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Archive Monthly Archives: January 2018

Super Bowl volunteer diary part 5: FAQ – Minnesota Public Radio News (blog)

Minnesota Public Radio News (blog)

Super Bowl volunteer diary part 5: FAQ
Minnesota Public Radio News (blog)
But even more so, our 10,000 volunteers are helping achieve one of our biggest goals when it comes to hosting the Super Bowl: To make sure Minnesota shines on the world's largest stage. The warm welcome our volunteers are giving our guests are showing

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Redskins trade for Alex Smith is perfect example of “how not to build your roster” – Blogging The Boys (blog)

Blogging The Boys (blog)

Redskins trade for Alex Smith is perfect example of “how not to build your roster”
Blogging The Boys (blog)
Before we get into this silliness, I want to thank fellow FPW Michael Strawn for the perfect title to this article. By now you've surely read the news of the trade that has sent quarterback Alex Smith to Washington, and has sent Kirk Cousin to another

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Mark Ruffalo Says Stand-alone ‘Hulk’ Film ‘Will Never Happen’

Mark Ruffalo just Hulk-smashed our superhero movie dreams — but it’s not his fault, he says.

Speaking to Variety at the D23 Expo on Saturday, the “Avengers” actor was quick to shut down the notion that his character Dr. Bruce Banner was getting a starring vehicle of his own.

“I want to just make one thing perfectly clear today: A stand-alone ‘Hulk’ movie will never happen,” he said. “Universal has the rights to the stand-alone ‘Hulk’ movie, and for some reason, they don’t know how to play well with Marvel. And they don’t want to make money.”

Marvel currently controls Hulk-related licenses, ever since Universal chose not to follow-up 2003′s “Hulk” starring Eric Bana with a sequel, thus allowing the character-usage rights to revert back to Marvel. However, Universal still holds distribution rights, and is entitled to the right of first refusal, meaning that the company can decide whether or not to distribute a film produced by Marvel. In short, it sounds … complicated.

Ruffalo, also stars in the upcoming “Avengers: Infinity War,” was at the event to help Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige share an exclusive trailer of the movie to attendees. Other actors from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including Don Cheadle, Robert Downey Jr., Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Hemsworth and Elizabeth Olsen, were attending the festivities as well.

Cheadle chimed in, speaking to Variety and Ruffalo, and offered another reason why a solo “Hulk” film wouldn’t work out.

“With you as the new Hulk, it would be terrible,” the actor, who will reprise his role as James Rhodes/War Machine in “Infinity War” quipped. 

Watch out, Cheadle. You know what happens when Ruffalo gets angry.

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Kaitlyn Bristowe Mocks 'Bachelor' Contestants Over Their Blogging Dreams After TV Fame – The Inquisitr

The Inquisitr

Kaitlyn Bristowe Mocks 'Bachelor' Contestants Over Their Blogging Dreams After TV Fame
The Inquisitr
She has previously been angry with the franchise, as she wasn't invited to various reunion shows. It doesn't really make sense, as Kaitlyn is still with the man she proposed to during the finale. She's proof that the process can work. But now, Bristowe

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Digging deep: PFF Senior Bowl standouts that should interest the Cowboys – Blogging The Boys (blog)

Blogging The Boys (blog)

Digging deep: PFF Senior Bowl standouts that should interest the Cowboys
Blogging The Boys (blog)
Like the methodology or not, the attempt to compare apples to apples is worth considering. By Tom Ryle@TomRyleBTB Jan 30, 2018, 7:00pm CST. Share More. Share. Digging deep: PFF Senior Bowl standouts that should interest the Cowboys. tweet share Reddit

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All 50 startups from Y Combinator’s Summer 2017 Demo Day 1

Biotech and artificial intelligence have emerged as the top startup trends at Y Combinator‘s 25th Demo Day. The 124 companies presenting at the entrepreneur school’s twice-yearly graduation event compose YC’s largest batch from its 12.5 years running.

YC partner Michael Seibel kicked off the event by reiterating the accelerator’s commitment to advancing diversity in Silicon Valley. In this class, 12 percent of the founders are female and 9.5 percent are black or latinx.

While those percentages have been pretty stable over the years, YC shines in its inclusion of international startups. In part thanks to outreach via its scalable online Startup School and global events, with 28 percent of this batch’s startups based internationally.

Pyka shows off its self-flying personal plane outside Y Combinator Demo Day at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA

Past YC hits include Airbnb, Dropbox, and Stripe, plus newer unicorns like Twitch, Instacart, and Coinbase. Investors from across Silicon Valley and the world packed Mountain View’s Computer History Museum to look for the next big thing.

Here’s a look at every company that presented on the record at Demo Day 1 of 2. Check out our picks of the 7 best of today’s startups, plus come back for the write-ups of all tomorrow’s companies and the highlights.

Zendar – High definition radar that allows self-driving vehicles to see in all weather conditions

Zendar develops high-definition radar for autonomous vehicles. Today, autonomous vehicles rely on two main technologies: Lidar and traditional radar. Lidar can see in high definition, but does poorly in bad weather, while radar is great in bad weather conditions, but can’t see in high resolution. Zendar seeks to provide high-res imagining for self-driving cars in bad weather, allowing all-weather autonomy. In the next three years, Zendar says there will be 10 million autonomous vehicles made, and it’s hoping to be used by as many as possible.

Image via Sombre Lidar

Meetingbird – Team-wide meeting scheduling optimization

Having scattered meetings throughout the day destroys productivity. But it’s tough to coordinate meetings by yourself, let alone with the rest of your team’s schedule in mind. Meetingbird is a smart calendar startup that makes it simple to plan a meeting, overlays schedules to find times that work for everyone, and optimizes everything to condense meetings so everyone can get back to work. Meetingbird is now signing up paid enterprise customers for its premium service, with 53 percent week-over-week growth and inherent virality. While competitors are trying to create AI assistants that try to handle meeting communication for you, Meetingbird just gets things scheduled as fast as possible.

Read more about Meetingbird on TechCrunch.

Thematic – Text analysis for surveys and reviews

Getting people to type all the things they love or hate about your product through reviews and surveys can be a great source of quality feedback but distilling massive walls of text to get insights can be a nightmare. Thematic is devoted to analyzing unstructured sources to give customers more actionable steps to increasing customer satisfaction. The company has already analyzed millions of data sources since its launch earlier this year, and they’re delivering insights to partners like Vodafone and Stripe.

PullRequest – A marketplace for code review

Pull Request is a marketplace pairing corporate code with freelance code reviewers looking for a side hustle. The team is recruiting reviewers that have experience from top tech companies like Amazon, Facebook and Dropbox. With this pedigree, PullRequest has managed to draw interest from 450 teams. Though only a portion of these are actually using the service, PullRequest touts a $136,000 annualized revenue run rate. Together, startups and Fortune 500 companies spend an estimated $40 billion on code reviews. The secret sauce of PullRequest lies in automation techniques that allow the startup to do reviews faster and more accurately.

Helium Healthcare – Electronic Medical Records For Africa

Paper medical records can cost lives. Helium is making them a thing of the past with its “rugged” electronic medical records system for Africa. Designed for minimal training and offline access from any device, Helium can handle patient records for doctor’s visits, prescriptions, and billing. Helium offers both pay-as-you-go billing and traditional enterprise subscriptions for larger hospitals. With over 20 facilities and 500 medical professionals on board, Helium hopes to improve healthcare across Africa by making EMR easy to adopt.

Darmiyan– Early detection of Alzheimer’s disease up to 15 years before symptoms

Darmiyan reduces the cost and time it takes to test for early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Anyone over the age of 45 should be tested, and the company has already tested 3,000 patients. Even before getting submitted to the FDA, the company has signed up a $1 million contract. Currently there are 26 million Americans who should be tested, and each test costs $500, which means a potential $13 billion market for the company.

Roofr – Satelite-powered roofing estimates

Roofr uses satellite imagery to let consumers easily grab a quote on the cost of their roof and then get connected with roofers to tackle repairs. Property owners can easily set their address, trace an image of their home’s roof on a satellite map and within 30 seconds they get an estimate and can get connected with a roofing installer within 72 hours. The startup takes a 10 percent fee for the process and says they’re saving their customers save about 20 percent.

CashFree – Payments automation for the Indian market

Payments products are a dime a dozen these days, but CashFree is hoping its intention and focus on the Indian market will set it apart. CashFree is a payment gateway that automates both inbound and outbound ACH payments. The founder of CashFree explains that this could enable instant transactions on an individual basis — i.e. an Uber-esque service could pay drivers directly after their trips. The company is currently processing $3.5 million in payments and earning an attractive 40 basis points on each transaction.

Skyways – VTOL drones

Skyways is building vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) drones to be used by the military for transporting things without putting people in danger. Since the military currently operates in places with little infrastructure, Skyways can provide a way to deliver goods without putting people in danger. Their drones are fully autonomous and have a payload capability of 45 pounds. While they’re starting with military drones, the company wants to eventually use that business to fund a consumer vehicle in the long-term.

Mystro – Helping on-demand drivers earn more

Juggling different apps like Uber and Lyft can distract drivers and cause them to miss the most lucrative rides. Mystro’s service auto-accepts the most profitable fares for a driver so they can focus on the dollars and the road. And since it enhances driver satisfaction, it’s chipping away at Uber and Lyft’s huge driver retention problem that sees 96 percent quit their first year. That’s why the ride share services don’t block Mystro, and it’s expanding beyond Lyft and Uber. The $12/month Mystro subscription is growing 25 percent week-over-week, and the service handles 100,000 rides a week. With 20 million on-demand drivers worldwide, Mystro is chasing a $3 billion a year opportunity. While there’s a risk that the ride share platforms will try to add similar functionality, none will work cross-platform, leaving a big opportunity for Mystro.

Read more about Mystro on TechCrunch.

10 By 10 – Recruitment agency hiring marketplace

Hiring at big tech companies is a pretty intensive and expensive process for recruiters, 10by10 is building a marketplace to more quickly match qualified candidates with companies by pooling data across recruitment agencies. The startup takes what a lot of agencies are already doing on an informal level, but brings it into the startup’s platform to get stuff done “ten times easier and ten times faster.” Things are just getting started at 10by10 which just launched last month, the company is already $60k in booked revenue over the past month. The startup splits the fee with the recruiter 50/50.

Honeydue – Financial planning for couples

Honeydue is a collaboration tool for couples to manage their finances together. We’ve all heard that the number one point of contention for couples is money. Eugene Park, the startup’s founder, aims to reduce this friction with transparency. The app currently has about 24,000 users monitoring $68 million in cash balances. This is music to the ears of anyone looking to target financial products to the millennial couples demographic. Park proudly noted a 16x click through rate for financial products offered up via Honeydue.

Read more about Honeydue on TechCrunch

D-ID – Protect your identity from face recognition technologies.

D-ID has developed an AI to protect your photo from facial recognition. With just your photo, hackers can steal your identity and hack your devices. But unlike passwords, you can’t change your face. D-ID has created software that processes your photo and creates a protected image that looks similar to the naked eye. The company is targeting customers and security agencies who store user photos, and has two $1 million letters of intent signed.

Life Bot – One voice app for everything

It’s tough to remember the names and scripts of all the different voice apps when you don’t have icons to browse like on mobile. That’s why Life Bot says the average retention of an Amazon Alexa app is 3 percent, while it has 52 percent, and plans to launch on Google Home and Microsoft Cortana. Life Bot’s app can give you personalized news, manage your calendar, or find your phone. And since it knows your phone number, it can send you reminders even when you’re not home. Eventually it wants to work in your car and on every other device. While it may have to contend with native omni-apps from voice platforms like Amazon and Google, the voice bot space is exploding and there are few name brands.

Read more about Life Bot on TechCrunch

Modular Science – Outdoor robot farming.

Elon Musk may be concerned about robots taking over the world, but Modular Science just wants robots to farm our vegetables. The startup, which currently has robots out in the field (!) in Petaluma, CA, is aiming to automate 99 percent of the processes involved in vegetable farming within the next six months with their specialized farming bots. Modular Science is looking to charge $2,000 per acre, which they say is half of what farms are currently paying to for human labor.

Audm – Subscription audio content

Unafraid of Apple, Spotify and other incumbents, Audm is trying to find white space in monetizing spoken word audio content. By taking a revenue sharing approach, Audm has managed to get Buzzfeed, The Atlantic, Wired, Esquire and more on board. About 1,150 subscribers are paying $7 per month to access that audio content. The startup sees itself as the disruptor of Sirius XM, beginning the long journey of building out a library of podcasts, news and talk radio.

Read more about Audm on TechCrunch

GameLynx – Next generation mobile eSport

GameLynx wants to build a competitive eSport game to bring hardcore gaming to mobile. The company believes that success will be defined not just by creating a new type of game, but creating a better user experience. Mobile devices are now powerful enough to support the types of games hardcore gamers love to play, so now the company wants to bring eSports gaming to that platform. In doing so, it hopes to build eSports games that aren’t just fun to watch for gamers, but for everyone. GameLynx will launch its first game in its first test market in the next six months, but is already backed by one of the largest game companies in the world.

Gopher – An app platform atop email  

We all hate email, but still spend most of our day there. Gopher wants to make that time more productive by letting any developer build apps for your inbox. For example, you can forward it emails of data for entry into Salesforce, or collaboration plans to schedule a meeting. Its first extension for sending follow-up emails has earned it 13,00 monthly users, and 300 devs have signed up to build on the platform. Rather than forcing you to waste your hours hopping back and forth between email and other apps, Gopher will help you get things done all in one place.

70 Million Jobs – Job recruitment platform for America’s formerly incarcerated

There are 70 million Americans with a criminal record in this country and when it comes to finding employment, things can get complicated. 70 Million Jobs is a for-profit recruitment platform that connects companies with applicants. Founder Richard Bronson knows some of the challenges facing the recently incarcerated, as he spent two years in a federal prison after being convicted of securities fraud in 2002. Since then he has joined with Defy Ventures to help formerly incarcerated people get a second chance through entrepreneurship. “What we do is use advanced insights to connect ignored talent with jobs that companies can’t fill,” Bronson told the crowd of investors. The startup is starting its efforts with job recruitment, working with companies like Uber, but Bronson hopes the startup becomes a hub for providing services to those with a criminal record.

May Mobility – Autonomous vehicles for urban environments

May Mobility is the latest of a ballooning number of startups tackling the autonomous vehicle space. The team, formerly University of Michigan roboticist, is pretty deep in R&D. Rather than beat competitors purely on technology, May just wants to be first to market. And with a paid partnership lined up in the City of Detroit, that actually just might happen. The vision is one of reduced variables — the vehicles would operate in more predictable environments like central business districts and residential communities. And Detroit isn’t alone, negotiations are progressing with four cities to get autonomy on the road to make money sooner rather than later.

Read more about May Mobility on TechCrunch.

Flock – Wireless security systems for neighborhoods

Flock builds wireless cameras that can be used to protect neighborhoods. The company has developed an outdoor camera that can track cars and record license plates. It can provide data to local police officers when crimes occur, but it can also proactively notify them when a stolen vehicle enters a neighborhood. The company has already solved its first crime and is being used by multiple neighborhoods, but believes it is targeting a $1.5 billion market opportunity in protecting local municipalities.

Indivio – Video ad A/B testing

Advertisers know that the best performing ads come from creating tons of variants and whittling them down to what works. That’s easy with text and images, but much harder with video. Indivio takes the work out of video ad optimization. It can use motion graphics instead of traditionally filmed video to make different versions of an ad for different locations and target customers. Indivio reduced Instacart’s cost per acquisition by 25 percent, and now it wants to optimize all the video ads on Facebook and Instagram. As ad spend shifts from television to social, plenty of brands will need help, and Indivio will charge them 5 percent to 10 percent to make sure their marketing resonates with our fast-moving feeds.

Relationship Hero – Relationship help for the digital age

If there’s anything Silicon Valley hasn’t proven itself adept at helping with, it may be navigating  the complexities of human relationships. Thankfully it’s not AI-based and unlike so many of the gimmicky chat bots or Dear Abby-style products, Relationship Hero is looking to help you solve relationship issues by connecting users with live relationship experts over the phone or through online chat. Through what the startup calls “tactical step-by-step plans,” the startups wants to help you through issues with family members, coworkers and significant others. 30 million people go to therapy, Relationship Hero says they want to create a “lighter weight” solution. They won’t just offer you random truisms either, in some cases the experts will tell you what to say in a text and when to send it. The average client spends over $100 inside the app as they get live expert help from relationship coaches.

ShiftDoc – A marketplace for healthcare professionals

ShiftDoc is building a better way to fill shifts for private healthcare practices. The startup is undercutting staffing agencies and offering a better user experience than job boards with its marketplace. The nice part about addressing the healthcare market is that the take for each shift filled is very high. ShiftDoc says that it’s earning $50 per shift it fills. Of course the hard part is building up initial supply and demand to get to a point where the marketplace will self sustain. To this avail, the team has on-boarded 150 part-time doctors willing to fill shifts at 50 private practices.

Dropleaf – Netflix for indie video games

Dropleaf provides a subscription service for independently produced PC games. It’s taking advantage of a growth in the number of indie games — which double each year — and interest from PC gamers. With its $10 per month service, Dropleaf offers more than 50 games to users. In a limited beta, 90 percent its users play games at least twice a week, and it believes it has an addressable market of 120 million PC gamers around the world.

Sunu – Sonar bracelet for the blind

The vision-impaired frequently hurt themselves, with one blind person going to the hospital every 5 seconds due to head injury. But their options are limited to a low-tech $30 cane or a pricey $30,000 guide dog. Sunu is a sonar bracelet that vibrates to let the vision-impaired know that they’re approaching an object. Its six-month beta test saw users reduce accidents by 90 percent. Sunu has sold $25,000-worth of its bracelets that ship in October. Now that the product has been built and patented, it’s seeking to sell one to all 10 million blind people in the US. People are willing to pay a premium for safety, so even if cheaper devices emerge, Sunu could win by becoming a trusted brand.

Wildfire – An administration-approved Yik Yak for college campuses

Wildfire seems to be a bit of mixture of Yik Yak and Patch, bringing local user-submitted news and administration-sanctioned campus alerts. The app’s initial draw is as a system to send out campus safety warning notification pushes so students are alerted if there’s a robbery or active shooter situation on campus. In the less dire, day-to-day use cases, the app is a “hyperlocal news app” allowing users to share what’s happening on campus whether it’s an extracurricular event or party. Wildfire says it has 23 thousand MAUs across six college campuses and will be available in 50 campuses by the end of the year.

OncoBox – Better drug treatment decisions for late-stage cancer patients

When a patient is suffering with late-stage cancer, every treatment decision that is made by an oncologist makes a huge impact on potential survival. There are over 150 cancer drugs on the market today — everyone would love a panacea but the pragmatic problem of today is deciding which patients should be assigned which drugs. OncoBox provides pre-testing to estimate the likelihood that a given drug will improve outcomes for a specific patient. The team is charging $1,000 for its test and it estimates that there are about 500,000 tests done per year. The $500 million market is just a starting point for the startup that promises 2x more effective drug matches over doctors.

VergeSense – Facility management powered by AI

VergeSense uses hardware sensors and machine learning techniques to help companies operate buildings more efficiently. For most companies, the cost of real estate is the second largest cost to their business, but VergeSense believes that it can reduce their costs by 10 percent to 15 percent. By installing wireless sensors around a company’s buildings, it can recognize human movement flow and make recommendations to customers to lower costs. Already, VergeSense has two paid pilots with Fortune 500 clients, but believes every big company needs a product like what it’s produced.

Pyka – Self-driving personal aircraft

Pyka wants to make “flying cars” a reality with its auto-piloting single-person planes. The company has already built a 400lb plane that flies itself, can take off and land in 90 feet. But since regulators want to see tons of testing before allowing humans aboard, Pyka has developed a placeholder business doing crop dusting in New Zealand. That helps it earn $600 per hour while logging the hours necessary to prepare for the human transportation market. Crop dusting alone is a $1.5 billion business in the US. But with employees from Zee airplanes and Google’s Waymo, Pyka aims to become a first-mover in self-flying personal planes.

Fastpad – Job applicant tracking system for India

Fastpad is building hiring software for the Indian market that gets rid of spam and ensures that companies can see quick snapshots of real candidates. Fastpad claims that most job openings in India have thousands of applications and candidates often apply without even reading the descriptions. Because of this, around 70 percent of actual hires end up coming from third-party recruiters. Fastpad is looking to create the dominant recruitment marketplace by cutting through the noise in an Indian hiring marketplace that’s growing 40 percent year-over-year.

Gustav – Marketplace aggregating small staffing agencies

Gustav might not look like a traditional staffing agency, but that hasn’t stopped it from earning money like a traditional staffing agency. The startup works with companies to fill temporary positions. Traditionally this work is done by large staffing agencies, but Gustav is testing its thesis that an aggregation of small staffing agencies outperforms the big legacy players. Uber, Sony, H&M, Vice and others have done work with Gustav to hire about 20 individuals to date. And even as a middleman, using automation to organize the 19,000 small staffing agencies in the U.S., Gustav gets to collect three percent of the salary paid out to contractors. This tends to give each hire about $1,000 in LTV.

Forever Labs – Transplant your stem cells to your older self to combat aging

Forever Labs wants to help users cryogenically freeze their stem cells, allowing them to use those cells to fight their age-related diseases in the future. Stem cells have been shown to help improve the life of mice by 16 percent, but the older you get, the less helpful they get in helping to fight disease. Now, Forever Labs has 20 doctors providing the procedure, but expects to be in every major US market by this time next year. Stem cell banking could be a $56 billion market, the company believes.

Read more about Forever Labs on TechCrunch.

Ubiq – Screen-sharing solution for enterprise conference rooms

No matter how amazing technological advances seem to get, telepresence business meetings are still awful. Ubiq is aiming to simplify conference room screen sharing with their cable-free setup that cuts down on confusion and lets businesses focus on the tasks at hand. It’s basically bringing enterprise-grade AirPlay-like streaming tech into the conference room with wireless HDMI output. The startup’s solution has already been deployed at more than 150 companies and has increased revenue 3.5X in the past four months.

Airthium – Energy storage using heat pumps

Energy storage is one of those holy grails that everyone knows exists but nobody has been able to come close to capturing. Airthium is chipping off a tiny portion of the huge market with its energy storage that uses heat pumps. It’s addressing the megawatt-scale stationary energy storage market by using heat to store electricity. The team of physicists and experts in fluid dynamics is building small systems without moving parts, a decision that is saving Airthium serious money. Despite the R&D-heavy nature of the business, Airthium has managed to obtain two letters of intent at a value of $4 million per year and a third letter for a smaller $300,000 energy system.

2. Airthium: Airthium uses thermodynamic energy storage to store energy. They store heat by compressing gasses (Argon, not hydrogen), and extracting the heat from the compression.
– The founders asked if you’d be willing to update the description to: Energy storage using heat pumps (rather than “Energy storage using hydrogen compressors”)
–  For the second sentence, they describe what they’re doing this way: Airthium is going after the megawatt-scale stationary energy storage market by using heat as the electricity storage medium.

UpCodes – Construction legal compliance

UpCodes helps the construction industry navigate compliance. Currently most compliance codes are hidden in physical books and PDFs, which means multimillion dollar mistakes are common in the industry. UpCodes has taken those analog compliance resources and taken them online, growing to 61,000 monthly unique visitors to its site only through SEO. It has a freemium model that it’s using to go after the 18 million professionals who deal with code compliance globally.

Read more about UpCodes on TechCrunch

Cambridge Cancer Genomics – Blood test cancer treatment monitoring

It can take six months before a cancer patient’s doctor knows if the chemotherapy regimen they chose is working, yet 2/3s of treatments fail. Cambridge Cancer Genomics has developed a blood test that can detect failed treatments up to many months faster than standard monitoring, so doctors can switch plans sooner when necessary. Founded by 4 PhDs with cancer research experience, CGC is also building AI for personalizing cancer treatment using a data set it says is 4X larger than what’s available to the public, as it absorbs data from each medical facility it signs on.

HelpWear – Medical grade heart-monitoring wearables

For the 17 million Americans suffering from acute heart conditions, HelpWear is building a more versatile ECG system that patients can . Existing systems are uncomfortable amalgams of wires and adhesives and can only be worn for 72 hours and have to be taken off before hopping in the shower, something that can be a major inconvenience to those suffering from acute heart conditions. HelpWear’s solution is a much more svelte system of three wearable units akin to fitness trackers which are wireless and can be worn 24/7 and are waterproof. The startup is on track to be FDA-approved in nine months.

Net30 – Getting construction workers paid faster

The construction industry is one of those places where, despite increasing attention from startups, there always seems to be an infinite number of archaic processes that need solving. Net30 is pursuing online invoicing and payments for construction companies. Typically general contractors collect invoices from subcontractors, but this seemingly easy process often involved over 200 pages of complex accounting. The end result is a basically unacceptable 70 day pay delay. With a background in construction project management, Net30 is cutting pay periods down to just 30 days. This case has proven so attractive that the startup is expecting $400,000 in annual revenue.

Read more about Net30 on TechCrunch.

Guggy – Transform text messages to personalized funny GIFs.

GIFs are everywhere these days, as the growth in GIF views has increased more than 100x by 2014. With that in mind, Guggy helps users express themselves with personalized GIFs. Using a natural language processing engine that understands slang and emotion, the company can instantly create GIFs that represent their words. Already the company has 1 million active users on its API, but it’s looking to build the messaging app of the future and deliver it direct to consumers.

Escher Reality – Augmented reality’s data backend

To augmented the real world, you need data about it. Escher Reality aggregates AR video data from people’s camera phones and pins it to locations so other developers can build better experiences on rop. And while Facebook and Apple have their own AR platforms, Escher works across iOS and Android right inside developers’ apps. It now has 600 devs on its waitlist, 10 letters of intent from potential clients like game studios, and a signed deal to power an AR app for blockbuster robot fighting movie Pacific Rim. If Escher Reality can be the device- and platform-agnostic engine for AR, it could become a gateway to tons of developer spending and consumer time spent.

Read more about Escher Reality on TechCrunch.

Carrot Fertility – Fertility benefits for corporate health plans

Carrot Fertility wants to bring fertility benefits to company health plans so that employers cover fertility procedures like IVF or egg-freezing just like they do for vision or dental. Though big tech companies like Apple, Facebook and Google are already offering fertility benefits to employees, other companies that aren’t so flush with cash may not have the ability to be seeking out the best path towards adding this coverage. Carrot Fertility makes it easier for companies to add the service to health plans, helping them keep their list of benefits attractive to potential new hires.

Feather – Stylish furniture rental for millennials

It’s 2017 — owning things isn’t cool because owning things is expensive and requires commitment. Feather is rescuing millennials from IKEA purgatory with its furniture rental service. By focusing on style, Feather wants to offer furniture that people actually want. The New York-based startup is making about $275 per month, per order. On an average order size of $2,200, Feather earns $830. And the company manages this without actually owning any of its own furniture. Working alongside a debt capital partner, the startup leases its furniture as a middleman, renting it back to customers at a convenience premium.

Read more about Feather on TechCrunch.

Prism IO – Help companies fix churn

Churn kills companies, but Prism IO wants to help kill churn. Most companies try to quantify customer loyalty, because as they scale they can no longer talk to customers the way they used to. To help them, Prism IO talks to cus

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A Travel Expert Talks About The Limitations Of The Instagram Aesthetic – UPROXX


A Travel Expert Talks About The Limitations Of The Instagram Aesthetic
Basically, teaching overseas enabled me to see the world and also make some money. I was writing about travel, but I wasn't making a living from writing about travel. All that time, I kept up a travel blog, and it was something that was really fun. My

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The history of the Super Bowl in a single chart – Blogging The Boys – Blogging The Boys (blog)

Blogging The Boys (blog)

The history of the Super Bowl in a single chart – Blogging The Boys
Blogging The Boys (blog)
So, because it's a relatively low-key event, some of you may not be aware the Super Bowl is this Sunday. Yeah, I know, it surprised me too; I hadn't heard or seen any mention of it. But I checked the schedule and sure enough, the NFL's championship

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My undocumented friend: Carlos does the work few in Vermont want to do

I met Carlos as part of a volunteer network helping migrants with basic needs and services in Vermont, where their work is vital to the dairy industry. After a trip to Planned Parenthood, he suddenly opened up about his experiences

Hey, come on in, I told Carlos. Silhouetted by summer sun, he stood at the front door of my Vermont house. No, he said pointing to his work boots, heavy with mud and manure. But can you help me?

Carlos was one of the estimated 1,000-2,000 undocumented, mostly Mexican immigrants employed on the states dairy farms. The actual number, like most of the workers who entered the country illegally, is hidden.

Carlos had come to Vermont after a year working construction in Texas, where even gringo bosses speak some Spanish, and where he could blend into the large Latino diaspora. In contrast, Vermont was an alien world in which he stood out. But many Vermonters, including police and officials, quietly welcome and often protect migrant dairy workers like him. Immigrants form an essential part of the local economy, and truth be told, they also offer relief from a monotonously white population that tends toward tolerance and leans toward smugness.

I met Carlos several years back when, as part of an informal volunteer network, I ferried immigrants to medical appointments or to supermarkets, where they buy the kind of calorie-rich junk food that horrifies kale-crunching Vermonters. I helped filled out forms enabling them to wire money to family in Mexico, lending my name and return address, and wondering what the IRS would make of my sending thousands of dollars to small towns in Tabasco and Chiapas.

After Vermont approved a special drivers license not requiring legal status, I taught a few guys how to drive by US rules so they could shop for themselves, get a maple creemee at a roadside stand, and visit relatives and friends on other farms.

Several had given me snippets of their tales, always without embellishment, self-pity or drama. But it was years before Carlos bright and charming, but guarded opened up.

Carlos at work, tending to cows in Vermont. Photograph: Terry J Allen

The favor Carlos had come to ask that day was that I go with him for a check-up. Well, he hesitated, to get tested for STI [sexually transmitted infections].

Are you sick? Do you need to go immediately? I asked.

No, Im fine. I just want to get tested. Soon.

I phoned a local clinic, but it required one appointment for paperwork and another for testing. Two days interrupted during haying season is unthinkable for farm workers. When the grass is ready and there is a predicted stretch of sunshine, haying cannot be delayed.

Carlos suggested saving time by going to a doc in a box at a strip mall, so I drove him to one. I asked the receptionist about the cost: $100 for the visit. As Carlos started taking bills from his wallet, I motioned him to stop. And for the lab tests? The young woman rummaged behind the counter. Five hundred dollars, so $600 total, she said with all the animation of one of Carloss cows.

Youre kidding, I nearly shouted. For standard lab tests?

No way, I told Carlos, who was probably deeply embarrassed by me. It wasnt that he couldnt afford it, but I knew how he sweated for that much money, and how the medical system jacked up prices for the uninsured.

I phoned the community health center to compare costs, and the scheduler asked why didnt I go to Planned Parenthood. It had never occurred to me that the organization served men.

Except for a locked front door, security there appeared unobtrusive. Joining three pregnant women in the waiting room, Carlos and I made quite the intriguing couple: an ageing white woman and a handsome young Latino.

When we came to the part of a form on income, Carlos asked me what to do. I said he could report whatever amount he wanted. No, he corrected, do they want hourly, weekly, or what? He knew what I had meant, but with no inclination to cheat, wrote $30,000 a year.

The receptionist quickly scanned the paperwork. We have a sliding scale, she said, and, with obvious pleasure, told Carlos: You just qualify for free services.

Vermont, she told me, is the only state fully covered by the Access Plan which includes birth control, annual exams, STI testing, and treatment and counseling for both men and women who are uninsured and earn less than 200% of the federal poverty level. The policy is concerned with the long-term economic benefit of preventing, diagnosing and treating the spread of communicable diseases that can lead to Aids, cancer, sterility and more.

When Carlos returned from the exam room, he was assured, although a few tests were pending, that he was clean. I tossed him a bag of condoms the office distributes, and we all laughed. As we left, I spied him slipping a $60 donation onto the counter.

In the car home, curiosity overcame discretion. I probed. He hesitated. And then his face lit with pleasure. I have a girlfriend, and she said, No sex until we are both tested.

Now, that is a great girlfriend, I said. Smiling, we rode back under a cloudless sky to the hay awaiting harvest.

The dairy herd subsists through the long, snowy winter on hay grown on the farm and harvested by the immigrant workers. Photograph: Terry J Allen

The last time Vermont had more cows than people, Eisenhower was president. Today there are 625,000 people and 129,000 cows.

Without its Mexican farmhands, much of the states milk industry would probably dry up. Say goodbye to affordable Cabot cheddar; kiss Vermont-sourced Cherry Garcia sweet adios. And farewell to much of the $2.2bn in annual economic activity that dairy brings the state, and which makes up 70%-80% of its agricultural income. In the only state in which more than half of farm income comes from just one commodity, dependence on dairy is undisputed.

A century ago, Vermont was 70% cleared agricultural land, 30% forest. Today, with farming in decline, that ratio is approximately reversed. Ruined by the cost of land and labor, many former farms have been drawn over by malls, ski resorts and summer homes.

Nonetheless, production is up. Jerseys have been replaced by Holsteins that can churn out vast quantities of milk 23,000 gallons a year before their productivity fades and they are ground into hamburger or pet food, or buried in the fields they once fertilized and grazed. The switch to this high-yield breed, along with subsidies and the popularity of Vermont-branded products, has allowed some farmers to survive, and a few to thrive.

What keeps farmers awake at night besides the callous vagaries of weather and fluctuating milk prices that sometimes fall below costs is the lack of cheap, dependable labor. The larger farms have hundreds of cows. With two milkings a day, 12 hours apart, the farm must be staffed 14-16 hours every day. Carloss typical workday starts around at 3am; after a midday break, he works another full shift.

Farmers complain that many local workers cannot tolerate the long hours, low wages and punishing labor through blizzards, rainstorms and summer heat. Indeed, there are few jobs as miserable as trudging through frozen piss and excrement in the pre-dawn dark to milk and tend cows when the thermometer plunges to 20 below zero. Mexican workers are filling a gap and saving the farms.

Carloss first job in the US was construction for a large company in a midsize Texas city. The hourly wages were comparable to dairy, but the potential earnings and the cost of living were not. Farm jobs for migrants include housing and utilities, isolation that brings fewer spending temptations, and an opportunity to work up to 90 hours a week.

Its hard, hard work, but you came to America to make money and go back quick, Carlos says. When I first came from Texas in a van with my cousin and some others, I saw snow for the first time. The next day, Auntie Linda arrived. She speaks Spanish, and all the patrons know her. They all call her and say: We need one guy, two guys. She was a grumpy old woman, a big curser. We laughed at her swearing, but we didnt care. Id like to talk to her today and thank her. She gave me a pair of boots. They went through the whole winter.

Auntie Linda, the human smugglers called coyotes and polleros (chicken farmers), the people who run stash houses, the van drivers who make interstate and cross-country runs and the farmers are all moving parts of a complex network powered by dollars and cellphones.

A small, venal component is the sex traffickers, who, exploiting the loneliness and isolation of the farm workers, import women from cities and drive them to remote farms to service the workers at $60 a trick.

They just bring girls, Mexicans and Colombians, mostly Latinas, but sometimes [women] from here too, Carlos explains reluctantly. They just show up. It could be months between visits, or could be the next weekend. You never know. They never came to our farm, and I know one thing, Im not paying for that. I push for more information. They say its expensive, good, and they like it.

And then, with exasperation and embarrassment: Jesus, why are you asking me about this?

A prostitution ring in Vermont came to light after Alejandro Enrique Young-Hernandez was arrested in 2011 and convicted of conspiracy to transport individuals for prostitution. Although the crime could carry a 10-year sentence, he received two years probation, a $100 court fee and the loss of his right to own firearms. His fellow pimp, Jose Tomas Flores-Rocha, who delivered the women to the farms, was convicted of a lesser charge, transporting individuals for prostitution, but served 18 months.

Lined up on each side of the trough, cows stand passively while a Mexican farm worker cleans their udders before attaching milking equipment. Photograph: Terry J Allen

Are you afraid of immigration authorities? I asked Carlos on the trip back from Planned Parenthood.

I used to think about it every day, he said, but now it doesnt matter if they send me back, because thats where I belong. I always tell my parents, Im coming back this December, and they get a piglet to raise for a big party. And then I stay yet another year.

It is not only money, and perhaps a girlfriend, that link Carlos to Vermont, but also the farm itself. Self-reliant and smart, Carlos has advanced from just the hard, dirty work of tending cows. He has made himself valuable by learning to handle the farms large stock of trucks, manure spreaders, balers and other machinery.

His wages rose to $11.30 an hour plus a $150 monthly bonus when milk quality tests high. I work sometimes 70, often 80 hours a week, sometimes 90. Never, never 60 hours a week, Carlos notes with pride. Farm labor, legal and not, is exempt from overtime pay requirements.

When they arrive at a farm, the immigrants are provided social security numbers. They are all fake, says Carlos, matter-of-factly. Somebody just gives you one. To stay legal, farmers withhold and file taxes the benefits of which the worker can never collect in social security or unemployment benefits.

While on the campaign trail, Donald Trump called CNNs Erin Burnett naive for suggesting illegal immigrants pay taxes. But nationally, they contribute an estimated $11.64bn a year in just state and local taxes, with at least 50% of undocumented immigrant households filing tax returns, according to the non-partisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. Vermonts undocumented people pay almost $4m a year in state and local taxes and, at 7.9% of income, contribute slightly more than the effective rate for the top 1% of Americans.

One of the few advantages of lacking a legal agricultural visa which is tied to a specific employer is that unauthorized farm workers can switch farms, relying on a grapevine to avoid abusive bosses. Carlos says that his patron, a tough taskmaster and a hard worker himself, was always fair. Their relationship, however, started badly. When I got here, I didnt know English and it was rough for me, and for him, I think. He would try to tell us what to do [in English] and he would get mad if something was not done how he wanted. It was always our fault. I couldnt explain myself. I think thats what got me to learn English.

Over time, the two men grew reliant on and genuinely fond of each other. Now I know a little English and I can tell him whats wrong. And he always jokes that: I dont know if I liked you better when you didnt know any English. So like, yup, this is what it is. And he always pays us on time.

Some farmers never pay more than pay $7.50 an hour. I know a guy that the boss didnt pay him, just fired him when he asked for money. But Migrant Justice went, and the farmer had to pay, Carlos says, referring to a local activist group.

That group and others have also intervened to address farm workers living conditions. Some share a room in the bosss house, some live in poorly insulated and dilapidated trailers or crammed into filthy bunkhouses. The worst off sleep in the barn. I know a farm where they almost sleep with the cows, says Carlos.

Carlos and the other workers at his farm have their own rustic, but comfortable, house with TV, wifi, cable, a stove and a refrigerator.

It is these free accommodations, heat and other utilities, along with long hours, that facilitate the real goal: putting money aside for a better future for themselves and family back home. Despite one really dumb purchase of that no-good Mustang (he is, after all, a 22-year-old male), Carlos has been able to save and send back enough to buy land not much, build my house, buy 10 cows and help out his older siblings and parents.

Out-of-pocket expenses, if the workers are lucky, are pared down to the food they cook for themselves, phone service and clothing. Id drive guys to their store of choice, Walmart, where they bought up jeans made in Mexico that they said cost less than they would have back home. Once, I took a worker who was returning the next day to Mexico to the fancy store, JCPenney, to buy presents to bring his wife. The saleswoman stalked us nervously as we examined filmy lingerie and nearly intervened when he held a red and black lace bra up to a mannequin to gauge size.

Long hours facilitate the real goal: putting money aside for a better future for themselves. Photograph: Vermont immigration piece/Terry J Allen

A week or so after the Planned Parenthood visit, I asked Carlos, promising anonymity, to talk about his journey north. He was 16, he said, just out of high school with a bit of technical school when he took the two-day bus ride from Tabasco to Reynosa, a bitter, hardscrabble border city, deep in poverty, guns, gangs and drug violence.

There, he and his older brother met the man who might lead them safely to a job in America, into the hands of border agents, or to death in the desert. These coyotes ply the ragged edge of capitalism. Some are professional guides simply doing an illegal and dangerous job for which they expect high pay; some are con men bent on exploitation.

If you come to the border alone, you will always find a coyote, Carlos told me, but you never know if it is someone who is reliable or will just take your money.

One way to mitigate the risk of rip-offs and scams is by making arrangements ahead of time. Five years before, my father made it to the states and knew which coyotes to trust, said Carlos. In Reynosa, someone would phone us and tell us the color of the car or truck, red or green, that would take care of us. But we never, ever communicated with the coyote himself in any way until the moment we were on the border and we met in a bus station parking lot.

My coyote was one of the better ones, Carlos said. But all of them, its just about the money.

And even the better ones cannot guarantee a successful crossing even before Trump whipped up anti-immigrant fervor and enforcement zeal.

Its a risk we all take, said Carlos, and you never know how it will end.

Before they left Reynosa, Carlos paid his coyote $500 and arranged for someone to deliver $1,500 once he reached a safe house in Texas, far enough from the border that he could blend in or move on. They always need that money punctually, or it is dangerous. They can do anything to you.

In Reynosa, the coyote took Carlos and his brother to a series of houses. When they are ready to cross the river, they gave me a life vest, and we start to walk. It had been raining a lot, so the river was very high. It was during the day, because in the night, there were others crossing.

The coyote led them to an inflatable boat and asked who knew how to swim. I told them I didnt, and thats what you are supposed to say so they dont throw you in the river. The Rio Grande was swollen far into the trees on the US side, and the dozen travelers, including three or four women, plus the coyote, had to leave the boat, which couldnt navigate through the trees, and walk through chest-high water.

Carlos brought aspirin and lemons, in case we run out of water. The coyote gave them food to carry. The meals, like beans, were all cans. And a lot of bread, tortillas.

Once on dry land, with the thwack of helicopters always, always beating the sky above, they walked rapidly, seeking cover while trying to evade sensors in the ground, cameras and law enforcement patrols. After several more hours, the group reached a road where we met a little truck. And we drove through a normal neighborhood to a house where there were about 30 women, men and children, not only Mexicans, but also Colombians and Hondurans.

They gave us food and a place to sleep. And some clothes and shoes, because ours were wet. You just take whatever fits you. The next day, they boarded a truck that dropped them in the desert.

The Border Patrol calls the area the Rio Grande or McAllen region. Spanish explorers had a more descriptive name: El Desierto de los Muertos, the Desert of the Dead.

Carlos became quiet, reached for the glass of water, and stared at the table. Then, as if a switch had flipped, he began talking rapidly.

I walked for five days, he said, and when he saw me wince, added with annoyance at my pity: Thats nothing compared to people I know 15 days, 16 days in the desert, a month. Thats why people die, or they go with the wrong coyote, and then someone gets tired, they just leave them there.

I saw a woman who was exhausted, and she was in our group. The coyote said: Its her or all of us. She was in her 30s. He didnt really want to leave her where no one would find her, so we went to a place where he thought the Border Patrol might pass. He gave her a bottle of water and left her there. She said nothing, didnt even cry.

Hours after we left her, we started to hear footsteps like someone is behind us and thought it was immigration. It was her. I cant explain it, how she did it. She was almost about to die when we left her. Somehow she came.

After three days, we ran out of water. I remember that was horrible, and then food was getting scarce. I was doing fine, but my brother, he was the one who was very exhausted, and a friend of mine too. But we continue and continue. And the coyote, he always says: We just have to get to that light. He tries to give us hope. We are so fucking close, he says, and: Are you ready to make dollars?

We were just exhausted. I remember I got dizzy a little and felt like we are walking in the same way all the time.

And then we waited at the side of the road. Waiting and waiting and helicopters are always flying. And it was terrifying. Then a truck shows up and quick, we all ran into it. I have never seen Carlos talk so freely, so long.

For hours, we couldnt move. And that was horrible in the truck, all packed together. And all like this, like this. He drew himself into a tight knot. I still remember a child, maybe he was 14, crying. He says he just wants a little bit of water, but they cant stop. No, you are almost there. Almost there.

And then we got to a house, and there is a guy at a table, and he is phoning people, saying: Hey, we got your son, your daughter. My dad sent someone with money to pick us up. And that friend took us to an apartment.

Eventually, through a network, Carlos found the construction job and stayed in Texas for a year, until he decided Vermont was worth a try.

So I have been here five years, he said. I never thought I would stay that long, but I got used to it. I like Vermont. The people are really nice, but, he grinned, the winter, not so much.

This story was based on conversations in Spanish and English, and one interview was aided by a bilingual interpreter. Some names have been changed, and quotes have been edited for clarity.

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Kobe Steels Dodgy Data Rattles Companies from Boeing to Toyota

Kobe Steel Ltd. has made a startling admission: It sold aluminum and copper products that failed quality control tests to more than 200 companies. Worse still, it did so not in error but by falsifying data to make it appear that items had made the grade. Aircraft, car and bullet train manufacturers were among the recipients, raising obvious safety concerns. Even a space rocket launched within days of the news uses materials from the company. From Boeing Inc. to Toyota Motor Corp., companies are scrambling to check any affected products. And Japan Inc. is facing up to another embarrassing scandal.

1. What exactly did Kobe Steel falsify?

Data related to the products’ strength and durability. Kobe Steel says it discovered the falsification in inspections on goods shipped in the 12 months through August, affecting some 4 percent of shipments of aluminum and copper parts as well as castings and forgings. As yet, the company, which employs about 37,000 people, says there have been no reports of safety issues.

2. Was this a rogue event?

Hardly. The fabrication of figures was found at all four of Kobe Steel’s local aluminum plants in conduct the company described as “systematic.” For some items, the practice dated back some 10 years ago, according to executive vice president Naoto Umehara. Details have yet to emerge.

3. What do its customers say?

Here’s a taster. Toyota is “rapidly working to identify which vehicle models might be subject to this situation and what components were used,” according to spokesman Takashi Ogawa. "We recognize that this breach of compliance principles on the part of a supplier is a grave issue.” Toyota found the materials in question in hoods and doors, as did Honda Motor Co. Boeing, which gets some parts from Kobe Steel customer Subaru Corp., said there’s nothing to date that raises any safety concerns. Hitachi Ltd. said trains it has exported to the U.K. contained compromised metal as well as bullet trains in Japan. Mazda Motor Corp. also confirmed it uses aluminum from the company, while Suzuki Motor Corp. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. all said they were checking whether their vehicles are affected.

4. And what about the space rockets?

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. said Kobe Steel aluminum was used in its H-IIA rocket, though it didn’t say it was the metal in question. “We perceive that there was no problem as the rocket launch was a success,” Mitsubishi Heavy spokesman Genki Ono said. “Checks are under way, but at this point no large effects have been found in the manufacture of the rocket or MRJ.” MRJ is the company’s regional aircraft that also uses Kobe Steel materials.

5. What’s the market’s verdict?

Kobe Steel’s stock fell by the maximum 22 percent on the first day of trading after the company’s Oct. 8 admission. Chief Executive Officer Hiroya Kawasaki, who is leading a committee to probe quality issues, has run the company since 2013, overseeing moves to expand the No. 3 Japanese steelmaker’s presence in aluminum. “If the aluminum business doesn’t work out well," said Takeshi Irisawa, an analyst at Tachibana Securities Co., "I question where the company can make money,” given the mainstay steel business remains one of low profitability. If the scandal leads to recalls, the cost would be huge, he added. 

6. More bad publicity for Japan’s manufacturers?

It’s another scandal that threatens to undermine confidence in Japanese manufacturing. Shinko Wire Co., a Kobe Steel affiliate, in 2016 said a unit had misstated data on tensile strength of stainless steel wires for springs and that it had supplied customers with alloy that failed to meet Japanese industrial standards. In other recent cases, Takata Corp. pleaded guilty in the U.S. in February to one count of wire fraud for misleading automakers about the safety of its exploding air bags. Toyo Tire & Rubber Co. officials were referred to prosecutors in March after the company admitted falsifying data on rubber for earthquake-proofing buildings in 2015. And Nissan last week recalled more than 1 million cars in Japan.

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