Facebook’s voice recognition, Walmart’s ebooks and audiobooks, Volkswagen’s electric car sharing, Slack’s latest funding round, Remote working stats & more.
Welcome to another week full of fresh ideas and innovation at el producto!
🎰 The week in figures
$7.1B — valuation of Slack after raising $427M in Series H led by General Atlantic and Dragoneer Investment Group; claims more than 8M daily active users and 70k paying teams; raised more than $1.2B.
800M internet users in China; the number of people online grew by 30M in the first half of 2018; 98.3% of China’s online population access the internet via mobile devices.
~25k gambling apps removed by Apple from the Chinese iOS App Store, according to state media; follows reports of illicit games disguised as official lottery apps; Apple hasn’t confirmed the number of apps removed, but says its taking action against such apps and the developers that upload them.
📰 What’s going on
Apple registers 6 new Apple Watch models with the Eurasian Economic Commission; the document suggests will release 3 models, each available in 2 sizes; follows rumours Apple will announce a new Apple Watch next month.
The Apple Store in Amsterdam was temporarily closed after an iPad battery explosion; it’s unclear what caused the problem but no injuries were reported.
Chrome Browser v69 releasing on Sept 4, features a Material Design refresh for all operating systems; the iOS version, in particular, will feature significant changes, including the repositioning of navigation controls from the top of the screen to the bottom.
Google updates Gmail for Android with Undo Send; the feature is available in Gmail v8.7, though some users must force close to see the option.
Google’s Area 120 incubator is developing a spoken-word audio app called Shortwave, as revealed by a new trademark filing; enables users to search, access, play, and link to audio files.
Facebook begins rating users on how trustworthy they are at flagging fake news. Facebook developed its reputation assessments as part of its effort against fake news
Facebook is developing voice recognition tech; codenamed Aloha, the system is designed to be used in Messenger and Instagram as well as an upcoming smart speaker.
EU antitrust regulators will give Apple unconditional approval to acquire Shazam; Apple confirmed the deal last December; the European Commission announced an in-depth investigation in April, citing concerns that Apple could use Shazam’s music identification app to direct users to its own music services, excluding competitors.
Amazon works to develop a new live TV recording device; the product, known internally as “Frank,” would offer physical storage space and function similarly to other devices from TiVo and Slingbox.
Netflix is testing a signup method that bypasses iTunes billing on iOS devices, reports TechCrunch; users trying to sign up for the service are redirected to a mobile page where they can complete the process; Netflix says the test will help it determine what customers prefer; TechCrunch speculates Netflix is trying to find a way to avoid Apple’s fees.
Skype launches end-to-end encrypted chat; available to users on Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android; the feature is opt-in and disabled by default; to initiate an encrypted conversation, a user selects “New Private Conversation” from a contact’s profile, or from the compose menu; powered by Whisper Systems’ Signal Protocol.
Giphy launches Stories: homepage collections of GIFs relevant to trending topics; currently, Stories are curated by the company’s editorial team; Stories cover recent cultural events, popular memes, etc.
Walmart and Rakuten’s Kobo launch Walmart eBooks, offering users more than 6M titles; accessible via Kobo eReaders, which Walmart is selling online and in stores; also launched co-branded iOS and Android apps for buying and reading books; $10-per month audiobook subscription plan provides access to one title per month.
UK-based fashion marketplace Farfetch files for a US IPO, reportedly seeks a $6B; unknown how much the company plans to raise, but it’s set to go public later this year; reports $386M revenue for 2017, up 59.4% on 2016.
WeChat launches a digital payments app in Malaysia, its first outside of China; lets users transfer money to others and pay for merchant goods and services; analysts question how successful it will be; rival service GrabPay claims to be on half of all Malaysian smartphones.
Chinese news aggregation service Qutoutiao files for a US IPO, aims to raise as much as $300M; reports ~$78M revenue for 2017; launched in 2016, the company claims almost 50M monthly active users.
Alibaba combines its local services divisions Ele.me and Koubei, and raises $3B led by SoftBank; the round may increase as Koubei investors have the option to also invest; Koubei provides local info on housing, restaurants, entertainment, and more; Ele.me operates a food delivery service.
Y Combinator accepts 15k firms for Startup School following a technical glitch; the company inadvertently emailed all applicants, telling them they were on the free 10-week online program; YC followed up with a majority of the startups, apologizing for the error and telling them they were not accepted; YC later decided to take all 15k firms.
Xiaomi announces Pocophone, a budget smartphone brand; comes as the company launches 6.2-inch Poco F1 running Android Oreo 8.1; features Snapdragon 845 processor and Qualcomm Adreno 630 GPU; includes a 20MP selfie camera, dual back cameras (12MP and 5MP), USB Type-C, and a fingerprint sensor; available with 64GB, 128GB, or 256GB storage; launching in India, starting at ~$300.
Lyft hires former Google VP of Engineering Manish Gupta to serve in the same role at Lyft; Gupta joined Google as a Senior Software Engineer in 2002 and left this year; at Lyft, he will oversee employees working on payments, fraud prevention, and privacy, and will build out the company’s business platforms.
Lyft and autonomous driving tech company Aptive announce they’ve completed 5k self-driving trips in Las Vegas since deploying vehicles earlier this year; Lyft says 20% of riders have used the service more than once, and 96% of all riders said they planned to use the service again; safety drivers are present for all rides.
Volkswagen to launch electric car-sharing program We Share in Berlin next year; will offer 1.5k e-Golf vehicles at launch, and later add 500 e-up! cars; from 2020, the service will feature next-generation I.D. vehicles; the company ultimately plans to roll out the service in other major European cities and North America. The firm plans invest $4B in digital initiatives by 2025; will include a cloud-computing platform that will facilitate car sharing; currently developing a new operating system, vw.OS, that will debut in VW-branded EVs in 2020; the OS will support autonomous driving features.
📚 Stuff to think about
Thinking like a system. Understanding system dynamics when looking at an ecosystemic problem provides new overwhelming lenses. System thinking helps look at the whole and highlight patterns of change rather than static snapshots.
Why quarterly OKRs? Quarterly objectives or a continuous flow? John Cutler challenges the (often artificial) cadence of quarterly OKRs.
20 cool startups out of YC’s latest batch. Product Hunt looks at the most compelling startups presented on YC’s Demo Day. From ads on Uber windows to hangover cures.
Remote working stats. And Co and Remote Year have put together an extensive study on remote working. The only clear (and obvious) conclusion is that remote working is here to stay.