The Stanford connections behind Latin America’s multi-billion dollar startup renaissance

The houses along the tree-lined blocks of Josina Avenue in Palo Alto, with their big back yards, swimming pools and driveways are about as far removed from the snarls of traffic, sputtering diesel engines, and smoggy air of South America’s major metropolises as one can get.

But it was in one of those houses, about a twelve-minute bicycle ride from Stanford University, that the seed was planted for what has become a renaissance in technology entrepreneurship in Latin America.

Back in 2010, when Adeyemi Ajao, Carlo Dapuzzo, and Juan de Antonio were students at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business they could not predict that they would be counted among the vanguard of investors and entrepreneurs transforming Latin America’s startup economy.

At the time, Ajao was negotiating the sale of his first business, the Spanish social networking company, Tuenti, to Telefonica (in what would be a $100 million exit). Carlo Dapuzzo was in Palo Alto taking a break from his job at Monashees, which at that time was a small, early-stage investment fund based in Brazil focused on investing in Latin America. Juan de Antonio had left a job as a consultant at BCG to attend Stanford’s business school on a Fulbright scholarship.

In just two years, Ajao would be a founding investor in de Antonio’s ride-hailing business, Cabify, focused on Latin America and Europe; and Dapuzzo would be seeding the ride-hailing service 99Taxis. Today, Cabify is worth over $1 billion and has focused its business primarily on Latin America while 99 was sold to the Chinese ride-hailing company Didi for $1 billion — making it one of the largest deals in Latin America’s young startup history.

The three men are now at the center of a vast web of startups whose intersection can, in many cases, be traced back to the house on Josina Avenue where Dapuzzo and de Antonio lived and where Ajao spent much of his free time.

“It’s the same dynamics as the PayPal Mafia,” says Ajao. “The new unicorn batches which started in Colombia, Mexico, and Brazil. Although they’re all trans-national, they all know each other and literally they are all friends and all co-investors in each other’s companies and they all have links to Silicon Valley… and… more importantly… to Stanford.”

Carlo Dapuzzo, Adeyemi Ajao, and Juan de Antonio at Stanford University

Stalled Economic Engines

If Ajao’s enthusiasm sounds familiar, that’s because it is. There was another wave of interest in Latin America that started surging nearly a decade ago, but crashed nearly five years into what was supposed to be the time of the region’s explosive growth in the global scene.

Back in 2008, as the U.S. was sliding into recession, global economists cast about for countries whose economic might could potentially provide some antidote to the toxic assets that were poisoning the global financial system in America and Western Europe. It was then that the concept coined by a Goldman Sachs economist back in 2001 (in the aftermath of another financial shock) baked Brazil, Russia, India and China into a BRIC — a group of nations that, as a bloc, could create enough growth to keep the global economy moving upwards.

All of them were growing at a rapid clip, albeit at different speeds and from different starting trajectories. But they were still all humming. Investment — from large financial institutions, private equity and venture capital firms — all began flowing into the four countries.

In Brazil and across Latin America, companies from the U.S. began to cast their eyes South for growth. That’s when Groupon began to make inroads into the region. When Groupon acquired the Chilean company ClanDescuento, it served as a starting gun for activity across multiple geographies.

Two years after that acquisition by Groupon, Redpoint’s Brazilian investment vehicle, Redpoint eVentures was able to close on a $130 million fund for Brazilian and Latin American investments in just under four months. While Brazil held the bulk of the capital, many of the largest startup companies were being launched out of Buenos Aires in Argentina.

Globant, Despegar, MercadoLibre, and OLX were all lucrative deals for the investors who made them. Today, they remain solid companies, but they didn’t create the ecosystem that both local investors and entrepreneurs were hoping for. Brazil’s Peixe Urbano was also a rising star at the time, but it too wound up selling, in its case to Chinese internet Baidu. Indeed, the Peixe Urbano funding gave investors like Benchmark’s Matt Cohler their first exposure to the region.

A 2012 default on Argentinian debt derailed the economy and Brazil’s economy began seizing up at around the same time. Then, in 2014, Brazil was hit by both an economic and political collapse that shook the country’s stability and ushered in a two-year-long recession.

Ultimately, the Brazilian component of the BRIC miracle, that would have potentially ushered in a brighter future for the broader region, didn’t materialize.

The next starting gun

Ajao began investing in Latin America as an angel investor during the beginnings of the downturn in Brazil and when Argentina was also seizing up. It’s also when Dapuzzo made the initial bet on 99Taxis — bringing Ajao in as an investor — and Cabify launched, eventually bringing its service to Mexico and seeing huge growth in the Latin American market.

500 Startups expanded to Mexico around the same period, in what turned out to be a prescient move. Because even as the broader economies were slowing, technology adoption — fueled by rising smartphone sales and new internet-enabled mobile services — was speeding up.

Groupon’s push into the region taught a new consumer market about the pleasures of venture-backed e-commerce, but it was ride-hailing that truly paved the way for Latin America’s future success. Many factors played a role, from the rise of smartphones to the stabilization and growth of economies in the region outside of Argentina and Brazil and the return of a generation of founders who gained exposure and experience in Silicon Valley.

Here again, the house on Josina Street and the friends that were made over the course of the two-year grad school program at Stanford would play a critical role.

“99 was the second start and this new generation of founders,” said one investor with a deep knowledge of the region.

A taxi driver uses the 99 taxi app for smartphones in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on October 11, 2018. (Photo via Nelson Almeida/AFP/Getty Images)

A herd of unicorns

Ajao also sees 99 as ground zero for the network that has spawned a unicorn stampede in Latin America. It’s a group of companies that covers everything from financial services, mobility and logistics, food delivery and even pet care.

In some ways it’s an extension and culmination of the American on-demand thesis, with allowances for the unique characteristics of the region’s varied economies and cultural experience, investors and entrepreneurs said.

“In my mind 99 had a lot to do with what is happening right now with the current PayPal mafia [of Latin America] because they became the first big new exit on the continent,” Ajao says.

Entrepreneurs from 99 spun out to form Yellow, a dockless scooter and bike-sharing company that was initially backed by Monashees, Grishin Robotics and Base10 Ventures — the venture firm that Ajao co-founded and which closed a $137 million venture fund just nine months ago.

Monashees and Base10 also co-invested in Grin, a Mexico City-based dockless scooter company. Together the two companies managed to raise over $100 million before merging into one company earlier this. That deal ultimately provided a challenger to the automotive-based ride-sharing businesses that were beginning to encroach on the scooter business.

The growth of 99Taxis and the rise of startups in Latin America ultimately convinced David Velez, a former venture investor with Sequoia Capital to return to Brazil and try his hand at entrepreneurship as well. A year behind Ajao, de Antonio and Dapuzzo at Stanford, Velez was also friendly with the group.

Velez worked at Sequoia Capital and saw the opportunity that Latin America presented as an investment environment. After starting Sequoia Capital Latin America he transitioned into an entrepreneurial role and became the co-founder of Nubank, which would be Sequoia’s first Latin America investment. Now a $4 billion financial technology powerhouse, the Nubank deal was yet another proof point that the Latin American market had come of age — and another branch on a tree that has its roots in Stanford’s business school and the Silicon Valley venture community.

The final piece of this intersecting web of investments and relationships is Rappi — the Colombian delivery service business that was also backed by Monazhees and Base10. The first company from Latin America to enter YCombinator and the first investment from the new Silicon Valley power player, Andreessen Horowitz, Rappi epitomizes the new generation of Latin American startups.

“The way we think about this part of the world is as a massive market with 700 million people living on the continent and really dense cities,” says Rappi co-founder and president, Sebastian Mejia. “And it’s a region where the tech stack hasn’t been built, which gives you an opportunity to solve problems and create digital champions that look more similar to China than the U.S.”

Mejia epitomizes what Ajao calls a new breed of startup entrepreneur that doesn’t necessarily look to other markets for inspiration or business models, but solves local problems for a local customer, rather than a global one.

“Being local was more of a competitive advantage than a disadvantage and we can solve problems in a better way than a Silicon Valley company or a Chinese company could,” says Mejia. “What we’re starting to see now is that those changes in perspective allow us to build bigger companies.”

In all, Monashees and Base10 have invested in companies operating in Latin America that have a combined valuation of over $6 billion between them. Through the extended network of Stanford connections and the startups that Velez has brought to the table that number is higher than $10 billion.

A bicycle courier working for Colombian online delivery company “Rappi”, rides his bike in Bogota, on October 11, 2018. (Photo via John Vizcaino/AFP/Getty Images)

The next $10 billion

If the Latin American market was once overlooked by venture investors like Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, Benchmark or Accel, that’s certainly no longer the case.

Funds are pouring into the region at an unprecedented clip, driven by SoftBank and its interest on the continent following its commitment to launching a new $2 billion fund in the region and its subsequent $1 billion investment in Rappi.

“Latin America is on the cusp of becoming one of the most important economic regions in the world, and we anticipate significant growth in the decades ahead,” said Masayoshi Son, chairman and CEO of SBG, in a statement when SoftBank launched its fund.

“SBG plans to invest in entrepreneurs throughout Latin America and use technology to help address the challenges faced by many emerging economies with the goal of improving the lives of millions of Latin Americans,” he added.

Son is likely thinking about the 375 million internet users in Latin America and the 250 million smartphone users across the region. It’s also worth noting that retail e-commerce has been a huge driver of economic growth despite other economic obstacles. The region’s e-commerce has grown to $54 billion in 2018 up from $29.8 billion in 2015.

Even more critically, there are some key areas where innovation and new services are still sorely needed. Access to transportation isn’t great for the roughly 79% of the 700 million people across South America who live in cities. Then there are 400 million people across Latin America who are either unbanked or underbanked. Healthcare is another area where a lack of investment to date could create potential opportunities for new startups.

More generally, poor infrastructure remains a significant problem that companies like Rappi and another SoftBank investment, Loggi, are looking to make inroads into.

“Latin America was for many years, underinvested,” says de Antonio, whose Cabify business has managed to score a valuation of over $1 billion largely based on the opportunities ahead of it in the Latin American market. “You will see a bit more money to catch up. The market is big… and potentially huge… I’m a big believer that it’s a good moment now to invest.”

For de Antonio, Cabify, Rappi, and other startups are only now hitting their stride. In the future, they stand to enable a host of other opportunities, he believes.

“The entrepreneurial mindset is really ingrained in Latin America… the difference is maybe there wasn’t an ecosystem to help these ideas to scale.. .there are huge fortunes in the region but they typically… they have a lot of their assets invested in the region… but they need to diversify,” said de Antonio. “Until recently there hasn’t been an active funding market for all of these startups.”

For de Antonio and Ajao, one of the critical lessons that they learned from their time at Stanford and being exposed to the broader Silicon Valley ecosystem was the notion of collaboration.

“This is something we learned from San Francisco,” de Antonio said. “The way companies help each other is something that we haven’t seen people do before. And usually when you are a young company this can be the difference between being successful or a failure.

Zynga launches battle royale game as a Snap Games exclusive

Zynga the casual games developer which once rode Facebook’s platform to popularity and riches is now turning its attention to Snap for growth.

Today, the gaming company is launching its new battle royale game, Tiny Royale, exclusively on Snap’s gaming platform, Snap Games.

A multiplayer shooting game first announced as part of the big unveiling of Snap Games in April, Tiny Royale’s likely aim is to bring the popular game format that has made Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds so successful to the Snap platform.

In the game, players can choose custom characters and form squads with friends or battle alone for quick two-minute rounds to gather loot and shoot their way to victory.

Up to 30 players can battle at a time in terms of up to four. The gameplay is much the same as the other battle royale games with maps shrinking in size until only one player, or team, remains, the company said.

“We are thrilled to be one of the first companies to launch a gaming experience on Snapchat,” said Bernard Kim, president of Publishing at Zynga, in a statement. “Game developers rarely get the opportunity to create an entirely new experience on an emerging platform so our team was excited to remix the battle royale genre into a fast-paced game designed to rock on Snap Games.”

Built on the PlayCanvas game engine, Snap Games features a selection of third party titles. Players can access Tiny Royale through the Snapchat messaging feature and use text and voice-based features during game play. Later the summer, Zynga will offer a ranked matchmaking feature called Tiny Royale Leagues, which will place competitors in groups of 100, broken out into 20 tiers. Players can battle to climb up in tier ranks earning trophies and rewards based on their performance.

Snap launched in April with six announced titles including Tiny Royale and:

  • Bitmoji Party, you can play as yourself in a series of quick, wacky mini-games.
  • Snake Squad from Game Closure, you and your squad work together to be the last ones standing!
  • C.A.T.S. Drift Race from ZeptoLab, you’ll drift around the track and speed past friends for the win!
  • Zombie Rescue Squad from PikPok, your squad will rescue survivors in a zombie-infested city.
  • Alphabear Hustle from Spry Fox, you’ll collaborate to form words — fast! — to build your village.

“Snap Games is all about exploring new ways for friends to play together and Tiny Royale™ is the perfect example of that,” said Will Wu, Snap’s Head of Snap Games. “We jumped at the chance to have a global leader in mobile games like Zynga develop for our platform, and we can’t wait to see what our community thinks about this new way to connect with each other.”

Getsafe, the German insurance app, scores $17M Series A

Getsafe, the German insurance startup targeting millennials, has raised $17 million (€15m) in a Series A funding.

The round is led by Earlybird, with CommerzVentures and other existing investors also participating, while the capital will be used for European expansion. Notably, the company plans to launch in the U.K. by the end of the year.

Founded in May 2015 by Christian Wiens (CEO) and Marius Blaesing (CTO), Getsafe initially launched as a digital insurance broker but has since pivoted to a direct to digital consumer insurance offering of its own (its brokerage business was sold to Verivox).

The startup claims it is the market leader in the digital-first 20 to 35-year-old segment, with 60,000 customers, although competitors such as Wefox’s One may disagree.

Getsafe customers can take out renters insurance and liability insurance. The latter includes bike and drone coverage, with additional products to be added soon.

More broadly, Getsafe says it is “reinventing insurance”. The insurtech startup, based in Heidelberg, says its tech uses AI to help customers identify the insurance protection they might need. “With a few clicks, customers can learn about, buy, and manage insurance on their smartphone,” says the company. Claims can be done entirely digitally, too, via the Getsafe app and chatbot.

As part of the investment, Getsafe plans to grow its team from the current 50 employees to more than 100. The recruitment drive will span customer care, software development and data science. The startup also plans to raise further funds over next twelve months.

AntiToxin sells safetytech to clean up poisoned platforms

The big social networks and video games have failed to prioritize user well-being over their own growth. As a result, society is losing the battle against bullying, predators, hate speech, misinformation and scammers. Typically when a whole class of tech companies have a dire problem they can’t cost-effectively solve themselves, a software-as-a-service emerges to fill the gap in web hosting, payment processing, etc. So along comes AntiToxin Technologies, a new Israeli startup that wants to help web giants fix their abuse troubles with its safety-as-a-service.

It all started on Minecraft. AntiToxin co-founder Ron Porat is cybersecurity expert who’d started popular ad blocker Shine. Yet right under his nose, one of his kids was being mercilessly bullied on the hit children’s game. If even those most internet-savvy parents were being surprised by online abuse, Porat realized the issue was bigger than could be addressed by victims trying to protect themselves. The platforms had to do more, research confirmed.

A recent Ofcom study found almost 80% of children had a potentially harmful online experience in the past year. Indeed, 23% said they’d been cyberbullied, and 28% of 12 to 15-year-olds said they’d received unwelcome friend or follow requests from strangers. A Ditch The Label study found of 12 to 20-year-olds who’d been bullied online, 42% were bullied on Instagram.

Unfortunately, the massive scale of the threat combined with a late start on policing by top apps makes progress tough without tremendous spending. Facebook tripled the headcount of its content moderation and security team, taking a noticeable hit to its profits, yet toxicity persists. Other mainstays like YouTube and Twitter have yet to make concrete commitments to safety spending or staffing, and the result is non-stop scandals of child exploitation and targeted harassment. Smaller companies like Snap or Fortnite-maker Epic Games may not have the money to develop sufficient safeguards in-house.

“The tech giants have proven time and time again we can’t rely on them. They’ve abdicated their responsibility. Parents need to realize this problem won’t be solved by these companies” says AntiToxin CEO Zohar Levkovitz, who previously sold his mobile ad company Amobee to Singtel for $321 million. “You need new players, new thinking, new technology. A company where ‘Safety’ is the product, not an after-thought. And that’s where we come-in.” The startup recently raised a multimillion-dollar seed round from Mangrove Capital Partners and is allegedly prepping for a double-digit millions Series A.

AntiToxin’s technology plugs into the backends of apps with social communities that either broadcast or message with each other and are thereby exposed to abuse. AntiToxin’s systems privately and securely crunch all the available signals regarding user behavior and policy violation reports, from text to videos to blocking. It then can flag a wide range of toxic actions and let the client decide whether to delete the activity, suspend the user responsible or how else to proceed based on their terms and local laws.

Through the use of artificial intelligence, including natural language processing, machine learning and computer vision, AntiToxin can identify the intent of behavior to determine if it’s malicious. For example, the company tells me it can distinguish between a married couple consensually exchanging nude photos on a messaging app versus an adult sending inappropriate imagery to a child. It also can determine if two teens are swearing at each other playfully as they compete in a video game or if one is verbally harassing the other. The company says that beats using static dictionary blacklists of forbidden words.

AntiToxin is under NDA, so it can’t reveal its client list, but claims recent media attention and looming regulation regarding online abuse has ramped up inbound interest. Eventually the company hopes to build better predictive software to identify users who’ve shown signs of increasingly worrisome behavior so their activity can be more closely moderated before they lash out. And it’s trying to build a “safety graph” that will help it identify bad actors across services so they can be broadly deplatformed similar to the way Facebook uses data on Instagram abuse to police connected WhatsApp accounts.

“We’re approaching this very human problem like a cybersecurity company, that is, everything is a Zero-Day for us” says Levkowitz, discussing how AntiToxin indexes new patterns of abuse it can then search for across its clients. “We’ve got intelligence unit alums, PhDs and data scientists creating anti-toxicity detection algorithms that the world is yearning for.” AntiToxin is already having an impact. TechCrunch commissioned it to investigate a tip about child sexual imagery on Microsoft’s Bing search engine. We discovered Bing was actually recommending child abuse image results to people who’d conducted innocent searches, leading Bing to make changes to clean up its act.

AntiToxin identified publicly listed WhatsApp Groups where child sexual abuse imagery was exchanged

One major threat to AntiToxin’s business is what’s often seen as boosting online safety: end-to-end encryption. AntiToxin claims that when companies like Facebook expand encryption, they’re purposefully hiding problematic content from themselves so they don’t have to police it.

Facebook claims it still can use metadata about connections on its already encrypted WhatApp network to suspend those who violate its policy. But AntiToxin provided research to TechCrunch for an investigation that found child sexual abuse imagery sharing groups were openly accessible and discoverable on WhatsApp — in part because encryption made them hard to hunt down for WhatsApp’s automated systems.

AntiToxin believes abuse would proliferate if encryption becomes a wider trend, and it claims the harm that it  causes outweighs fears about companies or governments surveiling unencrypted transmissions. It’s a tough call. Political dissidents, whistleblowers and perhaps the whole concept of civil liberty rely on encryption. But parents may see sex offenders and bullies as a more dire concern that’s reinforced by platforms having no idea what people are saying inside chat threads.

What seems clear is that the status quo has got to go. Shaming, exclusion, sexism, grooming, impersonation and threats of violence have started to feel commonplace. A culture of cruelty breeds more cruelty. Tech’s success stories are being marred by horror stories from their users. Paying to pick up new weapons in the fight against toxicity seems like a reasonable investment to demand.

Apple looks to recharge its broader app ecosystem at WWDC 2019

Developer tools don’t tend to make headlines outside the tech ecosystem. But the developer tools announced at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference this week could have a significant impact on both the number of apps and, potentially, the quality of apps available to consumers across Apple’s numerous platforms — including all those that aren’t iPhone — like macOS, watchOS, tvOS and now iPadOS.

One thing in particular developers can’t stop talking about on the sidelines of the event this week is SwiftUI.

Five years ago, Apple moved to make development easier with the launch of its Swift programming language. At WWDC this week, it expanded on that vision with the launch of a new user interface framework, called SwiftUI. The framework, built from the ground up, is designed to help developers build a full-featured user interface with smooth animations using simple, declarative code.

For developers, this means they can save a lot of time by way of SwiftUI’s automatic functionality when it comes to designing apps that are both well-designed and less buggy. Or, as Apple explained to developers, “it’s not just less code, it’s better code.”

Its simplicity is meant to eliminate entire categories of errors that could otherwise crop up; its code is easy to read — like having someone explain a user interface to you; and it lets developers reuse more code across platforms.

It also allows for iteration to become much faster. If a developer later wants to change a part of their app’s user interface, it’s a much quicker, easier change.

SwiftUI’s framework helps with interface layout, adapting apps for iOS 13’s new Dark Mode, accessibility, right-to-left language support and internationalization, among other things. Just as important, SwiftUI can be used across Apple’s app ecosystem by way of the same API built into iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS.

That could kickstart cross-platform development from those publishers who previously focused only on iOS, if they were to adopt the new framework in their existing apps.

To what extent they will do so depends on their app’s specifics, but SwiftUI will appeal to new developers as well as novices looking to get started for the first time.

The SwiftUI news comes alongside a new version of Xcode — Xcode 11 — that now includes a graphical UI design tool that will allow developers to build a user interface via SwiftUI, without having to write code.

The Swift code is automatically generated as changes to the UI are made within the visual design tool. Developers can then see real-time previews of how their apps will look and how they work by running them on connected devices like iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple Watch and Apple TV.

This allows them to test how their code works with each platform, ranging from how the app responds to multi-touch or how it works with the camera or other sensors during the development process itself.

Watch apps

For watchOS, SwiftUI solves the problems around the complexities of building animations and effects for Watch apps — something that limited some developers from focusing on Watch as an app platform.

The framework will support building Watch apps with features like swipe to delete, reordering list items, carousel sliding and direct access to the digital crown.

The Watch is also getting its own on-device App Store and standalone apps that can be installed even without an iOS counterpart. (Or even an iPhone.)

With standalone apps, developers can break off their Watch app from iOS and even specify the Watch as a standalone push target — meaning they can send notifications only to the Watch, not all the user’s platforms.

Watch apps will also be able to support CloudKit subscriptions and complication pushes to keep users up to date. And because Watch apps can now target users who aren’t using the iPhone version of the app, they can also offer text fields where users can enter a username and password to sign up for an app from their wrist or they can use the Sign in with Apple button, also newly announced (and even required, in some cases.)

Watch apps can also now stream audio, which paves the way for a different kind of app than what was previously possible. It’s not hard to imagine — as demoed — an app that streams live sports or music from an internet-based streaming service like Pandora.

In addition, a new extended runtime for watchOS could prompt the development of another kind of Watch app that still runs even after the user lowers their wrist.

For example, apps focused on self-care, mindfulness, physical therapy, smart alarms or health monitoring could take advantage of this to create new experiences aimed at Watch users.

The original version of the Watch app ecosystem was slowed not only because of the complexity of building apps, but the constraints placed on developers that didn’t allow them to target the wrist in certain ways. Instead of thinking what makes sense on the wrist — apps that use sensors or stream audio, for example — developers made more basic ports of existing iOS apps.

Not surprisingly, many of those failed and were later removed. This is Apple’s attempt to give the Watch app ecosystem a second go.

macOS apps

For the Mac, new developer tools announced at WWDC will help iOS developers reach Mac’s 100 million active users. 

Apple said it realized that a number of native iPad apps would look great on the Mac, but developers didn’t have the time to use AppKit to port apps over. So this year, it introduced technology that would allow developers to take an iPadOS app and bring it to Mac with “minimal” effort.

It spoke of the current ecosystem of more than a million iPad apps, many of which it believes would make sense on the Mac, too.

As part of this effort, Apple ported 40 frameworks from iOS to Mac, and almost the entire iOS API set with only a few exceptions. This was achieved by adapting UIKit as a native framework and integrating it directly into macOS with the new release, macOS Catalina, Apple said.

In addition, Apple made porting an iPad app to Mac a three-step process.

And the first step is literally checking a box in Xcode’s project editor that says “Mac.”

In Xcode, when you make a change to your source, all your apps will update automatically — including those on iOS/iPadOS and Mac.

Developers were told they need a great iPad app that supports best practices to begin with, and then should customize it for Mac by adding Mac-specific features like Full Menus, Toolbars, Hover events, Touch Bar and more, where appropriate.

It’s not literally a checkbox to make a great Mac app, but it is much less work.

The question, however, remains about how much Apple will enforce the “great” iPad app requirements. It says developers should adopt iPad best practices, like supporting external keyboards or leveraging other key technologies, like Metal, for optimal results.

However, if Apple really just wants to flesh out its Mac App Store with more apps — and more revenue-generating apps — it may not insist on this level of great iPad design.

The company already tested this process with a dozen developers before WWDC, including American Airlines, Crew, DC Universe, Post It, Twitter, Tripit, Fender, Asphalt 9, Jira and others.

iPadOS

Meanwhile, iOS running on the iPad got its own rebrand with the introduction of iPadOS.

The iPad has been powered by iOS since launch, but over time it developed its own set of specific features designed for the larger canvas, like slideover, split view, drag-and-drop and support for Apple Pencil, for example.

For starters, iPadOS will have a tighter grid of homescreen icons, which means there’s more room for developers’ apps. And app widgets can now be pinned to the homescreen, which is another way that iPad apps get to take up space… and users’ attention.

But where iPad excels is in becoming an alternative to a notebook computer for productivity, and in the creative arts, such as sketching and digital art, for example.

For productivity app developers, iPadOS’s new ability to pop out separate windows of an app — more like a “real” computer — will be useful, as will the addition of App Exposé, and new gestures like the three-finger copy, cut, paste and undo gestures.

In terms of developer-specific tools, a new PencilKit API will allow third-party apps to have the same access to Apple’s newly redesigned Pencil tools.

However, what may actually spur more iPad app development could be the ease of porting an iPad app to the Mac. In other words, developers may be motivated to really flesh out their iPad app because they know that work can be replicated over to Mac with less work than before.

tvOS

Apple’s tvOS for Apple TV received less attention given the focus on SwiftUI and porting iPad apps to Mac — and because Apple just held an event where its ambitions around Apple TV and its streaming service, Apple TV+ were a key focus.

That said, SwiftUI will come into play here, as it will allow for reusing code with tvOS apps as well.

AR & ML

Beyond just prompting development by making the process simpler, Apple this week unveiled several other developer technologies, including an updated version of its ARKit (ARKit 3) that will allow for better AR apps that allow for motion capture, and the ability to identify people in the frame so they can move behind and in front of AR objects, and more.

Apple’s Core ML 3 lets developers build, train and deploy machine learning in their apps, even if they’re not ML experts.

These and other improvements to key technologies, like Metal and CreateML, will help developers working in these areas build better-quality apps.

But there’s perhaps more excitement and interest around how Apple is now leveraging its most popular app platform, iOS, to recharge its entire app ecosystem. With the tools it announced this week, Apple aims to streamline and simplify development and design, get more people coding and encourage its app developer community to think beyond the iPhone.

How Kubernetes came to rule the world

Open source has become the de facto standard for building the software that underpins the complex infrastructure that runs everything from your favorite mobile apps to your company’s barely usable expense tool. Over the course of the last few years, a lot of new software is being deployed on top of Kubernetes, the tool for managing large server clusters running containers that Google open-sourced five years ago.

Today, Kubernetes is the fastest growing open-source project, and earlier this month, the bi-annual KubeCon+CloudNativeCon conference attracted almost 8,000 developers to sunny Barcelona, Spain, making the event the largest open-source conference in Europe yet.

To talk about how Kubernetes came to be, I sat down with Craig McLuckie, one of the co-founders of Kubernetes at Google (who then went on to his own startup, Heptio, which he sold to VMware); Tim Hockin, another Googler who was an early member on the project and was also on Google’s Borg team; and Gabe Monroy, who co-founded Deis, one of the first successful Kubernetes startups, and then sold it to Microsoft, where he is now the lead PM for Azure Container Compute (and often the public face of Microsoft’s efforts in this area).

Google’s cloud and the rise of containers

To set the stage a bit, it’s worth remembering where Google Cloud and container management were five years ago.

With antitrust investigations looming, Apple reverses course on bans of parental control apps

With congressional probes and greater scrutiny from federal regulators on the horizon, Apple has abruptly reversed course on its bans of parental control apps available in its app store.

As reported by The New York Times, Apple quietly updated its App Store guidelines to reverse its decision to ban certain parental control apps.

The battle between Apple and certain app developers dates back to last year when the iPhone maker first put companies on notice that it would cut their access to the app store if they didn’t make changes to their monitoring technologies.

The heart of the issue is the use of mobile device management (MDM) technologies in the parental control apps that Apple has removed from the App Store, Apple said in a statement earlier this year.

These device management tools give to a third party control and access over a device’s user location, app use, email accounts, camera permissions and browsing history.

“We started exploring this use of MDM by non-enterprise developers back in early 2017 and updated our guidelines based on that work in mid-2017,” the company said.

Apple acknowledged that the technology has legitimate uses in the context of businesses looking to monitor and manage corporate devices to control proprietary data and hardware, but, the company said, it is “a clear violation of App Store policies — for a private, consumer-focused app business to install MDM control over a customer’s device.”

Last month, developers of these parental monitoring tools banded together to offer a solution. In a joint statement issued by app developers including OurPact, Screen Time, Kidslox, Qustodio, Boomerang, Safe Lagoon and FamilyOrbit, the companies said simply, “Apple should release a public API granting developers access to the same functionalities that Apple’s native ‘Screen Time’ uses.”

By providing access to its Screen Time app, Apple would obviate the need for the kind of controls that developers had put in place to work around Apple’s restrictions.

“The API proposal presented here outlines the functionality required to develop effective screen time management tools. It was developed by a group of leading parental control providers,” the companies said. “It allows developers to create apps that go beyond iOS Screen Time functionality, to address parental concerns about social media use, child privacy, effective content filtering across all browsers and apps and more. This encourages developer innovation and helps Apple to back up their claim that ‘competition makes everything better and results in the best apps for our customers.’ ”

Now, Apple has changed its guidelines to indicate that apps using MDM “must request the mobile device management capability, and may only be offered by commercial enterprises, such as business organizations, educational institutions, or government agencies, and, in limited cases, companies utilizing MDM for parental controls. MDM apps may not sell, use, or disclose to third parties any data for any purpose, and must commit to this in their privacy policy.”

Essentially it just reverses the company’s policy without granting access to Screen Time, as the consortium of companies have suggested.

“It’s been a hellish roller coaster,” Dustin Dailey, a senior product manager at OurPact, told The New York Times. OurPact had been the top parental control app in the App Store before it was pulled in February. The company estimated that Apple’s move cost it around $3 million, a spokeswoman told the Times.

Daily Crunch: Everything Apple announced at WWDC

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

1. Here’s everything Apple just announced at the 2019 WWDC Keynote

The keynote was an epic two-and-a-half hours long, but unlike TC’s editorial staff, you don’t have to sit through the whole thing — we’ve got a comprehensive rundown for you right here.

The announcements include a dark mode in iOS 13, an iPad-specific version of iOS and the end of iTunes (which is being split into Apple Music, Apple Podcasts and Apple TV).

2. Apple is now the privacy-as-a-service company

In addition to the announcements mentioned above, Apple also unveiled a unified ID platform, illustrating how the company’s approach to privacy will mesh with its ongoing transformation into a services company.

3. Fitness startup Mirror nears $300M valuation with fresh funding

Mirror, a startup selling $1,495 full-length mirrors that double as interactive home gyms, is closing in on a round of funding expected to reach $36 million.

4. Bird is launching a two-seater electric vehicle to become more than a kick scooter startup

The Bird Cruiser can seat up to two people and, depending on the market, it will either be pedal-assist or just have a peg. This marks Bird’s first move outside of the kick scooter space.

5. Spotify launches its lightweight listening app Stations in the US

The app has been considered an experiment by Spotify — and by some, a Pandora copycat, due to its support for instant music playback at launch.

6. Tinder adds sexual orientation and gender identity to its profiles

The company worked with the LGBTQ advocacy organization GLAAD on changes to its dating app to make it more inclusive.

7. Is your event strategy paying off? How to calculate your event ROI

The standard KPIs rarely provide a meaningful benchmark to determine if an event is successful, or to tell what worked and what didn’t. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

Alphabet, Apple, Amazon and Facebook are in the crosshairs of the FTC and DOJ

A new deal between the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission will see U.S. regulators divide and conquer as they expand their oversight of Apple, Alphabet, Amazon and Facebook, according to multiple reports.

New details have emerged of an agreement between the two U.S. regulators that would see the Federal Trade Commission take the reins in antitrust investigations of Amazon and Facebook, while the Department of Justice will oversee investigations of Alphabet’s Google business and Apple.

Shares of Apple’s stock tumbled on news of the Justice Department’s role in overseeing the company, which was first reported by Reuters even as the company was in the middle of its developer conference celebrating all things Apple.

Google has been here before. Eight years ago, the Federal Trade Commission began an investigation into Google for antitrust violations, ultimately determining that the company had not violated any antitrust or anti-competitive statutes in its display of search results.

On Friday, The Washington Post reported that the Justice Department was initiating a federal antitrust investigation into Google’s business practices, according to multiple sources.

That report was followed by additional reporting from The Wall Street Journal indicating that Facebook would be investigated by the Federal Trade Commission.

The last time that technology companies faced this kind of scrutiny was Google’s antitrust investigation, or the now twenty-one year old lawsuit brought by the Justice Department and multiple states against Microsoft.

But times have changed since Google had its hearing before a much friendlier audience of regulators under President Barack Obama .

These days, Republican and Democratic lawmakers are both making the case that big technology companies hold too much power in American political and economic life.

Issues around personal privacy, economic consolidation, misinformation and free speech are on the minds of both Republican and Democratic lawmakers. Candidates vying for the Democratic nomination in next years Presidential election have made investigations into the breakup of big technology companies central components of their policy platforms.

Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers and agencies began stepping up their rhetoric and planning for how to oversee these companies beginning last September, when the Justice Department brought a group of the nation’s top prosecutors together to discuss technology companies’ growing power.

News of the increasing government activity sent technology stocks plummeting. Amazon shares were down $96 per-share to $1,680.05 — an over 5% drop on the day. Shares of Alphabet tumbled to $1031.53, a $74.76 decline or 6.76%. Declines at Facebook and Apple were more muted, with Apple falling $2.97, or 1.7%, to $172.32 and Facebook sliding $14.11 (or 7.95%) to $163.36.

In Senate confirmation hearings in January, the new Attorney General William Barr noted that technology companies would face more time under the regulatory microscope during his tenure, according to The Wall Street Journal .

“I don’t think big is necessarily bad, but I think a lot of people wonder how such huge behemoths that now exist in Silicon Valley have taken shape under the nose of the antitrust enforcers,” Barr said. “You can win that place in the marketplace without violating the antitrust laws, but I want to find out more about that dynamic.”

Diving deep into Africa’s blossoming tech scene

Jumia may be the first startup you’ve heard of from Africa. But the e-commerce venture that recently listed on the NYSE is definitely not the first or last word in African tech.

The continent has an expansive digital innovation scene, the components of which are intersecting rapidly across Africa’s 54 countries and 1.2 billion people.

When measured by monetary values, Africa’s tech ecosystem is tiny by Shenzen or Silicon Valley standards.

But when you look at volumes and year over year expansion in VC, startup formation, and tech hubs, it’s one of the fastest growing tech markets in the world. In 2017, the continent also saw the largest global increase in internet users—20 percent.

If you’re a VC or founder in London, Bangalore, or San Francisco, you’ll likely interact with some part of Africa’s tech landscape for the first time—or more—in the near future.

That’s why TechCrunch put together this Extra-Crunch deep-dive on Africa’s technology sector.

Tech Hubs

A foundation for African tech is the continent’s 442 active hubs, accelerators, and incubators (as tallied by GSMA). These spaces have become focal points for startup formation, digital skills building, events, and IT activity on the continent.

Prominent tech hubs in Africa include CcHub in Nigeria, Pan-African incubator MEST, and Kenya’s iHub, with over 200 resident members. More of these organizations are receiving funds from DFIs, such as the World Bank, and aid agencies, including France’s $76 million African tech fund.

Blue-chip companies such as Google and Microsoft are also providing money and support. In 2018 Facebook opened its own Hub_NG in Lagos with partner CcHub, to foster startups using AI and machine learning.