Battle royale shooter 'H1Z1' officially arrives on PS4


Daybreak Games

You’re in a tough spot if you’re a PS4 owner who likes battle royale, but doesn’t care much about Fortnite. PUBG is a no-go, Realm Royale is still in a closed beta and titles like Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 will cost money just to play. It’s a good thing, then, that Daybreak has officially launched H1Z1 after weeks of open testing. The free-to-play shooter makes its formal debut on the console with familiar game mechanics that focus on fast-paced matches in a semi-realistic world. The main improvement is content — the ‘finished’ version has considerably more than you initially saw in the beta.

The testing threw in multiple gameplay elements like new Arcade Mode events and EMP grenades. On launch, the focus is primarily on paid material. There’s now a Fortnite-style $5.50 Battle Pass that unlocks premium rewards (you’ll also get some rewards as a PS Plus member), and you can buy launch bundles loaded with cosmetic gear that start at $5 and scale up to $35 for the Hardline Deluxe. You’ll also find RPGs, SOCOM Sniper Rifles and a new ARV transport to carry your five-person squads.

H1Z1 probably won’t pose a serious threat to Fortnite‘s dominance on PS4, but it also won’t have to. Daybreak chalked up more than 10 million players during the game’s open beta phase. Even if only some of those gamers come back, that’s a sizeable player base that could give the game a healthy shelf life.

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John McAfee is a PR machine for shitty cryptocurrencies

For better or worse, John McAfee is a name we all know. In true McAfee style, he is slowly but surely surreptitiously installing himself in the cryptocurrency community – usually in places where he’s probably not needed.

I remember a simpler time when McAfee was a respected business man, and his anti-virus software provided peace of mind for millions the world over.

But in the past few month’s McAfee has been keeping himself in the spotlight by making outlandish claims about unhackable wallets – which turn out to be nothing more than a crappy rebadged tablet – or by endorsing pretty much any crypto startup that will pay him.

If you’re a crypto-startup get in touch with the guy, it’s a sure fire way to get your name out there, and who knows, he might even write a whitepaper for you.

McAfee! Writing your whitepaper! You can’t buy that kind of endorsement – except maybe you can.

He’s wrangled his way into the cryptocurrency and blockchain community so effectively that he’s now being referred to as the “King of crypto.”

I had issues with this at first, but then realised it’s actually a pretty fitting term, because, well, when is a king ever democratically elected? And so it seems fitting for a man perpetually putting himself in places that he’s not needed – declaring his authority. Joffrey Baratheon would surely be proud.

If he’s not driving the cryptocurrency hype train, he’s probably working hard, finding new ways of rebadging established tech as his own, and using his media presence as influential leverage. The last of which, you can buy – for $105,000.

Remember the time he once promised us Hiveway, the decentralized social network of the future? Didn’t think so, but that too has joined the pile of dead projects in the crypto-graveyard. Probably just as well, as it was a blatant rip-off of a far more active project called Mastodon. It’s ok though, because it wasn’t a copy, it was a “fork.” Classic cryptocurrency copyright circumvention.

Perhaps we should find a way to block McAfee for spreading malicious content now. Y’know like some antivirus or something.

Published August 7, 2018 — 15:25 UTC

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Self-driving truck startup Kodiak Robotics raises $40 million

In Don Burnette and Paz Eshel’s view, trucking is the killer app for self-driving technology.

It’s what led Burnette to leave the Google self-driving project and co-found Otto in early 2016, along with Anthony Levandowski, Lior Ron and Claire Delaunay.

And it’s what would eventually prompt Burnette to leave Uber the company that acquired Otto — and co-found a new driverless trucks startup called Kodiak Robotics with former venture capitalist Eshel.

“It was no secret that Uber was primarily focused on the car project and 80 to 90 percent of my time was focused on the car project,” Burnette told TechCrunch. “But I still felt that trucking was the killer app for self-driving. I still believe that. I wanted to focus 100 percent of my time on trucking.”

Now he and Eshel can. Kodiak Robotics, which was founded in April, is coming out of stealth loaded up with venture capital.

Kodiak Robotics announced Tuesday it has raised $40 million in Series A financing led by Battery Ventures. CRV, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Tusk Ventures also participated in the round. Itzik Parnafes, a general partner at Battery Ventures, will join Kodiak’s board.

Kodiak Robotics will use the funds to expand its team and for product development. The company has about 10 employees, according to Eshel, who was a vice president at Battery Ventures, where he led the firm’s autonomous-vehicle investment project.

Burnette noted the core engineering team—many of whom have experience in shipping self-driving vehicles on public roads—has been assembled.

The pair weren’t ready to discuss the company’s go-to-market strategy. They did share the basic vision though: use self-driving technology to ease the current strain on the freight market.

The trucking industry is a primary driver of the U.S. economy. Trucks moved more than 70% of all U.S. freight and generated $719 billion in revenue in 2017, according to the American Trucking Association. Meanwhile, “full-truckload, over-the-road nonlocal drivers,” a term used to describe drivers who haul goods over long distances, are in short supply. This long-haul sector, which employs about 500,000, was short 51,000 truck drivers last year—up from a shortage of 36,000 in 2016.

Burnette and Eshel see an opportunity for driverless trucks to help close that gap.

“We believe self-driving trucks will likely be the first autonomous vehicles to support a viable business model, and we are proud to have the support of such high-profile investors to help us execute on our plan,” Burnette said.

They also revealed the company’s technical approach.

Kodiak Robotics plans to use light detection and ranging radar known as LiDAR as well as camera, radar and sonar technologies. “Pretty much everything you can imagine self-driving cars using in a comprehensive sensor fusion type system,” Burnette said.

Engineers will focus on developing the full self-driving system stack from the company’s own hardware and software architectures. However, Kodiak Robotics is not going to build any sensors. Instead it will use sensors from third-party suppliers.

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RiskRecon’s security assessment services for third party vendors raises $25 million

In June of this year, Chinese hackers managed to install software into the networks of a contractor for the U.S. Navy and steal information on a roughly $300 million top secret submarine program.

Two years ago, hackers infiltrated the networks of a vendor servicing the Australian military and made off with files containing a trove of information on Australian and U.S. military hardware and plans. That hacker stole roughly 30 gigabytes of data, including information on the nearly half-a-trillion dollar F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.

Third party vendors, contractors, and suppliers to big companies have long been the targets for cyber thieves looking for access to sensitive data, and the reason is simple. Companies don’t know how secure their suppliers really are and can’t take the time to find out.

The Department of Defense can have the best cybersecurity on the planet, but when that moves off to a subcontractor how can the DOD know how the subcontractor is going to protect that data?” says Kelly White, the chief executive of RiskRecon, a new firm that provides audits of vendors’ security profile. 

The problem is one that the Salt Lake City-based executive knew well. White was a former security executive for Zion Bank Corporation after spending years in the cyber security industry with Ernst & Young and TrueSecure — a Washington DC-based security vendor.

When White began work with Zion, around 2% of the company’s services were hosted by third parties, less than five years later and that number had climbed to over 50%. When White identified the problem in 2010, he immediately began developing a solution on his own time. RiskRecon’s chief executive estimates he spent 3,000 hours developing the service between 2010 and 2015, when he finally launched the business with seed capital from General Catalyst .

And White says the tools that companies use to ensure that those vendors have adequate security measures in place basically boiled down to an emailed check list that the vendors would fill out themselves.

That’s why White built the RiskRecon service, which has just raised $25 million in a new round of funding led by Accel Partners with participation from Dell Technologies Capital, General Catalyst, and F-Prime Capital, Fidelity Investments venture capital affiliate.

The company’s software looks at what White calls the “internet surface” of a vendor and maps the different ways in which that surface can be compromised. “We don’t require any insider information to get started,” says White. “The point of finding systems is to understand how well an organization is managing their risk.”

White says that the software does more than identify the weak points in a vendor’s security profile, it also tries to get a view into the type of information that could be exposed at different points on an network,

According to White, the company has over 50 customers among the Fortune 500 who are already using his company’s services across industries like financial services, oil and gas and manufacturing.

The money from RiskRecon’s new round will be used to boost sales and marketing efforts as the company looks to expand into Europe, Asia and further into North America.

“Where there’s not transparency there’s often poor performance,” says White. “Ccybersecurity has gone a long time without true transparency. You can’t have strong accountability without strong transparency.”

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Cowboy Ventures just rounded up $95 million for its third fund

Cowboy Ventures, the early-stage venture firm launched in 2012 by longtime VC Aileen Lee, has lassoed $95 million in capital commitments for its third fund, up from the $55 million that it raised for its second fund and more than twice what it raised for its $40 million debut fund.

That investors are doubling down on the firm isn’t a surprise, given its track record. The firm’s very first check was to Dollar Shave Club, which sold in 2016 for a reported $1 billion. Other early exits include the sale of the nutrition coaching app Rise to One Medical for a reported $20 million; and the sale of the cloud monitoring firm Librato to SolarWinds for $40 million.

More recently, Accompany, a business intelligence startup that drew an early check from Cowboy, sold in May to Cisco for $270 million. (It had raised roughly $40 million from investors.) Tenor, a GIF platform that also received early backing from Cowboy, sold to Google in March (for undisclosed terms). Another Cowboy portfolio company, the smart lock maker August, sold to the Swedish lock giant Assa Abloy last fall (also for undisclosed terms).

Cowboy is a generalist fund that is managed by Lee and Ted Wang, a startup attorney for many years with Fenwick & West who joined as a general partner in January of last year. The outfit added an associate, Samantha Kaminsky, earlier this summer. Among its current bets is the consumer goods company Brandless, the cybersecurity company Area 1 Security, and the mobile linking platform Branch.

The team typically invests in between six to 10 companies each year, writing initial checks on average of $1 million. Its biggest bet to date is on Guild Education, a Denver-based tech-education startup that partners with employers, including Walmart, to offer education as an employee benefit, right alongside healthcare. The company, which closed on $40 million in new funding just two weeks ago, also happens to be the biggest bet to date of another firm that just closed its newest fund, Felicis Ventures.

In a quick exchange earlier this week, we talked with Lee about Cowboy and the market more broadly. (We’ll also be talking on stage with her about this at TC’s upcoming Disrupt show.)

We asked where Cowboy is shopping right now, for example, and she said some areas include back-office tech, including startups that are transforming unglamorous tasks like tax accounting, sales ops and scheduling that can be transformed by modern software; “learning loop software” that builds on prior experiences and on underlying data; and startups that are building tech that’s aligned with improving users’ physical and mental health.

We also asked whether she had concerns about the very long bull market the tech industry has been experiencing, and it sounds like she does as it pertains to “increasing valuations, size of rounds, and dollars going into venture.”

In fact, Lee said Cowboy has turned “extra cautious” with its investment pace over the past year, given that both Lee and Wang have lived through previous cycles.

“It worries me we’re meeting with more startups than ever who are thinking about raising a $4 million seed round,” she said. “Four million dollars is what we used to call a Series A not too long ago. We don’t think bigger and more expensive rounds starting at seed stage will set companies and cultures up for long term success and could also depress returns for everyone on the cap table.”

Still, on the whole, Lee sounded optimistic, both about longer-term startup trends, and about the venture industry as a whole. Perhaps unsurprisingly, she thinks there is little to stop new technology companies from impacting every industry and creating new opportunities for many, while “possibly displacing traditional jobs,” she said. “We just have to work harder to make new technology jobs accessible to the widest set of people possible,” she added.

Lee — who this spring cofounded All Raise, a nonprofit founded by 34 female investors that’s dedicated to diversity in funders and founders — also said she expects the venture-backed startup industry to look fairly different five to 10 years from now, and in a good way.

“I hope and expect because of demographic shifts, the influence of founders and employees, organizations like All Raise, and because diversity is proven to deliver better results that” the ecosystem will change for the better, she said. “We’ll have greater gender balance, and we’ll have more people from historically underrepresented groups in positions of power.”

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