Yearly Archives: 2021

News: Vanadium ion battery startup Standard Energy raises $8.9M Series C from SoftBank Ventures Asia

Standard Energy, a vanadium ion battery developer, announced today it has raised a $8.9 million Series C from SoftBank Ventures Asia. The South Korea-based company says its batteries’ advantages over lithium ion include less risk of ignition and the ease of sourcing vanadium. The latter is an important selling point, as electric vehicle makers face

Standard Energy, a vanadium ion battery developer, announced today it has raised a $8.9 million Series C from SoftBank Ventures Asia. The South Korea-based company says its batteries’ advantages over lithium ion include less risk of ignition and the ease of sourcing vanadium. The latter is an important selling point, as electric vehicle makers face a potential shortage of lithium ion batteries.

Instead of serving as a replacement for lithium ion batteries, however, Standard Energy chief executive officer Bu Gi Kim said they complement each other. Vanadium ion batteries have high energy, performance and safety, but they are not as compact as lithium ion batteries.

Lithium ion batteries will continue to be used in hardware that needs to be mobile, such as electric vehicles or consumer devices like smartphones, but vanadium ion batteries are suited to “stationary” customers, like wind and solar power plants or ultra-fast charging stations for electric vehicles (Kim said Standard Energy is scheduled to ship its batteries to an ultra-fast charging station in Seoul soon).

Founded in 2013 by researchers from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Standard Energy expects one of its main customers to be the energy storage systems (ESS) sector, which the company says is expected to grow from $8 billion to $35 billion in the next five years.

“A large number of renewable energy projects have slowed or even stopped in many places due to the unstable battery performance of lithium ion. VIB cannot be as compact as lithium ion. However, ESS projects or solutions including renewable energy plants provide enough space for our products to be integrated into their systems,” said Kim.

Standard Energy has already performed a total of over one million battery testing hours, including in a lab, at a certified battery performance test site and in actual operations. Kim said the company is confident its performance data will convince customers to adopt vanadium ion batteries.

In a press statement, SoftBank Ventures Asia senior partner Daniel Kang said, “The existing ESS market was in a state of imbalance due to the rapidly growing demand, and safety and efficiency issues of products. Standard Energy is expected to create new standards for the global ESS market through its innovative material and design technology with massive manufacturing capabilities.”

News: South Africa’s Quro Medical comes out of stealth with $1.1M to expand its hospital-at-home service

For a continent with such stark inequality, Africa has seen limited innovation to increase access to healthcare and reduce healthcare delivery costs. Over the years, there has been continued investment in traditional care models despite the overwhelming evidence of inefficiency and escalating costs. The pandemic also laid these problems bare, exposing the vulnerabilities of the

For a continent with such stark inequality, Africa has seen limited innovation to increase access to healthcare and reduce healthcare delivery costs. Over the years, there has been continued investment in traditional care models despite the overwhelming evidence of inefficiency and escalating costs. The pandemic also laid these problems bare, exposing the vulnerabilities of the continent’s healthcare system.

Health tech startup Quro Medical is trying to scale alternative models for African healthcare starting from its home country, South Africa. The company, which provides services to manage ill patients in the comfort of their homes, is emerging from stealth to announce the close of its $1.1 million round. The round was led by Kenya-based Enza Capital and South African VC firm Mohau Equity Partners. 

Quro Medical was founded by Dr Vuyane Mhlomi, Zikho Pali and Rob Cornish in 2018. CEO Mhlomi understood the pressing need for South African healthcare innovation from his own experience as a doctor

It is known that hospitals in Africa experience excessive demands, which places strain on bed capacity. At the same time, it hinders effective patient treatment and recovery. Raised in Cape Town by his parents, Mhlomi experienced this firsthand. His parents suffered from chronic health conditions and he had to spend hours in clinics and hospitals waiting to see doctors.

Later, an opportunity to study medicine took him to the University of Oxford. Upon completion, he returned to South Africa where he knew the problem he faced previously was one to solve, hence Quro Medical

“We were connected by our belief that the private healthcare sector can and should be doing more to shoulder the burden of healthcare provision in this country and on the continent generally,” Mhlomi told TechCrunch. These escalating costs are the primary barrier to accessing healthcare in the private sector, leaving an overwhelming burden on our public health system.” 

The CEO argues that acute patient care at home leads to better clinical outcomes and improved patient experience. This is the principle on which Quro Medical is established. In the long run, it wants to build the largest virtual hospital ward in Africa, with superior clinical outcomes to conventional care at a lower cost.

Quro Medical

Unlike hospitals, getting healthcare at home can feel safer, which is an extra proposition for Quro Medical. According to COO Pali, apart from hospitals’ high costs, patients are at risk of getting hospital-acquired infections. But while it might appear that Quro Medical is offering the same old traditional home care with a mix of telemedicine service, that’s not precisely the case. Pali says the company incorporates clinical data and remote healthcare monitoring to provide real-time, data-driven clinical interventions. “We are focused on saving lives and enhancing patient care. The technology is the enabler, making all of this possible,” adds Mhlomi.

Patients are admitted into the company’s care in lieu of a general ward hospital admission. Then Quro Medical makes revenue from filing a claim with medical aid and insurance companies paid via reimbursement. The healthtech startup also collects out-of-pocket payments from patients.

The pandemic reinforced the company’s importance in offering remote patient monitoring services, a significant aspect of its business that garnered a check from Enza Capital.

“As our collective healthcare systems struggle to care for patients beyond the walls of a hospital, which we’ve seen exacerbated with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, remote patient monitoring and healthcare delivery will undoubtedly form a core part of the lasting solution,” said Mike Mompi, partner and CEO at the firm.

Nevertheless, this period has seen health tech startups offering out-of-hospital services struggle to have their services reimbursed. So how has Quro fared? Pretty well, apparently. The company claims to successfully convert most of its major medical schemes (health insurance) in South Africa as clients. They account for more than 90% of the total medical scheme market in the country.

Quro Medical has grown to work with about 150 doctors. Mhlomi believes his company is a first mover in Africa, meaning that he expects other players’ arrival in line with the trends in other markets. The company that has grown to work with 150 doctors now has plans to accelerate its hospital-at-home services and scale its operations across the country to meet its growing client base’s demands. It also wants to attract and retain talent and extend into other African markets. 

Speaking on the investment for Mohau Equity Partners, CEO Dr Penny Moumakwa said, “We are very excited to be invested in Quro, they are a dynamic management team, building out a global medical solution, that will showcase the ability of entrepreneurs on the African continent in advanced digital healthcare.” 

News: China’s Xpeng in the race to automate EVs with lidar

Elon Musk famously said any company relying on lidar is “doomed.” Tesla instead believes automated driving functions are built on visual recognition and is even working to remove the radar. China’s Xpeng begs to differ. Founded in 2014, Xpeng is one of China’s most celebrated electric vehicle startups and went public when it was just

Elon Musk famously said any company relying on lidar is “doomed.” Tesla instead believes automated driving functions are built on visual recognition and is even working to remove the radar. China’s Xpeng begs to differ.

Founded in 2014, Xpeng is one of China’s most celebrated electric vehicle startups and went public when it was just six years old. Like Tesla, Xpeng sees automation as an integral part of its strategy; unlike the American giant, Xpeng uses a combination of radar, cameras, high-precision maps powered by Alibaba, localization systems developed in-house, and most recently, lidar to detect and predict road conditions.

“Lidar will provide the 3D drivable space and precise depth estimation to small moving obstacles even like kids and pets, and obviously, other pedestrians and the motorbikes which are a nightmare for anybody who’s working on driving,” Xinzhou Wu, who oversees Xpeng’s autonomous driving R&D center, said in an interview with TechCrunch.

“On top of that, we have the usual radar which gives you location and speed. Then you have the camera which has very rich, basic semantic information.”

Xpeng is adding lidar to its mass-produced EV model P5, which will begin delivering in the second half of this year. The car, a family sedan, will later be able to drive from point A to B based on a navigation route set by the driver on highways and certain urban roads in China that are covered by Alibaba’s maps. An older model without lidar already enables assisted driving on highways.

The system, called Navigation Guided Pilot, is benchmarked against Tesla’s Navigate On Autopilot, said Wu. It can, for example, automatically change lanes, enter or exit ramps, overtake other vehicles, and maneuver another car’s sudden cut-in, a common sight in China’s complex road conditions.

“The city is super hard compared to the highway but with lidar and precise perception capability, we will have essentially three layers of redundancy for sensing,” said Wu.

By definition, NGP is an advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS) as drivers still need to keep their hands on the wheel and take control at any time (Chinese laws don’t allow drivers to be hands-off on the road). The carmaker’s ambition is to remove the driver, that is, reach Level 4 autonomy two to four years from now, but real-life implementation will hinge on regulations, said Wu.

“But I’m not worried about that too much. I understand the Chinese government is actually the most flexible in terms of technology regulation.”

The lidar camp

Musk’s disdain for lidar stems from the high costs of the remote sensing method that uses lasers. In the early days, a lidar unit spinning on top of a robotaxi could cost as much as $100,000, said Wu.

“Right now, [the cost] is at least two orders low,” said Wu. After 13 years with Qualcomm in the U.S., Wu joined Xpeng in late 2018 to work on automating the company’s electric cars. He currently leads a core autonomous driving R&D team of 500 staff and said the force will double in headcount by the end of this year.

“Our next vehicle is targeting the economy class. I would say it’s mid-range in terms of price,” he said, referring to the firm’s new lidar-powered sedan.

The lidar sensors powering Xpeng come from Livox, a firm touting more affordable lidar and an affiliate of DJI, the Shenzhen-based drone giant. Xpeng’s headquarters is in the adjacent city of Guangzhou about 1.5 hours’ drive away.

Xpeng isn’t the only one embracing lidar. Nio, a Chinese rival to Xpeng targeting a more premium market, unveiled a lidar-powered car in January but the model won’t start production until 2022. Arcfox, a new EV brand of Chinese state-owned carmaker BAIC, recently said it would be launching an electric car equipped with Huawei’s lidar.

Musk recently hinted that Tesla may remove radar from production outright as it inches closer to pure vision based on camera and machine learning. The billionaire founder isn’t particularly a fan of Xpeng, which he alleged owned a copy of Tesla’s old source code.

In 2019, Tesla filed a lawsuit against Cao Guangzhi alleging that the former Tesla engineer stole trade secrets and brought them to Xpeng. XPeng has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. Cao no longer works at Xpeng.

Supply challenges

While Livox claims to be an independent entity “incubated” by DJI, a source told TechCrunch previously that it is just a “team within DJI” positioned as a separate company. The intention to distance from DJI comes as no one’s surprise as the drone maker is on the U.S. government’s Entity List, which has cut key suppliers off from a multitude of Chinese tech firms including Huawei.

Other critical parts that Xpeng uses include NVIDIA’s Xavier system-on-the-chip computing platform and Bosch’s iBooster brake system. Globally, the ongoing semiconductor shortage is pushing auto executives to ponder over future scenarios where self-driving cars become even more dependent on chips.

Xpeng is well aware of supply chain risks. “Basically, safety is very important,” said Wu. “It’s more than the tension between countries around the world right now. Covid-19 is also creating a lot of issues for some of the suppliers, so having redundancy in the suppliers is some strategy we are looking very closely at.”

Taking on robotaxis

Xpeng could have easily tapped the flurry of autonomous driving solution providers in China, including Pony.ai and WeRide in its backyard Guangzhou. Instead, Xpeng becomes their competitor, working on automation in-house and pledges to outrival the artificial intelligence startups.

“The availability of massive computing for cars at affordable costs and the fast dropping price of lidar is making the two camps really the same,” Wu said of the dynamics between EV makers and robotaxi startups.

“[The robotaxi companies] have to work very hard to find a path to a mass-production vehicle. If they don’t do that, two years from now, they will find the technology is already available in mass production and their value become will become much less than today’s,” he added.

“We know how to mass-produce a technology up to the safety requirement and the quarantine required of the auto industry. This is a super high bar for anybody wanting to survive.”

Xpeng has no plans of going visual-only. Options of automotive technologies like lidar are becoming cheaper and more abundant, so “why do we have to bind our hands right now and say camera only?” Wu asked.

“We have a lot of respect for Elon and his company. We wish them all the best. But we will, as Xiaopeng [founder of Xpeng] said in one of his famous speeches, compete in China and hopefully in the rest of the world as well with different technologies.”

5G, coupled with cloud computing and cabin intelligence, will accelerate Xpeng’s path to achieve full automation, though Wu couldn’t share much detail on how 5G is used. When unmanned driving is viable, Xpeng will explore “a lot of exciting features” that go into a car when the driver’s hands are freed. Xpeng’s electric SUV is already available in Norway, and the company is looking to further expand globally.

News: Vietnam-based healthcare booking app Docosan gets $1M seed funding led by AppWorks

Based in Ho Chi Minh City, Docosan helps patients avoid long waits by letting them search and book doctors through its app. The company announced today it has raised more than $1 million in seed funding, which is claims is one of the largest seed rounds ever for a Vietnamese healthtech startup. The investment was

Based in Ho Chi Minh City, Docosan helps patients avoid long waits by letting them search and book doctors through its app. The company announced today it has raised more than $1 million in seed funding, which is claims is one of the largest seed rounds ever for a Vietnamese healthtech startup. The investment was led by AppWorks, the Taiwan-based early-stage investor and accelerator program, with participation from David Ma and Huat Ventures.

Founded in 2020, the app has been used by about 50,000 patients for bookings and now has more than 300 individual healthcare providers, ranging from small family pediatric clinics to neurosurgeons at large private hospitals, co-founder and chief executive officer Beth Ann Lopez told TechCrunch. Providers are vetted before being added to the platform and have on average 18 years of clinical experience.

Lopez said advance doctor bookings aren’t the norm in Vietnam. Instead, people who use private healthcare providers have to “choose between over 30,000 private hospitals and clinics spread across the hospital with huge variations in price and quality. This is why people use word of mouth recommendations from their family and friends to choose a healthcare provider. Then they show up at a hospital or clinic and wait in line, sometimes for hours.”

Docosan’s users can filter providers with criteria like location and specialty, and see pricing information and verified customer reviews. It recently added online payment features and insurance integrations. The company, which took part in Harvard’s Launch Lab X plans to launch telehealth and pharmacy services as well.

For healthcare providers on the app, Docosan provides software to manage bookings and ease wait times, a key selling point during the COVID-19 pandemic because many people are reluctant to sit in crowded waiting rooms. Lopez said another benefit is reducing the number of marketing and adminstrative tasks doctors have to do, allowing them to spend more time with patients.

The startup plans to expand into other countries. “Docosan is a solution that works well anywhere with a large, fragmented private healthcare system,” said Lopez. “We would all benefit from a world in which it’s as easy to find a great doctor as it is a book a Grab taxi.”

In press statement, AppWorks partner Andy Tsai said, “We noticed Docosan’s potential early on because of its participation in the AppWorks Accelerator. Docosan’s founders demonstrated strong experience and dedication to the healthcare issues in the region. We are proud to be supporting Docosan’s vision of better healthcare access for all.”

News: New Quest 2 software brings wireless PC streaming, updated ‘office’ mode

After a relatively quiet couple of months from Oculus on the software front, Facebook’s VR unit is sharing some details on new functionality coming to its Quest 2 standalone headset. The features, which include wireless Oculus Link support, “Infinite Office” functionality and upcoming 120hz support will be rolling out in the Quest 2’s upcoming v28

After a relatively quiet couple of months from Oculus on the software front, Facebook’s VR unit is sharing some details on new functionality coming to its Quest 2 standalone headset.

The features, which include wireless Oculus Link support, “Infinite Office” functionality and upcoming 120hz support will be rolling out in the Quest 2’s upcoming v28 software update. There’s no exact word on when that update is coming but the language in the blog seems to intimate that the rollout is imminent.

The big addition here is a wireless version of Oculus Link which will allow Quest 2 users to stream content from their PCs directly to their standalone headsets, enabling more graphics-intensive titles that were previously only available on the now pretty much defunct Rift platform. Air Link is a feature that will enable users to ditch the tethered experience of Oculus Link, though many users have been relying on third-party software to do this already, utilizing Virtual Desktop.

It appears this upgrade is only coming to Quest 2 users in a new experimental mode, but not owners of the original Quest headset. Users will need to update the Oculus software on both their Quest 2 and PC to the v28 version in order to use this feature.

Accompanying the release of Air Link in this update is new features coming to “Infinite Office” a VR office play that aims to bring your keyboard and mouse into VR and allow users to engage with desktop-style software. Facebook debuted it back at their VR-focused Facebook Connect conference, but they haven’t said much about it since.

Today’s updates include added keyboard support that not only allows users to link their device but see it inside VR, this support is limited to a single model from a single manufacturer (the Logitech K830) but Facebook says they’ll be adding support down the road to other keyboards. Users with this keyboard will be able to see outlines of their hands as well as a rendering of the keyboard in its real position, enabling users to accurately type (theoretically). Infinite Office will also allow users to designate where their real world desk is, a feature that will likely help users orient themselves. Even with a keyboard, there’s not much users can do at the moment beyond accessing the Oculus Browser it seems.

Lastly, Oculus is allowing developers to sample out 120hz frame rate support for their titles. Facebook says that there isn’t actually anything available with that frame rate yet, not even system software, but that support is here for developers in an experimental fashion.

Oculus says the new software update will be rolling out “gradually” to users.

News: FBI launches operation to remotely remove Microsoft Exchange server backdoors

A court in Houston has authorized an FBI operation to “copy and remove” backdoors from hundreds of Microsoft Exchange email servers in the United States, months after hackers used four previously undiscovered vulnerabilities to attack thousands of networks. The Justice Department announced the operation on Tuesday, which it described as “successful.” In March, Microsoft discovered

A court in Houston has authorized an FBI operation to “copy and remove” backdoors from hundreds of Microsoft Exchange email servers in the United States, months after hackers used four previously undiscovered vulnerabilities to attack thousands of networks.

The Justice Department announced the operation on Tuesday, which it described as “successful.”

In March, Microsoft discovered a new China state-sponsored hacking group — Hafnium — targeting Exchange servers run from company networks. The four vulnerabilities when chained together allowed the hackers to break into a vulnerable Exchange server and steal its contents. Microsoft fixed the vulnerabilities but the patches did not close the backdoors from the servers that had already been breached. Within days, other hacking groups began hitting vulnerable servers with the same flaws to deploy ransomware.

The number of infected servers dropped as patches were applied. But hundreds of Exchange servers remained vulnerable because the backdoors are difficult to find and eliminate, the Justice Department said in a statement.

“This operation removed one early hacking group’s remaining web shells which could have been used to maintain and escalate persistent, unauthorized access to U.S. networks,” the statement said. “The FBI conducted the removal by issuing a command through the web shell to the server, which was designed to cause the server to delete only the web shell (identified by its unique file path).”

The FBI said it’s attempting to inform owners via email of servers from which it removed the backdoors.

Assistant attorney general John C. Demers said the operation “demonstrates the Department’s commitment to disrupt hacking activity using all of our legal tools, not just prosecutions.”

The Justice Department also said the operation only removed the backdoors, but did not patch the vulnerabilities exploited by the hackers to begin with or remove any malware left behind.

It’s believed this is the first known case of the FBI effectively cleaning up private networks following a cyberattack. In 2016, the Supreme Court moved to allow U.S. judges to issue search and seizure warrants outside of their district. Critics opposed the move at the time, fearing the FBI could ask a friendly court to authorized cyber-operations for anywhere in the world.

Other countries, like France, have used similar powers before to hijack a botnet and remotely shutting it down.

Neither the FBI nor the Justice Department commented by press time.

News: Daily Crunch: Spotify unveils an in-car entertainment system

Spotify wants to have a bigger presence in your car, Apple hints at iPad-centric announcements and Microsoft’s new Surface Laptop goes on sale. This is your Daily Crunch for April 13, 2021. The big story: Spotify unveils an in-car entertainment system Spotify’s new device is the oddly (but memorably!) named Car Thing. While there are

Spotify wants to have a bigger presence in your car, Apple hints at iPad-centric announcements and Microsoft’s new Surface Laptop goes on sale. This is your Daily Crunch for April 13, 2021.

The big story: Spotify unveils an in-car entertainment system

Spotify’s new device is the oddly (but memorably!) named Car Thing. While there are plenty of other ways to listen to Spotify while driving, the company said this will provide a “more seamless” and personalized experience. Car Thing includes a touchscreen, a navigation knob, voice control and preset buttons to access your favorite music, podcasts and playlists.

This is actually an updated version of an in-car device that Spotify started testing a couple years ago. While Spotify is now making Car Thing available more broadly, it sounds like the company still views this as a bit of an experiment — during this limited U.S. release, it’s available for free, with users just paying for the cost of shipping.

The tech giants

Apple’s next event is April 20 — Invites for its “Spring Loaded” event went out today, sporting what appears to be a doodle drawn on an iPad.

Microsoft’s latest Surface Laptop goes on sale this week, starting at $999 — Sometimes the classics are classics for a reason.

Facebook, Instagram users can now ask ‘oversight’ panel to review decisions not to remove content — The move expands the Oversight Board’s remit beyond reviewing (and mostly reversing) content takedowns.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Fortnite-maker Epic completes $1B funding round — The company is amassing a large portfolio of titles through acquisitions, a trend that is almost certain to continue with this latest massive round.

Home gym startup Tempo raises $220M to meet surge in demand for its workout device — Tempo’s freestanding cabinet, which the company launched in February 2020, includes a 42-inch touchscreen with a 3D motion-tracking camera that consistently scans, tracks and coaches users as they work out.

ConsenSys raises $65M from JP Morgan, Mastercard, UBS to build infrastructure for DeFi — The fundraise looks like a highly strategic one, based around the idea that traditional institutions will need visibility into the increasingly influential world of “decentralized finance.”

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

What’s fueling hydrogen tech? — In 2021, the world may be ready for hydrogen.

Five product lessons to learn before you write a line of code — To uncover some basic truths about building products, we spoke to three entrepreneurs who have each built more than one company.

Expect an even hotter AI venture capital market in the wake of the Microsoft-Nuance deal — The $19.7 billion transaction is Microsoft’s second-largest to date, only beaten by its purchase of LinkedIn.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

Republican antitrust bill would block all big tech acquisitions — There are about to be a lot of antitrust bills taking aim at big tech.

Startup Alley at TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 is filling up fast — If you’re busy shoving envelopes and busting down boundaries, don’t miss your chance to exhibit in Startup Alley at TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 in September.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

News: Coinbase sets direct listing reference price at $250/share, valuing the company at as much as $65B

Coinbase, the American cryptocurrency trading giant, has set a reference price for its direct listing at $250 per share. According to the company’s most recent SEC filing, it has a fully diluted share count of 261.3 million, giving the company a valuation of $65.3 billion. Using a simple share count of 196,760,122 provided in its

Coinbase, the American cryptocurrency trading giant, has set a reference price for its direct listing at $250 per share. According to the company’s most recent SEC filing, it has a fully diluted share count of 261.3 million, giving the company a valuation of $65.3 billion. Using a simple share count of 196,760,122 provided in its most recent S-1/A filing, Coinbase would be worth a slimmer $49.2 billion.

Regardless of which share count is used to calculate the company’s valuation, its new worth is miles above its final private price set in 2018 when the company was worth $8 billion.

Immediate chatter following the company’s direct listing reference price was that the price could be low. While Coinbase will not suffer usual venture capital censure if its shares quickly appreciate as it is not selling stock in its flotation, it would still be slightly humorous if its set reference price was merely a reference to an overly conservative estimate of its worth.

Its private backers are in for a bonanza either way. Around four years ago in 2017 Coinbase was worth just $1.6 billion, according to Crunchbase data. For investors in that round, let alone its earlier fundraises, the valuation implied by a $250 per-share price represents a multiple of around 40x from the price that they paid.

The Coinbase direct listing was turbocharged recently when the company provided a first-look at its Q1 2021 performance. As TechCrunch reported at the time, the company’s recent growth was impressive, with revenue scaling from $585.1 million in Q4 2020, to $1.8 billion in the first three months of this year. The new numbers set an already-hot company’s public debut on fire.

Place your bets now concerning where Coinbase might open, and how high its value may rise. It’s going to be quite the show.

News: Republican antitrust bill would block all big tech acquisitions

There are about to be a lot of antitrust bills taking aim at big tech, and here’s one more. Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) rolled out a new bill this week that would take some severe measures to rein in big tech’s power, blocking mergers and acquisitions outright. The “Trust-Busting for the Twenty-First Century Act” would

There are about to be a lot of antitrust bills taking aim at big tech, and here’s one more. Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) rolled out a new bill this week that would take some severe measures to rein in big tech’s power, blocking mergers and acquisitions outright.

The “Trust-Busting for the Twenty-First Century Act” would ban any acquisitions by companies with a market cap of more than $100 billion, including vertical mergers. The bill also proposes changes that would dramatically heighten the financial pain for companies caught engaging in anti-competitive behavior, forcing any company that loses an antirust suit to forfeit profits made through those business practices.

At its core, Hawley’s legislation would snip some of the red tape around antitrust enforcement by amending the Sherman Act, which made monopolies illegal, and the Clayton Act, which expanded the scope of illegal anti-competitive behavior. The idea is to make it easier for the FTC and other regulators to deem a company’s behavior anti-competitive — a key criticism of the outdated antitrust rules that haven’t kept pace with the realities of the tech industry.

The bill isn’t likely to get too far in a Democratic Senate, but it’s not insignificant. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who chairs the Senate’s antitrust subcommittee, proposed legislation earlier this year that would also create barriers for dominant companies with a habit of scooping up their competitors. Klobuchar’s own ideas for curtailing big tech’s power similarly focus on reforming the antitrust laws that have shaped U.S. business for more than a century.

Click to access The%20Trust-Busting%20for%20the%20Twenty-First%20Century%20Act.pdf

The Republican bill may have some overlap with Democratic proposals, but it still hits some familiar notes from the Trump era of hyper-partisan big tech criticism. Hawley slams “woke mega-corporations” in Silicon Valley for exercising too much power over the information and products that Americans consume. While Democrats naturally don’t share that critique, Hawley’s bill makes it clear that antitrust reform targeting big tech is one policy era where both political parties could align on the ends, even if they don’t see eye to eye on the why.

Hawley’s bill is the latest, but it won’t be the last. Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), who spearheads tech antitrust efforts in the House, previously announce his own plans to introduce a flurry of antitrust reform bills rather than one sweeping piece of legislation. Those bills, which will be more narrowly targeted to make them difficult for tech lobbyists to defeat, are due out in May.

News: Risk startup LogicGate confirms data breach

Risk and compliance startup LogicGate has confirmed a data breach. But unless you’re a customer, you probably didn’t hear about it. An email sent by LogicGate to customers earlier this month said on February 23 an unauthorized third-party obtained credentials to its Amazon Web Services-hosted cloud storage servers storing customer backup files for its flagship

Risk and compliance startup LogicGate has confirmed a data breach. But unless you’re a customer, you probably didn’t hear about it.

An email sent by LogicGate to customers earlier this month said on February 23 an unauthorized third-party obtained credentials to its Amazon Web Services-hosted cloud storage servers storing customer backup files for its flagship platform Risk Cloud, which helps companies to identify and manage their risk and compliance with data protection and security standards. LogicGate says its Risk Cloud can also help find security vulnerabilities before they are exploited by malicious hackers.

The credentials “appear to have been used by an unauthorized third party to decrypt particular files stored in AWS S3 buckets in the LogicGate Risk Cloud backup environment,” the email read.

“Only data uploaded to your Risk Cloud environment on or prior to February 23, 2021, would have been included in that backup file. Further, to the extent you have stored attachments in the Risk Cloud, we did not identify decrypt events associated with such attachments,” it added.

LogicGate did not say how the AWS credentials were compromised. An email update sent by LogicGate last Friday said the company anticipates finding the root cause of the incident by this week.

But LogicGate has not made any public statement about the breach. It’s also not clear if the company contacted all of its customers or only those whose data was accessed. LogicGate counts Capco, SoFi, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City as customers.

We sent a list of questions, including how many customers were affected and if the company has alerted U.S. state authorities as required by state data breach notification laws. When reached, LogicGate chief executive Matt Kunkel confirmed the breach but declined to comment citing an ongoing investigation. “We believe it’s best to communicate developments directly to our customers,” he said.

Kunkel would not say, when asked, if the attacker also exfiltrated the decrypted customer data from its servers.

Data breach notification laws vary by state, but companies that fail to report security incidents can face heavy fines. Under Europe’s GDPR rules, companies can face fines of up to 4% of their annual turnover for violations.

In December, LogicGate secured $8.75 million in fresh funding, totaling more than $40 million since it launched in 2015.


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