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Blue Origin successfully launches and lands key crew capsule test in first mission of 2021

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Blue Origin launched its first mission of 2021, flying its New Shepard rocket in West Texas to a medium height of just over 350,000 feet. This is the first flight for this particular booster, and for the capsule it carried, which was equipped with a range of new passenger safety, control and comfort systems that Blue Origin was testing during flight for the first time. Also on board was a life-sized test dummy called ‘Mannequin Skywalker’ that recorded information during the flight and landing that the Blue Origin will now review.

Based on the video stream and commentary from the company, this looks like a very successful test, including a takeoff, booster separation, controlled landing burn and touchdown – and a parachute-aided landing back on terra firma for the crew capsule. The mission didn’t carry any real passengers, although there were 50,000 postcards on board from school kids globally that have now officially been to space (past the Karman line) which will be returned to those students via Blue Origin’s non-profit ‘Club for the Future.’

This is essentially what the mission will look like once Blue Origin actually begins to fly paying private astronauts to suborbital space as well; while we don’t have a timeline for when that’ll happen, today’s launch included key tests of a crew alert system that will provide anyone onboard with crucial mission information, as well as a new soft lining on the wall for protection during the weightless portion of the flight, as well as for sound and vibration dampening for the comfort of those on board. This capsule was also equipped with a carbon dioxide scrubber, which will be used to provide safe atmosphere for those within the capsule during the course of the flight.

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This is the new interior of Tesla’s Model S

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The Model S will see some significant changes to its interior this year. After months of rumors, Tesla confirmed the revisions in a few images released just ahead of its quarterly earnings call scheduled for later this afternoon.

Some of the changes — like the shift to a widescreen display — are things that have made their way over from the Model 3. Others are entirely new.

(Update: Tesla has updated its website with refreshed ordering pages that indicate the Model X SUV will be getting the below revisions as well!)

Here’s what we’ve spotted so far:

An airplane-style steering “yoke” (similar to the one spotted in prototypes of Tesla’s new Roadster) instead of a standard round wheel.

Image Credits: Tesla

The front center screen is now a 17″ widescreen display, instead of a 17″ tall/portrait display. The resolution, meanwhile, is shifting from 1900×1200 to 2200×1300.

Image Credits: Tesla

In addition to the 12.3″ driver display above the steering yoke, there’s also now an 8″ display in the rear (presumably so passengers can more easily play the car’s built-in games in the back, as displayed.)

Image Credits: Tesla

Tesla’s earnings call is scheduled to start at 3:30pm Pacific. If they mention anything else changing about the interior, we’ll update this post.

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IAC’s Teltech acquired encrypted mobile messaging app Confide

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IAC has acquired Confide, the encrypted mobile messaging that once made headlines for its use by White House staffers during the Trump administration. The deal, which closed on Dec. 1, 2020 but was not publicly announced, sees Confide joining Teltech, the makers of spam call-busting app Robokiller, which itself had joined IAC’s Mosaic Group by way of a 2018 acquisition.

Teltech confirmed the Confide acquisition, but declined to share the deal terms. The confidential mobile messaging app had raised just $3.5 million in funding, according to Crunchbase data, and had been valued between $10 to $50 million, as a result. (Pitchbook put the valuation at ~$14 million around the same time.)

According to Teltech, the deal was for the Confide IP and technology, but not the team.

The company believes Confide makes for a good fit among its growing group of mobile communication apps, including Robokiller and its latest app, SwitchUp, which offers users a second phone number for additional privacy and spam blocking purposes. Other Teletech apps include phone call recorder TapeACall and blocked call unmasker TrapCall.

Confide, however, may end up being one of the better-known additions among that group, thanks to being remembered as a favored tool of choice among frustrated Washington Republicans during the Trump years.

But despite the user growth that news had driven, things slowed in the months that followed, when researchers published a report that claimed Confide wasn’t as secure as it had promised. Confide quickly fixed its vulnerabilities but then a month later was facing a class action lawsuit (later dismissed by the plaintiff) over the security issues.

Teltech says it was aware of the security concerns, but it had conversations with the prior Confide team and understands that the earlier issues had been “quickly and effectively remediated.”

While IAC won’t speak to its specific plans for Confide’s future, the app will continue to offer users a safe and secure way to communicate. What it won’t do, though, is try to directly compete with Telegram or other private apps that offer large channels or group chats that support tens of thousands of people at once.

“I think one kind of key differentiators is that Confide is definitely more for one-on-one and smaller group communication, rather than with Signal and Telegram where there’s some larger chat dynamics,” notes Giulia Porter, Teltech’s VP of Marketing. “One thing that makes us a little bit different is just that we’re more personal,” she says.

Despite having hit some bumps in the road over the years, Confide as of the time of the acquisition, still had around 100,000 monthly active users. There’s now a team of around 10 assigned to work on the app, adding needed resources to its further development, and soon, an updated logo and branding.

Confide’s existing desktop and mobile apps will also continue to be available, but later updated with new features as part of Teltech’s efforts.

Investors and IAC alike have declined to talk about deal price, but that may speak for itself.

“With the absolute explosion in privacy over the past several years, Confide, which started as a side project, has become a mission-critical platform for sensitive communication throughout the world,” said Confide co-founder and President Jon Brod, in a statement shared with TechCrunch about Confide’s exit.

“We’re thrilled that IAC shares our passion for secure communication and recognizes the unique business we have built. IAC has a proven track record of providing fast-growing companies with the support to reach their full potential and we are excited to see IAC take Confide to the next level,” he said.

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Squarespace files privately to go public

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Squarespace announced this afternoon that it is going public. The online website creation and hosting service is a venture-backed entity, having raised Series A and B rounds in 2010 and 2014, respectively. Those deals were worth a combined $78.5 million, according to Crunchbase data.

But Squarespace is perhaps best known for its epic 2017-era $200 million secondary round that General Atlantic financed. A secondary round is a transaction in which an external party buys share from existing shareholders, instead of the company issuing new equity. Some private companies execute secondary transactions when they do not need additional capital, but are also not near a liquidity event.

The 2017 transaction fits well with the company’s now-impending 2021 IPO.

At the time TechCrunch reported that the company had revenues of around $300 million and that it was profitable.

By filing, Squarespace joins a growing list of companies pursuing the public markets in recent months. At the end of 2020 C3.ai, DoorDash and Airbnb listed. To kick off 2021, Affirm and Poshmark listed to great effect. Coinbase has filed, Robinhood is a hot IPO prospect, and now Squarespace is throwing its hat into the ring.

The Squarespace filing is private, which means that we are waiting for a future public S-1 from the company. Here’s its own words on the current state of affairs:

Squarespace, Inc. today announced that it has confidentially submitted a draft registration statement on Form S-1 with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”). The registration statement is expected to become effective after the SEC completes its review process, subject to market and other conditions.

As Squarespace is a software company, a cloud company and a company with a hand in the e-commerce space, we can only presume that it will suffer from a stultifying lack of investor interest when it does file, price and list.1 After all, we’ve not seen a hot software IPO for weeks.

Hat’s off to Squarespace for freeing us from the news doldrums. We’re going back to our nap now.

1This is sarcasm.

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