It also plans to launch new products. In Kenya, Tala has already tested a micro health insurance offering that would cover customer visits to a hospital. It expects to launch its first microinsurance product in the next 12 months. It has also piloted a financial education and coaching program, and it plans to test additional products over the next year.

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I cover fintech, cryptocurrencies, blockchain and investing at Forbes. I’ve also written frequently about leadership, corporate diversity and entrepreneurs. Before Forbes, I worked for ten years in marketing consulting, in roles ranging from client consulting to talent management. I’m a graduate of Middlebury College and Columbia Journalism School. Have a tip, question or comment? Email me jkauflin@forbes.com or send tips here: https://www.forbes.com/tips/. Follow me on Twitter @jeffkauflin. Disclosure: I own some bitcoin and ether.

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Trust: How do you earn it? Banks use credit scores to determine if you’re trustworthy, but there are about 2.5 billion people around the world who don’t have one to begin with — and who can’t get a loan to start a business, buy a home or otherwise improve their lives. Hear how TED Fellow Shivani Siroya is unlocking untapped purchasing power in the developing world with InVenture, a start-up that uses mobile data to create a financial identity. “With something as simple as a credit score,” says Siroya, “we’re giving people the power to build their own futures.” TEDTalks is a daily video podcast of the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world’s leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes (or less). Look for talks on Technology, Entertainment and Design — plus science, business, global issues, the arts and much more. Find closed captions and translated subtitles in many languages at http://www.ted.com/translate
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