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Don’t miss these breakout sessions at TC Sessions: Space 2020

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Ready to blast off and join thousands of attendees around the world at TC Sessions: Space 2020 on December 16-17? The event, focused on space technology and dedicated to helping early-stage startups succeed in this exciting yet daunting industry, features panel discussions and interviews with the top leaders, visionaries and makers on the planet.

Want to save $50? Buy your pass before Tuesday, December 15 at 11:59 p.m. (PT) to lock in the Late Registration price before rates increase.

While you’ll find many of these brilliant experts speaking from the Main Stage, don’t miss the focused programming we have lined up for the Breakout Sessions. That’s where you’ll find our partners sharing their in-depth expertise on a range of topics. Check out these breakouts waiting to drop a galaxy’s worth of knowledge on you.

Wednesday, December 16

(all times in PST)

9:00 – 10:00 a.m.

Fast Money — SMC Space Ventures, AFWERX and Space Force Accelerators

Learn how SMC Space Ventures, AFWERX and Space Force Accelerators work together to connect startups to government organizations and resources in the space industry.

10:00 – 11:00 a.m.
Sponsored by SP8CEVC

Introducing the launch of the World’s First Space Technology and Human Longevity focused Rolling Fund in partnership with AngelList

Fireside chat with the general partners and team from SP8CEVC covering the verticals of Space Technology and Human Longevity.

11:00 – 11:30 a.m.

Fast Money — Working with the Army to Operationalize Science for Transformational Overmatch

Learn about DEVCOM Army Research Laboratory and the xTech Program of prize competitions that accelerate innovative solutions that can help solve Army challenges.

11:30 – 12:30 p.m.

Pitch Feedback Session

Join us for a pitch feedback session open to all startups exhibiting at TC Sessions: Space 2020 moderated by TechCrunch staff.

1:00 – 1:50 p.m.
Sponsored by The Aerospace Corporation

University Showcase — Boldly Innovating in Space, for Space (Part One)

Technologies to Go Boldly in Space — For the past half century, space exploration and technology has been earth-centric. We’ve studied the earth, orbited the earth and sent images of distant places back to earth. In the coming decade, we’ll embark on a new commitment: We’re going to space to stay. We’re committing to space commerce, space habitation and space exploration in order to not just stay in space, but to extend our human footprint into this solar system. To be successful, we need bold people and new technology to build and deploy the next generation of space capabilities. We need to capture these space opportunities, avoid potential threats and deliver on the promise of a multi-planet human race. This session showcases our partners USC and MIT, as they provide insight into their space programs. They are joined by university partners UCLA, ASU and Caltech, showcasing a range of emerging space technologies. Working with the Aerospace Corporation, these emerging capabilities can be evaluated and integrated into government space-faring missions for communicating, navigating and exploring in space with NASA, NOAA and the Air Force.

Thursday, December 17

9:00 – 9:30 a.m.

Cislunar Space: Building a Self-Sustaining Lunar Economy

We are standing on the threshold of a post-scarcity human future. Cislunar space, the area between the Earth and the moon, holds the keys to a tremendous wealth of opportunities.

9:30 – 10:00 a.m.

Fast Money — Advancing Space Technology with NASA SBIR

Learn about the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs powered by NASA.

10:00 – 10:30 a.m.

Fast Money — NAVWAR SBIR/STTR Primer: The SBIR/STTR is a robust program designed to help small businesses address government needs while promoting commercialization. This session is dedicated to providing a primer on the program with tips on getting involved and getting engaged with the Naval Information Warfare Systems Command (NAVWAR).

10:30 – 11:00 a.m.

Fast Money — Introduction to In-Q-Tel’s investing activities in the commercial space sector: In-Q-Tel is a strategic investment firm that works with the national security community of the United States. For 20 years, In-Q-Tel has served one mission: to deliver the most sophisticated strategic technical knowledge and capabilities to the U.S. government and its allies through its unique investment model. Over the past decade, In-Q-Tel has been one of the most active investors in the commercial space sector, with a broad investment thesis that touches many aspects of the sector. This session will provide an overview of In-Q-Tel as a whole, as well as a discussion of the firm’s activities in the commercial space sector.

11:00 – 11:30 a.m.

Fast Money — Enabling a dual-use business model with Defense Innovation Unit (DIU)

Learn how you can take a part of DIU’s development of on-demand access to space, persistent satellite capabilities and broadband space data transfer

11:30 – 12:30 p.m.

Starburst x TechCrunch — Pitch Me to the Moon: Starburst Aerospace and TechCrunch are teaming up to launch a pitch competition like no other – Pitch Me to the Moon. Think “Startup Battlefield,” but for space. Ten promising early-stage space startups (selected by Starburst) will have an opportunity to present their innovations live to a panel of high-profile judges from across the industry.

1:00 – 1:50 p.m.
Sponsored by The Aerospace Corporation

University Showcase — Boldly Innovating in Space, for Space (Part Two)

Bold Missions — For the past half century, space exploration and technology has been earth-centric. We’ve studied the earth, orbited the earth and sent images of distant places back to earth. In the coming decade, we’ll embark on a new commitment: We’re going to space to stay. We’re committing to space commerce, space habitation and space exploration in order to not just stay in space, but to extend our human footprint into this solar system. To be successful, we need bold people and new technology to build and deploy the next generation of space capabilities. We need to capture these space opportunities, avoid potential threats and deliver on the promise of a multi-planet human race. This session showcases our partners USC and MIT, as they provide insight into their space programs. They are joined by university partners UCLA, ASU and Caltech, showcasing a range of emerging space technologies. Working with the Aerospace Corporation, these emerging capabilities can be evaluated and integrated into government space-faring missions for communicating, navigating, and exploring in space with NASA, NOAA and the Air Force.

Whew, talk about a great lineup. You might say it’s out-of-this-world — which raises the question: Can you hear a rimshot in space? Don’t forget to peruse the rest of our programming in the event agenda and start planning your schedule now.

Pro Tip: Say goodbye to FOMO. Our virtual platform makes it easy to toggle between the Main Stage and Breakout Sessions. Plus, you’ll have access to video on demand, so you won’t miss a beat (excluding the Expo Ticket).

Remember, late registration savings end on Tuesday, December 15 at 11:59 p.m. (PT). We also offer discount passes for groups, students and government, military and nonprofit employees. Buy the pass that’s right for you today!

Is your company interested in sponsoring TC Sessions: Space 2020? Click here to talk with us about available opportunities.


 

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

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Wattpad, the storytelling platform, is selling to South Korea’s Naver for $600 million

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Wattpad, the 14-year-old, Toronto-based, venture-backed storytelling platform with reach into a number of verticals, is being acquired by Naver, the South Korean conglomerate, in a $600 million cash-and-stock deal.

Naver plans to incorporate at least part of the business into another of its holdings, the 16-year-old publishing portal Webtoon, which Naver launched in 2004, brought to the U.S., and that features thousands of comic strips created by its users. It also has a huge audience. According to Naver, Webtoons was averaging more than 67 million monthly users as of last August.

On its face, the deal appears to make sense. According to Korea’s Pulse News, some of  Korea’s webtoons are finding a broader audience and crossing over into film. (Below is a trailer for one popular series called “The Secret of Angel.”)

Similarly, Wattpad, which originally launched as an e-reading app, has evolved into a hugely popular platform where users publish their original work and more than 90 million people visit monthly to read them.  (According to a story published last week in the Verge, Wattpad has published more than a billion stories over the years,  and it claims its users spend a collective 22 billion minutes per month reading these.)

Like Webtoon, Wattpad has been more focused on streaming media, given the many platforms now needing fresh content, from Netflix to Apple to farther flung outfits, like GoJek’s GoPlay, launched by the Indonesian ride-hailing giant in 2019. (In addition to Wattpad Studios, Wattpad also launched a book publishing division in 2019.)

CEO Jun Koo Kim of Webtoon said in a release about the new tie-up that it represents a “big step towards us becoming a leading global multimedia entertainment company.”

Meanwhile, CEO Seong-Sook Han of Naver — whose properties include the popular Tokyo-based messaging app Line — said in press release that Wattpad co-founders Allen Lau and Ivan Yuen will continue to lead the company they have built post-acquisition.

As for whether the acquisition is a win for Wattpad’s investors, it appears to be a moderate one. (It’s hard to discern much without knowing the terms under which each outfit invested.)

Wattpaid had raised $117.8 million from investors in Asia, the United States, and Canada over the years and closed its most recent round with $51 million from Tencent Holdings, BDC, Globe Telecom’s Kickstart Ventures, Peterson Group, Canso, and Raine Ventures.

That last deal, announced in 2018, assigned the company a post-money valuation of $398 million according to Pitchbook.

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Reflections on the first all-virtual CES

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I’ve spent more time than I care to mention over the last several years wondering aloud about the value of in-person trade shows. There’s something seemingly antiquated in the idea of jamming a bunch of people in a room, walking from booth to booth. Sure, they’ve fulfilled an important need in the past, but aren’t they just a relic in this hyperconnected world?

I’ve always assumed that if trade shows were to go extinct, it would be a gradual process — a slow fade into cultural irrelevance, like bookstores and record stores (both things I miss dearly). Technology has, for many intents and purposes, dramatically reduced their relative value to our society.

While it’s undoubtedly true that Spotify and the Kindle Store are lacking in much of the appeal and all of the charm of their real-world counterparts, we’re happy to sacrifice all that and more at the alter of convenience.

A rampaging pandemic has effectively given us a year without in-person trade shows. That means, among other things, we’ve had a much more immediate control variable in this question about trade shows. Last year’s CES managed to get in just under the wire. The next major consumer electronics show — Mobile World Congress — was eventually canceled after much hand-wringing.

The CTA (the governing body behind CES) appeared to have been planning a scaled-back in-person version of the show this year, following a similar move by the team behind the Berlin-based IFA over the summer. By July, however, it was clear that such a plan was untenable. To put it bluntly, the United States didn’t have its shit together when it comes to keeping this virus in check (I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that we just hit 400,000 deaths on the day I’m writing this).

CES 2021 was far from the first tech show to go all virtual over this past year. The size and scope of the event, on the other hand, are relatively unique here. Per the CTA, the 2020 show drew north of 170,000 attendees. The majority of the tech events I’ve attended virtually in the past year have been put on by a single company. CES is obviously a different beast entirely.

The CTA’s (nee CEA) role in the industry certainly afforded it a fair bit of goodwill up front. The show, after all, dates back to the late-60s. It has ebbed and flowed over the years (taking hits from external forces like the 2008 financial crisis), but it has remained a constant. Those of us who’ve been doing this for a while tend to face the show with equal parts anticipation and dread. But the companies always come out.

Per the CTA’s numbers, nearly 2,000 companies launched products at the 2021 event. The figure pales in comparison to the 4,419 companies exhibiting last year, but that’s to be expected. In addition to the uncertain nature of the event, it’s been a remarkably crappy year for plenty of companies. I certainly had my questions and doubts going in — chief among them was the value of an event like this for a startup? Without an in-person element, wasn’t this just yet another chance to get lost in the noise?

I heard similar feedback from startups on the side, though ultimately nearly 700 chose to exhibit at the show. I know because I ended up going through all of them for the purposes of our coverage. It brought back a kind of visceral memory of the year I challenged myself to walk every square inch of the show, and ended up being challenging for entirely different reasons.

Ultimately, this was the element I missed the most. For me, CES’s biggest appeal has been the element of discovery. Eureka Park, the jam-packed startup portion of the show at the Sands Expo, is easily the best part. The vast majority of exhibitors are not for us, but I still get a charge stumbling on something new and innovative I’ve not seen before. The blogger instinct that lives dormant inside kicks in and I can’t wait to get back in front of my laptop to tell the world.

There was no Eureka Park this year — not even a virtual version. There’s just no good way to approximate a show floor online — at least none that I’m aware of. A couple of existing contacts offered to send me stuff in the mail to look out. Sensel, for instance, has a new version of its trackpad (which it announced today will be integrated into Lenovo’s latest ThinkPad). But for obvious reasons, it’s just not possible to get all 700 startups to send review units to my one-bedroom in Queens.

More than anything, the virtual event highlighted the technology limitations of an event at this scale. Press conferences are simple enough (though I found frustration in the various different platforms the CTA employed). More often than not, these felt like lengthy commercials for the exhibiting company. The in-person versions are, as well, of course, but we tend to be blinded by the spectacle. For my own purposes, there just wasn’t a lot that that couldn’t have been accomplished more efficiently with a press release.

The nature of news releases was far more nebulous this year. More companies seemingly took liberties by dumping their news well ahead of the show. Other companies offered their own sort of counter programming. One of the biggest advantages to these events when it comes to my own peace of mind is how they regulate the news flow. I know going into the year that there’s going to be one hair-pullingly difficult week at the beginning of the year where a ton of news is announced.

With CES less of a center of gravity this year, I anticipated seeing a less segmented news flow. I’ve commented to colleagues over the last couple of years that there’s “no more slow season” when it comes to hardware news, and this will likely only increase that sentiment. Obviously there’s upside in having things more evenly spread out, but I’ve got the feeling we’re moving toward something more akin to a series of small CES-like events throughout the year, and the thought makes my blood turn cold.

It’s been clear in recent years that companies would rather break out from the noise of CES in favor of their own events, following in Apple’s footsteps. Virtual events are a perfect opportunity to adopt that approach. Apple, meanwhile, moved from one event to a series of one smaller event every month toward the end of the year. When you’re not asking people to fly across the country or world to attend an event, the bar for what qualifies as news lowers considerably. Perhaps instead of having thousands of companies vying for our attention at one event, we’re moving toward a model in which there are instead thousands of events. The mind boggles.

I have some hyper-specific grievances about the CTA’s format, but I’ll save them for the post-event survey that I may or may not get around to filling out. I still found value in the virtual event. It was an excuse to talk to a bunch of startups I wasn’t familiar with. Ultimately, however, I think the event served as a testament to the fact that as much as we bemoan all of the headaches and head colds that come with an event like CES, there’s still a lot of value to be had in the in-person event.

There’s little doubt that the CTA and the rest of these sorts of organizations are champing at the bit to return to in-person events, even as a bumpy vaccine rollout leaves a big question mark around the expected timeline. There’s a very good chance that we’ll view 2020/2021 as the beginning of the end for the in-person trade show. But given the sorts of limitations we’ve seen in the past year, I’m not ready to declare them fully dead any time soon.

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Brave web browser adds native support for peer-to-peer IPFS protocol

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The decentralized tech community is aiming to find support for technologies that go beyond cryptocurrency support.

In a blog post, today the team at Brave announced that they have worked with Protocol Labs to integrate native support for the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) inside their browser. The peer-to-peer file sharing standard launched in 2015 and has been gathering support among open-source advocates who laud the protocol’s ability to stop companies and government bodies from taking down content across the web, as well as the more functional performance improvements, offline file viewing capabilities and underlying reliability.

IPFS shares plenty of similarities with BitTorrent and allows files to be hosted by a multitude of users distributed across networks. With the update, Brave users will be able to access content from web addresses starting with ipfs:// and will be able to host an IPFS node themselves. The company says that adding support for IPFS will help improve “the overall resilience of the Internet.”

Brave is a likely home for the IPFS protocol given the company’s affinity for all things decentralized. The startup founded by Mozilla co-founder Brendan Eich says it now has 24 million monthly active users. Some of Brave’s most unique features have involved blockchain or peer-to-peer tech. In 2018, Brave announced a beta of Tor Tabs bringing the decentralized Onion protocol into the mix.

Last year, Opera announced that it was bringing limited support for IPFS to its Android application.

Decentralization tech is finding more mainstream interest as tech companies have slowly warmed up to the opportunities in cryptocurrency. Last week, TechCrunch looked into how Twitter was looking to help build out a decentralized network for social media platforms.

It’s unclear whether this is a technology that more mainstream browsers will opt to support natively, given the clear potential for abuse that exists in allowing users to work around file takedowns and the fact that is a pretty niche technology for the time being.

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