Connect with us

Uncategorized

Snap acquired Voisey, an app to create music tracks overlaying your own vocals

Published

on

Snapchat helped pioneer the use of lenses on faces in photos and videos to turn ordinary picture messages into fantastical creations where humans can look like, say, cats, and even cats can wear festival-chic flower crowns. Now it sounds like the company might be turning its attention… to sound.

The company appears to have acquired Voisey, a UK startup that features instrumentals that you overlay with your own voice to create short music tracks (and videos), and also lets musicians upload instrumentals that become the basis for those tracks. Users can apply audio filters (like auto-tune, automated harmonies, and some funny twists like a Billie-Eilish-ish effect) to their voices; and they can also browse and view other people’s Voicey tracks.

The results look something like this or this.

The deal was first reported by Business Insider, which noted Voisey had changed its company address in London to that of Snap’s. In addition to that, we have seen that filings in Companies House indicate that the the four people who co-founded the startup — Dag Langfoss-Håland, Pal Wagtskjold-Myran, Erlend Drevdal Hausken and Oliver Barnes — as well as the startup’s first two investors — Terry Steven Fisher and Jason Lee Brook — all resigned as directors of the company on October 21. At the same time, two employees at Snap — Atul Manilal Porwal on the legal team and international controller Amanda Louise Reid — were assigned directorship roles.

Snap’s London spokesperson Tanya Ridd said Snap declined to comment for this story. Voisey did not respond to our email.

Voicey had raised only $1.88 million to date (per PitchBook data), and it’s ranked at 143 in iOS in Music in the US currently, according to AppAnnie stats. It’s not clear how much Snap would have paid for the startup but the news comes on the heels of a Snap filing earlier this month that indicated that the UK entity, which is still loss-making, is poised to borrow up to $500 million, so there is possibly come cash for acquisitions reserved as part of that.

Voicey has been described in the past as a “TikTok for music creation”. And it does look a little like the popular video app, which like Voicey is also focused around user-generated content. Voicey has a distinctly stronger creator feel to it, and there has even been at least one singer discovered on the platform. The Billie Eilish-esque Olivia Knight, who goes by “poutyface,” signed with Island Records/Warner Chappell earlier this year.

On the other hand, TikTok — at least for now — is less about music creation, and more about people creating other kinds of content — dancing, written messages, chitchat — set to music. We write “for now” because TikTok’s parent Bytedance has also quietly acquired assets for music creation, so maybe we should watch this space.

It’s not clear whether Snap would look to integrate some or all of Voicey’s features into its flagship app Snapchat to create new music services, or run Voicey as a separate app (with easy hooks into Snapchat), or a combination of the two. Based on past experience it could be any of these.

Snap has been slowly building up its music cred but up to now that has felt more like work to clone TikTok: last month, it launched Sounds on Snapchat, a feature to let people add tunes to their Stories, to make them, well, more like TikTok videos. That has come with a growing trove of licensing deals with big publishers.

Even before it launched that, Snap hadn’t ignored the power of sound completely. It has been offering voice filters, to give your videos a more comedic twist, for years already. But with music being one of the most engaging of formats on social media, Voicey could potentially give Snap, and Snapchat, a leg up in the feature race with a platform to build original content.

What’s interesting is the timing of this deal.

It was just last week that we revealed another voice-focused acquisition of Snap’s, the Israeli startup Voca.ai, which it acquired for $70 million (although a close source disputed that and said it’s $120 million…).

As with Voicey, no word on where Voca.ai tech will be used, but Voca.ai is an AI-based startup that lets companies create interactive voice-based chatbots for customer service interactions. That could see Snap expanding the kinds of services it provides to businesses, or expanding how people can interact using voice on its existing services, specifically its Spectacles, or both (or, again, something completely different).

Put together with the Voicey deal, it’s a sign of the company doing a lot more than just snapping pictures.

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

Continue Reading
Comments

Uncategorized

iPhone zero-click Wi-Fi exploit is one of the most breathtaking hacks ever

Published

on

The screen on the iPhone 12 Pro Max

Enlarge / That’s a lot of screen. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Earlier this year, Apple patched one of the most breathtaking iPhone vulnerabilities ever: a memory corruption bug in the iOS kernel that gave attackers remote access to the entire device—over Wi-Fi, with no user interaction required at all. Oh, and exploits were wormable—meaning radio-proximity exploits could spread from one near-by device to another, once again, with no user interaction needed.

This Wi-Fi packet of death exploit was devised by Ian Beer, a researcher at Project Zero, Google’s vulnerability research arm. In a 30,000-word post published on Tuesday afternoon, Beer described the vulnerability and the proof-of-concept exploit he spent six months developing single handedly. Almost immediately, fellow security researchers took notice.

Beware of dodgy Wi-Fi packets

“This is a fantastic piece of work,” Chris Evans, a semi-retired security researcher and executive and the founder of Project Zero, said in an interview. “It really is pretty serious. The fact you don’t have to really interact with your phone for this to be set off on you is really quite scary. This attack is just you’re walking along, the phone is in your pocket, and over Wi-Fi someone just worms in with some dodgy Wi-Fi packets.”

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Continue Reading

Uncategorized

Cultured meat has been approved for consumers for the first time

Published

on

The first lab-grown, or cultured, meat product has been given the green light to be sold for human consumption. In the landmark approval, regulators in Singapore granted Just, a San Francisco–based startup, the right to sell cultured chicken—in the form of chicken nuggets—to the public. 

Just had been working with the regulators for the past two years and was formally granted approval on November 26. Singapore’s regulatory body assembled a panel of seven experts in food toxicology, bioinformatics, nutrition, epidemiology, public health policy, food science, and food technology to evaluate each stage of Just’s manufacturing process and make sure the chicken is safe to eat. “They didn’t just look at the final product; they looked at all the steps that led to that product,“ says Josh Tetrick, Just’s cofounder and CEO. “We were impressed with how thoughtful and rigorous they were.”  

An as-yet-unnamed restaurant in Singapore will soon be the first to have Just’s cultured chicken on the menu, but Tetrick says he plans to expand after that. “We’ll go from a single restaurant to five to 10 and then eventually into retail and then after that, outside Singapore,” he says. 

Most cultured meat is made in a similar way. Cells are taken from an animal, often via a biopsy or from an established animal cell line. These cells are then fed a nutrient broth and placed in a bioreactor, where they multiply until there are enough to harvest for use in meatballs or nuggets. A slew of startups have been founded using variations on this approach, in the belief that cultured meat will appeal to flexitarians—people who want to reduce the amount of meat they eat for ethical or environmental reasons, but don’t want to give it up entirely.

The budding industry has progressed a long way since a $330,000 burger was famously cooked on TV in 2013, driven by the idea that if it’s done right, meat could be produced with far lower greenhouse-gas emissions and zero animal suffering. But cost is still a hurdle: the high price of the growth factors required to develop the cells mean the price tags for pure cultured meat products are still measured in hundreds of dollars per pound, far too expensive to compete with regular meat. So Just’s first chicken products will be chicken “bites” that use cultured chicken cells mixed with plant protein—although Tetrick wouldn’t say in what proportion. “Chicken nuggets are already blended—this one wont be any different,” he says. The bites will be labeled as “cultured chicken” on the restaurant’s menu.

Singapore’s decision could kick-start the first wave of regulatory approvals around the world.

“We are hoping and expecting that the US, China, and the EU will pick up the gauntlet that Singapore just threw down,” says Bruce Friedrich, executive director of the Good Food Institute, a nonprofit that works in meat alternatives. “Nothing is more important for the climate than a shift away from industrial animal agriculture.”

While Just has beaten them to the punch, many big firms are already working with regulators to get their own products to market. This is not something to be rushed, Friedrich says: “It is critical for cultivated meat companies to be extra careful and to go beyond consumer expectation in ensuring consumer comfort with their products.”  

Memphis Meats, which counts Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and traditional meat manufacturer Tyson Foods among its many investors, has teamed up with a number of other firms, including Just and cultured-seafood makers BlueNalu and Finless Foods, to form a lobbying group that is working with US regulators to get their products approved.

The way that might actually happen was only hammered out relatively recently. In March 2019, it was announced that the FDA would regulate the early stages of the cultured-meat process, including cell banks and cell growth. The US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service will then take over at the cell harvesting stage and will inspect production facilities and approve labels used on cultured-meat products. In Europe, companies must apply for authorization and meet the European Union’s regulation on novel foods. The process is likely to take at least 18 months, and no cultured-meat company has yet applied.

Both Singapore and Israel have actively made themselves welcoming to startups in plant and cultured meat, Freidrich says. Governments should follow their lead and start treating this like initiatives in renewable energy and global health, he says.

“We need a space-race-type commitment toward making meat from plants or growing it from cells,” he says. “We need a Manhattan Project focused on remaking meat.”

Continue Reading

Uncategorized

Longtime investor and operator Adam Nash says he just launched a new fintech startup

Published

on

Adam Nash, a Silicon Valley-born-and-bred operator and investor, is back at it again.

Today, on his personal blog, he announced that he has started a consumer fintech company that has already garnered initial funding from Ribbit Capital, along with other “friends and angels” who appear to have also pitched into the round, including Box CEO Aaron Levie, Mighty Networks founder Gina Bianchini, Superhuman founder Rahul Vohra, and Amy Chang, who sold her startup Accompany to Cisco in 2018.

Nash didn’t reveal many details in the post or later on Twitter, saying he’ll have more to say when the company is closer to launching. All we really know at this point is that he cofounded the company with Alejandro Crosa, an Argentinian software engineer who most recently spent five months at Slack but logged more than three years at both Twitter and LinkedIn before that.

Nash said on Twitter that the two met at LinkedIn, where Nash was himself VP of product management for four years beginning in 2007. It’s a good detail to know, considering that Nash has logged time at a wide variety of tech outfits over the years, making it hard to guess at whom he knows and from where.

A computer science graduate of Stanford, where he later nabbed a master’s degree, Nash began his career interning at NASA, HP, and Trilogy before landing his first big job as a software engineer at Apple in 1996 (when former PepsiCo exec, John Sculley, was briefly running the place).

After moving on to a bubble-era company that no longer exists, Nash tried his hand at VC for the first time, joining Atlas Venture as an associate. To get more operating experience, he then jumped to eBay, where he was a director; LinkedIn, where he met Crosa; then Greylock, where he spent just over a year as an entrepreneur-in-residence (EIR) before joining the wealth-management startup Wealthfront as its president and CEO, a job that the company’s original CEO and founder, Andy Rachleff, reclaimed in 2016.

Nash didn’t disappear from the scene. Instead, he rejoined Greylock as an EIR for another year before joining Dropbox shortly after it went public in 2018 as its VP of product and growth, leaving that post back in February to start his own thing, he said at the time.

That Nash would start a fintech company specifically isn’t surprising, considering his involvement with Wealthfront, as well as some of the personal investments he has made in recent years.

In 2018, for example, he wrote a check to LearnLux, a five-year-old, Boston-based educational startup that helps employees better understand their 401k, health savings accounts, and stock options. He is also an investor in Human Interest, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based startup that offers automated, paperless 401(k) plans.

Nash is also riding a very big wave.  According to Pitchbook, consumer fintech is on pace to attract a record amount of venture funding in 2020, at least in North America and Europe.

We’ll let you know more about what Nash is building as soon as he’s ready to share more. The little that Nash is saying publicly for now is that he and Crosa believe there is “still a lot more to do in consumer fintech, and that through software we can help bring purpose to the way people approach their financial lives.”

Continue Reading

Trending