All posts in “Software”

Scratch 3.0 is now available

The only kids programming language worth using, Scratch, just celebrated the launch of Scratch 3.0, an update that adds some interesting new functionality to the powerful open source tool.

Scratch, for those without school aged children, is a block-based programming language that lets you make little games and “cartoons” with sprites and animated figures. The system is surprisingly complex and kids have created things like Minecraft platformers, fun arcade games, and whatever this is.

The new version of scratch includes extensions that allow you to control hardware as well as new control blocks.

Scratch 3.0 is the next generation of Scratch – designed to expand how, what, and where you can create with Scratch. It includes dozens of new sprites, a totally new sound editor, and many new programming blocks. And with Scratch 3.0, you are able to create and play projects on your tablet, in addition to your laptop or desk computer.

Scratch is quite literally the only programming “game” my kids will use again and again and it’s an amazing introduction for kids as young as pre-school age. Check out the update and don’t forget to share your animations with the class!

See you in Vegas next week!

It’s on like Donkey Kong! We’ll be seeing you next week on January 9, 2019 at 6:00 PM where we’ll mingle and run a full TC pitchoff with a bunch of great hardware companies. I’ve added 40 extra tickets so hurry!

The event will be held at Work In Progress, 317 South 6th Street. Special thanks to those amazing folks who opened their doors to us during one of the busiest weeks in LV.

I’ve contacted the companies that will be pitching via email. If anyone drops out, I’ll choose some more so there is still a chance to pitch.

Very special thanks go out to Shenzhen Valley Ventures, a hardware-focused venture capital firm for engineers, by engineers. They will be on hand to talk about their firm and would love to hear your pitches… and they are paying for the beer and pizza!

See you soon!

Indonesia unblocks Tumblr following its ban on adult content

Indonesia, the world’s fourth largest country by population, has unblocked Tumblr nine months after it blocked the social networking site over pornographic content.

Tumblr — which, disclaimer, is owned by Oath Verizon Media Group just like TechCrunch — announced earlier this month that it would remove all “adult content” from its platform. That decision, which angered many in the adult entertainment industry who valued the platform as an increasingly rare outlet that supported erotica, was a response to Apple removing Tumblr’s app from the iOS Store after child pornography was found within the service.

The impact of this new policy has made its way to Indonesia, where KrAsia reports that the service was unblocked earlier this week. The service had been blocked in March after falling foul of the country’s anti-pornography laws.

“Tumblr sent an official statement regarding the commitment to clean the platform from pornographic content,” Ferdinandus Setu, acting head of the Ministry of Communication and Informatics Bureau, is reported to have said in a press statement.

Messaging apps WhatsApp and Line are among the other services that have been forced to comply with the government’s ban on “unsuitable” content in order to keep their services open in the country. Telegram, meanwhile, removed suspected terrorist content last year after its service was partially blocked.

While perhaps not widely acknowledged in the West, Indonesia is a huge market, with a population of more than 260 million people. The world’s largest Muslim country, it is the largest economy in Southeast Asia and its growth is tipped to help triple the region’s digital economy to $240 billion by 2025.

In other words, Indonesia is a huge market for internet companies.

The country’s anti-porn laws have been used to block as many as 800,000 websites as of 2017so potentially over a million by now — but they have also been used to take aim at gay dating apps, some of which have been removed from the Google Play Store. As Vice notes, “while homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia, it’s no secret that the country has become a hostile place for the LGBTQ community.”

LemonBox, which brings US vitamins to Chinese consumers, raises $2M

LemonBox, a Chinese e-commerce startup that imports vitamins and health products from the U.S., has raised $2 million to develop its business.

The company graduated from Y Combinator’s most recent program in the U.S. and, fueled by the demo day, has pulled in the new capital from 10 investors, which include Partech, Tekton Ventures, Cathexis Ventures, Scrum Ventures and 122 West Ventures.

LemonBox started when co-founder and CEO Derek Weng, a former employee at Walmart in the U.S., saw an opportunity to organize the common practice of bringing health products back in China. Any Mainland Chinese person who has lived in, or even just visited, the U.S. will be familiar with such requests from family and friends, and LemonBox aims to make it possible for anyone in China to get U.S.-quality products without relying on a mule.

The service is primarily a WeChat app — which taps into China’s ubiquitous messaging platform — and a website, although Weng told TechCrunch in an interview this week that the company is contemplating a standalone app of its own. The benefit of that, beyond a potentially more engaging customer experience, could be to broaden LemonBox’s product selection and use data to offer a more customized selection of products. Related to that, LemonBox said it hopes to work with health and fitness-related services in the future to gather data, with permission, to help refine the personal approach.

LemonBox’s team has now grown to 20 people, with 12 full-time staff and 8 interns, and Weng said that the new funding will also go toward increased marketing, improvements to the WeChat app and upgrading the company’s supply chain. Business, he added, is growing at 35 percent per week as LemonBox has adopted a personal approach to its packaging, much like Amazon-owned PillPack.

“This is the first time people in China have ever seen this level of customization for their vitamins,” Weng told TechCrunch.

Members of the LemonBox team with Qi Lu, who heads up Y Combinator’s China business

Qi Lu, the former Microsoft and Baidu executive who leads YC’s new China unit, said he is “bullish” about the business.

“What LemonBox offers resonates with me and is serving a clear China market needs. Personally, I travel a lot between China and the U.S., and I often was asked by my relatives to help purchase and carry them similar products like vitamins,” he said in a prepared statement.

“More importantly, what LemonBox can do is to build an initial core user base and a growing brand. Over time, by serving their users well, it can reach and engage more users who want to better take care of their broader nutrition needs, use more data and take advantage of increasingly stronger AI technologies to customers and personalize, and become an essential service for more and more users and customers in China,” Lu added.

AppOnboard raises $15 million to let Android users try before they buy apps on Google Play

Pitching app developers with a new way to convert app browsers into actual customers, AppOnboard has raised $15 million in a new round of funding, the company said.

Based in Los Angeles, AppOnboard sees itself as one of a new breed of LA startup that’s steeping itself in the local ecosystem and trying to be one of the cornerstone’s for a new technology hub in the southern California region.

Company co-founder Jonathan Zweig has already had one hit as a Los Angeles-based entrepreneur. Zweig was one of the architects behind the success of AdColony, a startup that sold to Opera Software in 2014 for $350 million. It was an early success for the regional ecosystem and proved to be one of the most valuable exits (from a capital efficiency standpoint) for the year.

Now Zweig is back again… this time pitching app developers a tool that can help convert browsers into buyers for new applications in app stores around the world. As consumers sour on the free-to-use model (since that model depends on selling user information in order for “free” apps to make money), giving users a way to try before they buy makes sense.

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Zweig claims that conversion rates have increased significantly for the companies that pay a fee for his company’s service. Play Store shoppers who engage with an app store demo before installing have higher retention and are more likely to become paying customers than those who install directly without playing or using a demo version, the company said.

That certainly aligns with the thinking of Paul Heydon, an investor at Breakaway Growth, which led the new round for AppOnboard. “The entire app store paradigm is about to change dramatically, and AppOnboard is perfectly positioned for this disruption,” said Heydon in a statement. “With its patented app demo technology and tools, users will now be able to experience their apps and games on-demand and without an install across various platforms, starting with Google .”

Zweig says that the service is the first from a third party to be directly integrated into a platform like Google’s Play store.

“Google has been a great partner for us,” Zweig says. And the company is in talks with other platforms, he said.

Now, with the additional cash in hand, Zweig says AppOnboard is ready to make some international expansion moves. The company already has offices in London and in cities across the U.S., but Zweig thinks there’s more room to grow.

“Our vision continues to be that every app and game will be instant and available for users to experience without a download. We look forward to continuing to work with global developers, Google, and partners to make this a reality for all mobile app users,” said Bryan Buskas, the chief operating officer of AppOnboard. As part of its new pitch, the company is offering a 30-day free trial for any App Store Demo.