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Coinbase CTO Balaji Srinivasan joins the speakers at TechCrunch’s first blockchain event

Coinbase CTO Balaji Srinivasan joins the speakers at TechCrunch’s first blockchain event

Boom, boom, boom! We’re announcing another big name for our upcoming blockchain event in Zug, Switzerland, on July 6 after Coinbase CTO Balaji Srinivasan joined the line-up.

The event — TC: Sessions Blockchain — will be TechCrunch’s first show dedicated to blockchain, it takes place in the world’s “Crypto Valley” and we’ll be joined by a host of top names. Some of those include Ethereum creator Vitalik ButerinRoham Gharegozlou, the founder of smash-hit blockchain game CryptoKittiesBrian Behlendorf, executive director of the Hyperledger Project, and OmiseGo CEO Jun Hasegawa.

Don’t miss it! Tickets are priced at 495 Swiss Francs — or around $500 — and they’re available from the event website here.

Fresh from announcing Buterin’s participation, we’re excited to host Srinivasan, who is another massively-respected thinker and visionary in the blockchain space.

Srinivasan became the first-ever CEO at Coinbase, the U.S. crypto giant that is now reportedly valued as high as $8 billion, in April after it bought Earn.com, where he had been CEO, in a deal priced at over $100 million.

Beyond the day job, Srinivasan is a board member at influential VC firm Andreessen Horowitz — which is planning its first dedicated crypto fund — and he holds a BS, MS, and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and an MS in Chemical Engineering from Stanford University. He previously founded genetic testing company Counsyl, and occasionally teaches at Stanford.

TechCrunch will sit down for a one-on-one interview with Srinivasan, a long-time blockchain advocate in Silicon Valley, to discuss a multitude of topics, some of which may include his plans for Coinbase, the blockchain talent war, blockchain adoption among Silicon Valley’s tech community, how he turned Earn.com around from a debt-plagued business into a Coinbase acquisition and more.

One thing we do know is he is charged with bringing more innovation to Coinbase, a company that only trades four cryptocurrencies — so he is keeping a keen eye on what is happening on the blockchain space.

“There’s a lot of amazing stuff happening,” he said in a recent interview with TechCrunch. “Atomic swaps, sharding, plasma, proof of stake, etc, and a big part of my job will be to take all of that stuff, and rank it based on whether we can use it to create new products for our users.”

Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong, pictured below at TechCrunch Disrupt London in 2014, called Srinavasan “one of the most respected technologists in the crypto field and… one of the technology industry’s few true originalists.”

Blockchain is the most disruptive new technology in technology today, and we’re excited to host our first show that is solely dedicated to the blockchain. The event takes place in the Swiss city of Zug — widely known as “Crypto Valley” due to its sizable number of crypto companies and a progressive approach to regulation — and it will bring together top figures from the blockchain space, developer community and business and startup worlds.

Other prominent speakers confirmed for the July 6 event include:

  • Roham Gharegozlou, the founder of smash-hit blockchain game CryptoKitties
  • Brian Behlendorf, executive director of the Hyperledger Project
  • Leanne Kemp, founder and CEO of Everledger
  • Jun Hasegawa, CEO and founder of Omise and OmiseGo
  • Mona El Isa, CEO and co-founder of Melonport
  • Colin Hanna, associate at Balderton Capital
  • Galia Benartzi, co-founder and head of Business Development at Bancor
  • Gert Sylvest, co-founder of Tradeshift and GM of Tradeshift Frontiers

You can get your hands on tickets now — they’re priced at 495 Swiss Francs, or around $500 — from the event website here.


If you’re interested in sponsoring the event, please contact us via this link.

Note: The author owns a small amount of cryptocurrency. Enough to gain an understanding, not enough to change a life.

Coinbase CTO Balaji Srinivasan joins the speakers at TechCrunch’s first blockchain event
Source: TechCrunch

Is the world ready for the return of the PDA?

Is the world ready for the return of the PDA?

I want to live in the Gemini’s universe. It’s one where the promise of on-demand hardware has been fulfilled. Where crowfunding, rapid prototyping, scalable manufacturing all of those good things have improved our lives by giving us the devices we both want and need. It’s the utopian dream of 2011, fully realized.

In the Gemini universe, the PDA never went away. It simply adapted. All of those irritated anti-touch typers had nothing to complain about. Sure, the iPhone still moved a billion units, because Apple, but the physical keyboard simply evolved alongside it, because tech should adapt to people and not the other way around.

Of course, the realities of technological Darwinism are much darker, and every half decade or so, there’s an extinction-level event, and Apple’s smartphone hit the earth like football field-sized asteroid covered in the bubonic plague. Over the past 10 years, many have and tried and all have failed to address the shrinking, but vocal niche of consumers bemoaning the death of the physical keyboard.

Many of us, myself included, fell in love with the Gemini at first sight when we spotted it across the room at CES. It wasn’t the hardware or the execution, so much as the idea. And, of course, we weren’t alone. When an astonishing 6,200 people came together to pledge $2.2 million on Indiegogo to help bring it to life, it was clear London-based Planet Computers had struck a chord.

And with both Nokia and BlackBerry having waged comebacks of sorts (albeit through licensing deals), it seems the iPhone’s 10th anniversary has been the perfect time to revel in a bit of mobile nostalgia. People have gone utterly gaga over the 3310 — clearly there must also be space in amongst this smartphone fatigue where a PDA can positively flourish.

In one sense, it almost didn’t matter what the final hardware looked like, this felt like a kind of bellwether. But in a larger and more important sense, of course it did. When it comes to consumer electronics, people don’t buy ideas, they by hardware. And in the cold, harsh light of day, the Gemini is a far more exciting concept that it is an actual product.

The product is a return of sorts for the Psion 5, with some of that clamshell’s designs back on board. And indeed, the device takes more than a few design cues from that 20-plus-year-old piece of hardware. The build itself is a bit of a mixed bag, here. It’s solid, but the clamshell ensures that it’s big and bulky, compared to standard smartphones with similarly sized screens (5.9-inch).

It’s not much to look at from the outside, with a plain metal casing, through there are some innovative touches here, including a break in the top that can be plied open to access the device’s innards, using compatible tools. The lid flips open, with a nice, satisfying motion, but screen’s hinge feels loose, moving each time you interact with the touchscreen. It would have also been nice to have the display open at different angles, but there are only two positions here: opened and closed.

As for typing, well, if you’re among the vast majority of mobile users have made the leap to touchscreen typing, you’re going to have to unlearn those skills. My own typing on the keyboard is nowhere close to what I’m able to achieve on a touchscreen these days. For a few fleeting moments, I entertained the idea of writing this review on the thing, but almost immediately backed down, when I found it difficult to type even a sentence right the first time.

The device’s size makes for an extremely cramped keyboard, in which many of the keys have to do double duty. But the width and girth of the device itself means there aren’t too many scenarios in which using the keyboard make a whole lot of sense. Attempting to type while holding it feels like an almost acrobatic feat. Really, a flat surface, like a desk, is your best bet, at which point you’re left wondering why you didn’t simply shell out the money for a real laptop. The ability to dual-boot Linux and the inclusion of a healthy 64GB of storage are interesting cases for the product as more of a small computer than a massive phone, that, of course, is ultimately hampered by the small display with smartphone dimensions.

That gets at what is perhaps a larger issue here. It’s unclear which problems the device is looking to solve in a world of ubiquitous slate phones and low-cost laptops and tablets. There aren’t ultimately all that many scenarios in which the throwback makes more sense than the hundreds of other available options, so it’s hard to recommend this as either a primary phone or laptop in 2018.

Perhaps many of its issues can be chalked up to first-generation hardware issues. There’s a lot to be said for the mere fact that the company was able to deliver a product in the first place. The Gemini certainly works as a compelling niche device, and it would be great to see Planet explore this idea further.

Anything that frees us from the oppression of nearly identical handsets is a victory in and of itself. As I said earlier, I want to live a world where devices like the Gemini can peacefully coexist with more mainstream devices. I just won’t be using it as my phone any time soon.

Is the world ready for the return of the PDA?
Source: TechCrunch

Microsoft attempts to spin its role in counterfeiting case

Microsoft attempts to spin its role in counterfeiting case

Earlier this week Eric Lundgren was sentenced to 15 months in prison for selling what Microsoft claimed was “counterfeit software,” but which was in fact only recovery CDs loaded with data anyone can download for free. The company has now put up a blog post setting “the facts” straight, though it’s something of a limited set of those facts.

“We are sharing this information now and responding publicly because we believe both Microsoft’s role in the case and the facts themselves are being misrepresented,” the company wrote. But it carefully avoids the deliberate misconception about software that it promulgated in court.

That misconception, which vastly overstated Lundgren’s crime and led to the sentence he received, is simply to conflate software with a license to operate that software. Without going into details (my original post spells it out at length) it maintained in court that the discs Lundgren was attempting to sell were equivalent to entire licensed operating systems, when they were simply recovery discs that any user, refurbisher, or manufacturer can download and burn for free. Lundgren was going to sell them to repair shops for a quarter each so they could hand them out to people who needed them.

Hardly anyone even makes these discs any more, certainly not Microsoft, and they’re pretty much worthless without a licensed copy of the OS in the first place. But Microsoft convinced the judges that a piece of software with no license or product key — meaning it won’t work properly, if at all — is worth the same as one with a license.

Lundgren had already pleaded guilty to infringing Dell’s trademark by copying the look of its discs, but the value Microsoft convinced the judges those discs have (a total of $700,000) directly led to his 15-month sentence.

Anyway, the company isn’t happy with the look it has of sending a guy to prison for stealing something with no value to anyone but someone with a bum computer and no backup. It summarizes what it thinks are the most important points as follows, with my commentary following the bullets.

Microsoft did not bring this case: U.S. Customs referred the case to federal prosecutors after intercepting shipments of counterfeit software imported from China by Mr. Lundgren.

This is perfectly true, however Microsoft has continually misrepresented the nature and value of the discs, falsely claiming that they led to lost sales. That’s not possible, of course, since Microsoft gives the contents of these discs away for free. It sells licenses to operate Windows, something you’d have to have already if you wanted to use the discs in the first place.

Lundgren established an elaborate counterfeit supply chain in China: Mr. Lundgren traveled extensively in China to set up a production line and designed counterfeit molds for Microsoft software in order to unlawfully manufacture counterfeit discs in significant volumes.

Microsoft is trying to make it sound like the guy is some criminal mastermind running some big time Windows pirating empire. He literally gave a Dell recovery disc to a duplication shop and told them to make exact copies of it, including the label and paper sleeve.

Lundgren failed to stop after being warned: Mr. Lundgren was even warned by a customs seizure notice that his conduct was illegal and given the opportunity to stop before he was prosecuted.

I can’t speak to this one, but Lundgren told me that the first notice he had that this was being pursued by anyone was when they raided his house. The monetary value of the discs was so small and the counterfeiting piece so minor (fake labels for duplicates of discs that Dell doesn’t even provide any more) that if anything it would be a fine and confiscation of the shipment, not a 5-year case alleging millions in damages.

Lundgren pleaded guilty: The counterfeit discs obtained by Mr. Lundgren were sold to refurbishers in the United States for his personal profit and Mr. Lundgren and his codefendant both pleaded guilty to federal felony crimes.

Lundgren pleaded guilty to counterfeiting the Dell discs, not to counterfeiting Microsoft software. It’s an important distinction because the discs are nearly worthless and copyright crimes are sentenced based on the value of the infringed item. I’ve asked him about the claim that he sold 8,000 of them to some buyer for $28,000, or $3.50 each — something that would make so sense, since any buyer would know these things can be made for pennies.

Lundgren went to great lengths to mislead people: His own emails submitted as evidence in the case show the lengths to which Mr. Lundgren went in an attempt to make his counterfeit software look like genuine software. They also show him directing his co-defendant to find less discerning customers who would be more easily deceived if people objected to the counterfeits.

Printing an accurate copy of a label for a disc isn’t exactly “great lengths.” Early on the company in China printed “Made in USA” on the disc and “Made in Canada” on the sleeve, and had a yellow background when it should have been green — that’s the kind of thing he was fixing.

Lundgren intended to profit from his actions: His own emails submitted as evidence before the court make clear that Mr. Lundgren’s motivation was to sell counterfeit software to generate income for himself.

The plan was to sell these nearly worthless discs —remember, anybody can make one for free — for a quarter each to refurbishers.

Microsoft has a strong program to support legitimate refurbishers and recyclers: Our program supports hundreds of legitimate recyclers, while protecting customers.

The implication is that that Lundgren is not a legitimate refurbisher or recycler. He pointed out earlier, however, that his company, which handles recycling for Lenovo, Nintendo, and others, takes care of more e-waste in a year than Microsoft has in a decade.

When a refurbisher installs a fresh version of Windows on a refurbished PC, we charge a discounted rate of $25 for the software and a new license – it is not free.

But if they’re not installing a fresh version of Windows, because the machine already has a licensed copy on it, as so many do, the software is free. There’s no limit on how many a company can make on its own; Microsoft only charges for the licenses. Here, go make one yourself in case you need to do it.

Mr. Lundgren’s scheme was simple. He was counterfeiting Windows software in China and importing it to the United States. Mr. Lundgren intended the software to be sold to the refurbisher community as if it was a legitimate, licensed copy of Windows.

There’s the key right there. “As if it was a legitimate, licensed copy of Windows.”

These are not licensed copies of Windows! They’re discs anyone can make, and that manufacturers and refurbishers can print as many of as they like, to give to customers who already have a copy of Windows. These discs are for repairing or re-installing a copy of the OS. They did not come with licenses and Lundgren was not selling or providing licenses.

Don’t let Microsoft fool you the way they helped fool the judges. A recovery disc is something you or I or a refurbisher can make right now for free. A license to operate Windows comes from Microsoft and costs good money. They’re not the same thing and Lundgren was going to sell the former, not the latter.

I’ve asked Microsoft to explain this last point and will update the post if I hear back.

Microsoft attempts to spin its role in counterfeiting case
Source: TechCrunch

DocuSign raises $629 million after pricing IPO

DocuSign raises 9 million after pricing IPO

DocuSign priced its IPO Thursday evening at $29 per share, netting the company $629 million.

It was a better price than the e-signature company had been expecting. The initially proposed price range was $24 to $26 and then that was raised to $26 to $28.

The price gives the company a valuation of $4.4 billion on the eve of its public debut, above the $3 billion the company had raised for its last private round.

The IPO has been a long-time coming. Founded in 2003, DocuSign had raised over $500 million over the course of 15 years.

The company brought in $518.5 million in revenue for its fiscal year ending in 2018. This is up from $381.5 million last year and $250.5 million the year before. Losses for this year were $52.3 million, down from $115.4 million last year and, $122.6 million for 2016.

“We have a history of operating losses and may not achieve or sustain profitability in the future,” the company warned in the requisite “risk factors” section of the prospectus.

The filing reveals that Sigma Partners is the largest shareholder, owning 12.9% of the company. Ignition Partners owns 11.7% and Frazier Technology Ventures owns 7.2%.

DocuSign, competes HelloSign and Adobe Sign, among others, but has managed to sign up many of the largest enterprises. T-Mobile, Salesforce, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America are amongst its clients. It has a tiered business model, with companies paying more for added services.

HelloSign COO Whitney Bouck said that “this space is changing the way business is done at its foundation — we are finally realizing the future of digital business and exactly how much more profitable it can be by removing the friction caused by outdated technology and processes.” But she said that DocuSign should be wary of competitive “more nimble vendors that can provide more innovative, faster, and more user-friendly solutions at a cheaper price.”

DocuSign has gone through several management changes over the years.  Dan Springer took over as CEO in early 2017, after running Responsys, which went public and then was later bought by Oracle for $1.5 billion. Chairman Keith Krach had been running the company since 2011. He was previously CEO of Ariba, which was acquired by SAP for $4.3 billion.

DocuSign raises 9 million after pricing IPO
Source: TechCrunch