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Nestlings wants to help international students navigate a messy higher-ed environment

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The admissions process for international students applying to colleges is outdated. For starters, there is no Common App, the one-stop application that U.S. students are able to use to apply to a variety of schools in one go. Instead, international students must navigate thousands of schools, each having their own requirements and application process, on a one by one basis.

It’s a time-consuming and convoluted process, which is exactly where Nestlings, a Cupertino, California-based startup, comes in. Founded by Sowmya Satish, a former Apple product manager, and her husband, Raj Basavaraju, the startup is hoping to streamline the college admissions journey for international students.

Nearly 15 years ago, Basavaraju left Bangalore to pursue his master’s degree at Glasgow Caledonian University.

“When I was looking to study, I was not able to find a proper course, proper program, and I didn’t find much support,” he said. “It was not easy for me to get all the information I needed, like how safe it was, the lifestyle, and all of those things that are actually very important information.” So, he had the idea to put the information online and make it more accessible for other students who were interested in studying abroad.

At its core, Nestlings is a platform to help international students browse colleges in the United States, U.K., and Canada and apply to multiple colleges with one application. Beyond this service, Nestlings wants to help connect students to mentors in their potential fields to help with advice along the way, as well as place Nestlings students into post-graduate employment opportunities.

“Our goal is to help students build their career, not just be an admissions portal,” said Satish.

Nestlings is essentially itching to be part of a student’s entire professional life, from the moment they decide to pursue higher education to the jobs they apply to during and after graduation.

Nestlings, like any college recruitment platform, is only as successful as how many students use the platform. For that reason, Nestlings has made its service free for students, and instead charges fees to its partners, both universities and employers, whenever it places a student in one of those groups. The business works as a two-sided marketplace; it scales its students through word of mouth, and its institutions by promising recruitment results.

So far, Nestlings has more than 30,000 students on its platform. It has partnered with over 180 universities, and, more recently, signed a non-exclusive partnership with one of the largest testing centers in Southeast Asia. The testing center is part of Nestlings’ strategy to bring in more students without paying an agent fee or having to advertise.

As an early-stage startup, Nestlings has a huge competitor: ApplyBoard, which recently raised $75 million at a $1.4 billion valuation. ApplyBoard similarly helps international students navigate the abroad college application process, but is a massively bigger company in the late stage. The business did not immediately respond to request for comment on its thoughts about Nestlings.

Still, Nestlings is hoping to win by focusing its business more broadly on student success than simply college admissions. The focus is partly why Nestlings acquired AdmitAlly, a Cincinnati-based video chat platform that matches students with mentors and college applicants with current students.

“Especially in the pandemic, we didn’t want to waste time reinventing the wheel and saw an opportunity to fold the technology into Nestlings’ existing offerings quickly,” Satish said of the acquisition. “International recruiting is going to be tough this admissions cycle, as students can’t visit campuses and recruiters cannot travel abroad.”

AdmitAlly, which was founded by Anu Vora, was sold for an undisclosed price. However, as part of the deal, Vora became both a board director at Nestlings and, separately, an investor in the startup. In tandem with running AdmitAlly, Vora runs an investment firm and incubator, Candid Ventures. She put $1.5 million into the company in seed funding.

As higher education faces its own renovation from low enrollment and remote schooling, Nestlings is still betting on a long-term vision where international students will crave a United States education. The strategy will only pay off if that remains true.

 

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Tesla’s racially diverse workforce is led mostly by white men, internal report shows

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Tesla’s top leadership positions skew white and male with just 4% of those roles going to Black employees, according to the company’s first diversity and inclusion report released Friday.

The report shows that overall the company, which has factories in California, Nevada and New York, has a workforce that includes women as well as Black, Hispanic and Asian employees. Some 60% of its workforce is made up of people who are Black, Hispanic, Asian and Native American and Pacific Islander. However, the vast majority of its workforce is male at 79%. That male representation ticks up to 83% when looking at leadership positions. It also gets whiter with 59% of leadership positions held by white people.

Here are some of the stats of its U.S. workforce:

  • Black employees: 10% of workforce. This group has experienced a 60% increase in representation in management with 4% holding “director level and above” roles. Some 12% of its new hires in 2020 are Black and African American, a 9% increase from the previous year. Black employees received 10% of promotions in 2020, an 11% increase from 2019.
  • Asian employees: 21% of workforce. Some 25% of Asian employees hold leadership positions.  Asian employees comprise 20% of all new hires and 23% of all promotions — a 15% increase from last year.
  • Hispanic and Latinx employees: 22% of workforce and 4% of Tesla’s Director level and above employees. Hispanic and Latinx employees represented 24% of all promotions this year — a 14% increase. About 27% of all new hires in 2020 were Hispanic and Latinx.
  • Women:  represent 21% of Tesla’s overall U.S. workforce and 23% of all promotions — a 5% increase from last year. Women hold 17% of “Director” and “Vice President” positions. In 2020, nearly 25% of all U.S. hires have been women.
  • Men: represent 79% of its workforce in the United States and hold 83% of leadership positions.
  • Veterans: represent 4% of its U.S. workforce.
  • Additional groups: a designation that Tesla gives to employees who Native American, Native Hawaiian, Alaska Native, and other Pacific Islander or multiracial, represent 7% of its workforce and 1% of leadership.

Tesla did not provide additional details on retention of its minority workforce, information that can provide insight into the company’s culture and whether its efforts at inclusion are successful. The report didn’t release data on how many of its employees have disabilities. And while Tesla mentions LGBTQ employees receiving support at the company, there is no breakdown of how many are employed there or hold leadership positions.

The company acknowledged it had “work to do” to improve its numbers.

“While women are historically underrepresented in the tech and automotive industries, we recognize we have work to do in this area,” the company said in its report, one of several areas it is seeking employment. The report added that Tesla is “taking active steps” to increase outreach to women and build an inclusive culture that supports their development and retention. “Increasing women’s representation at all levels, especially in leadership, is a top priority in 2021,” the report said.

Tesla listed a few efforts to attract and retain women and minorities such as recruiting at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and expanding its internship program. However, the company didn’t provide targets or a timeline to reaching its goal to improve its diversity and inclusion metrics.

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This Week in Apps: The year’s best apps, 2020’s biggest downloads, the App Store’s newest hire

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Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy.

The app industry is as hot as ever, with a record 204 billion downloads and $120 billion in consumer spending in 2019. People now spend three hours and 40 minutes per day using apps, rivaling TV. Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re also a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus.

This week, Apple and Google announced their editorially curated lists detailing the best apps of the year, and Apple also revealed those that were downloaded the most. Apple also made a notable new hire for an App Store role and opened up its anticipated App Store Small Business Program to developers.

Top Stories

Best Apps of the Year

Image Credits: Apple

Both Apple and Google released their “best apps of 2020” year-end lists and there were some similarities between the two, as well as some differences. Both companies’ lists reflected the tough and stressful year 2020 has been, with everyone being stuck at home during a pandemic that changed how we worked, attended school, connected with friends and family, and entertained ourselves.

Apple and Google, as a result, both selected at least one “de-stressing” app among their year-end winners. In Apple’s case, it was Endel, an iOS app that won for Apple Watch App of the Year. Google, however, awarded sleep app Loóna the title of best app of the year.

Disney+ also made both Apple and Google’s lists, the former as Apple TV App of the Year and the latter as the User’s Choice for app of the year. The new streaming service was a godsend for families with younger children, who often struggled in 2020 to keep kids entertained. New releases like Onward and Mulan in 2020 helped give families something to look forward to, while Marvel and Star Wars content, including new series “The Mandalorian,” were hits with streamers, as well.

Another pandemic-prompted choice was Zoom, which won as iPad App of the Year. Though Zoom was around before the coronavirus outbreak, it’s now become a part of our everyday lexicon as an interchangeable term for “online video meeting” — as in, “let’s do a zoom call about that.” The iPad app at least made these endless virtual meetings a little less painless.

And home workout companion Wakeout! become Apple’s iPhone app of the year, as most people gave up the gym due to coronavirus risks. The app’s quick one-minute breaks helped users stay moving, even when stuck at home for days on the couch or working on their laptop in bed.

Image Credits: Genshin Impact (screenshot via Sensor Tower)

Meanwhile, gacha-based action role-playing game Genshin Impact won as “best game” of the year on both Apple and Google’s lists. While a cynical take is that the app stores wanted to point users to a huge moneymaker — the game reportedly earned $245 million its first month and nearly $400 million in two months on mobile — it also highlights consumers’ desire for console-like experiences on mobile.

The game, however, has been heavily criticized for its gacha game monetization techniques, which though common to games in China, Japan and South Korea, are basically gambling mechanics. And addictive ones at that. But as a Wired report noted, some of this comes down to cultural differences. U.S. users grew up on cartridge games, not arcade games, where you were constantly inserting more money to keep playing. Western users just aren’t as comfortable with this “spend to keep playing” business model, which they feel is predatory.

Apple’s other top apps of the year included perennial favorite Fantastical as Apple’s Mac App of the Year; Legends of Runeterra as iPad Game of the Year; Disco Elysium as Mac Game of the Year; Dandara Trials of Fear as Apple TV Game of the Year; and Sneaky Sasquatch as the Apple Arcade Game of the Year.

Google’s list also included SpongeBob: Krusty Cook-Off as users’ choice for best game, and it highlighted a variety of top titles in various gaming subgenres in a dedicated section of its Play Store.

2020’s most downloaded apps

Apple also gave a peek into the “best” apps of the year, as determined by app downloads. The pandemic played a role here as well, making Zoom the most-downloaded iPhone app of 2020.

Also of note, TikTok was the biggest social media app by downloads, ahead of all the Facebook-owned apps making the list, including Facebook, Instagram and Messenger. Square’s Cash App hit No. 10, as the pandemic saw increased demand for contactless payments and direct giving to people in need.

The most-downloaded apps and games of 2020 were, as follows:

Top Free iPhone Apps

  1. ZOOM Cloud Meetings
  2. TikTok
  3. Disney+
  4. YouTube
  5. Instagram
  6. Facebook
  7. Snapchat
  8. Messenger
  9. Gmail
  10. Cash App

Top Paid iPhone Apps

  1. TouchRetouch
  2. Procreate Pocket
  3. Dark Sky Weather
  4. Facetune
  5. HotSchedules
  6. AutoSleep Track Sleep
  7. The Wonder Weeks
  8. SkyView
  9. Shadowrocket
  10. Sky Guide

Top Free iPhone Games

  1. Among Us!
  2. Call of Duty: Mobile
  3. Roblox
  4. Subway Surfers
  5. Ink Inc. – Tattoo Drawing
  6. Magic Tiles 3: Piano Game
  7. Brain Test: Tricky Puzzles
  8. Brain Out
  9. Coin Master
  10. Cube Surfer!

Top Paid iPhone Games

  1. Minecraft
  2. Plague Inc.
  3. Heads Up!
  4. Monopoly
  5. Bloons TD6
  6. Geometry Dash
  7. NBA 2K20
  8. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
  9. The Game of Life
  10. True Skate

Top Free iPad Apps

  1. ZOOM Cloud Meetings
  2. Disney+
  3. YouTube
  4. Netflix
  5. Google Chrome
  6. TikTok
  7. Amazon Prime Video
  8. Gmail
  9. Hulu
  10. Google Classroom

Top Paid iPad Apps

  1. Procreate
  2. GoodNotes 5
  3. Notability
  4. Duet Display
  5. Teach Your Monster
  6. LumaFusion
  7. Affinity Designer
  8. Toca Hair Salon 3
    9: Toca Life: Hospital
  9. Toca Kitchen 2

Top Free iPad Games

  1. Among Us!
  2. Roblox
  3. Magic Tiles 3: Piano Game
  4. Ink Inc. – Tattoo Drawing
  5. Call of Duty: Mobile
  6. Subway Surfers
  7. Dancing Road: Color Ball Run!
  8. Tiles Hop – EDM Rush
  9. Mario Kart Tour
  10. Save The Girl!

Top Paid iPad Games

  1. Minecraft
  2. Monopoly
  3. Bloons TD 6
  4. Plague Inc.
  5. Geometry Dash
  6. The Game of Life
  7. Five Nights at Freddy’s
  8. Human: Fall Flat
  9. Stardew Valley
  10. Terraria

Top Arcade Games

  1. Sneaky Sasquatch
  2. Hot Lava
  3. Skate City
  4. Sonic Racing
  5. PAC-MAN Party Royale
  6. SpongeBob: Patty Pursuit
  7. Oceanhorn 2
  8. Crossy Road Castle
  9. WHAT THE GOLF?
  10. LEGO Brawls

Josh Elman joins Apple to focus on App Store discovery 

VC Josh Elman announced this week he was joining Apple in a role that will see him helping customers “discover the best apps for them.” In other words, app discovery.

Elman’s background includes RealNetworks, LinkedIn, Zazzle, Facebook and Twitter, and later moved into VC. Elman worked at venture firm Greylock in 2011 as a principal, and by 2013 he had become a general partner. While there, he invested in SmartThings, as well as social networks like Musical.ly (now the massive No. 2 app of the year, TikTok), Nextdoor, Houseparty and Discord. He later moved to fast-rising fintech startup Robinhood and now, he’s heading to Apple.

Weekly News

Platforms

  • Apple opens up enrollment into the App Store Small Business Program. The program will reduce App Store commissions to 15% for qualified developers with revenues under $1 million.
  • Google announced Android’s winter update will include an expanded Emoji Kitchen in Gboard, auto-narration for Google Play Book without narration, a “Go Tab” in Google Maps for frequent destinations, Android Auto soon arriving in more countries, support for app sharing in Nearby Share and Voice Access improvements.
  • Google launches the first version of Android Studio Arctic Fox (2020.3.1) on the Canary channel, along with Android Gradle plugin (AGP) version 7.0.0-alpha01. The release is also notable for moving to a year-based system more aligned with IntelliJ IDEA, the IDE upon which Android Studio is built. Going forward, the number scheme will work like this: <Year of IntelliJ Version>.<IntelliJ major version>.<Studio major version>. The new version of Android Studio includes over 200 improvements and bugs, including those in the code editor, app inspection tools, layout editor and the embedded emulator.

Services

Security & Privacy

  • Twitter now supports hardware security keys for iPhones and Android.
  • Google Authenticator app for iOS adds a dark theme and support for bulk 2FA account transfers, helpful for switching between devices.
  • Google launches Android Enterprise Essentials, an MDM for SMBs that will require their employees to use a lock screen and encryption to protect company data and can remotely wipe devices. It also prevents users from installing apps outside the Google Play Store via the Google Play Protect service.

Accessibility

  • iPhones can now automatically recognize and label buttons and UI features for blind users using Screen Recognition in iOS 14.
  • Android’s winter update, similarly, will introduce a new version of Voice Access that will use ML to understand interface labels and buttons on devices.

Apps in the News

  • Google now lets anyone contribute to Google Maps’ Street View using the Street View app and Android phone that supports ARCore.
  • Telegram is the first third-party app to use Apple’s Announce Messages with Siri feature for AirPods.
  • Google adds the messaging feature every iMessage user dreams of: the ability to schedule sending of messages in Google’s Messages app.
  • Reddit reveals DAUs for first time: 52 million.
  • Google Assistant can now reply to messages from WhatsApp, Google Voice and more.
  • Google Maps gets a Facebook-like news feed with business updates, local reviews and more.
  • TikTok tests three-minute long videos. (But we don’t need longer versions of its viral hits like M to the B).
  • Triller claims 321 million downloads and 65 million MAUs. (Former employees have accused the TikTok rival of inflating its numbers, which Triller denies.)
  • Evernote rolls out a redesign on Android. The updates include a new note editor, faster search and improved navigation.
  • Google’s learn-to-code app Grasshopper is now available in Spanish.
  • WhatsApp will now allow users to set custom wallpapers, adds doodle wallpaper in more colors and adds new stickers.
  • E-commerce app Wish accused of selling counterfeit products. 
  • 7-Eleven adds its own mobile wallet to its app to allow customers, including cash customers, a contactless way to pay at its stores using their phone.
  • Match-owned dating app Hinge refreshes design and adds a “Standouts” feature to show users outstanding prompts and photo prompts from their best potential matches, and can answer with a new paid feature, Roses.
  • Quibi is really gone now.

Trends

Image Credits: App Annie

  • App download rates have declined by 4% since 2015, but active engagement has grown.
  • Messaging app usage is up 13% (four-year CAGR), and users spend 67% more time in messaging apps than in social media apps.
  • Messaging apps that offer privacy features see, on avgerage, 30% more active users than alternatives.
  • Q3 smartphone sales down 5.7% in Q3 to 366 million.
  • Mobile shopping climbed 25% on Black Friday to $3.6 billion. 
  • U.S. shopping app downloads on Black Friday reached a record 2.8 million per Sensor Tower, or 2.7 million per App Annie. App Annie also said shopping shopping app downloads topped 2.3 million on Thanksgiving and 2.1 million on Cyber Monday.
  • On Black Friday, Walmart was the No. 1 U.S. shopping app download, followed by Amazon. On Cyber Monday, that was reversed, also per App Annie.
  • In-app revenue was 150% higher on Black Friday than the average of the previous 30 days, says AppsFlyer.
  • App Store and Google Play consumer spending topped $100 billion from January 1-November 29, Sensor Tower says.

Funding and M&A

  • Salesforce buys Slack for $27.7 billion.
  • VSCO acquires the tech and team from the AI-powered video editing app Trash to move further into the video market. Deal terms weren’t available, but Trash was backed by $3.3 million.
  • Teen banking app Step raises $50 million. The app is TikTok star Charli D’Amelio’s first startup investment. Other investors included lead Coatue; returning investors from Stripe, Crosslink Capital, Collaborative Fund and Will Smith’s Dreamers VC; and celeb investors D’Amelio, Justin Timberlake and The Chainsmokers, Eli Manning, Kelvin Beachum, Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Iguodala.
  • Ivanti acquired security firms, including enterprise mobile security firm MobileIron and corporate VPN provider Pulse Secure. Ivanti bought MobileIron for $872 million in stock.
  • U.K. challenger banking app Monzo adds £60 million in funding.
  • AR gaming startup Krikey raises undisclosed funding, including from Jio Platforms. The company has raised $22 million to date.
  • Wellory raises $4.5 million for its anti-diet nutrition app.
  • Airbnb to IPO with shares priced between $44 and $50.
  • ESL app for kids Novakid raises $4.25 million.
  • Virtual fitness app Salut raises $1.25 million.
  • Video app Supergreat, a TikTok for beauty products, raises $6.5 million.
  • Mental health app Intellect raises undisclosed round led by Insignia VP.

Review

We tried the Apple Watch Family Setup with a tween. They weren’t impressed with the apps or the controls, but did like the Memoji. No Roblox group chat on the small screen? Boo.

Downloads

Iconboard

Image Credits: Iconboard

If you find it too frustrating to use Apple’s Shortcuts to build your own custom icons, you can turn to Iconboard instead. This newly launched app lets you design a style for your icons and apply it to all of your icons at once. It can even create invisible icons to give you a way to space out items on your screen.

Cardlet

Image Credits: Cardlet

While I’ve been enjoying Punkpost’s custom designs for when I’m too lazy…err I mean busy…to send my own handwritten notes and cards, Cardlet is ready to give my go-to app a run for the money. Like Punkpost, Cardlet will send a real paper card on your behalf, but it adds a modern-day touch: The app includes a hidden AR experience that brings the card to life when viewed with the camera.

Heynote

Image Credits: Heynote

Some people don’t trust to-do lists, reminders or calendar notifications to always get the job done. When there’s something we really need to remember, we stick it directly on our home screen. (Okay, this one may only appeal to a small niche of scatterbrained users like me.) But if you have, in the past, also designed your own temporary wallpaper just so you won’t forget a super critical appointment, the Android app Heynote, (hat tip to Android Police!) might help. Instead of a widget or reminder, this app lets you put custom text directly on your home screen as a custom wallpaper. Doctor appt. at 11 AM? You can’t forget it when it’s there every single time you look at your phone.

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Why Sapphire’s Jai Das thinks the Salesforce-Slack deal could succeed

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Who says that chats about enterprise software have to be boring? They don’t, we learned during our conversation earlier this week with Sapphire’s Jai Das, a pleasant time that touched on a host of topics including startup sectors, his investing group’s capital base and, of course, the Slack-Salesforce deal.

Our conversation took place about an hour before the deal was formally announced, but the tea leaves had been read by the market far in advance, so we were able to chat about it as if it was already consummated. Which it became a little while later.


Our conversation with Das was part of our Extra Crunch Live series, which you can learn more about here. If you’re not a member, head here to get started. Extra Crunch Live has previously hosted Bessemer’s Byron Deeter and Sequoia’s Roelof Botha, among others.


The whole chat with Das was interesting and good, but his comments explaining why Slack’s sale to the larger CRM giant stuck with me all week. Using Salesforce’s acquisition of MuleSoft (a company in which Das invested) as a prism, here’s how the venture capitalist discussed the plusses and minuses of selling to a bigger company.

After noting that MuleSoft might have been able to earn a larger revenue multiple as an independent company in today’s markets than it managed by selling to Salesforce, Das then detailed the sort of boost that a huge company can bring to one that is merely big (quote has been edited and condensed):

Going into your question about Salesforce and Slack, Salesforce, like any large company, does add a lot of value. When I talked to [former MuleSoft CEOs] Simon [Parmett] and Greg [Schott], they were astonished how much account control these large companies have with CIOs and CMOs.

MulesSoft would be beating on the door to get a meeting with the CIO and it wouldn’t happen. And you know, the Salesforce management team would just make one phone call, and Simon and Greg would be presenting to the CEO on down.

So I think that is the thing that people forget, that these large companies have so much ability to increase your sales velocity with large accounts, [so] it makes a lot of sense for some of these [smaller] companies to end up in Salesforce or SAP or Oracle, or WorkDay.

So perhaps Slack will find more oomph under Salesforce’s auspices than it could as a solo project. We spent the majority of our time talking about startups and smaller companies, so hit the jump for the full video and a few more quotes I transcribed for you.

Have fun!

Jai Das

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