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The keyboards of TechCrunch’s editorial staff

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Few things are more personal than a keyboard and yet they are often overlooked by Work From Home guides. Why use the standard issue keyboard when there are so many options available? This is a sampling of some of the keyboards used by TechCrunch’s editorial staff. Some are boring, some are for different languages, and each one is kind of dirty.

Excuse the dust, grim, and general dirtiness of the following. Keyboards are gross and hard to clean and we did the best we could getting our keyboards photo-ready. I used two cans of air on my keyboard and it still looks like a toy in a preschool sandbox.

Please note this post is not sponsored and TechCrunch does not earn anything from keyboard sales. We just want to show off our gear.

Danny Crichton

Image Credits: Danny Crichton / Danny Crichton

Working across borders is hard — working across languages is even harder. So getting a foreign language keyboard (mine is Korean) has been a godsend, if only because after two decades of using a computer, I still peck at a keyboard like I don’t know the location of the keys.

Now, should you get a foreign language keyboard? Good god no. Certainly don’t buy it overseas like I originally did when I was a foreign correspondent in Seoul, since apparently warranties don’t transfer globally. Also, the E key finally busted on my last “space white” keyboard (unfortunately, E is about as common in English as ㄷ/ㄸ is in Korean so that key gets a lot of abuse), and let’s just say the world is not designed to special order individual keys in a foreign language in the United States.

So I bought a new space grey keyboard. And then Apple said they couldn’t find a replacement Korean keyboard E key in white, so they gave me a free keyboard because Apple is nice. So now I have two space grey Korean keyboards, one on my desk and one sitting in storage for when I invariably destroy the one I’m typing this on. Don’t buy a foreign language keyboard. Actually, don’t buy a keyboard at all. Certainly don’t be a writer. Just yell in a Clubhouse room and let’s move to the next, post-text century.

Devin Coldeway

Image Credits: Devin Coldeway

I just acquired this Varmilo V87M tenkeyless with PBT keycaps and Cherry Red switches. It’s got a great solid feel and is very comfortable to type on, and has a deeper sound than some more clacky keyboards I’ve used. But I don’t like the placement of the media keys.

Before this I had an all-black Ducky One with side-printed key labels, which I much prefer. But I ordered it with Cherry Black switches, which it turns out are uncomfortable for me to use – they take a bit more force and have a sort of “bump” in the middle, and my body didn’t like it. I did, however, like the DIY feel of adjusting the dipswitches and programming the media keys in as well, though I totally get it’s not for everyone.

I wish that I could combine the feel and build of the Varmilo with the keycaps and customizability of the Ducky and the media controls of the Das Keyboard 4, with its lovely volume wheel. But I’m tempted by non-Cherry switches now that their patents have expired and the market is wide open. Someone send me one of those little switch samplers!

Romain Dillet

Image Credits: Romain Dillet

Here’s my boring Apple keyboard. It’s a French keyboard so it’s going to look all weird if you’ve used QWERTY keyboards your entire life. It works, it’s reliable and I can type for hours and hours… The most important part is that I don’t think about it so I can just focus on what I’m writing.

Lucas Matney

Image Credits: Lucas Matney

The fact that Apple charges $149 for its wireless space grey Magic Keyboard when the silver variant goes for $129 might seem like an oddity for a company worth $2.2 trillion, but maybe the fact that they have suckered a rube like myself into paying an extra $20 for a dark grey colorway is the reason they have achieved such ridiculous success.

In recent years, Apple has opted to stay conservative with the entry prices for some of their hardware but they have also begun jacking up the prices of accessories for those devices. My desire to have an external keyboard that matched all of my other tech stuff says more about me than it does Apple, but come on Tim, do you really need that extra $20 from me?

Darrell Etherington

Image Credits: Darrell Etherington / Darrell Etherington

The Keychron K3 Ultra-slim is a mechanical keyboard with all of the benefits of a small footprint and low-profile design, while retaining the satisfying typing action of much larger gadgets. It come in either white or RGG backlights, with a choice of Gateron Mechanical or Keychron’s own Optical switches, in a range of options depending on whether you like softer, clickier or more resistive typing action.

Taylor Hatmaker

I bought this keyboard when I built my new PC last month. I generally use an Apple keyboard for work and mostly game with a PS4 controller so I hadn’t used it much. But a few weeks ago I spilled coffee on my main keyboard for the first time in my life. I tried to used a Logitech K380 I have as a substitute but even though it’s pretty new a few of its keys squeak which makes me feel crazy.

Now I’ve subbed in my admittedly beautiful rainbow machine the Cooler Master SK622 as my day to day keyboard. It’s my first mechanical keyboard! I went with blue switches because I don’t like the feel of the red ones, but it is a bit hard to get used to the noise. Ideally I’d probably prefer brown switches! It feels pretty good though, even for someone (me) who types pretty fast but in a very wacky way because I never learned to do it the right way. Maybe it’s time for Mario Teaches Typing after all.

Natasha Lomas

There’s not much to say about the tool of my trade – except that it could do with a good clean. The white is definitely not as crisp as Apple would like at this point. The lettering on the ‘S’ key has also worn a bit for some reason. Other than that I’ve no complaints. I had to stop relying on the MBP laptop keyboard because it’s so faulty (sticky ‘B’ and ‘N’ keys which either don’t type or double type in faulty keyboard roulette). I like the Magic keyboard’s compact size. The battery also lasts a decent amount of time before you have to go hunting for overpriced Apple dongles in order to juice it back up.

I have one complaint: The Bluetooth connection seems to go a bit funky after a while because hitting CAPS Lock can fire up the MBP’s spinning wheel ‘o death for no good reason. Switching the keyboard’s Bluetooth off and back on and again seems to restore order.

 

Matt Burns

Image Credits: Matt Burns

This is the Happy Hacking Keyboard Professional 2 with a partial set of custom keycaps. Yes, long name for a small keyboard. It’s not perfect and yet I love it. Don’t worry. It still has a number pad and media controls. These are accessed through a function key (the heart).

The Happy Hacking Keyboard has a longer history than most, originally designed for Unix programmers. For me, the small size is perfect for just typing, and the keys feel lovely thanks to its novel switches. This keyboard uses Topre capacitive key switches, which combine the feel of a mechanical switch with the responsiveness of a membrane-based keyboard. The result are resounding clicks and clacks, and keys that are resistant at the top and easy at the bottom. 

There are several newer versions of this keyboard with wireless connectivity and quieter key switches.


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Vietnamese electric motorbike startup Dat Bike raises $2.6M led by Jungle Ventures

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Son Nguyen, founder and chief executive officer of Dat Bike on one of the startup's motorbikes

Son Nguyen, founder and chief executive officer of Dat Bike

Dat Bike, a Vietnamese startup with ambitions to become the top electric motorbike company in Southeast Asia, has raised $2.6 million in pre-Series A funding led by Jungle Ventures. Made in Vietnam with mostly domestic parts, Dat Bike’s selling point is its ability to compete with gas motorbikes in terms of pricing and performance. Its new funding is the first time Jungle Ventures has invested in the mobility sector and included participation from Wavemaker Partners, Hustle Fund and iSeed Ventures.

Founder and chief executive officer Son Nguyen began learning how to build bikes from scrap parts while working as a software engineer in Silicon Valley. In 2018, he moved back to Vietnam and launched Dat Bike. More than 80% of households in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam own two-wheeled vehicles, but the majority are fueled by gas. Nguyen told TechCrunch that many people want to switch to electric motorbikes, but a major obstacle is performance.

Nguyen said that Dat Bike offers three times the performance (5 kW versus 1.5 kW) and 2 times the range (100 km versus 50 km) of most electric motorbikes in the market, at the same price point. The company’s flagship motorbike, called Weaver, was created to compete against gas motorbikes. It seats two people, which Nguyen noted is an important selling point in Southeast Asian countries, and has a 5000W motor that accelerates from 0 to 50 km per hour in three seconds. The Weaver can be fully charged at a standard electric outlet in about three hours, and reach up to 100 km on one charge (the motorbike’s next iteration will go up to 200 km on one charge).

Dat Bike’s opened its first physical store in Ho Chi Minh City last December. Nguyen said the company “has shipped a few hundred motorbikes so far and still have a backlog of orders.” He added that it saw a 35% month-over-month growth in new orders after the Ho Chi Minh City store opened.

At 39.9 million dong, or about $1,700 USD, Weaver’s pricing is also comparable to the median price of gas motorbikes. Dat Bike partners with banks and financial institutions to offer consumers twelve-month payment plans with no interest.

“These guys are competing with each other to put the emerging middle class of Vietnam on the digital financial market for the first time ever and as a result, we get a very favorable rate,” he said.

While Vietnam’s government hasn’t implemented subsidies for electric motorbikes yet, the Ministry of Transportation has proposed new regulations mandating electric infrastructure at parking lots and bike stations, which Nguyen said will increase the adoption of electric vehicles. Other Vietnamese companies making electric two-wheeled vehicles include VinFast and PEGA.

One of Dat Bike’s advantages is that its bikes are developed in house, with locally-sourced parts. Nguyen said the benefits of manufacturing in Vietnam, instead of sourcing from China and other countries, include streamlined logistics and a more efficient supply chain, since most of Dat Bike’s suppliers are also domestic.

“There are also huge tax advantages for being local, as import tax for bikes is 45% and for bike parts ranging from 15% to 30%,” said Nguyen. “Trade within Southeast Asia is tariff-free though, which means that we have a competitive advantage to expand to the region, compare to foreign imported bikes.”

Dat Bike plans to expand by building its supply chain in Southeast Asia over the next two to three years, with the help of investors like Jungle Ventures.

In a statement, Jungle Ventures founding partner Amit Anand said, “The $25 billion two-wheeler industry in Southeast Asia in particular is ripe for reaping benefits of new developments in electric vehicles and automation. We believe that Dat Bike will lead this charge and create a new benchmark not just in the region but potentially globally for what the next generation of two-wheeler electric vehicles will look and perform like.”

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Binance Labs leads $1.6M seed round in DeFi startup MOUND, the developer of Pancake Bunny

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Decentralized finance startup MOUND, known for its yield farming aggregator Pancake Bunny, has raised $1.6 million in seed funding led by Binance Labs. Other participants included IDEO CoLab, SparkLabs Korea and Handshake co-founder Andrew Lee.

Built on Binance Smart Chain, a blockchain for developing high-performance DeFi apps, MOUND says Pancake Bunny now has over 30,000 daily average users, and has accumulated more than $2.1 billion in total value locked (TVL) since its launch in December 2020.

The new funding will be used to expand Pancake Bunny and develop new products. MOUND recently launched Smart Vaults and plans to unveil Cross-Chain Collateralization in about a month, bringing the startup closer to its goal of covering a wide range of DeFi use cases, including farming, lending and swapping.

Smart Vaults are for farming single asset yields on leveraged lending products. It also automatically checks if the cost of leveraging may be more than anticipated returns and can actively lend assets for MOUND’s cross-chain farming.

Cross-Chain Collateralization is cross-chain yield farming that lets users keep original assets on their native blockchain instead of relying on a bridge token. The user’s original assets serve as collateral when the Bunny protocol borrows assets on the Binance Smart Chain for yield farming. This allows users to keep assets on native blockchains while giving them liquidity to generate returns on the Binance Smart Chain.

In statement, Wei Zhou, Binance chief financial officer, and head of Binance Labs and M&A’s, said “Pancake Bunny’s growth and MOUND’s commitent to execution are impressive. Team MOUND’s expertise in live product design and servie was a key factor in our decision to invest. We look forward to expanding the horizons of Defi together with MOUND.”

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Battery Resourcers raises $20M to commercialize its recycling-plus-manufacturing operations

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As a greater share of the transportation market becomes electrified, companies have started to grapple with how to dispose of the thousands of tons of used electric vehicle batteries that are expected to come off the roads by the end of the decade.

Battery Resourcers proposes a seemingly simple solution: recycle them. But the company doesn’t stop there. It’s engineered a “closed loop” process to turn that recycled material into nickel-manganese-cobalt cathodes to sell back to battery manufacturers. It is also developing a process to recover and purify graphite, a material used in anodes, to battery-grade.

Battery Resourcers’ business model has attracted another round of investor attention, this time with a $20 million Series B equity round led by Orbia Ventures, with injections from At One Ventures, TDK Ventures, TRUMPF Venture, Doral Energy-Tech Ventures and InMotion Ventures. Battery Resourcers CEO Mike O’Kronley declined to disclose the company’s new valuation.

The cathode and anode, along with the electrolyzer, are major components of battery architecture, and O’Kronley told TechCrunch it is this recycling-plus-manufacturing process that distinguishes the company from other recyclers.

“When we say that we’re on the verge of revolutionizing this industry, what we are doing is we are making the cathode active material — we’re not just recovering the metals that are in the battery, which a lot of other recyclers are doing,” he said. “We’re recovering those materials, and formulating brand new cathode active material, and also recovering and purifying the graphite active material. So those two active materials will be sold to a battery manufacturer and go right back into the new battery.”

“Other recycling companies, they’re focused on recovering just the metals that are in [batteries]: there’s copper, there’s aluminum, there’s nickel, there’s cobalt. They’re focused on recovering those metals and selling them back as commodities into whatever industry needs those metals,” he added. “And they may or may not go back into a battery.”

The company says its approach could reduce the battery industry’s reliance on mined metals — a reliance that’s only anticipated to grow in the coming decades. A study published last December found that demand for cobalt could increase by a factor of 17 and nickel by a factor of 28, depending on the size of EV uptake and advances in battery chemistries.

Thus far, the company’s been operating a demonstration-scale facility in Worcester, Massachusetts, and has expanded into a facility in Novi, Michigan, where it does analytical testing and material characterization. Between the two sites, the company can make around 15 tons of cathode materials a year. This latest funding round will help facilitate the development of a commercial-scale facility, which Battery Resourcers said in a statement will boost its capacity to process 10,000 tons of batteries per year, or batteries from around 20,000 EVs.

Another major piece of its proprietary recycling process is the ability to take in both old and new EV batteries, process them and formulate the newest kind of cathodes used in today’s batteries. “So they can take in 10-year-old batteries from a Chevy Volt and reformulate the metals to make the high-Ni cathode active materials in use today,” a company spokesman explained to TechCrunch.

Battery Resourcers is already receiving inquiries from automakers and consumer electronics companies, O’Kronley said, though he did not provide additional details. But InMotion Ventures, the venture capital arm of Jaguar Land Rover, said in a statement its participation in the round as a “significant investment.”

“[Battery Resourcers’] proprietary end-to-end recycling process supports Jaguar Land Rover’s journey to become a net zero carbon business by 2039,” InMotion managing director Sebastian Peck said.

Battery Resourcers was founded in 2015 after being spun out from Massachusetts’ Worcester Polytechnic Institute. The company has previously received support from the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium, a collaboration between General Motors, Ford Motor Company and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

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