Roundup of news and ideas from the world of startups – Week ending 19th Jan 2020.
News you can use
GeekWire Podcast: Apple acquires Xnor.ai; Microsoft’s bold climate plan; Seattle startup trivia
Does This Facial Recognition Startup Put Everyone’s Privacy at Risk? Facial recognition had become a growing part of contemporary life, from social media to international travel. And there’s a convenience that comes along with that that can be appealing: facial recognition can make previously time-consuming tasks pass rapidly, freeing us up to do other things we might enjoy more.That’s the good part. The bad part? Facial recognition might lead society to a point where privacy no longer exists. This is exemplified by a new report by Kashmir Hill at The New York Times on the technology startup Clearview AI. Hill describes Clearview AI founder Hoan Ton-That as someone who “invented a tool that could end your ability to walk down the street anonymously, and provided it to hundreds of law enforcement agencies, ranging from local cops in Florida to the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security.”
Startup Merger and Acquisitions
business solutions, it is also responsible for Snapchat’s recently released animated selfie-based Cameos feature.AI Factory’s company profile shows that it provides several artificial intelligence business solutions for “image and video recognition, analysis and processing” . Thus, the Cameos feature also works on the same image and video processing technology developed by the company.
Facebook Acquired a Startup to Build a Live Shopping Feature – Facebook Inc. acquired a small video-shopping startup earlier this year to help build a live shopping feature inside the company’s Marketplace product, according to a person familiar with the plans. The social media company bought Packagd, a five-person company founded by Eric Feng, a former partner with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and most of the startup’s team joined Facebook in September. Packagd was building a shopping product for YouTube videos. “Think of it as a re-imagination of QVC or a home shopping network,” Feng said in a 2017 interview with Bloomberg Television’s Emily Chang.
Apple Buys Startup That Puts A.I. to Work for Better Smartphone Photos – Apple acquired a U.K.-based startup with technology that improves photos taken on smartphones. According to filings made public in the U.K. on Thursday, Apple corporate lawyer Peter Denwood was recently named a director of Cambridge, U.K.-based Spectral Edge, while the startup’s other advisers and board members were terminated.
Uber completes $3.1 billion acquisition of Careem – Uber has completed the acquisition of its Middle Eastern rival Careem, the San Francisco-headquartered company announced today in a statement, saying Careem has become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Uber, preserving its brand. The $3.1 billion acquisition which is the largest exit for a Middle Eastern startup was first announced in March last year. Mudassir Sheikha, the co-founder and CEO of Careem will continue to lead its business and report to a board made up of three representatives from Uber and two from Careem. Both companies will continue to operate their respective regional services and independent brands.
San Antonio tech startup decides to shut down operations – HelpSocial Inc. co-founders Matt Wilbanks, left, and Robert Collazo have decided to shut down operations, however they are looking at other projects to use their intellectual property. The company quietly shut down near the end of last year.
Hipmunk’s co-founders tried to buy it back before the shutdown – In a little over a week, the travel metasearch engine Hipmunk will shut down. It’s an abrupt and disappointing end for a product acquired by SAP Concur around three and a half years ago. It didn’t have to go this way, though. We’re now hearing that Hipmunk co-founders Adam Goldstein and Reddit CEO Steve Huffman (both of whom left Hipmunk in years prior) made an offer to buy the company back rather than have it shut down, to no avail. As first reported by Skift and confirmed with our own sources, Hipmunk employees at an all-hands meeting today asked about the buyback offer and were told it wasn’t going to happen. Why SAP Concur would opt to shut down Hipmunk rather than spin it back out isn’t entirely clear, though these things are undoubtedly more complicated than the parent company saying “Oh, you want it back? Sure! Take it!” A few years post-acquisition, Hipmunk DNA has intertwined with Concur’s to some degree — including a product for small-to-medium businesses straight up called “Concur Hipmunk” — so there’s presumably interest on SAP Concur’s end in keeping engineers who know all the relevant codebases around. Hipmunk also had patents that switched hands in the acquisition (and more were approved post-acquisition), and it’s possible SAP doesn’t want to let those go. It’s also entirely feasible that the offer came too late, or just wasn’t significant enough, for a company as large as SAP to slam the brakes and start detangling things.