Steve Jurvetson appears to be starting his own venture capital firm

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Jurvetson is listed as the founder of a soon-to-launch fund called Future Ventures, according to the firm’s website.

Steve Jurvetson, the prominent venture capitalist who left DFJ in a messy split late last year, appears to be starting his own firm, Recode has learned.

Jurvetson is listed as the founder of a soon-to-launch fund called Future Ventures, according to the firm’s website.

“At Future Ventures, we support passionate founders who are forging the future. For the past 23 years, we have backed the visionaries who push the boundaries of possibility and explore the frontier of the unknown,” the website says. “We focus on disruptive technology such as commercial space exploration, deep learning, quantum computing, robotics, AI, blockchain, and sustainable transportation, synthetic biology and clean meat.”

The website refers to the firm’s “founders” as a plural, implying that other investors may be joining Jurvetson at the outpost. The firm has yet to file any paperwork with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Future Ventures website Steve Jurvetson bio page.
Screenshot from the firm’s website.

A Jurvetson spokesperson did not immediately respond to requests for comment late Thursday. The website is registered in the name of Jurvetson’s former executive assistant and was updated in late March.

Jurvetson’s apparent reemergence onto the venture capital scene is not surprising — he is responsible for two of DFJ’s massive successes, SpaceX and Tesla — and that means he is likely to find a friendly base of investors, perhaps among several prior DFJ limited partners. His departure came amid internal tension at DFJ after the firm caught him lying about what it considered serious allegations, a source familiar with the situation said at the time.

“I am excited to move on and get back to my professional passion, helping great entrepreneurs forge the future,” Jurvetson said in a Facebook post in November shortly after leaving DFJ.

But it is still a quick rebound. Mike Cagney, the former CEO of SoFi, is also back with a new startup, as Recode first reported, after his company battled allegations of sexual harassment. Travis Kalanick, too, has restarted his life after being forced to leave his job.

Jurvetson, for his part, was accused by women of having several extra-marital affairs that, in the eyes of some, crossed into the professional world. No one has publicly emerged to allege him of sexual harassment. He has denied any misconduct.

Since his departure in November, Jurvetson has kept a low profile, though he has been making several speaking appearances on familiar topics, according to his social media pages.

Recode – All

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500 Startups, still recovering from scandal, is giving some control to an Abu Dhabi investment firm

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500 Startups CEO Christine Tsai

It’s the VC firm’s most meaningful governance change since its CEO resigned from the role last year.

The accelerator program 500 Startups was roiled by drama last year after the ouster of its CEO, Dave McClure, under allegations of sexual harassment.

Now 500 Startups is making its most meaningful governance change since McClure resigned from the role last year. In an unusual deal, the firm said it would sell some equity in its parent company, called Mothership, to the Abu Dhabi Financial Group, which will now help manage 500 Startups operations alongside McClure’s successor, Christine Tsai.

Deal terms weren’t disclosed beyond the investment being “significant.” Another sign that it’s not small: ADFG is taking one of the two seats on the board — this is the first time 500 Startups is accepting outside capital into its parent company, it said.

500 Startups does, of course, have investors — or limited partners — in the individual funds that it runs. Those limited partners essentially “buy” an ownership stake in a fund. This is a rare instance in which a limited partner is “buying” a stake in the fund’s parent company, which in this case includes not just the individual funds but also non-deal programming like strategic partnerships and investor education courses.

500 is not a typical venture capital firm. It has a staff of about 100, far bigger than most VC firms, in part to oversee its expansive network of “micro-funds” that invest in specific regions.

ADFG is the latest big-money foreign investor to try and increase its footprint in Silicon Valley startups. Sovereign wealth funds like Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala and Singapore’s Temasek have recently opened offices in San Francisco to help their countries gain better access to young private companies. ADFG hasn’t done as many U.S. tech deals, but has more than $ 6 billion under management.

ADFG is now expected to serve as a large investor in future 500 Startups funds — which should make the eight-year-old accelerator more durable. The accelerator has long thought about taking on cash from an outside investor into its parent company, Tsai told Recode, in order to more aggressively scale its programming.

Tsai said the decision to take on ADFG’s investment was unrelated to the fallout from McClure’s ouster. She said she had been speaking with strategic investors like ADFG about a deal since before the sexual harassment scandal hit the headlines. And she claimed that limited partners remained excited about 500 Startups, and that the deal was not motivated by a need for replacement cash.

“It’s not something that’s a reaction to Dave per se or anything like that,” Tsai said. “We’ve had a lot of support from our LPs.”

Recode – All

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Facebook latest: video issue emerges; firm blocks data brokers; tech workers say they will delete accounts

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Concerns over Facebook’s privacy policies don’t appear to be diminishing. Some users taking advantage of the opportunity to download an archive of all the data Facebook holds in their account are discovering a surprise: it includes videos they shot but never posted …



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Fintech firm launches blockchain platform for legal contracts

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Internet of Agreements: A British fintech start-up is developing blockchain-powered software that is intended to revolutionise the way that small and medium-sized firms conduct legal matters.

Founded by technology entrepreneur Simon Krystman, the Smart Startup Company has launched a new contracts platform, SMRT (Smart Startup Token), powered by blockchain.

Few small businesses have the resources or understanding of blockchain technology to make use of it, said the company. As a result, it has designed SMRT to be a “vending machine for legal documents” that are then secured in the blockchain. 

The solution will eventually be incorporated into a “frictionless trade platform” for startups and SMEs, said the firm. With it, companies will be able to create important legal documents quickly and store them securely.

Users can choose from a wide range of templates covering different contractual areas, including shareholder, intellectual property, finance, and trading agreements.

Smart Startup said it chose to create a blockchain-based platform because the technology makes it “cheaper and easier” to handle sensitive business assets. 

Improving transparency

Krystman explained that blockchain software makes legal arrangements more transparent and more secure. “Established trading marketplaces could benefit enormously from our smart contracts, as buyers and sellers will have automatically enforced agreements to transfer money for goods and services,” he said.

“They also open the way for many new decentralised marketplaces, where the smart contracts are the enforcements of trade. Small businesses would be able to buy bundles of our smart contract templates to facilitate their sell/buy trades.”

He added that the platform will result in the “marriage of legal agreements with blockchain software code, supported by data science and AI”.

The company has published a white paper on the programme.

An expert team

The company is run by a team of business, finance, and legal experts, who also have expertise in areas such as AI, cryptocurrencies, entrepreneurship, business funding, intellectual property, government, and regulation, said the company.

The team is supported by a number of advisors who work across industry, government, and academia, and will be making more hires in the near future. Roles will include software developers, lawyers, and finance advisors.

Dr. Syed Kamall, a Conservative member of the European Parliament, serves as one of the company’s advisors. He said that blockchain solutions can make business and legal processes more trustworthy. 

“The technology offers some very exciting opportunities, but as legislators internationally, we must also make sure that consumers have trust in it. Blockchain and smart contracts will be a game changer for startups,” he said.  

Twelve Ronnies, an organisation that matches entrepreneurs with investors, is one of the the solution’s first adopters.  

Jake Shaw, founder of the company, said: “SMRT is the gateway to the ‘Internet of Agreements’. In the same way that the internet and social media allowed anyone to start up a business from their kitchen table, SMRT will transform the ability of small companies to transact and trade globally.”

Internet of Business says

This year has seen many of the claims made for blockchain technologies subjected to moderation and caution by a range of blockchain experts. Some have said that distributed ledger systems are inappropriate for many enterprise tasks – and even that they need to evolve past the concept of a block and a chain to be be more widely useful in the long term.

However, this would appear to be one of the purest and best-considered use cases, as a means of logging and authenticating legal documents, and enforcing the associated terms: a process that is nowhere near as time-critical as, say, retail banking transactions. We wish this innovative British startup luck.

Here are some of our recent reports that explore both the pros and the cons of blockchain systems.

Read more: IoT 101: How blockchain transforms manufacturing, supply chains

Read more: Blockchain platform for AI bots announces key partners

Read more: IoT firm deploys blockchain to transform pharmaceutical shipments

Read more: Bitcoin blockchain contains porn, say researchers. Not news, say coders

Read more: Blockchain: “not solution to 90 percent of problems”, warns expert

Read more: Blockchain: Lose the block and chain to be useful, Capacilon MD | Q&A

Read more: Opinion: Use blockchain to build a global data commons

Read more: Cryptocurrencies failing claims Bank of England. But is it right?

The post Fintech firm launches blockchain platform for legal contracts appeared first on Internet of Business.

Internet of Business

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Retail IoT: AI firm trials autonomous smartphone checkouts

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American artificial intelligence (AI) firm AVA Retail has successfully completed the first trial of its autonomous checkout system.

The SmoothShop system allows customers to scan and pay for items with their smartphones in retail aisles. On finishing, the amounts owed by shoppers are deducted from their connected accounts with a click.

The technology is targeted at high-street retailers and smaller merchants.

Frictionless shopping

SmoothShop is designed to be a quick and convenient system for both customers and retailers. The checkout doesn’t rely on a third-party app or turnstile – AVA said “shoppers simply enter the store with their phone”.

However, the company explained that it does offer additional software and hardware for stores that want to take extra security precautions. The system is powered by “deep learning, computer vision, and sensor fusion technologies”, added the firm.

The news comes just days after UK supermarket chain Co-Op unveiled its own smartphone-based checkout service to slash queuing times.

AVA announced its frictionless checkout system in August 2016, but didn’t start trialling the technology until September 2017. Since then, it has been testing it in co-working space/start-up community WeWork’s food and beverage kiosks.

AVA has collaborated with Mastercard to bring the latter’s digital payment and security services to AVA’s cashier technology. Mastercard is on a mission to “provide comprehensive solutions for retailers across multiple categories”, explained AVA.

In the UK, the Co-op’s app is also built on Mastercard’s Masterpass secure mobile payments technology.

Stephane Wyper, senior vice president of new commerce partnerships at Mastercard, said the first trial has been a huge success. “Mastercard continues to engage with innovative companies that are developing technologies that can transform the in-store retail experience to make the consumer journey as frictionless as possible.

“This collaboration is a great example of how we can couple our rich set of payment, security, and analytic capabilities with AVA’s retail IoT assets to help retailers deploy unique experiences today,” he said.

Transforming retail

As Wyper suggested, AVA has also developed an analytics solution in partnership with Mastercard, to help retailers gain better insight into their customers’ needs and behaviours.

So far, Mastercard claims to have processed more than 30 million customer journeys, 750 million product interactions, and 20 million checkouts throughout four continents.

Atul Hirpara, chief executive officer of AVA, explained that firm is helping stores accelerate their digital transformation plans and tap into emerging technologies.

“[Retailers are using] IoT sensors to digitally transform physical retail locations, creating digital footprints of in-store shoppers, store associates, and store inventory that was not available before,” he said.

By tapping into IoT data, retailers can “create better shopper experiences, drive staffing efficiency, and higher sales conversion”, he added.

Read more: Retail IoT: Why Vodafone’s digital fitting rooms are a good fit for Mango

Read more: Retail IoT: Shoppers demand AI, VR, and a better fit online

Internet of Business says

Mastercard’s strategy to provide the underlying technology for frictionless shopping is becoming clear, and we can expect more announcements in this space in the months ahead. The tipping point will come when the biggest retailers get onboard with smartphone shopping, with many having already deployed automated self-checkouts.

As we reported in our story on the Co-op’s similar programme, frictionless shopping has become critically important to rising numbers of customers. Many use their smartphones for shopping lists, while others compare goods online along with in-store prices from other retailers in the aisles.

Now both consumers and retailers want in-store shopping to be as swift and hassle-free as ordering goods online, but with the added benefit of bricks rather than clicks: instant access to goods.

The result could be greater loyalty to the brands that deploy these technologies – the Holy Grail for all retailers, especially in the squeezed mid-market – and a more efficiently run business.

However, not all retail environments will be appropriate for the instant gratification approach: it will be a ‘horses for courses’ market, with many shops – particularly in higher-end goods and fashion – differentiating themselves by their quality of personal service, as well as their goods.

In the UK, the Co-op has said that it has seen the use of cash in its food stores diminish rapidly as alternative payment methods have become more popular. Cash transactions have fallen by more than one fifth over the last five years, and by 15 percent in the past 18 months alone, it said.

Doubtless competitors will be watching to see how secure this new system is, what the impacts are on shopper numbers, supply chain/ordering processes, and the bottom line – and whether the system is used or abused.

The post Retail IoT: AI firm trials autonomous smartphone checkouts appeared first on Internet of Business.

Internet of Business

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E-commerce firm Shopify now supports Google Pay

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Canadian e-commerce giant Shopify announced today that its payments platform, Shopify Payments, now allows payments made using Google Pay. According to its website, Shopify is used by more than 600,000 businesses worldwide. Among those businesses are familiar names like Penny Arcade and PooPouri.

It’s worth noting that while 600,000 is certainly an impressive figure, not all payments made to Shopify merchants use Shopify Payments. Google Pay also isn’t enabled by default—merchants have to opt-in.

Read More

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Facebook hires digital forensics firm to audit Cambridge Analytica

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Days ago, Facebook suspended the parent company of political analysis firm Cambridge Analytica after news broke that it allegedly harvested personal data from some 50 million users. While the social network reportedly tried to sue The Guardian before…
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Facebook will audit Cambridge Analytica to see what Facebook user data the firm still has

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Facebook has hired Stroz Friedberg, a digital forensics firm focused on cybersecurity, to run the audit.

Facebook has hired an outside auditing firm to figure out if Cambridge Analytica, the analytics firm used by President Donald Trump during the 2016 election, still has Facebook user data it promised to destroy back in 2015.

The audit, which Facebook says Cambridge Analytica will comply with, is the latest move to stem a controversy that erupted over the weekend.

The gist: The social giant suspended Cambridge Analytica from Facebook on Friday, claiming it was suddenly unsure if the firm had deleted data for millions of Facebook users it had obtained in 2015 in a way that violated Facebook’s terms of service. Cambridge Analytica told Facebook the data was deleted at the time — and still maintains that it was — but reports in both The New York Times and The Observer on Saturday found otherwise.

Now Facebook is actually taking action to determine if user data for roughly 50 million people still exists. The company has hired Stroz Friedberg, a digital forensics firm focused on cybersecurity, to run the audit.

“If this data still exists, it would be a grave violation of Facebook’s policies and an unacceptable violation of trust and the commitments these groups made,” Facebook wrote in a blog post Monday. “We are moving aggressively to determine the accuracy of these claims.”

Regardless of what Facebook finds, there are still issues with its data policies. Many third party developers have access to Facebook user data through the company’s APIs, and it is only after these developers knowingly break the rules that Facebook can punish them. While an audit will hopefully help clear up the situation with Cambridge Analytica, it doesn’t mean that other developers aren’t abusing Facebook’s systems in the same way.

Facebook says it takes pains to ensure developers who use its APIs do so appropriately, but as the Cambridge Analytica story shows, companies with negative intentions can still find ways around the policies.

“We also want to be clear that today when developers create apps that ask for certain information from people, we conduct a robust review to identify potential policy violations and to assess whether the app has a legitimate use for the data,” Facebook’s post continues. “We actually reject a significant number of apps through this process.”

Recode – All

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AR firm Avegant cuts half its workforce and picks new CEO

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Avegant has drawn a lot of attention in the wearable world between its Glyph personal screen and its light-field augmented reality headset, but it's facing uncertain times. The Verge has learned that the startup cut more than half of its workforce (i…
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