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Announcing the complete agenda for TC Sessions: Justice

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TC Sessions: Justice, our second-ever dedicated event to diversity, equity, inclusion and labor in tech, is coming up on March 3, 2021. This is a virtual one-day conference featuring the brightest innovators, leaders and worker-activists in the industry.

We’re pumped to be able to host Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Backstage Capital founder and Managing Partner Arlan Hamilton, Gig Workers Collective’s Vanessa Bain, Alphabet Workers Union Executive Chair Parul Koul, Color of Change President Rashad Robinson, Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt and others.

In addition to the firesides and panel discussions of the virtual stage, the event will also include networking, startup presentations and the chance to connect with attendees from around the world.

Below, you’ll find the official agenda for TC Sessions: Justice. If you want to be a part of this event, you can grab a ticket here for just $5.

If you’re interested in a sponsored speaking opportunity to join the stage with these fantastic speakers, contact us here to speak with someone from our sales team!

AGENDA

Wednesday, March 3

State of the Union with Parul Koul (Google), Grace Reckers (Office and Professional Employees International Union) and Clarissa Redwine (NYU)

Labor unions have been fairly uncommon in tech. That’s finally starting to change in recent years, as workers have pushed to organize at some the industry’s biggest companies, from Alphabet to Kickstarter. Parul Koul (Google), Grace Reckers (Office and Professional Employees International Union) and Clarissa Redwine (NYU) will join us to discuss the growing movement.

Finding the Next Unicorn with Arlan Hamilton (Backstage Capital)

Arlan Hamilton, the founder and managing partner of Backstage Capital, has raised more than $12 million to back 150 companies led by underrepresented founders. In this session, Hamilton will discuss how she vets the biggest opportunities in investment, and how to disrupt in a positive way.

The Path Forward for Essential Tech Workers with Vanessa Bain (Gig Workers Collective), Jessica E. Martinez (National Council for Occupational Safety and Health) and Christian Smalls (The Congress of Essential Workers)

Gig workers and warehouse workers have become essential in a pandemic-ravaged economy. In California, a law went into effect earlier this year that makes gig workers independent contractors. Meanwhile, Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama are actively seeking to form a union to ensure better protections at the workplace. You’ll hear from workers and organizers about what’s next for gig workers and tech’s contractor workforce, and what battles lie ahead for these essential workers.

Creating Equity in Tech with Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA)

The ‘pipeline problem’ is often cited as the reason for a lack of diversity in the tech industry. But it’s a myth. Congresswoman Barbara Lee, having represented the East Bay of California for almost a decade, knows all too well about the rise of tech in the Bay Area. We’ll talk with Congresswoman Lee about the opportunities before us to create an equal playing field in tech so that underrepresented investors, founders, designers, coders and the like can reap the benefits.

Identifying and Dismantling Tech’s Deep Systems of Bias with Haben Girma (Disability Justice Lawyer), Mutale Nkonde (AI for the People) and Safiya Umoja Noble (UCLA)

Nearly every popular technology or service has within it systems of bias or exclusion, ignored by the privileged but obvious to the groups affected. How should these systems be exposed and documented, and how can we set about eliminating them and preventing more from appearing in the future? AI for the People’s Mutale Nkonde, disability rights lawyer Haben Girma and author of “Algorithms of Oppression” Safiya Umoja Noble discuss a more inclusive future.

Sponsored by Latinx Startup Alliance: Latinx Founders Leading with Inclusion 

Latinx Founders who are leading with inclusion through diverse teams and/or supporting a diverse mission, inclusion is a part of their DNA.

Founders in Focus with Tracy Chou (Block Party)

We sit down with the founders poised to be the next big disruptors in this industry. Here we chat with Tracy Chou of Block Party, which works to protect people from abuse and harassment online.

The Role of Online Hate and Where Social Media Goes from Here with Naj Austin (Somewhere Good and Ethel’s Club), Jesse Lehrich (Accountable Tech) and Rashad Robinson (Color of Change)

Toxic culture, deadly conspiracies and organized hate have exploded online in recent years. We’ll discuss how much responsibility social networks have in the rise of these phenomena and how to build healthy online communities that make society better, not worse.

Sponsored by StartOut: The Impact of Out LGBTQ+ Entrepreneurs

StartOut and Socos Lab are excited to speak at TechCrunch Justice, and cover the Inclusion Impact Indexes. Its first iteration; the StartOut Pride Economic Impact Index quantifies the economic value of under-utilized LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs. The project looks at entrepreneurs’ economic impact in terms of job creation, patents, financings, and exits in the U.S. Our agenda will be a brief introduction, a demo of the index and its current findings, and a Q&A discussion with the publishers of the index.

Sponsored by Onshape: Fireside Chat – Diversity Is More Than Hiring People of Color

It may appear that the country is accepting change – from racial diversity to equality in the workplace. However, we still have ways to go. For example, organizational diversity is still about hiring from diverse talent pools. In reality, to activate the full potential of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) requires more than a “people strategy.” Robust and sustainable work in this area requires embedding DEI principles, policies, systems, and practices into all parts of the business, including the employee and customer experience, brand culture, and overall industry/corporate citizenship.

Networking Break

With our virtual platform, attendees can network via video chat, giving folks the chance to make meaningful connections. CrunchMatch, our algorithmic matching product, will be available to ensure you’re meeting the right people at the show, as well as random matching for attendees who are feeling more adventurous.

Demystifying First-Check Fundraising with First-Check Investors with Brian Brackeen (Lightship Capital), Astrid Scholz (Zebras Unite) and Sydney Thomas (Precursor Ventures) 

There are so many ways to finance your startup that don’t include Y combinator or a traditional fund. In this stacked panel, founders will hear from a trio of decision-makers about how to leverage unconventional communities and resources to get the first dollars they need to execute.

Tech in the Era of Accountability with Jonathan Greenblatt (Anti-Defamation League

A hands-off approach to moderating online platforms invited hate to flourish in plain sight over the last four years. We’ll speak with Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt on proposed policy solutions, if tech is on the cusp of a real era of accountability and what the organization’s mission looks like in 2021 and beyond.
Meeting of the Minds with Sandra Altine (Facebook),  Wade Davis (Netflix) and Bo Young Lee (Uber)

Diversity and inclusion as an idea has been on the agenda of tech companies for years now. But the industry still lacks true inclusion, despite best efforts put forth by heads of diversity, equity and inclusion at these companies. We’ll seek to better understand what’s standing in the way of progress and what it’s going to take to achieve real change.

Access All Areas: Designing Accessibility from Day One with Cynthia Bennett (Carnegie Mellon University), Srin Madipalli (formerly of Accomable and Airbnb) and Mara Mills (NYU)

The session will examine the importance of ensuring accessible product design from the beginning. We’ll ask how the social and medical models of disability influence technological evolution. Integrating the expertise of disabled technologists, makers, investors, scientists, software engineers into the DNA of your company from the very beginning is vital to the pursuit of a functioning and equitable society. And could mean you don’t leave money on the table.

Reimagining Pathways for Returned Citizens with Jason Jones (The Last Mile), Deepti Rohatgi (Slack) and Aly Tamboura (Chan Zuckerberg Initiative)

Reentering society after having been incarcerated presents challenges few of us can understand. In this panel, we will examine the role tech can play in ensuring pathways to employment for returned citizens.


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India’s Paytm turns Android smartphones into POS machines in merchants push

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Paytm said on Tuesday it is turning NFC-enabled Android smartphones into point-of-sale machines, as it looks to win more merchants in one of the world’s largest mobile payments markets.

A Paytm merchant partner will now be able to enable card acceptance feature from their Paytm Business app. Once activated, they will be able to process a transaction by tapping a plastic card to their phone.

Paytm Smart POS supports Visa, Mastercard, and Rupeek, the Indian startup said.

Existing payment devices in the market haven’t proven very successful in reaching small and medium sized businesses in India, most of which remain offline, said Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder and chief executive of Paytm, at a virtual press conference today.

To win these merchants, Paytm has in recent years rolled out QR codes that work across several payment networks, and launched jukeboxes and other gadgets to make it easier for merchants to accept payments digitally.

With today’s move, said Sharma, “the obligation of buying a POS machine, too, is no longer needed.” The startup said that most new Android smartphone models support the NFC feature.

Paytm also unveiled the newer generation jukebox POS that looks similar to a QR placard. “The reason why merchants haven’t actively adopted many of the existing POS machines is that they are not comfortable with it,” said Dilip Asbe, head of payments body NPCI, at the virtual conference.

The Indian startup, which processed more than 1.2 billion transactions last month, said it will charge a small subscription fee to merchant partners for accessing either of the aforementioned payments services.

The move, which in many ways pits Paytm against Sequoia Capital-backed Pine Labs, a market leader in the POS category but a significantly smaller startup, demonstrates just how aggressively Paytm is expanding its payments platform to go after merchants.

“Just the way, mobile phones saw an evolution from featurephone to smartphone, we believe the merchant PoS market in India is at an inflexion point to evolve from the traditional (aka dumb-PoS) to Smart-PoS. Unlike traditional PoS, which only allows transactions from debit/credit-card, some of the features of a Smart-PoS are: GST compliant bill, scanner/printer, takes all payments including UPI, is Bluetooth enabled and could be customized for different merchants as per their needs. While currently the Fintech companies are offering these devices, we expect banks to catch-up eventually,” wrote analysts at Bank of America in a recent note to clients.

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Taipei-based Influenxio gets $2M from DCM Ventures for its “microinfluencer” marketing platform

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Influencer marketing startup Influenxio's team, with founder and CEO Allan Ko in the center

Influenxio’s team, with founder and chief executive officer Allan Ko in the center

“Microinfluencers” are gaining clout among marketers. Though they may have as little as a thousand followers, microinfluencers tend to focus on specific content and be seen as more engaging and trustworthy by their audience, said Allan Ko, founder and chief executive officer of Influenxio. The Taipei-based startup, which connects brands with Instagram microinfluencers through its online platform, announced today that it has closed $2 million in pre-Series A funding led by DCM Ventures, and is launching a new subscription plan.

Founded in 2018, Influenxio has now raised over $3 million in total, including from seed investor SparkLabs Taipei. It currently operates in Taiwan and Japan, where it has databases of 100,000 and 250,000 Instagram creators, respectively. So far, over 6,000 brands have registered on Influenxio’s platform, and it has been used to run over 1,000 campaigns.

Influenxio plans to use its new funding for hiring and product development. Influenxio’s new subscription plan is a relatively novel model for the field, so one of the startup’s goals is to prove that it works, Ko told TechCrunch. The company also plans to build out its Japanese platform and expand into more countries.

A screenshot of Influenxio's platform

A screenshot of Influenxio’s platform

Influenxio analyzes past campaigns, performance data and client reviews to improve its algorithms. Since the entire campaign creation process–from finding influencers to paying them–is performed through Influenxio, this allows it to gather a wide range of data to refine its technology, Ko told TechCrunch.

Influencers typically make about $35 to $40 USD for each campaign they participate in, and most of the brands the company works with focus on food (like restaurants), fashion, beauty or lifestyle services.

Before launching Influenxio, Ko spent 15 years working in the digital marketing field, serving as an account manager at Yahoo! and Microsoft, and then head of Hong Kong and Taiwan for Google’s online partnerships group. He wanted to create a startup that would combine what he had learned about digital marketing and make accessible to more businesses.

Large brands have used Influenxio to quickly generate marketing campaigns for special occasions like Mother’s Day or Christmas. For example, one advertiser in Taiwan used Influenxio to hire almost 200 influencers in one week, who were asked to test and post about their products, and some of Influenxio’s highest profile clients include Shiseido, Shopee, iHerb and KKBox.

But the majority of Influenxio’s clients (about 80% to 90%) are small- to medium-sized businesses, and Ko said they usually create multiple campaigns to build brand awareness over time, working with a few influencers a month.

Influenxio’s new subscription plan, which costs less than $100 USD a month and is launching first in Taiwan before rolling out to other markets, was created for them. “The first year we launched the platform, we found small businesses want experts and advice,” said Ko. Many don’t have marketing managers, so Influenxio’s subscription plan automatically matches them with new influencers each month and provides them with analytics so they can see how well campaigns are performing.

Influenxio is among a growing number of startups that are tapping into the “microinfluencer economy,” with others including AspireIQ, Upfluence and Grin.

Ko said Influenxio’s biggest difference is its focus on small businesses, and serving as a one-stop marketplace for influencer campaigns. “The important thing for our platform is that it needs to be very easy and simple,” he added. “We spent a lot of time on the execution and details to make it smoother on the advertiser side. For the influencer side, we try to make it more convenient. For example, the way they receive money, our goal is to also make it easy.”

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Kia’s electric vehicle plans take shape with EV6 teaser, new naming strategy

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Kia started the year by dropping “motor company” from its corporate name and revealing a new logo and slogan as part of Plan S, a strategy to shift its business away from internal combustion engines and towards EVs, mobility services and autonomous vehicle technology.

Now, the South Korean automaker is starting to share more details of the first vehicle that will come out of Plan S. Kia released Tuesday several teaser images of the EV6, its first dedicated battery-electric vehicle built on its new Electric-Global Modular Platform, or E-GMP platform. This platform is shared with Hyundai and is the underlying foundation of the new Hyundai Ioniq 5 compact crossover.

These are teasers and so the vehicle isn’t shown in full. But even with the limited view enough design features are visible to begin to understand what Kia’s design language means for the EV6 and its other future electric vehicles.

The EV6 is a four-door crossover, which isn’t a surprise considering the popularity of such vehicles in the U.S. The low front end moves up into a roofline that is reminiscent of a coupe. The LED headlights have a segmented pattern and the traditional grille found on internal combustion engine vehicles is gone.

Kia teases EV6

Image credits: Kia

The company also revealed a new naming scheme to help consumers easily identify the EVs in its lineup. Kia said its new dedicated battery electric vehicles will all start with the “EV” prefix. A number will follow “EV” to indicate the vehicle’s position the line-up. That puts the EV6 somewhere in the middle of its upcoming lineup.

Kia said the EV6 will make its world premiere during the first quarter of 2021.

“Our aim is to design the physical experience of our brand and to create bold, original and inventive electric vehicles,” Karim Habib, senior vice president and head of Kia Global Design Center, said in a statement.

Kia’s strategy is more ambitious though than creating bold, original and inventive electric vehicles. The company said last year that it wanted to become a pioneer in the age of EVs, a brand beloved by the millennial generation and Z generation and a symbol of challenge and innovation. Kia has placed sales and product goals behind those aspirational objectives, including the launch of 11 EVs by 2025 that will give it a 6.6% global EV market share, selling 500,000 electric vehicles annually by 2026, and offering customized purpose-built electric vehicles for corporate customers.

Image credits: Kia

It’s also putting some capital behind the effort, to the tune of 29 trillion won (US $25 billion) by the end of 2025.  Kia said its targeting a 6% operating profit margin and 10.6% return on equity (ROE) ratio during this time period.

The EV6 is the first product of Plan S, a vehicle that will show investors and consumers if Kia’s grand plans are achievable. In other words, the EV6 is important for Kia.

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