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More tech drama, please – TechCrunch

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It makes for better startups

As the startup game has matured around the world, it’s become less fun. Building companies from nothing to something is hardly supposed to be laugh-a-minute, but I think we’ve lost sight of how much fun new tech used to be.

An example that comes to mind is Meerkat. Let me explain: Back in 2015, Meerkat brought a simple livestreaming app to the market. If you had a phone, you could post live video and people thought it was the coolest damn thing.

TechCrunch wrote about the app in early March of that year, and we used Meerkat around the office as a neat, experimental tool to do our job. It was a silly time, but good fun. If you were in the writer’s area of 410 Townsend, our erstwhile HQ, you might have wound up on stream by sheer dint of sitting at your desk. We loved it.


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In fact, we liked it so much that the anti-Meerkat backlash was pretty quick. Josh Constine wrote at the time that he was drowning in new livestreams. Natasha Lomas wrote that “live video is the new clickbait.” Soon Meerkat raised capital, launched a platform and came to Disrupt. The app pulled itself from the market in 2016.

It was a moment when the comparatively small startup world was seemingly united behind a single new idea or trend. There was once a time when new social apps would gear up for SXSW, hoping to become a breakout hit among the digerati who were busy pounding tequila and breakfast tacos.

Since then, things have gotten really boring, yeah? More money flooded the zone, B2B SaaS became the de facto startup business model, and platform companies became ever broader and richer, limiting greenfield space for new companies to build and experiment. Sure, the crypto boom has brought some of the fun back, but not more than a fraction. It’s hard to have fun when lots of the new fun space is a grift.

Enter a good old-fashioned Twitter rant from Ryan Breslow, founder and CEO of Bolt. Bolt is a digital payments startup focused on providing online checkout solutions to other companies. It just raised $335 million at an $11 billion valuation. And Breslow, now flush with a mountain of cash and a decacorn valuation, took to Twitter to settle some scores.

In a thread he titled “Stripe and YCombinator, the Mob Bosses of Silicon Valley,” the CEO went back through a sheaf of perceived slights that he endured from a collection of powerful players in the startup industry. A Sequoia partner fired back, saying that the real issue that Breslow had when he was struggling to raise and attract attention to his company was poor metrics. Shots fired.

The thread brought back drama for a short while.

Since the thread and arguments against the thread took over the startup conversation yesterday, Breslow has largely doubled down on his core thesis, sharing that founders are reaching out to him about similar experiences. Regardless of who you think came out better in the settling detritus of the spat, it was a useful exercise.

Yes, Stripe is incredibly powerful and protective of its perch in the tech industry. And, yes, the fact that Hacker News is a Y Combinator property is something we should keep in mind. Even more, we should be skeptical of Silicon Valley’s self-proclaimed vibe that world-changing is more core to the tech ethos than profit. (If that’s the case, then let workers unionize and stop treating junior talent like tissues, but, hey, that’s just me.)

Is all this drama fun? Yes; pass the popcorn. But these Twitter beefs really matter because we can often find the seeds of change or clarity.



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Southeast Asia insurtech Igloo increases its Series B to $46M • TechCrunch

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Igloo, a Singapore-based insurtech focused on underserved communities in Southeast Asia, announced it has raised a Series B extension of $27 million, bringing the round’s total to $46 million. The first tranche of $19 million was announced in March, and led by Cathay innovation with participation from ACA and returning investors OpenSpace.

The newest round was led by the InsuResilience Investment Fund II, which was launched by the German development bank KfW for the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and is managed by impact investor BlueOrchard. Other lead investors were the Women’s World Banking Asset Management (WAM), FinnFund, La Maison and returning investors Cathay Innovation.

Igloo develops its insurance products and then partners with insurers who underwrite their policies. Igloo currently works with 20 global, regional and local insurers across Southeast Asia. It distributes its insurance products through partnerships, and is partnered with over 55 companies in 7 countries. It now offers 15 products, including policies for gig workers, gamers, cars and farmers in Vietnam, and says it has facilitated more than 300 million policies and increased gross written premiums by 30 times since 2019.

Co-founder and CEO Raunak Mehta told TechCrunch that Igloo decided to raise a Series B extension because of investor interest after the first tranche of funds. The extension will give the startup a multiyear runway and will be used for hiring, infrastructure and merger and acquisitions opportunities.

Mehta said that the penetration rate of insurance in much of Southeast Asia is low, less than $100 USD per capita across Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines. Igloo was created to make insurance more affordable and relevant to the needs of communities in Southeast Asia. Igloo distributes insurance products that range from 2 cents USD for phone screen protection to $600 USD for comprehensive motor insurance.

Igloo provides the tech stack for its products across Southeast Asia, which Mehta says means the entire insurance value chain, from product discovery to claims, is available on one platform. This makes it faster for it to brings the policies it distributes to market more quickly, and significantly reduce the operational cost of claims.

Mehta said more than 80% of claims are currently managed in an automated or semi-automated way, and that big data management, along with machine learning and artificial intelligence, has enabled it to reduce anti-selection risks, false positives and fraudulent claims. By bringing down the cost of managing claims, Igloo is able to offer lower premium to customers.

An example of Igloo’s insurance policies include ones for gig economy riders that it sells through its partnership with Foodpanda in Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines, and Lozi and Ahamove Vietnam. Its policy for Foodpanda, called PandaCare, includes motor, personal accident and hospitalization income protection for workers.

Another, more recent one, is is Weather Index Insurance product in Vietnam. The policy uses blockchain-backed smart contracts and automates claims payouts by using pre-assigned values for crop losses caused by weather and other natural events. Igloo says the Weather Index Insurance is Vietnam’s first parametric insurance (or a policy that agrees to make pre-agreed payouts based on trigger events like a flood) and its first integration of smart contracts into insurance.

Igloo also provides products that Mehta says directly or indirectly benefits women, through a partnership with Philinsure in the Philippines. They have distributed more than 5 million policies that cover credit default, personal accident, family relief and natural calamity support to women micro-entrepreneurs and their families. In Vietnam, more than 65% of the agents who use Igloo’s Ignite digital platform to sell insurance policies are women, and they are also the main beneficiaries of the Weather Index Insurance product.

The insurtech’s distribution partners include telecoms like Telkomsel, AIS and Mobifone, and e-commerce platforms like Shopee, Lazada, Bukalapak and JD.ID. It also works with financial service providers, like AEON, Gcash and UnionBank, to sell policies for their customer base, and provides products for insuring goods in transit and protecting fleet drivers through logistics platforms like Ahamove, Shippit, Loship and Locad.

Other Southeast Asia-based insurtechs that want to increase insurance penetration in the region and have raised large Series B rounds include Indonesia’s Fuse and PasarPolis and Thailand’s Sunday.

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Cyber Monday shopping expected to set record but annual growth has slowed | Adobe

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Cyber Monday shopping sales hit at least $6.3 billion through part of the day in the U.S. today, according to the latest online shopping data from Adobe Analytics.

It’s not unusual for Cyber Monday and Black Friday online shopping results to break records, but it this economic climate it’s encouraging to see it happen. Still, growth has slowed from 2021 and 2020 holiday seasons.

Consumers spent $6.3 billion up through 3:00 pm Pacific time for Cyber Monday. Adobe expects that when the final tally is in, consumers will spend between $11.2 billion and $11.6 billion for the day, making Cyber Monday the biggest online shopping day of the year (and of all time).

Today, the top 15 hot sellers (not in ranked order) have included Legos, Hatchimals, Disney Encanto, Pokémon cards, Bluey, Dyson products, strollers, Apple Watches, drones, and digital cameras. Gaming consoles also remain popular, along with games including Mario Party, FIFA 23, Madden 23 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II.

Over the past weekend, the top sellers were included Hot Wheels, Cocomelon, Bluey, Disney Encanto, L.O.L. Surprise dolls, Roblox, and Fortnite in the toys category. Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 remain the top selling gaming consoles, with popular games including FIFA 23, God of War Ragnarök, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, Madden 23, and NBA 2k23. Other hot sellers included Apple iPads, Apple MacBooks, digital cameras, Roku devices, drones, gift cards and Instapots.

Black Friday online shopping sales were $9.12 billion, up 2.3% from a year ago, and Thanksgiving itself came in at $5.29 billion, up 2.9% from a year ago. Those were above Adobe’s projections. Last year, consumers spent $10.7 billion on Cyber Monday.

Strong consumer spend has been driven by net-new demand, and not just higher prices. The Adobe Digital Price Index, which tracks online prices across 18 product categories (complements the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index, which also includes prices for offline only products and services like gasoline and rent) shows that prices online have been nearly flat in recent months (down 0.7% YoY in October 2022).

Adobe Analytics says Cyber Monday will set a record.

Adobe’s numbers are not adjusted for inflation, but if online inflation were factored in, there would still be growth in underlying consumer demand, the company said.

On a category basis, toys were a major growth driver in the days leading up to Cyber Monday, with online sales up 452% over the average day in October 2022. Appliances (up 305%) and baby/toddler products (up 289%) also saw strong demand, in addition to electronics (up 276%) and apparel (up 258%).

Shoppers will find record discounts today for computers (peaking at 27% off listed price). Deals will also be found in nearly all categories tracked, including apparel (19%), toys (33%), electronics (25%), sporting goods (16%), televisions (15%), and furniture (11%). Those looking to buy an appliance should consider waiting until Thursday (December 1), when discounts are set to peak at 18% on average.

Weekend spending remained strong

Consumers spent over a Black Friday’s worth of ecommerce over the weekend at $9.55 billion, up 4.4% YoY ($4.59 billion on November 26, up 2.6% YoY / $4.96 billion on November, up 6.1% YoY). Season-to-date (November 1 to November 27), consumers have spent a total of $96.42 billion online, up 2.1% YoY.

And while the big days (Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday) have reached new heights, consumers spent at record levels all season. Since November 1, shoppers spent over $2 billion every single day, with 19 days above $3 billion in online spend. Broad, early discounts were the main drivers for the shift in consumer spending.

“Shoppers have seen massive discounts this past week, which is the exact opposite situation from last season when supply chain constraints kept prices elevated,” said Vivek Pandya, lead analyst at Adobe Digital Insights, in a statement. “While discounting will have an impact on margins for retailers, it is also driving a level of demand that can help brands build long-term loyalty and net some short-term gains.”

Additional Adobe Analytics Insights

Over the weekend, online sales of toys were up 383% (compared to average daily sales for the category in October 2022), with baby toys seeing strong demand (up 252%). Other categories that surged over the weekend include jewelry (up 230%), sporting goods (up 239%), and apparel (up 217%).

With online spending hitting new records and inflation impacting consumers, flexible payments have become a big story this season. In the last week (November 21 to November 27), “buy now, pay later” orders have risen 68% and revenue has increased 72%, when compared to the week prior.

Over the weekend, smartphones drove over half of online sales for the first time (52%, up from 48% last year). Adobe expects mobile shopping to dip on Cyber Monday however, based on historical trends. Many people are back at work and using laptops, which will be the preferred device for shopping online.

Forecast for Cyber Week

Adobe expects Cyber Week (the five days from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday) to generate $34.8 billion in online spend, up 2.8% YoY, and represent 16.3% share of the full November through December holiday season.

Cyber Monday is expected to remain the season’s and year’s biggest online shopping day, bringing in between $11.2 billion and $11.6 billion. Black Friday generated a record $9.12 billion in online spend, up 2.3% YoY, while Thanksgiving brought $5.29 billion in online spend, up 2.9% YoY.

Adobe analyzes direct consumer transactions online. The analysis covers over one trillion visits to U.S. retail sites, 100 million SKUs, and 18 product categories.

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Snowflake 101: 5 ways to build a secure data cloud 

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Today, Snowflake is the favorite for all things data. The company started as a simple data warehouse platform a decade ago but has since evolved into an all-encompassing data cloud supporting a wide range of workloads, including that of a data lake

More than 6,000 enterprises currently trust Snowflake to handle their data workloads and produce insights and applications for business growth. They jointly have more than 250 petabytes of data on the data cloud, with more than 515 million data workloads running each day.

Now, when the scale is this big, cybersecurity concerns are bound to come across. Snowflake recognizes this and offers scalable security and access control features that ensure the highest levels of security for not only accounts and users but also the data they store. However, organizations can miss out on certain basics, leaving data clouds partially secure. 

Here are some quick tips to fill these gaps and build a secure enterprise data cloud.

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1. Make your connection secure

First of all, all organizations using Snowflake, regardless of size, should focus on using secured networks and SSL/TLS protocols to prevent network-level threats. According to Matt Vogt, VP for global solution architecture at Immuta, a good way to start would be connecting to Snowflake over a private IP address using cloud service providers’ private connectivity such as AWS PrivateLink or Azure Private Link. This will create private VPC endpoints that allow direct, secure connectivity between your AWS/Azure VPCs and the Snowflake VPC without traversing the public Internet. In addition to this, network access controls, such as IP filtering, can also be used for third-party integrations, further strengthening security.

2. Protect source data

While Snowflake offers multiple layers of protection – like time travel and fail-safe – for data that has already been ingested, these tools cannot help if the source data itself is missing, corrupted or compromised (like malicious encrypted for ransom) in any way. This kind of issue, as Clumio’s VP of product Chadd Kenney suggests, can only be addressed by adopting measures to protect the data when it is resident in an object storage repository such as Amazon S3 – before ingest. Further, to protect against logical deletes, it is advisable to maintain continuous, immutable, and preferably air-gapped backups that are instantly recoverable into Snowpipe.

3. Consider SCIM with multi-factor authentication

Enterprises should use SCIM (system for cross-domain identity management) to help facilitate automated provisioning and management of user identities and groups (i.e. roles used for authorizing access to objects like tables, views, and functions) in Snowflake. This makes user data more secure and simplifies the user experience by reducing the role of local system accounts. Plus, by using SCIM where possible, enterprises will also get the option to configure SCIM providers to synchronize users and roles with active directory users and groups.

On top of this, enterprises also should use multi-factor authentication to set up an additional layer of security. Depending on the interface used, such as client applications using drivers, Snowflake UI, or Snowpipe, the platform can support multiple authentication methods, including username/password, OAuth, keypair, external browser, federated authentication using SAML and Okta native authentication. If there’s support for multiple methods, the company recommends giving top preference to OAuth (either snowflake OAuth or external OAuth) followed by external browser authentication and Okta native authentication and key pair authentication.

4. Column-level access control

Organizations should use Snowflake’s dynamic data masking and external tokenization capabilities to restrict certain users’ access to sensitive information in certain columns. For instance, dynamic data masking, which can dynamically obfuscate column data based on who’s querying it, can be used to restrict the visibility of columns based on the user’s country, like a U.S. employee can only view the U.S. order data, while French employees can only view order data from France.

Both features are pretty effective, but they use masking policies to work. To make the most of it, organizations should first determine whether they want to centralize masking policy management or decentralize it to individual database-owning teams, depending on their needs. Plus, they would also have to use invoker_role() in policy conditions to enable unauthorized users to view aggregate data on protected columns while keeping individual data hidden.

5. Implement a unified audit model

Finally, organizations should not forget to implement a unified audit model to ensure transparency of the policies being implemented. This will help them actively monitor policy changes, like who created what policy that granted user X or group Y access to certain data, and is as critical as monitoring query and data access patterns. 

To view account usage patterns, use system-defined, read-only shared database named SNOWFLAKE. It has a schema named ACCOUNT_USAGE containing views that provide access to one year of audit logs.

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URGENT: CYBER SECURITY UPDATE