AT&T and Verizon investigated for possibly colluding to make your smartphone life worse

Business as usual.
Business as usual.

Image: Richard Levine/Getty

AT&T and Verizon don’t want to let you out of their grasps. 

So much so, in fact, that they may have colluded to make it harder for you to switch cellphone carriers. 

So reports The New York Times, which notes that the Justice Department is investigating the two companies for possibly working together to stifle a technology known as eSIM. If deployed, eSIM would make it easier for people to jump from provider to provider — no new physical SIM card required — potentially leaving AT&T or Verizon behind in the process.  

The Justice Department is also looking into G.S.M.A., a mobile communications industry group, for potentially playing a role in the as-of-yet unconfirmed scheme. 

A Verizon spokesperson told the paper that this is all just “a difference of opinion with a couple of phone equipment manufacturers regarding the development of eSIM standards.”

An AT&T spokesperson told The New York Times that it was “aware of the investigation.”

Exciting stuff.

Exciting stuff.

Image: Andrew Burton/getty

Notably, according to CNBC, it’s not just AT&T and Verizon that are under the government’s microscope. So too, reportedly, are T-Mobile and Sprint. A source told the publication that Apple filed the complaint. 

The Justice Department reportedly sent “civil investigative demands” to the companies in February, notes MarketWatch

“The G.S.M.A. is cooperating fully with the Department of Justice in this matter,” the group said in a statement to The New York Times. 

Which, cooperation is good. But you know what’s better? Not making it harder for consumers to switch carriers. 

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The best cycling apps

Using a bike computer is a great way to set goals and track cycling progress. However, if you’ve done any shopping around, you’re aware of how expensive it can be. Mobile apps have even gotten so effective in recent years that we wouldn’t blame you for wondering if you needed a bike computer, at all. Depending on your goals, it may make more sense to forgo the handlebar-mounted devices altogether and use your phone to record metrics.

Many cycling-focused apps measure data like speed, distance, and pace, and help with tasks such as route planning, goal setting, community building, coaching, or other bike-related objectives. Because there are so many available, the one you choose depends on what you want to use it for — you may even want to use a few separate apps to accomplish different purposes. To help make the decision process easier, here are the best cycling apps for each type of function.

The best metrics tracker

Strava

best cycling apps strava fitness app feat

It’s hard to beat Strava when it comes to tracking fitness data. The long-running app is quick, comprehensive, and extremely accurate. Compared to many of its competitors — like RunKeeper or Runtastic — it offers a deeper suite of features while also performing them faster. You can use the app to track or calculate your time, distance, average pace, speed, and estimated power output — you’re even able to record your routes live.

Strava is straightforward and intuitive, allowing you to add descriptions post-ride to remember what you liked or didn’t like about it, and it pairs with plenty of external devices like heart rate monitors, power meters, cadence sensors, and foot pods. Best of all, you can share your stats on leaderboards and connect with friends via its deep social offering — something it does better than any other app on the market.

The best indoor trainer

Zwift

best cycling apps zwift fitness app feat

If you live in a rainy climate — or prefer the controlled climate and flexible hours of training indoors — Zwift is a fantastic way to push hard, maximize your training, and force yourself to go the extra mile. Better yet, it presents everything in a fun way, gamifying training sessions by allowing you to replicate world class, real-life routes and compete against others.

The app, which works with any turbo trainer, features crystal clear graphics that even show your avatar rising our of your saddle when you’re pumping hard or tucking on fast downhills. You can decide at the beginning whether you prefer to race against others or compete against yourself. Although the mobile app works as its own game, the full experience is enhanced by connecting to a desktop version and using the mobile app as a remote control.

The best route planner

MapMyRide

best cycling apps mapmyride fitness app feat

Today, there are dozens of GPS-based apps which offer route planning and live tracking. However, none of them match the original pioneer of route planning when it comes to versatility and ease: MapMyRide. With years of experience under its belt, the app continues to outshine its competitors. Aside from live-tracking, it allows you to fully customize routes from scratch, leapfrogging from one point to the next to create a unique path with a simple, user-friendly interface.

MapMyRide also lets you peruse other users’ favorite routes and shuffle through previous rides you’ve cycled to decide if you want to do them again with audio prompting. Although the app doesn’t showcase as many social features as Strava, it’s the clear winner in terms of simple map creation.

The best motivational coach

Endomondo

best cycling apps endomondo fitness app feat

Tracking numbers and monitoring your route isn’t the only thing capable of making training successful — you also need a bit of inspiration from time to time. Endomondo offers this in spades, providing easy ways to set goals, devise training programs, and monitor your progress. If your motivation begins to wane en route to achieving them (halfway up a 12 percent gradient, for example), it offers you that little voice of encouragement.

Its audio coaching delivers feedback about your distance, duration, calories, lap time, pace, heart rate, and more. Plus, it even has an amazing feature called “Pep Talks” where you can have a friend send a personalized message while tracking you live, offering fully customized motivation. 

The best companion app

Garmin Connect

best cycling apps garmin fitness app feat

If you plan to purchase a fitness tracker to monitor your progress, Garmin is the way to go. Its app is much more user-friendly than some of its competitors and if you own the Garmin Edge cycling computer, you can log everything in a comprehensive daily calendar that breaks down your average speeds, elevations, durations, distances, and other cycling metrics. The app makes it simple to compare your performance with friends — as well as other users — via Garmin Segments and it also crunches detailed charts displaying your data logged over time.

The best visualizer

Relive

best cycling apps relive

Once you’ve sweated, grunted, and suffered through a long and tough ride, there’s nothing as rewarding as being able to recap your ride through high-resolution moving images. Relive does just this, working in conjunction with Strava or Garmin Connect to create a compelling, impressively realistic simulation of the ride you just completed.

Although there are a number of apps which offer map graphics after rides, none feature the visual grace and fluidity of Relive — nor its smooth aesthetic. The videos even look similar to the 3D satellite maps commentators often use during TV coverage of big cycling events. Short of wearing a GoPro, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better way to capture your cycling memories.

Editors’ Recommendations

Pivotal CEO talks IPO and balancing life in Dell family of companies

Pivotal has kind of a strange role for a company. On one hand its part of the EMC federation companies that Dell acquired in 2016 for a cool $67 billion, but it’s also an independently operated entity within that broader Dell family of companies — and that has to be a fine line to walk.

Whatever the challenges, the company went public yesterday and joined VMware as a  separately traded company within Dell. CEO Rob Mee says the company took the step of IPOing because it wanted additional capital.

“I think we can definitely use the capital to invest in marketing and R&D. The wider technology ecosystem is moving quickly. It does take additional investment to keep up,” Mee told TechCrunch just a few hours after his company rang the bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

As for that relationship of being a Dell company, he said that Michael Dell let him know early on after the EMC acquisition that he understood the company’s position. “From the time Dell acquired EMC, Michael was clear with me: You run the company. I’m just here to help. Dell is our largest shareholder, but we run independently. There have been opportunities to test that [since the acquisition] and it has held true,” Mee said.

Mee says that independence is essential because Pivotal has to remain technology-agnostic and it can’t favor Dell products and services over that mission. “It’s necessary because our core product is a cloud-agnostic platform. Our core value proposition is independence from any provider — and Dell and VMware are infrastructure providers,” he said.

That said, Mee also can play both sides because he can build products and services that do align with Dell and VMware offerings. “Certainly the companies inside the Dell family are customers of ours. Michael Dell has encouraged the IT group to adopt our methods and they are doing so,” he said. They have also started working more closely with VMware, announcing a container partnership last year.

Photo: Ron Miller

Overall though he sees his company’s mission in much broader terms, doing nothing less than helping the world’s largest companies transform their organizations. “Our mission is to transform how the world builds software. We are focused on the largest organizations in the world. What is a tailwind for us is that the reality is these large companies are at a tipping point of adopting how they digitize and develop software for strategic advantage,” Mee said.

The stock closed up 5 percent last night, but Mee says this isn’t about a single day. “We do very much focus on the long term. We have been executing to a quarterly cadence and have behaved like a public company inside Pivotal [even before the IPO]. We know how to do that while keeping an eye on the long term,” he said.

15 handy iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus tips and tricks

The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus don’t differ that much from their predecessors, but with every new iPhone come new features — even if it’s only a few. To help you use your new device to the fullest, we’ve rounded up some iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus tips and tricks you need to know about.

If you’re still craving more by the end, there are a lot more features and tricks in iOS 11 that you can check out in our iOS 11 tips and tricks guide.

Toggle True Tone on or off

First available on the iPad Pro, True Tone is a display technology Apple has now brought into the iPhone. It automatically adapts the screen based on lighting conditions, displaying colors that are consistent in different environments. To turn True Tone on or off, go to Settings > Display and Brightness and flip the toggle next to True Tone. Alternatively, you can swipe up the Control Center, press and hold on the brightness slider, and there you’ll find a quick toggle for True Tone and Night Shift.

How to add Portrait Lighting to your photos

This one is just for the iPhone 8 Plus. If Portrait Mode wasn’t enough, iPhone 8 Plus also has a beta feature called Portrait Lighting. It comes in five various types of lighting effects: Natural Light, Studio Light, Contour Light, Stage Light, and Stage Light Mono. Instead of applying filters, Portrait Lighting uses facial landmarking and a depth map captured by the dual cameras to offer different lighting options.

To use the effects, simply open the Camera app and tap the Portrait Mode next to Photo. You’ll now see Natural Light with some circular logos above the shutter icon. Hold down and move your finger left through the carousel to scroll between all the options. Choose one, and tap the shutter icon — when you’re positioned within the right distance — to capture a photo. One quick note from Apple: For the Stage Light and Stage Light Mono effects, you’ll want to fill up the subjects face in the circle as much as possible with little background as possible.

Portrait Mode no longer takes two photos now — if you want the photo without the blur effect, you can now simply go to Photos, choose the Portrait Mode photo, tap Edit, and click on the yellow Portrait logo at the top. It will become transparent, meaning the Portrait effect has been turned off. You can also choose a different lighting effect at the bottom of the screen if you didn’t like the original.

How to shoot video in higher resolution

Both the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus have received an upgrade when it comes to video quality. Both devices are now capable of shooting up to 4K at 60 frames per second and 1080p at 240 fps for slow motion video. To capture your videos in high-resolution, go to Settings > Camera > Record Video and you’ll see a list of options to choose from. There’s a separate section to customize the slow motion video settings under Camera titled Record Slo-mo.
Want to scan a QR code? You don’t need a third-party app to do that. In the same camera settings, you’ll see a toggle for Scan QR codes. Make sure it’s toggled on to utilize it, and then all you need to do is open the camera app and point it at a QR code.

How to access auto-brightness

On iOS 10 and prior, you were able to access auto-brightness through Settings > Display & Brightness. On iOS 11, Auto Brightness now lives in the Accessibility section instead. Go to Settings > Accessibility > Display Accommodations and toggle on Auto-Brightness. You can still control normal brightness settings through the Control Center.

How to enable Emergency SOS

Emergency SOS is automatically activated on your iPhone, but there’s an additional feature you can enable called “Auto Call.” It will call emergency services when you press the power button rapidly five times. It won’t start dialing right away, but the option to call will appear. Touch ID will also be disabled temporarily, until you enter your passcode.

To enable this feature, go to Settings > Emergency SOS and toggle on Auto Call. You can also toggle on Countdown Sound to play a warning sound while the setting is counting down to call emergency services.

How to customize Control Center

Did you know that you can tweak exactly what appears in your Control Center when you swipe up on your iPhone? Simply go to Settings > Control Center > Customize Controls and you can add and remove whatever you like.

How to tell Siri who you are

Siri can be a bit impersonal, so why not tell it who you are? Make sure that you have yourself as one of your contacts and then head into Settings > Siri & Search > My Information and pick your own name from the Contacts list.

How to add effects to Live Photos

If you go into the Photos app and choose Live Photos, then pick a shot, you can swipe up to reveal Effects. Choose from Loop, Bounce, and Long Exposure. We like Loop as it animates your live photos automatically without you having to tap and press on them.

How to use your iPhone as a spirit level

Spirit Level iPhone 8
Simon Hill/Digital Trends

If you need to check just how level something is, then you can do it with your iPhone 8 or 8 Plus. Open the Compass app and swipe left, and you’ll reveal a handy spirit level.

How to set custom ringtones and vibrations

If you’d like to know who’s calling without even having to look at your phone, then you want to set up some custom ringtones and vibrations. Open the Phone app and select Contacts, then tap on the contact you want to set a custom ringtone or vibration for and scroll down. You can select Ringtone or Text Tone and pick the tone you want. You can also tap Vibration to change the vibration pattern or scroll down to the bottom to create your own custom vibration for that contact.

How to erase text quickly

Shake to delete text
Simon Hill/Digital Trends

Just tapped out an angry missive that you’ve reconsidered or perhaps noticed that your latest message features too many unfortunate autocorrects? Don’t spend ages holding down the backspace key, simply shake your iPhone and you’ll get an Undo Typing prompt that allows you to delete the lot in one fell swoop. If you change your mind you can also shake again and choose Redo or delete more with another Undo.

How to prevent iPhone distractions when driving

A truly frightening number of crashes are caused every year now by people using their phones when they should be focused on the road. Apple has included a clever way of avoiding being one of them with its Do Not Disturb While Driving setting. You’ll find it in Settings > Do Not Disturb and you can set it to come on Automatically or When Connected to Car Bluetooth. If you do opt for the automatic setting, just be aware that it will be triggered when you’re a passenger too.

How to see where you’ve been

Significant Locations iPhone 8
Simon Hill/Digital Trends

Whether you’ve forgotten, you want to know where you’ve visited most often, or you’re curious about what your iPhone is tracking you can find a list of locations quite easily. Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services > System Services and tap Frequent Locations or Significant Locations to see your most visited places. You can select a place to see your hot spots laid out on a map. If you find that creepy, then you can always toggle it off.

How to scan documents

Open the Notes app and add a new note, then tap the plus icon at the bottom of the screen and you can choose Scan Documents. The camera will focus in on where it thinks the document is and eliminate everything else to give you a perfect document scan.

How to search for websites more quickly

URL shortcut iPhone 8
Simon Hill/Digital Trends

Think of the valuable seconds you waste typing out the URL suffix for every website you visit. You can get that time back by tapping and holding on the dot or period (full stop) key at the bottom of the keyboard which will bring up a list of common website address endings.

To learn about more about what you can do with Apple’s latest mobile operating system, make sure to check out our roundup of iOS 11 tips and tricks.

Editors’ Recommendations

In the NYC enterprise startup scene, security is job one

While most people probably would not think of New York as a hotbed for enterprise startups of any kind, it is actually quite active. When you stop to consider that the world’s biggest banks and financial services companies are located there, it would certainly make sense for security startups to concentrate on such a huge potential market — and it turns out, that’s the case.

According to Crunchbase, there are dozens of security startups based in the city with everything from biometrics and messaging security to identity, security scoring and graph-based analysis tools. Some established companies like Symphony, which was originally launched in the city (although it is now on the west coast), has raised almost $300 million. It was actually formed by a consortium of the world’s biggest financial services companies back in 2014 to create a secure unified messaging platform.

There is a reason such a broad-based ecosystem is based in a single place. The companies who want to discuss these kinds of solutions aren’t based in Silicon Valley. This isn’t typically a case of startups selling to other startups. It’s startups who have been established in New York because that’s where their primary customers are most likely to be.

In this article, we are looking at a few promising early-stage security startups based in Manhattan

Hypr: Decentralizing identity

Hypr is looking at decentralizing identity with the goal of making it much more difficult to steal credentials. As company co-founder and CEO George Avetisov puts it, the idea is to get rid of that credentials honeypot sitting on the servers at most large organizations, and moving the identity processing to the device.

Hypr lets organizations remove stored credentials from the logon process. Photo: Hypr

“The goal of these companies in moving to decentralized authentication is to isolate account breaches to one person,” Avetisov explained. When you get rid of that centralized store, and move identity to the devices, you no longer have to worry about an Equifax scenario because the only thing hackers can get is the credentials on a single device — and that’s not typically worth the time and effort.

At its core, Hypr is an SDK. Developers can tap into the technology in their mobile app or website to force the authorization to the device. This could be using the fingerprint sensor on a phone or a security key like a Yubikey. Secondary authentication could include taking a picture. Over time, customers can delete the centralized storage as they shift to the Hypr method.

The company has raised $15 million and has 35 employees based in New York City.

Uplevel Security: Making connections with graph data

Uplevel’s founder Liz Maida began her career at Akamai where she learned about the value of large data sets and correlating that data to events to help customers understand what was going on behind the scenes. She took those lessons with her when she launched Uplevel Security in 2014. She had a vision of using a graph database to help analysts with differing skill sets understand the underlying connections between events.

“Let’s build a system that allows for correlation between machine intelligence and human intelligence,” she said. If the analyst agrees or disagrees, that information gets fed back into the graph, and the system learns over time the security events that most concern a given organization.

“What is exciting about [our approach] is you get a new alert and build a mini graph, then merge that into the historical data, and based on the network topology, you can start to decide if it’s malicious or not,” she said.

Photo: Uplevel

The company hopes that by providing a graphical view of the security data, it can help all levels of security analysts figure out the nature of the problem, select a proper course of action, and further build the understanding and connections for future similar events.

Maida said they took their time creating all aspects of the product, making the front end attractive, the underlying graph database and machine learning algorithms as useful as possible and allowing companies to get up and running quickly. Making it “self serve” was a priority, partly because they wanted customers digging in quickly and partly with only 10 people, they didn’t have the staff to do a lot of hand holding.

Security Scorecard: Offering a way to measure security

The founders of Security Scorecard met while working at the NYC ecommerce site, Gilt. For a time ecommerce and adtech ruled the startup scene in New York, but in recent times enterprise startups have really started to come on. Part of the reason for that is many people started at these foundational startups and when they started their own companies, they were looking to solve the kinds of enterprise problems they had encountered along the way. In the case of Security Scorecard, it was how could a CISO reasonably measure how secure a company they were buying services from was.

Photo: Security Scorecard

“Companies were doing business with third-party partners. If one of those companies gets hacked, you lose. How do you vett the security of companies you do business with” company co-founder and CEO Aleksandr Yampolskiy asked when they were forming the company.

They created a scoring system based on publicly available information, which wouldn’t require the companies being evaluated to participate. Armed with this data, they could apply a letter grade from A-F. As a former CISO at Gilt, it was certainly a paint point he felt personally. They knew some companies did undertake serious vetting, but it was usually via a questionnaire.

Security Scorecard was offering a way to capture security signals in an automated way and see at a glance just how well their vendors were doing. It doesn’t stop with the simple letter grade though, allowing you to dig into the company’s strengths and weaknesses and see how they compare to other companies in their peer groups and how they have performed over time.

It also gives customers the ability to see how they compare to peers in their own industry and use the number to brag about their security position or conversely, they could use it to ask for more budget to improve it.

The company launched in 2013 and has raised over $62 million, according to Crunchbase. Today, they have 130 employees and 400 enterprise customers.

If you’re an enterprise security startup, you need to be where the biggest companies in the world do business. That’s in New York City, and that’s precisely why these three companies, and dozens of others have chosen to call it home.

Through luck and grit, Datadog is fusing the culture of developers and operations

There used to be two cultures in the enterprise around technology. On one side were software engineers, who built out the applications needed by employees to conduct the business of their companies. On the other side were sysadmins, who were territorially protective of their hardware domain — the servers, switches, and storage boxes needed to power all of that software. Many a great comedy routine has been made at the interface of those two cultures, but they remained divergent.

That is, until the cloud changed everything. Suddenly, there was increasing overlap in the skills required for software engineering and operations, as well as a greater need for collaboration between the two sides to effectively deploy applications. Yet, while these two halves eventually became one whole, the software monitoring tools used by them were often entirely separate.

New York City-based Datadog was designed to bring these two cultures together to create a more nimble and collaborative software and operations culture. Founded in 2010 by Olivier Pomel and Alexis Lê-Quôc, the product offers monitoring and analytics for cloud-based workflows, allowing ops team to track and analyze deployments and developers to instrument their applications. Pomel said that “the root of all of this collaboration is to make sure that everyone has the same understanding of the problem.”

The company has had dizzying success. Pomel declined to disclose precise numbers, but says the company had “north of $100 million” of recurring revenue in the past twelve months, and “we have been doubling that every year so far.” The company, headquartered in the New York Times Building in Times Square, employs more than 600 people across its various worldwide offices. The company has raised nearly $150 million of venture capital according to Crunchbase, and is perennially on banker’s short lists for strong IPO prospects.

The real story though is just how much luck and happenstance can help put wind in the sails of a company.

Pomel first met Lê-Quôc while an undergraduate in France. He was working on running the campus network, and helped to discover that Lê-Quôc had hacked the network. Lê-Quôc was eventually disconnected, and Pomel would migrate to IBM’s upstate New York offices after graduation. After IBM, he led technology at Wireless Generation, a K-12 startup, where he ran into Lê-Quôc again, who was heading up ops for the company. The two cultures of develops and ops was glaring at the startup, where “we had developers who hated operations” and there was much “finger-pointing.”

Putting aside any lingering grievances from their undergrad days, the two began to explore how they could ameliorate the cultural differences they witnessed between their respective teams. “Bringing dev and ops together is not a feature, it is core,” Pomel explained. At the same time, they noticed that companies were increasingly talking about building on Amazon Web Services, which in 2009, was still a relatively new concept. They incorporated Datadog in 2010 as a cloud-first monitoring solution, and launched general availability for the product in 2012.

Luck didn’t just bring the founders together twice, it also defined the currents of their market. Datadog was among the first cloud-native monitoring solutions, and the superlative success of cloud infrastructure in penetrating the enterprise the past few years has benefitted the company enormously. We had “exactly the right product at the right time,” Pomel said, and “a lot of it was luck.” He continued, “It’s healthy to recognize that not everything comes from your genius, because what works once doesn’t always work a second time.”

While startups have been a feature in New York for decades, enterprise infrastructure was in many ways in a dark age when the company launched, which made early fundraising difficult. “None of the West Coast investors were listening,” Pomel said, and “East Coast investors didn’t understand the infrastructure space well enough to take risks.” Even when he could get a West Coast VC to chat with him, they “thought it was a form of mental impairment to start an infrastructure startup in New York.”

Those fundraising difficulties ended up proving a boon for Datadog, because it forced the company to connect with customers much earlier and more often than it might have otherwise. Pomel said, “it forced us to spend all of our time with customers and people who were related to the problem” and ultimately, “it grounded us in the customer problem.” Pomel believes that the company’s early DNA of deeply listening to customers has allowed it to continue to outcompete its rivals on the West Coast.

More success is likely to come as companies continue to move their infrastructure onto the cloud. Datadog used to have a roughly even mix of private and public cloud business, and now the balance is moving increasingly toward the public side. Even large financial institutions, which have been reticent in transitioning their infrastructures, have now started to aggressively embrace cloud as the future of computing in the industry, according to Pomel.

Datadog intends to continue to add new modules to its core monitoring toolkit and expand its team. As the company has grown, so has the need to put in place more processes as parts of the company break. Quoting his co-founder, Pomel said the message to employees is “don’t mind the rattling sound — it is a space heater, not an airliner” and “things are going to break and change, and it is normal.”

Much as Datadog has bridged the gap between developers and ops, Pomel hopes to continue to give back to the New York startup ecosystem by bridging the gap between technical startups and venture capital. He has made a series of angel investments into local emerging enterprise and data startups, including Generable, Seva, and Windmill. Hard work and a lot of luck is propelling Datadog into the top echelon of enterprise startups, pulling New York along with it.

Up-and-coming enterprise startups in NYC

New York City has an incredible density of up-and-coming enterprise-focused startups. While the winners are publicized and well-known, we felt it was time to put a bit of a spotlight on younger companies, ones you may not have heard about yet, but are likely to in the coming years.

TechCrunch asked two dozen founders, venture capitalists, and other community members which companies — other than ones they are directly connected to — they thought were most likely to change the enterprise world in the coming years. From a list of 64 nominated startups, we chose twelve we thought best exemplified the potential for New York. All data on venture capital fundraised comes from Crunchbase. Also be sure to check out our in-depth profiles of NS1, Datadog, BigID, Packet, and Timescale as well as Security Scorecard, Uplevel, and HYPR, which were not included on this list.

Full-Metal Packet is hosting the future of cloud infrastructure

Cloud computing has been a revolution for the data center. Rather than investing in expensive hardware and managing a data center directly, companies are relying on public cloud providers like AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure to provide general-purpose and high-availability compute, storage, and networking resources in a highly flexible way.

Yet as workflows have moved to the cloud, companies are increasingly realizing that those abstracted resources can be enormously expensive compared to the hardware they used to own. Few companies want to go back to managing hardware directly themselves, but they also yearn to have the price-to-performance level they used to enjoy. Plus, they want to take advantage of a whole new ecosystem of customized and specialized hardware to process unique workflows — think Tensor Processing Units for machine learning applications.

That’s where Packet comes in. The New York City-based startup’s platform offers a highly-customizable infrastructure for running bare metal in the cloud. Rather than sharing an instance with other users, Packet’s customers “own” the hardware they select, so they can use all the resources of that hardware.

Even more interesting is that Packet will also deploy custom hardware to its data centers, which currently number eighteen around the world. So, for instance, if you want to deploy a quantum computing box redundantly in half of those centers, Packet will handle the logistics of installing those boxes, setting them up, and managing that infrastructure for you.

The company was founded in 2014 by Zac Smith, Jacob Smith, and Aaron Welch, and it has raised a total of $12 million in venture capital financing according to Crunchbase, with its last round led by Softbank. “I took the usual path, I went to Juilliard,” Zac Smith, who is CEO, said to me at his office, which overlooks the World Trade Center in downtown Manhattan. Double bass was a first love, but he found his way eventually into internet hosting, working as COO of New York-based Voxel.

At Voxel, Smith said that he grew up in hosting just as the cloud started taking off. “We saw this change in the user from essentially a sysadmin who cared about Tom’s Hardware, to a developer who had never opened a computer but who was suddenly orchestrating infrastructure,” he said.

Innovation is the lifeblood of developers, yet, public clouds were increasingly abstracting away any details of the underlying infrastructure from developers. Smith explained that “infrastructure was becoming increasingly proprietary, the land of few companies.” While he once thought about leaving the hosting world post-Voxel, he and his co-founders saw an opportunity to rethink cloud infrastructure from the metal up.

“Our customer is a millennial developer, 32 years old, and they have never opened an ATX case, and how could you possibly give them IT in the same way,” Smith asked. The idea of Packet was to bring back choice in infrastructure to these developers, while abstracting away the actual data center logistics that none of them wanted to work on. “You can choose your own opinion — we are hardware independent,” he said.

Giving developers more bare metal options is an interesting proposition, but it is Packet’s long-term vision that I think is most striking. In short, the company wants to completely change the model of hardware development worldwide.

VCs are increasingly investing in specialized chips and memory to handle unique processing loads, from machine learning to quantum computing applications. In some cases, these chips can process their workloads exponentially faster compared to general purpose chips, which at scale can save companies millions of dollars.

Packet’s mission is to encourage that ecosystem by essentially becoming a marketplace, connecting original equipment manufacturers with end-user developers. “We use the WeWork model a lot,” Smith said. What he means is that Packet allows you to rent space in its global network of data centers and handle all the logistics of installing and monitoring hardware boxes, much as WeWork allows companies to rent real estate while it handles the minutia like resetting the coffee filter.

In this vision, Packet would create more discerning and diverse buyers, allowing manufacturers to start targeting more specialized niches. Gone are the generic x86 processors from Intel driving nearly all cloud purchases, and in their place could be dozens of new hardware vendors who can build up their brands among developers and own segments of the compute and storage workload.

In this way, developers can hack their infrastructure much as an earlier generation may have tricked out their personal computer. They can now test new hardware more easily, and when they find a particular piece of hardware they like, they can get it running in the cloud in short order. Packet becomes not just the infrastructure operator — but the channel connecting buyers and sellers.

That’s Packet’s big vision. Realizing it will require that hardware manufacturers increasingly build differentiated chips. More importantly, companies will have to have unique workflows, be at a scale where optimizing those workflows is imperative, and realize that they can match those workflows to specific hardware to maximize their cost performance.

That may sound like a tall order, but Packet’s dream is to create exactly that kind of marketplace. If successful, it could transform how hardware and cloud vendors work together and ultimately, the innovation of any 32-year-old millennial developer who doesn’t like plugging a box in, but wants to plug in to innovation.

BigID lands in the right place at the right time with GDPR

Every startup needs a little skill and a little luck. BigID, a NYC-based data governance solution has been blessed with both. The company, which helps customers identify sensitive data in big data stores, launched at just about the same time that the EU announced the GDPR data privacy regulations. Today, the company is having trouble keeping up with the business.

While you can’t discount that timing element, you have to have a product that actually solves a problem and BigID appears to meet that criteria. “This how the market is changing by having and demanding more technology-based controls over how data is being used,” company CEO and co-founder Dimitri Sirota told TechCrunch.

Sirota’s company enables customers to identify the most sensitive data from among vast stores of data. In fact, he says some customers have hundreds of millions of users, but their unique advantage is having built the solution more recently. That provides a modern architecture that can scale to meet these big data requirements, while identifying the data that requires your attention in a way that legacy systems just aren’t prepared to do.

“When we first started talking about this [in 2016] people didn’t grok it. They didn’t understand why you would need a privacy-centric approach. Even after 2016 when GDPR passed, most people didn’t see this. [Today] we are seeing a secular change. The assets they collect are valuable, but also incredibly toxic,” he said. It is the responsibility of the data owner to identify and protect the personal data under their purview under the GDPR rules, and that creates a data double-edged sword because you don’t want to be fined for failing to comply.

GDPR is a set of data privacy regulations that are set to take effect in the European Union at the end of May. Companies have to comply with these rules or could face stiff fines. The thing is GDPR could be just the beginning. The company is seeing similar data privacy regulations in Canada, Australia, China and Japan. Something akin go this could also be coming to the United States after Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg appeared before Congress earlier this month. At the very least we could see state-level privacy laws in the US, Sirota said.

Sirota says there are challenges getting funded as a NYC startup because there hadn’t been a strong big enterprise ecosystem in place until recently, but that’s changing. “Starting an enterprise company in New York is challenging. Ed Sim from Boldstart [A New York City early stage VC firm that invests in enterprise startups] has helped educate through investment and partnerships. More challenging, but it’s reaching a new level now,” he said.

The company launched in 2016 and has raised $16.1 million to date. It scored the bulk of that in a $14 million round at the end of January. Just this week at the RSAC Sandbox competition at the RSA Conference in San Francisco, BigID was named the Most Innovative Startup in a big recognition of the work they are doing around GDPR.

Timescale is leading the next wave of NYC database tech

Data is the lifeblood of the modern corporation, yet acquiring, storing, processing, and analyzing it remains a remarkably challenging and expensive project. Every time data infrastructure finally catches up with the streams of information pouring in, another source and more demanding decision-making makes the existing technology obsolete.

Few cities rely on data the same way as New York City, nor has any other city so shaped the technology that underpins our data infrastructure. Back in the 1960s, banks and accounting firms helped to drive much of the original computation industry with their massive finance applications. Today, that industry has been supplanted by finance and advertising, both of which need to make microsecond decisions based on petabyte datasets and complex statistical models.

Unsurprisingly, the city’s hunger for data has led to waves of database companies finding their home in the city.

As web applications became increasingly popular in the mid-aughts, SQL databases came under increasing strain to scale, while also proving to be inflexible in terms of their data schemas for the fast-moving startups they served. That problem spawned Manhattan-based MongoDB, whose flexible “NoSQL” schemas and horizontal scaling capabilities made it the default choice for a generation of startups. The company would go on to raise $311 million according to Crunchbase, and debuted late last year on NASDAQ, trading today with a market cap of $2 billion.

At the same time that the NoSQL movement was hitting its stride, academic researchers and entrepreneurs were exploring how to evolve SQL to scale like its NoSQL competitors, while retaining the kinds of features (joining tables, transactions) that make SQL so convenient for developers.

One leading company in this next generation of database tech is New York-based Cockroach Labs, which was founded in 2015 by a trio of former Square, Viewfinder, and Google engineers. The company has gone on to raise more than $50 million according to Crunchbase from a luminary list of investors including Peter Fenton at Benchmark, Mike Volpi at Index, and Satish Dharmaraj at Redpoint, along with GV and Sequoia.

While web applications have their own peculiar data needs, the rise of the internet of things (IoT) created a whole new set of data challenges. How can streams of data from potentially millions of devices be stored in an easily analyzable manner? How could companies build real-time systems to respond to that data?

Mike Freedman and Ajay Kulkarni saw that problem increasingly manifesting itself in 2015. The two had been roommates at MIT in the late 90s, and then went on separate paths into academia and industry respectively. Freedman went to Stanford for a PhD in computer science, and nearly joined the spinout of Nicira, which sold to VMware in 2012 for $1.26 billion. Kulkarni joked that “Mike made the financially wise decision of not joining them,” and Freedman eventually went to Princeton as an assistant professor, and was awarded tenure in 2013. Kulkarni founded and worked at a variety of startups including GroupMe, as well as receiving an MBA from MIT.

The two had startup dreams, and tried building an IoT platform. As they started building it though, they realized they would need a real-time database to process the data streams coming in from devices. “There are a lot of time series databases, [so] let’s grab one off the shelf, and then we evaluated a few,” Kulkarni explained. They realized what they needed was a hybrid of SQL and NoSQL, and nothing they could find offered the feature set they required to power their platform. That challenge became the problem to be solved, and Timescale was born.

In many ways, Timescale is how you build a database in 2018. Rather than starting de novo, the team decided to build on top of Postgres, a popular open-source SQL database. “By building on top of Postgres, we became the more reliable option,” Kulkarni said of their thinking. In addition, the company opted to make the database fully open source. “In this day and age, in order to get wide adoption, you have to be an open source database company,” he said.

Since the project’s first public git commit on October 18, 2016, the company’s database has received nearly 4,500 stars on Github, and it has raised $16.1 million from Benchmark and NEA .

Far more important though are their customers, who are definitely not the typical tech startup roster and include companies from oil and gas, mining, and telecommunications. “You don’t think of them as early adopters, but they have a need, and because we built it on top of Postgres, it integrates into an ecosystem that they know,” Freedman explained. Kulkarni continued, “And the problem they have is that they have all of this time series data, and it isn’t sitting in the corner, it is integrated with their core service.”

New York has been a strong home for the two founders. Freedman continues to be a professor at Princeton, where he has built a pipeline of potential grads for the company. More widely, Kulkarni said, “Some of the most experienced people in databases are in the financial industry, and that’s here.” That’s evident in one of their investors, hedge fund Two Sigma. “Two Sigma had been the only venture firm that we talked to that already had built out their own time series database,” Kulkarni noted.

The two also benefit from paying customers. “I think the Bay Area is great for open source adoption, but a lot of Bay Area companies, they develop their own database tech, or they use an open source project and never pay for it,” Kulkarni said. Being in New York has meant closer collaboration with customers, and ultimately more revenues.

Open source plus revenues. It’s the database way, and the next wave of innovation in the NYC enterprise infrastructure ecosystem.