New York Governor signs daily fantasy sports bill, DraftKings and FanDuel can operate again

New York Governor signs daily fantasy sports bill, DraftKings and FanDuel can operate again

Back in June on the last day of the New York Assembly’s legislative session, the state passed a bill legalizing daily fantasy sports, paving the road for the return of incumbents DraftKings and FanDuel to resume operating in the state.

The next week we sat down with DraftKings CEO Jason Robins, who explained that passing the bill was so important because it not only meant his company could resume operations in ons of its most popular states, but that the bill could also serve as an indicator of similar legislation soon to be passed in other states that currently ban daily fantasy sports.

But even thought the bill passed, everyone was still waiting for Governor Andrew M. Cuomo to sign it into law, which he did today.

Governor Cuomo explained: “Daily fantasy sports have proven to be popular in New York, but until now have operated with no supervision and no protections for players. This legislation strikes the right balance that allows this activity to continue with oversight from state regulators, new consumer protections, and more funding for education.”

The funding for education he mentioned is an expected $4M yearly windfall to fund state education aid, which will come from taxing the platform.

And in terms of consumer protection, the bill will mandate that platforms have to identify highly experienced players and prohibit the participation of minors.

If you want to read the specifics of the bill that was passed, check our line by line analysis from when it was passed.

This makes NY the eighth state (after Colorado, Indiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, Virginia) to pass a specific law legalizing daily fantasy sports. While the industry still needs to persuade many more states to pass similar bills, it’s certainly a huge accomplishment to have New York squared away, especially before the start of the lucrative NFL season.

Featured Image: Alex Wong/Getty Images
Source: TechCrunch

Bitcoin drops 20% after $70M worth of Bitcoin was stolen from Bitfinex exchange

Bitcoin drops 20% after M worth of Bitcoin was stolen from Bitfinex exchange

Bitfinex, one of the most popular cryptocurrency exchanges online, has suffered a major hack. The company has posted a note on their website detailing the security breach, and while it doesn’t mention a total amount, one of their employees confirmed on Reddit that the total amount stolen was 119,756 bitcoins.

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That amount converts to about $77,000,000 based on a price of $650 USD per bitcoin, which is about what Bitcoin traded at over the course of the last week.

After news of the hack spread the price of Bitcoin dropped almost 20%, settling in around the current price of $540 USD per bitcoin. It’s not exactly clear why the price dropped, but it’s likely Bitcoin investors got nervous about potential hacks on other exchanges and decided to sell off their Bitcoin holdings, which led to a rapid decrease in price.

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So how exactly did the hack happen? It’s not really clear yet, and the exchange hasn’t released any additional information beyond saying they incurred a loss and are suspending operations, and that USD funds and other cryptocurrency balances haven’t been compromised.

We do know that Bitfinex’s platform used BitGo, a Palo Alto-based Bitcoin security company that allows exchanges to provide segregated, multi-signature wallets for each customer’s funds. This is a supposed security improvement over exchanges that merge customer’s funds into large, communal wallets. This method of maintaining segregated wallets for each user on the exchange also means that users can keep tabs on their wallet balance at all times, which is how some Bitfinex users have been able to see that funds have been removed from their wallets.

BitGo tweeted earlier today that they “found no evidence of a breach on any BitGo servers”.

That doesn’t really help tell us how exactly the hack happened, as neither service has yet claimed responsibility. Plus, the question still remains why neither BitGo or Bitfinex has working limits in place to stop rapid withdraws of large amounts of Bitcoin.

Many exchanges will automatically restrict the amount of Bitcoin that can be withdrawn at once, so even if they are hacked losses will be capped at a smaller amount. However, Bitfinex did say on Reddit that “there were limits in place to restrict the amount of btc that could be signed for a withdraw [and they’re] still trying to investigate how these limits were bypassed”.

While it’s too early to speculate next steps, many are wondering what the fate of their coins will be. Because of the segregated BitGo wallets, only some customer’s wallets were compromised. This means that some user’s wallets may be totally intact. The question then becomes do you let those users withdraw their funds, or pool the funds and proportionally issue refunds so every user incurs the same loss, even if their own wallets weren’t directly compromised.

Bitfinex has said they have alerted and are working with law enforcement, which may complicate things further if the company needs to go through a bankruptcy proceeding, like Mt. Gox did after hackers drained the exchange of all operating funds.

This comes just weeks after hackers stole $50M worth of Ethereum, which caused the currency to complete a “hard fork” so they could reverse the transactions containing stolen currency.

The lesson here is once again that the safest way to store Bitcoin is in your own (preferably offline) wallet, and not on a website or exchange.

Featured Image: Bryce Durbin
Source: TechCrunch

China has actually built an elevated bus that travels above car traffic

China has actually built an elevated bus that travels above car traffic

If you’ve ever been surfing through random videos on Facebook or another social media site you’ve probably seen the concept video of that Chinese train/bus hybrid thing that can travel over cars (and over traffic).

But that was just a rendered concept. And, like me, you probably thought that even though it was an amazing idea, it would never actually move past the idea stage.

But China’s proved us wrong.

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Today China Xinhua News said that the Transit Elevated Bus (TEB) is not only a real thing, but had its first road test today. It happened in Qinhuangdao City, and consisted of a brake and power consumption test.

The whole thing is powered by electricity, is about 72 feet long and 25 feet wide (so it can span multiple lanes of traffic) and can carry 300 passengers (but future versions could probably be coupled together to carry even more). And, when it’s actually launched and operating, it should hit max speeds of around 40 miles per hour, making it a pretty speedy mode of public transportation.

While this version still isn’t ready for mainstream daily use, it’s pretty amazing to see China actually turn this thing into a reality. And, other countries like Brazil, France, India and Indonesia have reached out about potentially licensing their own versions of the TEB.

You can check out a few videos from the unveiling/testing ceremony here.

Source: TechCrunch

GoGoGrandparent lets people without smartphones use on-demand services like Uber

GoGoGrandparent lets people without smartphones use on-demand services like Uber

2016 is definitely the year of on-demand. Rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft have cemented their position as the future of transportation, and other on-demand services like Postmates have showed us that there is a real demand for, well, ordering things on-demand.

But here’s the problem: On-demand apps require a smartphone to use, and there are still over seventy five million americans with don’t have a smartphone – essentially making them ineligible to use these life-changing services.

While these people range in economic status and location, there does seem to be one common factor – older Americans are especially likely to not have a smartphone (or even a cell phone).

Meet GoGoGrandparent. The company, part of Y Combinator’s Summer ’16 batch, is developing a way for those without smartphones to still use on-demand services like Uber.

The story of the company’s founding is pretty interesting. One of the founders, Justin Booogaard, was living with his grandmother. She saw him Ubering so much and asked how she could use it. Once Justin let her know you needed a smartphone to hail a ride, she told him to create a company that would let her use it!

Justin and his co-founder David Lung like the idea, but wanted to impartially test it, because everyone knows your grandma automatically likes everything you do. So they created a postcard from a faux company and mailed it to Justin’s grandmother, advertising a company that lets you order an Uber by calling a phone number from a landline or dumb cell phone. She tried it and loved it, and GoGoGrandparent was born.

Interestingly, Postcards are still an integral part of the business – the company says they are a great way to communicate with an older generation, and are helping GoGoGrandparent grow 20% week-over-week.

The company can also send texts to loved ones with the status of riders.

The company can also send texts to loved ones with the status of riders.

In the early days, Justin and David literally had a hotline and would receive calls and order an Uber on their cell phone – but this obviously wouldn’t scale. So they used Twilio to create an automated phone line.

After initially speaking to an operator and giving them your credit card and home address, you just call back and use their automated system, pressing 1 for a pickup at your home. The company hails an Uber, and you just tell your driver where you want to go. If you ever need a pickup at a different location (it will remember where you were dropped off last, so you can request a pickup there), just call the company’s hotline and request to talk to a real person.

GoGoGrandparent charges a 13% commission on each ride, as well as a $1.80 fee to cover their backend costs. They say that this total fee comes out to about $2.50 per ride on average. Definitely more than ordering your own Uber, but a small price to pay for the gift of mobility.

But what’s stopping Uber from rolling out this feature overnight, putting GoGoGrandparent out of business? Booogaard explained that they discussed this with the rideshare company, who told GoGoGrandparent that this older demographic is just 3% of Uber’s customer base. Essentially Uber has “easier fruit to grasp”, and is content letting GoGoGrandparent do the heavy lifting on its behalf while they focus on scaling amongst the smartphone generation.

So what’s the future of the company? The founders explained that eventually they hope to partner with non-profits and city governments to offer the service to under-resourced populations, who may not be old but just can’t afford a smartphone. The startup also sees itself as potentially replacing costly and inefficient paratransit programs, which are basically in every major city.

Lastly, the startup wants to eventually offer other services to customers. This could be access to on-demand apps like Postmates or Instacart, home maintenance like Handy, or even a caregiving service. These additional service will all provide GoGoGrandparent with more diverse and frequent streams of revenue, as well as potentially large referral fees for the company.

Users can sign up for GoGoGrandparent online, or by calling (855)-464-6872. They will also let you send a postcard to a loved one explaining the service.

Featured Image: David P. Hall/GETTY/Getty Images
Source: TechCrunch

Facebook is testing video ads during Live broadcasts

Facebook is testing video ads during Live broadcasts

If you watch a lot of Facebook Live broadcasts, get ready to see some ads.

The company is now testing short video ads that will play during breaks in Facebook Live broadcasts, they confirmed to Adage.

The move shouldn’t be a surprise for anyone who follows Facebook and their various video products. Video ads are lucrative for Facebook and a Live product devoid of ads would cause the company to miss out on tons of potential ad revenue.

So how will they work? That’s a little less clear. For now, the company is just letting “a small group of publishers” insert a short ad break in their Live videos. The ads can appear anywhere after five minutes into a live stream, and can last up to a maximum of 15 seconds.

Facebook reportedly told advertisers that during the beta all ads shown during Live broadcasts will be taken from other promoted video campaigns already running on Facebook, but it’s safe to assume if the test is successful advertisers may soon have the ability to create custom ads designated to be shown during Live broadcasts.

So what control will video publishers have? Adage reports that publishers can control what category of advertiser can show video during their stream, as well as turn it off if a Live feed isn’t appropriately themed to contain an ad (like a sensitive breaking news story).

And in terms of revenue – during the test period publishers aren’t able to receive a portion of the revenue generated from ads during their Live broadcasts, but could in the future depending on how Facebook decides to structure their Live ad product.

It’s also not clear yet if publishers will be able to set a designated “commercial break” where all viewers see an ad at once, or if Facebook will randomly commandeer a Live stream with a 15 second ad. If it’s the former and publishers can initiate a designated commercial break (and potentially generate revenue), it could actually be an ad product that publishers and content creators ends up liking.

Featured Image: Erik Dreyer/GETTY/Getty Images
Source: TechCrunch

Sioeye Iris4G is an action camera with built-in cell service for live streaming

Sioeye Iris4G is an action camera with built-in cell service for live streaming

I get the chance to test out quite a bit of first-generation consumer gadgets. And while a few are great, the majority just aren’t able to meet the high threshold of quality that Apple has (for better or worse) subconsciously instilled in all of us.

So it’s always a nice surprise to find a hardware startup that can build a product that just looks good and does what it advertises.

Sioeye is a compact action camera (think GoPro) that includes built-in LTE cell service, so you can live stream directly from the device, wherever you are.

The startup has two main versions, the Iris4G Blink and the Iris4G 4K. I’ve been playing with the 4K version, which retails for $429 and is essentially the exact same size as a GoPro. The Blink comes out in October for a much more affordable $249, and is the exact same size and weight, but maxes out at 1080p, not 4K. It also lacks shock and position sensors, but the company said removing these will give the new camera more battery life. This isn’t too big of a deal, especially since if you’re buying it to live stream you’re not going to be using the 4K (or even the 1080p) much anyways.

Live Streaming

Let’s start by talking about the live streaming feature. Both cameras come unlocked with support for 4G FDD-LTE and 3G WCDMA cell signals, but come preinstalled with a T-Mobile Sim card (which I found was really easy to set up). T-Mobile is also doing a deal to give you 5GB of free data, which the company says equals up to 10 hours of streaming.

One interesting feature that takes advantage of the data connection – the camera can act as a cellular hotspot so you can tether your laptop.

Anyways, on to the streaming.

The device lets you stream live to either YouTube, Periscope, or their custom cloud platform. The cloud platform is accessible via their mobile app or the web, and automatically saves your streams after you are done going live. Even though YouTube and Periscope are more popular streaming platforms I was actually content just using Sioeye’s platform, mainly because it’s the easiest to set up.

So let’s talk about live streaming quality. The company says it’s a “software controlled” 480p @30fps, which is 480p x 854p when the data stream is above 300kbps, and 480p x 640p when it was below 300kbps.

The camera will also simultaneously record in 1080p and save it to the memory card, while streaming the lesser quality video.

When I tested the streaming I definitely noted a delay, but it’s probably because I  had trouble finding 5 full bars of T-Mobile service. That being said the stream wasn’t necessarily choppy, just delayed. Overall the camera probably isn’t the best choice to livestream something like a protest or event – your phone has much better cell service and streaming quality. But if you want to stream yourself surfing or something else where your phone just wouldn’t make it, the camera is a great alternative, even if the data connection was a little spotty. The camera’s waterproof case also has an optional external antenna, which I found improved the T-Mobile service by at least one or two “bars” when I was outside testing it.

Video Recording

Let’s talk about traditional video recording. Like most action cameras the camera has built-in time-lapse, video capture, still photo capture at 18MP, and slow-motion. The more expensive camera can record in:

  • 4K @ 30fps*
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  • 1080p @120*, 60, 30fps
  • 720p @120, 60, 30fps.

The cheaper model will be able to do everything from 1080p down.

I found video quality to be pretty good. While it definitely wasn’t as good as comparable resolutions on an iPhone, it was pretty good for an action camera, which typically have lower video quality due to the wide-angle lenses and durable cases. You’re not going to win an Oscar with your footage, but its video quality definitely stands up to most other action camera on the market. The company’s YouTube page has a bunch of recorded footage, which will give you a better sense of what the camera can do out in the wild.

Hardware & Software Design

The build-quality of the camera is solid, feeling pretty much like your typical action camera. My only gripe would be that you need to open a little plastic cover (which is small and easy to lose) if you want to change the battery or memory card, or even just charge it via USB.

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Most of the time I used the camera in its plastic case, which makes it waterproof and shockproof. As I mentioned, it also includes an external plastic antenna which boosts the cell signal, something I found really helped improve T-Mobile’s service quality.

The software is a little less straightforward. The camera actually runs a build of android, and the camera platform is just an app build on top of this. So while it does boot up directly to the app (and most non-techies would never know it was build on Android) it is annoying to accidentally press the wrong button and be taken to the device’s main menu. But for gadget nerds like me that like to customize and explore their devices, maybe this is a good feature after all.

That being said, the camera app is really well build. As I mentioned earlier, most hardware startups have a really hard time building software that isn’t buggy – but Sioeye came through and built a solid interface and app.

Final Say

Overall, the Sioeye isn’t really the best at any one thing. An iPhone is probably better at live-streaming an event, and GoPro’s experience in the action camera world make it a little better action camera overall. But here’s the thing: Sioeye’s product does both, and includes a cellular data connection. It fills a product niche that I wouldn’t have typically even thought of, but after trying an action-camera with live streaming built in, I’d find it very hard to justify buying one without a data connection. Even if you only use it occasionally, it’s awesome to be able to stream something live from the beach, mountain, or really anywhere it’s impractical to schlep around your phone.

Source: TechCrunch

You can now use Venmo to pay for things inside other apps

You can now use Venmo to pay for things inside other apps

In January Venmo announced that users will soon be able to use Venmo to pay inside other apps, similar to how most e-commerce apps already offer PayPal or Apple Pay as payment options.

And now (well, technically tomorrow) the feature is leaving beta and will be available to all Venmo users.

The feature will make it easy for anyone with Venmo to quickly pay in other apps. Users will first have to do a one-time authentication between the app and Venmo, but subsequently won’t have to leave the e-commerce app to pay from their Venmo account.

One downside — only 11 apps will support the feature at launch. These include Munchery, Gametime, Priv, Poshmark, Hop Market, Wish, Parking Panda, Dolly, Urgentli, Boxed and But, it’s safe to assume that more retailers should start integrating the payment option into their apps — especially since Venmo is such a popular payment option among younger crowds.

And Venmo is also adding a few new features that should make it particularly attractive to younger users. Specifically, they are Split and Share, which allow you to, well, split your purchase among friends or share it to Venmo’s social feed.

Splitting things (whether it is rent, utilities or just dinner) is one of the areas where Venmo really shines. It’s an extremely low-friction payment system, lacking any of the clunkiness that PayPal inherited from the 2000s. And for this reason, it’s extremely popular with teenagers and young adults, who frequently use the service to pay back friends or split things.

So the native split feature should be a big draw for anyone purchasing something that is supposed to be split — like buying tickets for a group to an NFL game or even ordering food. In terms of specifics, the split feature won’t actually split the purchase (because that could delay the transaction if one friend decides not to approve quickly enough), and instead just automatically requests your friends pay you back via Venmo for the split amount.

The feature launches tomorrow and developers can integrate Venmo into their app via Braintree’s API. Venmo (which is owned by PayPal) will charge retailers the same fee that PayPal charges — 2.9 percent + an additional 30 cents.

Source: TechCrunch

Apple’s cash on hand decreased for the first time in nearly two years

Apple’s cash on hand decreased for the first time in nearly two years

Apple just reported earnings for Q3 2016, and the company soundly beat analyst’s expectations. However, there was one number that we’re not used to seeing.

Apple’s cash on hand actually decreased for the first time in seven quarters. Cash on hand this quarter amounted to $231.5 billion, which is down $1.4 billion from the $233 billion on hand at the end of Q2.

As a refresher, cash on hand consists of actual cash and cash equivalents, as well as short-term and long-term marketable securities — essentially any investment the company can quickly turn into cash.

The decrease in cash on hand tells us that Apple is finally figuring out how to utilize its absurdly large cash stash, something investors have long been complaining about.

So what did they spend it on?

Firstly, the company is spending more on research and development. Apple spent $7.475 billion on R&D over the last 9 months, compared with $5.847 billion on R&D over the first 9 months of 2015. This could be attributed to the company’s development of new products, including a rumored car, something that would certainly require a ton of upfront R&D spend.

Secondly, Apple is finally making big investments. The company invested $1 billion in Didi Chuxing (China’s largest car-hailing app) this quarter.

Lastly, Apple is continuing to utilize its cash by returning it to investors. The company issued a $.57 per share dividend, which is 5 cents higher than the year-ago quarter. This brings total dividend payments to $1.61 per share over the last 9 months, compared to $1.46 per share over the first 9 months of 2015. Plus, the company spent $23.7 billion repurchasing stock last quarter, compared to $22 billion during the year-ago quarter.

Luca Maestri, Apple’s CFO, explained that this increased cash return is part of the company’s overall capital return program: “We returned over $13 billion to investors through share repurchases and dividends, and we have now completed almost $177 billion of our $250 billion capital return program.”

Since the cash on hand decrease was only about $1.4 billion compared to last quarter, it’s likely that any of these items could have been the cause of the cash decrease. But regardless of the cause, investors are sure to be happy that Apple is finally spending its hard-earned cash.

Source: TechCrunch

A Florida judge has ruled that Bitcoin isn’t money

A Florida judge has ruled that Bitcoin isn’t money

Ever since it moved into the mainstream Bitcoin has had a bit of an identity crisis.

Mainly because no one is really sure whether it should be considered money or property. The IRS says it’s property for tax purposes, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission says it’s a commodity, and most Bitcoin advocates like to say it’s the world’s most advanced currency.

However, today one Florida judge ruled it was property, strengthening that argument and potentially setting precedent in future Bitcoin-related court cases.

Here are the details: In a case dating back to 2013, a defendant was accused of selling bitcoin to undercover officers for cash that the officers told the defendant was obtained illegally. The defendant was then arrested and charged with two counts of money laundering (because he was under assumption that the cash he was receiving was “dirty”), and one charge of acting as a money transmitter/payment instrument seller.

Judge Teresa Pooler today dismissed both charges, essentially due to her decision that since Bitcoin isn’t money the defendant can’t be charged for illegally transmitting or laundering money.

For the money laundering charges, the law states that it’s illegal for an individual to conduct a “financial transaction” with money that a law enforcement officer says came from an illegal activity. Judge Pooler agreed with the defense that the charge should be dismissed because a financial transaction is defined as involving a “monetary instrument”, which Bitcoin isn’t.

For the money transmitter/payment instrument seller charge, Judge Pooler also agreed with the defense that Bitcoin doesn’t fall under the definition of “payment” instrument, and referenced the IRS’s definition as an example. Judge Pooler conceded by saying that “attempting to fit the sale of Bitcoin into a statutory scheme regarding money services businesses is like fitting a square peg in a round hole”.

While the decision is only on the Florida state circuit court level, it could act as precedent for future similar cases.

The reality is though that the ultimate decision on how to classify Bitcoin will end up in the hands of lawmakers. At some point state and federal lawmakers (and even those in other countries) are going to have to sit down and write a stricter definition of Bitcoin that will remove any ambiguity on whether or not it should be classified as currency or property.

Featured Image: Russell Werges
Source: TechCrunch

Israel is opening an innovation center to showcase Israeli technology and inspire young entrepreneurs

Israel is opening an innovation center to showcase Israeli technology and inspire young entrepreneurs

It’s no secret that Israel is a hotbed of technological innovation. Just over the past few years the country has given birth to popular consumer startups like Waze, Viber and Fiverr. Plus, Israel also is the birthplace of many hard science inventions like USB Flash Drives and coronary stents.

But Israel is at a crossroads of sorts. While the country wants to proudly show off these technology “wins”, they are also mindful of the fact that there’s no point in remembering the past if they can’t continue to drive innovation going forward.

The solution? Using tales of the past to inspire the next generation of inventors and entrepreneurs.

One way Israel is accomplishing this is through former President of Israel Shimon Peres’ new Israeli Innovation Center at the Peres Peace House in Jaffa.

Announced today, the center will highlight inventions and companies already created in Israel as well as future Israeli technologies yet to be developed.

But the point of the center isn’t to just brag about Israel. In fact, President Peres noted that the main point is to ensure that Israel never stops innovating:

The primary focus will be on the path to the future. We will prove that innovation has no limits and no barriers. Innovation enables dialogue between nations and between people. It will enable all young people – Jews, Muslims and Christians –to engage in science and technology equally.  Here we will emphasize that we can promote peace from childhood, and we will spark the imagination of every boy and girl and enrich their dreams.” – Former President Shimon Peres

So how will it achieve this? Firstly, part of the center will dedicated to “showcasing leading Israeli companies”, and Israeli inventions that span across different industries.

But more importantly, the rest of the center will serve as a community space. It will be a place for entrepreneurs to meet, work, learn and even participate in hackathons. Peres emphasized that it will be a place to gain hands-on learning experience not found in a traditional school or university.

The former president sees technology as the best way to better society and create peace in the world, and wants to make sure the next generation of makers and entrepreneurs are both inspired and trained to be able to do so.

And judging by the guests of honor at the dedication it’s safe to say that this will be the flagship technology center for the entire country – the event was attended by the country’s three most important people – former President Peres, current Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, and current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In fact, all three tried virtual reality headsets on at the ceremony. President Peres told us that trying VR was “something totally new,” and could help create the dreams that create a new reality”.

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Source: TechCrunch