The Ocean Solutions Accelerator will nurture companies looking to keep our planet blue


You can’t swing a cat in the Bay Area without hitting some startup accelerator or another, but it can be hard to find one with a mission. That’s the easy part with the Ocean Solutions Accelerator, a new program that aims to help advance startups in tech and conservation relating to… you guessed it, the big blue. They’re now accepting applications for their first wave of companies this summer.

The accelerator is part of the nonprofit Sustainable Ocean Alliance, whose CEO and founder Daniela Fernandez I met at TechCrunch Disrupt SF in September. It was in the plans then, and the program was announced shortly afterwards, but only now is the team ready to open it up to applications.

If you’re working on a device, service, platform, or anything that you think could help protect or improve our oceans, but it needs a bit of love and expertise, this may be a great opportunity.

An example of an ocean-focused tech startup: CoralVita, which grows and transplants healthy corals.

“We believe that young entrepreneurs have the creativity, optimism and ambition needed to tackle some the greatest threats facing the planet,” said Fernandez in the press release announcing the new accelerator. “Our generation understands that sustaining the health of environment is not only a moral responsibility but also an opportunity to create profitable businesses capable of revolutionizing our world.”

It’s a 12-week program running from June to August, making it a good option for students and other academics who might have a busy schedule otherwise; the SOA has generally been youth-focused, so it makes sense that the accelerator would accommodate that.

Group photo from a recent SOA summit event. They look like they’re having fun.

The plan is, like other accelerators and incubators, to “help entrepreneurs at the idea or prototyping phase build their products,” as co-founder Craig Dudenhoeffer put it. But having a specific category, market, or in this case biome in mind helps make the mentoring, connections, classes, and so on much more effective.

The SOA has built up an international group of academics, startups, government officials, and other useful contacts, many of which will be brought into play, either as part of the curriculum or in the audience on demo day (August 30th — put it on your calendar).

Starting today, you ocean-lovers out there have one month (until February 17, in other words) to submit your company, product, or idea to the accelerator for consideration for the 10 slots available. They’re hoping to judge submissions by March, in time for the Economist’s World Ocean Summit.

Equity is of course the currency of the age, and the Ocean Solutions Accelerator is little different here: selected startups will receive an initial equity investment to cover the costs of moving to the Bay Area for the duration of the program, and the opportunity for a further $150K investment is also on the table for those motivated to seek it.

My favorite part of the press release is the valuation of the ocean. I’m used to hearing this in pitches — mobile apps are a however many billion dollar market and so on. But this takes the cake:

Valued at 24 trillion dollars and being the world’s largest source of protein for more than 3 billion people, the ocean supports global industries such as fisheries, tourism, shipping, and offshore energy.

$24 trillion, you say? Maybe it is worth saving after all. Would be a shame to leave so much cash on the table.

Featured Image: takahashi_4/Shutterstock

Sketchfab launches a store to become a stock photo site for 3D models


Sketchfab just launched a store so that you can buy an sell 3D models and reuse them in commercial projects. This is a major new feature for Sketchfab, which has become one of the biggest repositories of 3D models on the web. It feels like Sketchfab is becoming a sort of stock photography site, except that it’s all about 3D models.

While Sketchfab already has 2 million 3D models on its website, most of them aren’t available to download or are available under a Creative Common license. So if you’re building a video game, a virtual reality experience or anything that involves 3D objects, Sketchfab isn’t as useful as it could be.

That’s why Sketchfab is launching a separate store. Everything you can find in there is available to buy and download. Most prices range from ten dollars to a hundred dollars, with a few ultra premium models that cost hundreds of dollars.

Compared to other 3D asset stores out there, Sketchfab lets you view 3D models right there in your browser. It’s a much better experience than looking at screenshots. You can use the model inspector to see the wireframe, the model with and without post-processing and more.

Sketchfab uses the glTF file format, which is slowly becoming a standard format for 3D models and scenes. Files should work in Unity or Unreal Engine for instance.

It’s going to be interesting to see if creators of the 2 million models on Sketchfab are going to leverage this new store to sell their work. The Sketchfab viewer seems like the perfect storefront for this kind of items.

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Instagram is testing another killer feature that could crush Snapchat even more

Image: lili sams/mashable

Instagram is not slowing down in 2018.

After Instagram crushed Snapchat — seriously, pounded the app into the ground — last year with its own disappearing Stories feature, the Facebook-owned app is now secretly testing a new “Type” feature that’ll let users share text-based clips instead of photos or videos.

The Next Web first spotted the feature back in December when it rolled out to a select group of private users in Japan, and now it appears Instagram is testing it on some users in Europe as well.

Mashable reached out Instagram and received the following statement from a company spokesperson:

“We are always testing ways to improve the experience on Instagram and make it easier to share any moment with the people who matter to you.”

At least one Twitter user also noticed the new feature on a friend’s phone:

According to the report, the Type feature shows up as an option alongside the usual features like Boomerang, Superzoom, and Rewind. As you can see in the video below, the feature also comes with several fonts to pick from, including one in neon cursive:

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WABetaInfo has posted several screenshots of the Type feature in action. One of the fonts, “Typerwriter,” also has an alignment tool.

When the Type feature is selected, users will reportedly get a gradient background for their text-based stories. Alternatively, they’ll also be able to use a photo for a background.

Though the feature is reportedly meant to encourage users to share more text-based clips, it’s unclear how it would be significantly different from simply taking a photo and using the existing text tool to add words on top.

WABetaInfo also reports that Instagram is testing a new screenshot notification that’ll send an alert to users when someone has taken a screenshot of their IG Story. Interestingly enough, the feature only gives you a warning after your first screenshot. Subsequent screenshots will sound the alarms.

“The next time you take a screenshot of a story, the person who posted it will be notified,” warns the alert.

Snapchat has a similar feature that lets you see who screenshotted your Snapchat Story and DMs.

As an Instagram Stories addict, who umm, “broke” it during a trip to Japan last year, Type and the screenshot notification would be welcome additions to the app. That said, just because the feature’s being tested on select users doesn’t mean it’ll ever be made widely available for all users. Instagram frequently tests new features that never make it out of the trial runs.

Even if the feature never makes it out of the beta tests, Snapchat should be worried. Instagram is iterating and adding new features at an insanely fast rate. If Snapchat doesn’t hit back this year with some sweet new features, its remaining users may flock to Instagram and never look back.

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Google’s Project Fi now caps data bills at $60

Google’s Project Fi cell service never played the “unlimited data” game that most carriers in the U.S. like to play (and which is never truly unlimited). Instead, Google simply offered data at $10/GB/month and would give you a refund for any data you paid for but didn’t use. Now, however, it’s taking its own stab at what is essentially an unlimited data plan. With its new ‘bill protection’ feature, Project Fi users who use more than 6 GB of data in any given month will never pay more than $60 for that (plus the standard $20 for unlimited talk and text).

Update: A Google spokesperson told us that the company also changed how the data billing for Fi works now. You now pay for the data you use at the end of the month, so there’s no need for refunds anymore. We have amended this post to reflect that.

So now, you will simply pay for the data you use, but once you hit 6 GB of data, your overall cost for the month won’t go beyond that $60 limit.

Because no unlimited plan is ever unlimited, Google, too, will slow your data speeds once you hit 15 GB of data. The company says only 1 percent of current Fi users actually use that much, but then that number may go up once you don’t have to pay $150 for using that much data. If you go over 15 GB, you can always opt to pay $10/GB to get faster speeds again (or, in Google’s word, “opt out of slower speeds”).

The bill protection feature includes international data (which is always included) and also applies to data-only plans for laptops, tablets and cars.

If you are on a group plan, the bill protection kicks in at different levels, depending on how many people are on your plan.

Google never positioned Fi as the cheapest carrier and indeed, you’ll find better “unlimited” plans with other carriers. Instead, Google always argued that Fi was a fairer plan that let you pay for what you actually used (though, yeah, you’re paying for unlimited calls and you probably don’t make a lot of those…). With the ability to use three networks (T-Mobile, Sprint and U.S. Cellular), Google also argues that its networks gives you access to more cell towers and 4G LTE than its competitors.

To use Project Fi, you’ll need a phone that supports switching between the various networks. Currently, supported phones include Google’s own Pixel 2 and Pixel lines, as well as the Android One Moto X4 (as well as some of the more recent Nexus phones).

Amazon is having a great sale on Lenovo ThinkPad laptops today

Heads up: All products featured here are selected by Mashable’s commerce team and meet our rigorous standards for awesomeness. If you buy something, Mashable may earn an affiliate commission.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 laptops are on sale today on Amazon so you don’t have to drop a ton of cash to get a new computer. 

These 12-inch touchpad computers feature detachable keyboards for tablet functionality and even come with Active Pen styluses for all of you artists out there. Every laptop available features different amounts of space, computing power, and features, so shop around to see which one best suits your needs.

Arkadium brings its interactive content to the Associated Press


The Associated Press is partnering with Arkadium to use InHabit, an interactive content tool launched last year.

Arkadium’s goal for InHabit is to automatically add interactive polls, quizzes and games into relevant stories, hopefully making those stories more engaging in the process. The technology was initially designed for sports content, so the AP is starting its integration on its pro football, college football and college basketball sites.

In fact, the integration is already live, as you can see in this football story.

The interactive content — what Arkadium calls “factives” — will reach beyond AP-owned properties, because the sites also repurposed and distributed by AP publishers with their own branding. And the company says it’s exploring other ways to incorporate factives into the content that it syndicates with partners.

Fernando Ferre, the AP’s vice president of business development, said he found the partnership appealing because of its “scalability,” with InHabit allowing the AP to “easily integrate this automatically generated content and make it relevant to the article.” He also noted that the AP has been experimenting with using artificial intelligence to write earnings reports: “We’ve carved out an interesting sort of lead position in that area.”

Arkadium Jessica Rovello said added that team is working with the AP to build templates for the kinds of factives that will fit with AP content.

“From there, we actually let the system take over,” Rovello said. “If the system determines that there is a factive that’s a good match for this story, it will show up. If there’s no match, nothing will show up. The editor doesn’t need to be policing this on a day-to-day basis.”

Featured Image: selimaksan/Getty Images

5 social media skills you need to get ahead (and where to learn them)

Image: Pixabay

In 2018, social media is life. But is it also your career? It can be. With everyone and their mom using social media, it’s no surprise that careers in the space are on the rise. But a “career in social media” can mean many things. 

There are Social Media Coordinators that build brand awareness for companies while handling the occasional crazy customer freakout. There are Marketing Managers that fuel customer acquisition and retention for brands. And there are Social Media Celebs (i.e., your teenage YouTube millionaire). Let’s go ahead and rule out the latter, and note that this article will not explore how to become the next Cardi B.

Instead, let’s talk social media skills that are relevant in the 2018 job market — and how you can learn them without spending significant money. All of the skills listed below are taught in detail in the Pay What You Want Social Marketing Mastery Bundle. There will be more later on how awesome this “pay what you want deal” is — but in short, it’s exactly what it sounds like.

1. Facebook skills that make you (and your company) money

Way back in 2010, social media jobs were aplenty. Companies paid savvy millennials to make their brand look cool and give stuff away on Facebook. Today, only about 4% of Facebook followers see a brand’s organic (non-paid) posts. Companies are understandably shifting their resources towards what works: customer acquisition and retention via paid Facebook ads. 

This Social Marketing Bundle includes six courses focused on the complex world of Facebook marketing: from how to create a Facebook ad campaign to how to optimize creative for conversion. You’ll learn how to get the lowest cost per click possible and how to optimize your spend. Whether your future company is looking to generate B2B leads or sell products via e-commerce, these are the types of skills that will make you bank.

And if you’re thinking “but six courses?!” C’monnnn, you can do it. There’s a ton of stuff to know before you go spending a company’s money!

2. Driving traffic through Google AdWords

It’s only natural that the next skill relates to the other half of the online duopoly: Google. A Google Ad strategy is key to any contemporary marketing program, and a skilled professional knows how to build and run effective campaigns. Two included courses, Google AdWords Business Training and The Complete Google AdWords Course, will teach you to identify profitable keywords and optimize campaigns for success.

3. Don’t ignore Snapchat

Gen Z, the Snapchat Generation, is finally entering the workforce and represents up to $143 billion in buying power. This change is leading marketing trend analysts to believe that Snap is about to get a lot more relevant to money-hungry brands and companies looking to invest in paid social spend. We may see some reallocation of that mega Facebook spend to this important platform, and you’ll want your skills to be ahead of the game. The included course, Snapchat For Business: Grow Your Brand & Reach More Followers, delivers a blueprint that will make you confident in adding “Snap Expert” to your résumé right in time.

4. Embrace video as a medium

Facebook’s video favoritism is only part of the reason for the rise of video (albeit a big part). There’s no question that audiences are engaging more with video, and that any well-rounded marketing strategy should consider that. Throughout the bundle, you’ll learn how to incorporate video into your social media strategy, including using Periscope’s live broadcasts to bump engagement.

5. Data, data, data

The best candidate for any marketing position is a data-driven candidate. From Facebook persona targeting to AdWord strategy, the courses throughout the bundle will touch on how to remain consistently data-driven. Listen, learn, and make sure to emphasize this keyword when you hit the market.

If you were paying attention, you know that you can learn all these skills in one place: the Pay What You Want Social Marketing Mastery Bundle. Here’s how it works: pay any price at all starting at $1, and you’ll get lifetime access to two of the included courses. Beat the average price, and you’ll get all 15 courses. The best news of all is that this is a brand new bundle, so that average price is the lowest it will ever be. It’s the right place at the right time (at the right price) — so don’t wait to make a career change into social media.

Lenovo’s upcoming Moto G6 Plus could come with up to 6GB of RAM

Fresh from the success of the Moto G5 and G5 Plus, Motorola parent company Lenovo is reportedly at work on the two smartphones’ respective successors: The Moto G6 and G6 Plus. Rumor has it that this time around there might be a surprise in store: A cheaper, lower-end model called the G6 Play.

It’s early, but that hasn’t stopped rumblings about Lenovo’s new smartphone lineup from ramping up. Here’s everything we know about the Moto G6, Moto G6 Plus, and Moto G6 Play so far.

Design

While initially we might have assumed that the new phones would feature a similar design as the Moto G5, it looks like the Moto G6 series will adopt some newer features that make it a little more reminiscent of the Moto X. According to a leak from Droid-Life, the phones will feature an 18:9 aspect ratio. The standard Moto G6 and G6 Play will both sport 5.7-inch displays, with the standard G6 featuring an FHD+ resolution and the G6 Play coming in with an HD resolution. Last but not least is the Moto G6 Plus, which will come in at 5.93-inches with an FHD+ resolution.

Like previous Moto G phones, the new devices will have a fingerprint sensor on the bottom of the device, which will double as a navigation button. It will also feature a dual-lens camera — though hopefully the quality of that dual-lens setup will be better than the previous Moto G5S Plus.

The phones will reportedly ship in a range of colors. According to Droid-Life, the Moto G6 will come in black, silver, and rose gold, while the Moto G6 Plus will come in Deep Indigo, Nimbus, and Dark Lake. The G6 Play will come in dark charcoal, gold, and deep blue — though the names will likely be a bit fancier than that.

Specs

Along with the image leaks from Droid-Life, we were also treated to some of the specs to expect under the hood. For starters, it looks like the phone will boast an upgraded processor in the form of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 450 for the standard Moto G6, and the Snapdragon 630 for the Moto G6 Plus. For battery life, the Moto G6 will apparently sport a 3,000mAh battery, while the Moto G6 Plus will feature a 3,200mAh battery. The Moto G6 Play comes in with a hefty 4,000mAh battery.

Apart from the processor and battery, the standard G6 will come with options of either 3GB or 4GB of RAM, with either 32GB or 64GB of storage. The Moto G6 Plus will step things up a bit with options for 3GB, 4GB, or 6GB of RAM, with either 32GB or 64GB of storage.

Around the back, the rumors note that the Moto G6 and G6 Plus will feature a 12 megapixel+5 megapixel rear-facing camera, along with a 16 megapixel front-facing camera.

Price and release date

We don’t know the pricing or release date of the Moto G6, Moto G6 Plus, and Moto G6 Play, and probably won’t for some time, but given the Moto G5 launch history, they’ll likely be released in the next three months or so.

According to VentureBeat’s Evan Blass, all three new phones in the G6 lineup — the Moto G6, Moto G6 Plus, and Moto G6 Play — will go on sale in 2018.

If history is any indication, they’ll likely debut in spring. The Moto G5 and G5 Plus were announced at Mobile World Congress in February, and shipped to Asian and European territories the following month. We expect the new phones to become available at MWC 2018.

Updated: Added details from the leak published by Droid-Life in mid-January.

Editors’ Recommendations

Multiple challengers take on the FCC’s net neutrality repeal

After months of speculation and widespread protests, the FCC officially repealed net neutrality on December 14. The reaction was immediate, with industry bigwigs and influencers alike taking to the internet to express their views. Nothing may have changed yet, but regardless of which side you took in the battle, it’s likely the repeal will force big change in the internet — leading some to fear an end to the open internet we’ve come to know, and others believing just the opposite.

But it’s not over yet. Moments after the Restoring Internet Freedom declaratory ruling was passed by the FCC, a handful of individual states rose to challenge the decision, led by noteworthy supporters of the net neutrality bill. These challenges range from legal challenges by state attorneys general to lawmakers in California and Washington pledging to propose net neutrality-style laws for their own states.

The legal challenge from New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman comes after his own investigation into allegedly faked comments left by a bot during the FCC’s public feedback process. This bot posted thousands of identical messages, using the names of thousands of unaware Americans — an act Schneiderman claims would have given the FCC a false impression of the popularity of the repeal. His open letter to the FCC was joined by attorneys general from 18 states, and it’s fairly safe to assume at least a few of those states will sign on to Schneiderman’s lawsuit against the FCC.

Two months after Schneidermann issued his challenge, the legal fight began in earnest on Tuesday, January 16. Now joined by 21 other state attorneys general (bringing the total to 22), Schneidermann is challenging the repeal on the grounds that it broke federal law. Calling it “arbitrary and capricious”, Schneidermann hopes to prove that by repealing net neutrality, the FCC has reversed its policy of preventing internet providers from blocking websites or charging for faster loading times, and essentially handed the companies the chance to become gatekeepers to the internet.

Another challenging the legality of the repeal is Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson; an official news release on Dec. 14 stated his intention to challenge the ruling. Claiming the repeal violates the Administrative Procedure Act, Ferguson is following the line set by Washington Governer Jay Inslee, who announced before the vote that Washington would be looking to introduce regulations to protect consumers in its state.

California State Senator Scott Weiner, a democrat, is also looking to introduce new regulations. Shortly after the vote, Weiner wrote on Medium that he would introduce legislation to mimic net neutrality in his state. Scott echoed the fears of many opponents of the repeal, stating “providers are now free to manipulate web traffic on their networks, which means they can speed or slow traffic to certain sites and even block access” — fears that were exacerbated in November when Comcast retracted part of its open internet pledge, and in July when Verizon was accused of throttling video services as a “test.”

Firefox creator Mozilla has also announced that it has filed a lawsuit against the FCC, joining Schneidermann and the Free Press association, which announced its lawsuit back in December.

Perhaps the largest foe of the repeal is the entire Democratic party. The Democrats have been staunch supporters of net neutrality — which makes sense, since they put it in place. The Hill reports that the Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer is planning on using the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to reverse the FCC’s decision. The CRA was extensively used by Republicans to roll back a lot of later Obama-era legislation at the start of the year, so it’s ironic for the Democrats to now use that same tactic against the Republicans.

The FCC’s vote clearly wasn’t the end for the fight for the internet — and the battle for net neutrality is only just beginning.

Update: The legal challenge has begun as Schneidermann takes on the repeal, claiming it broke federal laws. Also added details on the legal challenge by Mozilla and the Free Press.

Editors’ Recommendations