The FDA is cracking down on Juul e-cig sales to minors – TechCrunch

The FDA has its eye on Juul Labs, the e-cigarette company that has captured nearly half of the $2 billion e-cig market.

Yesterday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced a new initiative called the Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan. While the agency is focused on making sure kids don’t have easy access to any e-cigs, the Juul vaporizer seems to be of particular concern to them.

As part of the initiative, the FDA has sent a request for information to Juul Labs in an effort to understand why young people are so attracted to the product.

Over the past year, a number of reports have suggested that teen vape use, especially with the Juul, is steeply on the rise.

The request is for documents related to “product marketing; research on the health, toxicological, behavioral or physiologic effects of the products, including youth initiation and use; whether certain product design features, ingredients or specifications appeal to different age groups; and youth-related adverse events and consumer complaints associated with the products.”

In response, Juul Labs issued a press release announcing its plan to combat underage use. The strategy includes an initial investment of $30 million over the next three years going towards independent research, youth and parent education and community engagement efforts. Juul Labs also said it will support federal and state initiatives to raise the legal minimum purchase age to 21+. The company website has required that purchasers be 21 or older since August 2017.

Here’s what Juul CEO Kevin Burns had to say about it:

Our company’s mission is to eliminate cigarettes and help the more than one billion smokers worldwide switch to a better alternative. We are already seeing success in our efforts to enable adult smokers to transition away from cigarettes and believe our products have the potential over the long-term to contribute meaningfully to public health in the U.S. and around the world. At the same time, we are committed to deterring young people, as well as adults who do not currently smoke, from using our products. We cannot be more emphatic on this point: No young person or non-nicotine user should ever try JUUL.

Juul Labs is not the only organization that the FDA is cracking down on. The agency said it had sent out 40 warning letters to retailers selling e-cigs, including the Juul, to minors. Some of those retailers were caught as the result of a ‘blitz’ that has been underway since the beginning of April.

The agency has also asked eBay to take down all listings of Juul vaporizers, which run the risk of being sold to minors.

Alongside the FDA’s request for information from Juul Labs, the agency is also sending out similar letters to other e-cig manufacturers.

PayPal shares tick up after surpassing expectations for the quarter – TechCrunch

PayPal reported its first-quarter results after the bell on Wednesday, sending shares up about 3% in after-hours trading, due to better-than-expected numbers.

Adjusted earnings per share were 57 cents, above analyst estimates of 54 cents. Revenue for the quarter was $3.69 billion, up 24% from last year. Analysts surveyed by Yahoo Finance had been expecting $3.59 billion.

This comes from $132 billion in total payment volume, with $49 billion coming from mobile transactions. The company touted four consecutive quarters of accelerating revenue growth.

PayPal also raised guidance, expecting revenue for the year to between $3.78 and $3.83 billion.

PayPal broke out results for Venmo, its popular peer-to-peer payments app. It processed $40 billion in payments over the last year and $12 billion in the first quarter.

PayPal added 8.1 million active accounts. Its average customer makes 34.7 transactions per year, an 8% increase from prior years.

PayPal repurchased 23.6 million shares of common stock last quarter, returning $1.83 billion to shareholders.

PayPal shares have doubled in the past year, but at $74, shares are beneath the high of $85 we saw last quarter. The company dipped following its last earnings report on news that eBay is looking to partner with competitor Adyen. 

PayPal and eBay were previously the same company, but the two separated in 2015. PayPal is the larger of the two businesses, with a market cap of nearly $88 billion. eBay is worth under $42 billion.


Qualcomm delivers a better-than-expected second quarter amid its chaotic year – TechCrunch

Fresh off a massive cascading series of fiascos that has thrown the future of Qualcomm into doubt, the company managed to report a mostly positive first quarter and keep the stock from going into a further tailspin.

Qualcomm has been under considerable pressure for a wide variety of reasons, the most obvious one of which is a massive takeover attempt by Broadcom falling apart. But beyond that, Qualcomm is facing issues trying to close its acquisition of NXP, faces a continued public spat with Apple, and is looking to cut costs as it tries to appeal to Wall Street amid tension over its future as next-generation wireless technology begins to roll out. The company’s operating income fell 40% year-over-year amid its continued sparring with Apple over royalties.

The company ended up finishing with an earnings beat, reporting earnings of 80 cents per share compared to 70 cents per share expected by analysts. The company said it generated $5.23 billion in revenue, compared to $5.19 billion expected by analysts. Qualcomm, beyond just its own specific issues, is heavily dependent on the health of the smartphone supply chain. Apple missed targets expected by Wall Street when it came to iPhone sales, as one potential signal for example.

Following the BroadQualm collapse, the company said it would work to reduce its annual costs and cut around 1,500 jobs. This, too, comes at a time when its former chair Paul Jacobs stepped down after he said he would be exploring the possibility of a proposal to acquire Qualcomm and take it private. This, beyond just its fighting with Apple and its attempts to finish off its acquisition of NXP, has ended up shedding a ton of uncertainty as to what will happen to the chip designer.

Broadcom acquiring Qualcomm, in a very tense deal that came down to the White House eventually putting the brakes on the deal, would have consolidated two of the largest fabless chip firms into a single unit — but it’s not clear what Broadcom CEO Hock Tan would have done with Qualcomm, which is currently embroiled in a series of quarrels with Apple over royalty payments. The Trump administration proposed tariffs on Chinese products, adding another layer of uncertainty to the situation.

Dolo delivers on the Foursquare prophecy of hyper-local tips – TechCrunch

Dolo is the kindness of strangers as an app. Where’s the prettiest place in the park? What’s the best thing on the menu? How do I skip the line? Dolo lets you leave helpful suggestions for anyone nearby. The new social app launches out of beta today to augment the world with serendipitous tips from strangers. Built by two ex-Apple employees and backed with pre-seed funding from Floodgate, Dolo could reveal the secrets and potential friends hidden in the ether around us.

Like any new social app, Dolo will have a steep uphill climb to user growth. There are also apps like Foursquare, guide books like Lonely Planet, and social networks like Facebook and its Recommendations feature to compete with. But they’re often bloated, outdated, or unfocused. Dolo hopes to build a new community around turning the whole world into a bulletin board.

“If you take the construct of a cocktail party or a neighborhood bar, people feel more naturally ‘allowed’ to just mingle, eavesdrop, start a conversation, or even meet someone new” says Dolo co-founder and CEO Raja Haddad. “In larger spaces (a park, a neighborhood, a city), there are no vehicles today that allow such frictionless, comfortable, fun socializing.” That means a local expert’s knowledge ends up trapped while tourists and first-timers wander aimlessly.

Haddad and co-founder Benjamin Vigier met when they joined Apple in 2010 and worked on its Apple Store App before Haddad move on to Apple Watch marketing and Vigier helped develop Apple Pay. They later met Andy Mai at Coachella, who grew the Men’s Fashion Advice subreddit to over a million users. Together they set out “to enable serendipitous ways for people to socialize with other people around them, regardless of their pre-existing social bubbles.”

Dolo’s iOS and Android apps are now open everywhere, but it’s currently focusing on the San Francisco Bay Area where it centered its 4000 user beta. The app start with a feed of the closest tips that automatically re-sort as you move around. Anyone can post that “I need some info or a favor”, “folks need to know this!”, “I’m proposing an event”, or “just chatter and banter”. For example, my first contribution was that you can skip the line at famously overpopulated ice cream shop Bi-Rite Creamery by walking down the block to its soft-serve froyo window near SF’s Dolores Park.

That popular hipster picnic spot is actually where Dolo gets its name. And no, it’s not the same as the now defunct “bespoke app” called Dolo from 2013 that just helped you locate your friends in that park.

I was impressed by Dolo’s approach to safety and moderation that other anonymous and hyper-local apps like Yik Yak and Secret neglected until bullying led to their demise. You can use your real name or a pseudonym on Dolo, and choose a pixelated filter or mask sticker to obscure your face from the public. But then if you connect as friends with someone on the app, “the masks come off” Haddad says, and your profile’s bio is revealed. Meanwhile, users are empowered to moderate comments on their own posts by getting alerted to flags that Dolo reviews too. And all photos get reviewed by a crowdsourced moderation service.

Dolo smartly plans to “focus on achieving density vs. going directly for top-line scale” Haddad explains. That mirrors Facebook’s growth strategy that tried to get lots of users at specific colleges or locations so they don’t enter a ghost town, rather than immediately striving for global scale. It’s already raised $680,000 in a pre-seed round a year ago, but will try to raise a seed round early this summer. It hopes to put that cash into product development, and marketing activations at colleges and public places in the fall. 

Advertisers might be keen to reach potential customers when they’re super close-by and looking for local information. But that will require plenty of users as well as a tough-to-scale local ads sales team. Haddad admits “It’s obviously very challenging to get a social platform off the ground, particularly one that relies on location and density.”

NextDoor has at least proven that people are interested in local info, given it’s active in 160,000 neighborhoods. The question is if an app designed to alert you to what’s around you anywhere, rather than just close to home, will have the same legs. Dolo will also have to outlast specialized apps like Wildfire for celebrity sightings and safety alerts, Citizen for crime mapping, and Hive Social for interest-based communities.

It’s somewhat depressing, but an app like Facebook that already has ubiquity, frequent use, and local ad relationships might be better equipped to build this product than a startup. Dolo will have to figure out how to make adding and observing tips a constant enough behavior that users don’t forget about it.

But at least Dolo isn’t burdened by a hundred other features crowding out the local recommendations for attention, nor is it constrained by relying on your existing friend graph. A dedicated app for the insights of passersby holds the promise of not only illuminating what’s around us, but also mending our polarized society.

Netflix picks up ‘Follow This’, a weekly series about BuzzFeed reporters – TechCrunch

Netflix and BuzzFeed News are teaming up for a 20-episode documentary series called Follow This.

According to Variety, the show will be less focused on breaking news and more on taking us behind the scenes to show how BuzzFeed News reporters put together specific stories. For example, in the clip below, BuzzFeed’s Scaachi Koul talks about her reporting around ASMR.

Follow This will be produced by BuzzFeed News, with Jessica Harrop serving as showrunner and one of its executive producers. When it premieres on July 9, it won’t follow Netflix standard release strategy. Instead, a new 15-minute episode will come out every week.

Netflix executives have been emphatic about wanting to stay out of the live news business, but the streaming service has introduced more news-and reality-based programming over the past few years, including documentaries (like an upcoming film from Vice Media’s Motherboard) and talk shows.

BuzzFeed, meanwhile, has been creating video series for a variety of channels, including its AM to DM series for Twitter. The company told Variety it’s also pitching cable networks on a nightly news show.

Rocketrip raises $15 million to reward cost-saving employees – TechCrunch

If your company lets you expense the nicest hotel when you travel, why wouldn’t you?

But what if you got to split the savings with your employer by selecting a less expensive hotel?

A New York-based startup called Rocketrip believes most employees will opt to save companies money if they are incentivized to do so. It’s built an enterprise platform that rewards employees with gift cards if they go under budget on travel and transportation.

After five years of signing up business clients like Twitter and Pandora, Rocketrip is raising $15 million in Series C funding led by GV (Google Ventures) to keep expanding. Existing investors Bessemer Venture Partners and Canaan Partners are also in the round.

Inspired by Google’s internal travel system, Rocketrip CEO Dan Ruch calls his solution a “behavioral change platform.”  Employees “always optimize for self preservation, self interest” and are likely to book a cheaper flight if it means a gift card at a place like Amazon, Bloomingdale’s, or Home Depot, Ruch claims. He said that the average business trip booked by Rocketrip saves companies $208.

Ruch believes that Rocketrip has built a currency that motivates teams. He says some employees even gift Rocketrip points to congratulate colleagues on birthdays and promotions.

When it comes to enterprise platforms, Rocketrip is “one of those unique situations where everyone is really excited to use it,” said Canaan Partners’ Michael Gilroy, who holds a board seat.

Yet Rocketrip is not the only startup looking to help employees make money by cutting on costs. TripActions and TravelBank have also created similar businesses. 

Gilroy insists that “Rocketrip was first” and that he views the others a “validation of the model.”

Rocketrip hopes to someday expand beyond travel to incentivize healthcare choices like quitting smoking. It also thinks companies will use Rocketrip points to reward employees for community service. “Any time we can motivate an employee,” there’s an opportunity for Rocketrip, Ruch believes.

Gfycat ramps up its focus on game clips and highlights as it hits 180M monthly users – TechCrunch

Gfycat is already a pretty popular host for lots of content like short clips from shows and movies, but there’s also a pretty substantial store of content centered around gaming — which is why the company is starting to put some extra focus on it.

Gfycat, which is centered around creator tools to make those short-form video clips and GIFs, said it’s going to create an interface specifically designed for gamers. Called “Gfycat for gaming,” the startup hopes to ride both the wave of ever-omnipresent GIFs getting shared around the internet and popular, highly shareable game titles like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Rocket League. GIFs serve as a pretty good vehicle for delivering highlight reel clips for those games, which is why it’s going to be putting some extra focus on that audience. Gaming is one of the most popular verticals on Gfycat, CEO Richard Rabbat said.

“As we were looking at different verticals, gaming is such a strong vertical, and we wanted gamers to get an experience that just really speaks to what they’re looking for,” he said. “We wanted to just focus on that as opposed to content that was much more mixed. You see a lot of teams or players that will play for hours, but that exciting moment was like 10 seconds or 20 seconds. They want to capture them and keep them, to chat about them, and share them.”

While the platforms are certainly a big component of this, creator tools for getting that content onto the Internet is also a pretty big segment. That’s what Gfycat focuses on, and the company says it has 180 million monthly active users, which is up from 130 million monthly active users in October last year. The service has more than 500 million page views every month, Rabbat said.

There are two changes that are coming with this update: first, there will be a direct home for gaming highlights on Gfycat, where users can follow creators in that area; second, the time limit for Gfycat clips is growing to around 60 seconds instead of just 15, which is a soft change the company made in the past few months. Both are geared toward making content more shareable in order to grab those highlights, which might not just fall into 15 second buckets. Down the line, the company will start working on subscribing to specific channel.

“A lot of gaming moments are created in 10 or 15 seconds,” Rabbat said. “Some of the gamers have been asking us for a longer period. We moved from 15 seconds to 60 seconds so people can share exciting experiences that take a little more time. GIFs are not only just a moment but also it’s a bit of storytelling. We wanted people to have the ability to do that storytelling.”

GIFs are already a big market, and there has even been some activity from the major players looking to dive further into that type of content. Earlier this month, Google acquired Tenor, a GIF platform that has its own keyboard and integrates with a variety of messenger services — even ones like LinkedIn. That a tool like Tenor or Giphy has grown to encompass all those messaging tools is just a further example of how much of an opportunity platforms centered around GIFs have.

The short-form video clips, as Gfycat likes to label them, are a good form factor for compressing a lot of information into a unit of content that’s easy to share among friends or an audience on the Internet. Rather than just sending a text message, a GIF can convey some element of emotion alongside just the typical information or response some user is trying to achieve. That’s led to a big boom for those companies, with Tenor hitting 12 billion GIF searches every month as an example.

Grand Theft Auto V Premium Online Edition for PS4, Xbox One, and PC: Should You Buy It?

Before the rumoured Grand Theft Auto 6 (GTA 6), or Grand Theft Auto V on Nintendo Switch, we are getting GTA V Premium Online Edition for the PS4, Xbox One, and PC. After being leaked via an Amazon listing back in February, Rockstar Games officially revealed the game last week with a release at retail on disc immediately, and a digital edition out later this month. We managed to spend some time with this version of GTA V to break down what you get with it, what you’ll need to download, and if has any value for existing GTA V fans or newcomers. Here’s what you need to know.

GTA V Premium Online Edition – what does it have?

GTA V Premium Online Edition comes with the base game which includes its fantastic single-player campaign that holds up exceedingly well even five years since its debut. It also includes GTA Online — GTA V’s multiplayer component.

Apart from these two, the Premium Online Edition also comes with the GTA V Criminal Enterprise Starter Pack for GTA Online which has the following:

  • GTA$ bonus cash: GTA$1,000,000
  • Property: Maze Bank West Executive Office, Paleto Forest Gunrunning Bunker, Senora Desert Counterfeit Cash Factory, Great Chaparral Biker Clubhouse, 1561 San Vitas Street Apartment, 1337 Exceptionalists Way 10 Car Garage
  • Vehicles: Dune FAV, Maibatsu Frogger, Enus Windsor, Obey Omnis, Coquette Classic Turismo R, Pegassi Vortex, Huntley S, Western Zombie Chopper, Banshee
  • Weapons, Clothing, and Tattoos: Compact Grenade Launcher, Marksman Rifle, Compact Rife, Stunt Race and Import/ Export Outfits, Biker Tattoos

This content is only accessible in GTA Online and not in the GTA V single-player campaign. The content, including vehicles, will be marked free in-game, and has no trade-in value.

GTA V Premium Online Edition price
GTA V Premium Online Edition price is Rs. 4,499 in India on PS4 and Xbox One on disc — the digital version isn’t up on the PS or Microsoft Store just yet. The PC version of GTA V Premium Online Edition is digital only, and has a price of Rs. 6,267. It’s currently available at a 15 percent discount for Rs. 5,327. In the US the price is $80 on disc and $85 digitally for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

GTA V Premium Online Edition download size

GTA V Premium Online Edition PC download size is similar to its original release — 65GB. You will need around 73GB free space once its done installing, with the PS4 and Xbox One having identical requirements.

GTA V Premium Online Edition update size
Unlike other compilations or editions of games – for example Horizon Zero Dawn Complete Edition – that contained all previous updates, GTA V Premium Edition on disc is an unpatched version of the game. This means you’ll have to download a 16.67GB update on PS4 and Xbox One before you can start playing it online.

GTA V Premium Online Edition Xbox One X impressions
As the name would suggest, this variant of GTA V is geared more towards those looking to play it online. Firing up GTA Online for the first time in years, we were treated to a more chaotic, almost tense experience replete with doomsday weapons, elaborate heists, and Tron-like bikes. The controls feel as responsive as they did in the single-player campaign which meant shooting, driving, and running is easy to get a hold of.

There are a host of objectives, heists, and events such as The Vespucci Job that has you behind the wheel of the titular car, or chasing after it in a police car; and the elaborate Doomsday Heist, which is split into three distinct acts, with new characters and a fresh storyline that’s a treat to play.

Thanks to the Criminal Enterprise Starter Pack, accessing this high-octane section was made a bit easier thanks to the bonus GTA$ included, as to play it you need to own a facility which costs GTA$1,250,000 upwards. The net code held up well with no lag during online play and before you ask, GTA V looks exactly as it did back in 2014. No Xbox One X benefits in the way of a visual upgrade or better frame rate has been added just yet.

GTA V Premium Online Edition – should you buy it?
If you everything GTA V Premium Online Edition has to offer separately — the base game and the Criminal Starter Pack – it costs you Rs. 384 more on PS4. On Xbox One, you’re paying an additional Rs. 1,081 for buying both separately. As for PC, well, you’re spending Rs. 940 more by buying GTA V and the Criminal Enterprise Starter Pack bought piecemeal.

If you haven’t played GTA V’s single-player campaign and want to, you’re better off checking out the standard edition of the game. It retails for around Rs. 2,799 on consoles and Rs. 2,499 on PC and is available on disc for all these platforms as well. If you have friends invested in the GTA Online experience and want to join them, this is a decent way forward provided you haven’t bought the game before.

If you already own GTA V, you’re better off waiting for GTA Online’s packs to go on sale, which usually happens several times during the year when Valve, Sony, and Microsoft have their discounts.

Is this the last we’ll see of GTA V? Given that GTA 6 is speculated to be in development for a 2022 release, and Rockstar is squarely focussed on Red Dead Redemption 2, we won’t be surprised to see another edition of the game for current platforms in the works, with even more attention to its online component rather than any single-player content.

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Drew Houston to upload his thoughts at TC Disrupt SF in September – TechCrunch

Dropbox is a critically important tool for more than 500 million people.

The company launched back in 2007 and founder and CEO Drew Houston has spent the last decade growing Dropbox to the behemoth it is today.

During that time, Houston has made some tough decisions.

A few years ago, Houston decided to move the Dropbox infrastructure off of AWS. In 2014, Houston chose to raise $500 million in debt financing to keep up pace with Box, which was considering an IPO at the time. And in March 2017, Dropbox took another $600 million in debt financing from JP Morgan.

Houston also reportedly turned down a nine-figure acquisition offer from Apple.

All the while, Houston led Dropbox to be cash-flow positive and grew the company to see a $1 billion revenue run rate as of last year.

And, of course, we can’t forget the decision to go public early this year.

Dropbox is now one of the biggest tech companies in the world, with 1,800 employees across 12 global offices.

Interestingly, Houston first told his story to a TechCrunch audience at TC50 in 2008 as part of the Startup Battlefield.

At Disrupt SF in September, we’re excited to sit down with Houston to discuss his journey thus far, the process of going public, and the future of Dropbox.

The show runs from September 5 to Septmeber 7, and for the next week, our super early bird tickets are still available.

Hasura snares $1.6 M seed for developer-focused Kubernetes solution – TechCrunch

Kubernetes has gained in popularity quickly over the last 18 months, but like many highly technical solutions it requires a level of expertise many companies are lacking. A Bangalore/San Francisco startup called Hasura hopes to simplify all of that with a managed Kubernetes solution built with developers in mind.

Today, the company announced a $1.6 million seed round led by Nexus Venture Partners with participation from GREE Ventures.

Kubernetes is a tool that helps companies running containers juggle or orchestrate them. This level of organization is required because the number of containers can grow quickly. If you think of a conductor telling the musicians when to come in and when to leave, Kubernetes plays a similar role for the container system. (For a more complete explanation of containers, see this article.)

The company has focused on getting developers up to speed with the latest technologies quickly. “Our focus from the beginning has been making the application development super fast. How we do that is placing our APIs on top of a PostGres database to deploy any kind of code,” Tanmai Gopal, Hasura CEO and co-founder explained.

Gopal says the idea is to be more than a managed Kubernetes provider by giving developers the tooling they need to get going without having to build the underlying code for every application. “We are going to be the last mile. We’re not just managing the Kubernetes cluster for you. You should have Kubernetes to have control [over your containerized applications], but you also need developer tooling to build on top of it faster,” he said. “We want to automate the unnecessary code writing kind of grunt work. We started off by saying, ‘let’s automate this piece so you don’t have to write this code again’,” he added.

Once they wrote that piece, they realized that this is relevant because this approach enables cloud native in way that wasn’t possible before. “We suddenly realized we were in the right place at the right time, and part of it was luck,” Gopal admitted. It was also skill in providing a set of tools developers could use to build on top of Kubernetes.

Sameer Brij Verma, managing director at lead investor Nexus Venture Partners sees Kubernetes quickly becoming a foundational technology for developers and Hasura is providing a way to get up and running with little expertise. “Using Hasura’s platform, developers can now create cloud-native, portable and “elastic” applications within a few minutes without knowing anything about Kubernetes in the beginning,” Verma said in a statement.

The company launched last year and is split between Bangalore, India and San Francisco.