Netherlands-based hardware initiative Fairphone began around three years ago as a project designed to highlight the use of conflict minerals in the construction of consumer electronics, and then evolved three years later into a full-fledged hardware startup, with the aim of turning its knowledge into action with the building of an ethically sourced, built and distributed smartphone. Now, it’s opening up pre-orders to the general public, beginning with customers in Europe.
The Fairphone needs 5,000 pre-orders in order to begin production, and retails for a total of €325 ($436). That price included taxes, however and what you get for that is an unlocked, 4.3-inch smartphone running Android 4.2, powered by a quad core processor. It has an 8 megapixel rear camera, and a 1.3 megapixel front facing shooter, with dual-SIM trays for easy carrier switching and international travel.
As a smartphone, the Fairphone seems capable enough, but it’s the manufacturing process that’s really core to the concept of the device. The phone itself is made using materials from a completely transparent supply chain – Fairphone is looking at the provenance of each mineral used to make each component, the people who build each part and the processes evolved and their social and ecological impact, and will make all of that information available to buyers and the general public. The idea is to flag stuff that’s being done poorly, highlight ways to make changes, in both the short and long term, and also build a collection of best practices that can be shared with the rest of the industry.
Fairphone initially had opened sales only to the over 16,000 people who signed up to express interest when it initially announced the project, giving them first crack at the initial pre-order run. It seems like the percentage of those that were actually willing to put their money down on a device and contribute to the initial fund was much lower, however, which has prompted the expansion of sales to anyone in Europe who might want to contribute.
The Fairphone is being transparent about the sales process, too; thus far, it has managed to sell 2,333 phones through pre-orders, with 20 days left in its campaign. Hopefully broadening the buyer pool will spark more interest, because the project stands to be able to shed a lot of light on what for many is a completely invisible or poorly understood process.
Google is the latest suitor to be reportedly circling around social sat-nav smartphone app Waze. Bloomberg reports ‘people familiar with the matter’ who say Mountain View is considering an acquisition, and that Waze is “fielding expressions of interest from multiple parties and is seeking more than $1 billion”. However sources contacted by TechCrunch have poured cold water on the Google rumour.
We’ve reached out to Google and Waze but at the time of writing neither company could be reached for comment. Update: A spokeswoman for Waze said: “We don’t comment on rumors or speculation.”
Earlier this month we covered reports that Facebook was sniffing around the mapping and traffic service, with a view to ramping up its mobile efforts. Meanwhile Apple has also previously been linked with a Waze buy – having had its own highly public problems with maps. Google has also previously been rumoured to be interested, as has Microsoft. So that’s the full complement of tech giants all apparently eyeing up the same crowdsourced traffic startup.
Waze was founded in 2007 and has raised some $67 million in VC funding from backers including Kleiner Perkins, BlueRun Ventures, Magma Venture Partners, Vertex Venture Capital, and Li Ka-shing, according to Crunchbase. In February it announced it had grown to 40 million registered users, some of whom it picked up during Apple’s mapgate troubles. Waze has offices in the U.S. and Israel — the latter being where its R&D is based.
A key blocker for any Waze acquisition has been apparent investor conflict over the terms of any deal, with questions about whether Waze would move fully to the U.S. or keep R&D in Israel causing disagreements. There has also been investor conflict about whether to accept a lower, mostly cash offer or a higher offer comprised of more shares, according to our sources. Rumours of big tech suitors like Google sniffing around could also be a way for Waze investors to try to leverage more out of an acquisition — by making other suitors, such as Facebook (whose up to $1 billion interest in Waze we have previously confirmed), up their own offers.
Bloomberg’s sources claim Google and “other large tech companies” — but not Apple — have approached Waze about a possible acquisition since its talks with Facebook become public. However they also say none of the bidders is close to clinching a deal, and add that the talks may fall apart or Waze may walk away and seek more VC funding to continue expanding its mapping program. So really that’s saying everything is still to play for and any outcome is possible at this point.
To our ear, the most plausible-sounding scenario here is that investors are trying to leverage more out of a possible Facebook acquisition of Waze. Especially because multiple credible sources contacted by TechCrunch have told us that the Google acquisition rumour is not at all true.
Just four days after Yahoo-owned Flickr unveiled a brand-new upgrade, the site is experiencing major downtime for some—but not all—users.
Flickr tweeted its acknowledgement of the site going down, about two hours ago.
While it appears that some users are not seeing any problems, there are others who have not been able to access the site for hours. TNW spotted a tweet from @danielbowen complaining about the downtime that was posted at 5:30PM PDT. That’s almost six hours ago, at time of writing.
But isitdownrightnow.com shows the site is up, and other users like @bestofnatparks posted a tweet about its Flickr gallery about three hours ago.
Flickr’s update, launched just four days ago, overhauled the photo site’s interface with large, high-res photos. This pairs with a recent update of Flickr’s apps on both iOS and Android. Flickr has said that the updated iOS app yielded 25 percent more uploads.
The additional load placed on Flickr’s systems by all the high-res flood coming in is likely to have taken its servers down. Flickr has about 89 million users. The new site upgrade also bumped up each user’s upload quota to a whopping 1Tb. Not everyone’s going to be rushing to reach the quota, but it’s undoubtedly revived a lot of interest from users who have fallen by the wayside in recent years.
We’re all familiar with the bill shock associated with roaming abroad with our cellphones. There are plenty of players that allow you to swap out your SIM card and use cheaper traffic, including Cubic Telecom. However, that process is tedious. So Cubic has secured new funding to enable a range of tablets and notebooks to have their technology built into partner devices. To do this they’ve raised a further $5.2 million in funding from Enterprise Ireland, Qualcomm Incorporated, ACT Venture Capital and TPS Investments.
The money will be used to expand globally, and invest in the technology which essentially allows Cubic to operate like its own global mobile phone carrier, not an MVNO. As a licensed mobile network operator (MNO), Cubic Telecom partners with Tier 1 mobile operators to provide coverage in 230 countries. Its Software Defined Network (SDN) works across multiple technologies (3G, 4G-LTE, CDMA and WiFi).
The Dublin based company has also secured contracts with a number of leading Fortune 100 tablet and notebook manufacturers to be in-built into their devices, though these partners have yet to be announced.
The embedded nature of the service means any changes to the internal SIM can be Over The Air (OTA).
Barry Napier, CEO of Cubic Telecom, says they will “enable the latest devices and applications to be always connected anytime anywhere.”
In plain English, that means Cubic Telecom devices can integrate with content and apps. Thus, imagine a world where an app provider asked Cubic to allow its use to be free on Cubic dvices. All it would require would be a simple OTA update from Cubic to its customers. That could be a very powerful place to be.
The company also announced that it will create a total of more than 70 new jobs over the next 3 years, as part of an investment supported by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation through Enterprise Ireland.
AngelPad, the San Francisco-based accelerator founded by former Googler Thomas Korte, held its sixth demo day yesterday. I wasn’t there (I know, it’s super-embarrassing), but I did get to meet with Korte and partner Carine Magescas today to talk about the newest batch of companies.
Magescas said that in the three years since AngelPad was founded, “the premise of what we had in the beginning has been validated.” That premise breaks down to three main ideas, she said. First, she and Korte “push [the startups] really hard.” That’s particularly important in the company’s early stages, Korte said, because it can be hard for the founders to get honest feedback from their family and friends, and because making a relatively small change can have a big effect on a startup’s ultimate trajectory.
Another reason the partners might be particularly tough on the startups is because they’re investing their own money. There’s no separate fund — at least not yet. (When I asked, Korte said, “There hasn’t been a fund to date,” followed by what may or may not have been a significant pause.)
Second, Magescas said, “We are a really small family.” Twelve startups were chosen from thousands of applicants. The first AngelPad group had eight companies, and there was one with 15, but they’ve settled on a dozen for the last few classes. That allows the AngelPad team to spend a lot of time working one-on-one with each company.
“I feel like it’s better to spend more time with less companies,” Korte said, adding that he’s realized that having a long list of well-known mentors isn’t as useful. There are outside experts who come in and give talks on a specific subject, but it really falls to Korte and Magescas to work closely with the founders. When you have too many different people offering “cookie cutter advice,” Korte said, “It hurts more than it helps.”
Third, they said AngelPad has always had a strong focus on business-to-business companies. In fact, there’s not a single consumer-focused company in the current class, according to Korte — some of them might offer consumer products as part of their business, but none of them are focused on building large-scale, free services that make money from advertising. At the same time, Magescas said they’re open to consumer startups, they just have to be “really good.”
So that’e the vision. Here are the companies, in alphabetical order:
Audience.fm uses data from existing music services to help bands and marketers reach their desired audience. For example, if a band was making a tour stop in San Francisco, Audience.fm could identify the band’s biggest fans, and they could offer free or discounted tickets.
Boxbee is a storage startup that delivers boxes to its customers. You fill the boxes with whatever you want to store, then Boxee picks up them up. It won the best new startup prize at this year’s Launch conference.
Chasm.io is a content marketing network, where influencers and brands share content that they want to see promoted. Rather than getting paid for sharing sponsored content, it’s more of a quid pro quo system, where influencers are rewarded for successful sharing with points that they can redeem to share content of their own.
DroneDeploy has built software for commercial drone operators (just to reemphasize — commercial drone operators, not military ones). The founders are former Googlers with machine
learning PhDs from Cambridge and Edinburgh. We covered the company here.
Fieldwire is a mobile task management system designed for workers who are out in the field. For example, it could be used by a team of construction workers while they’re on a construction site.
HumanAPI aims to build an API for accessing all the data that’s being gathered on various health devices, sensors, and services. So instead of figuring out how to work with dozens of different devices, a medical provider could just pull data from HumanAPI.
Iterable is an email marketing startup founded former Google and Twitter engineers. Customers can test different emails and also personalize the messages to each user without any coding.
Pogoseat integrates with existing ticketing solutions and apps, allowing them to offer seat upgrades. Partners already include Ticketmaster, the Golden State Warriors, and other NBA teams.
Roobiq aims to build a layer of voice commands and natural language processing on top of existing CRM systems, so a salesperson who’s out taking meetings could update their CRM from their phone without slowing down to type.
SensorTower has built a marketing platform for mobile app developers, allowing those developers to track and improve their rankings on different search keywords.
TheShelf is a collaboration platform where fashion brands can interact with fashion bloggers. There are already 1,500 bloggers on the platform.
TrulyWireless has built an enterprise phone system that’s cheaper than traditional systems and runs entirely on smartphones.
Interested investors can find the AngelList profile of each startup here.