Loom helps entrepreneurs lure freelance developers with equity

According to Loom founder Chase White, there’s a familiar cycle that tech entrepreneurs go through: When they’re first getting started, they sell equity to angel investors, then they use the money to hire developers to actually build the product.

At a certain point, White (formerly the co-founder and head of product at Localeur) wondered, “Why not cut out the middleman?”

In other words, why not just offer that equity directly to developers? White said this allows startups to build a basic product, check if it can get any traction and then try to raise funding. And that’s what he’s trying to enable at Loom.

Entrepreneurs can post their ideas on site (the sensitive stuff doesn’t get posted on the public profile), then they get bids from freelancers who want to participate in the project. They can review the bids, browse freelancer profiles (those freelancers can verify their skills through developer tests on the site) and send a few initial messages.

Then, if an entrepreneur wants to hire a freelancer, they pay Loom $99 for the connection, which means they have access to unlimited messaging, unlimited file sharing and can exchange contact info.

The developers don’t have to be paid in equity alone. In fact, White said that 80 percent of the bids on Loom are for a combination of cash and stock.

He added that Loom leaves it up to the entrepreneurs and developers to decide what the compensation should look like — though this could potentially lead to some acrimonious situations.

“The goal right now is to facilitate the connections,” he said. “In the future, we’ll have a lot more conflict resolution and mitigation efforts, but that’s more of a long-term goal.”

The development-for-stock model isn’t an entirely new one. In fact, there’s a firm called CoVenture that specifically offers development and design work in exchange for equity.

You might also remember the “crowdcoding” site Late Labs, whose founder Justin Johnson is now an advisor with Loom. Johnson said that one of the problems at Late Labs was its attempt to build a broader suite of collaboration tools: “We tried to do that and manage the process and it broke down a lot. Chase is laser-focused on the actual value creation in helping people meet each other.”

White admitted that initially, Loom was also trying to charge an ongoing fee for these projects. After it launched in August, users “were essentially stealing the product — making successful connections and then jumping off the platform without paying fees.”

To avoid this situation, Loom moved to its current model of just charging for the initial connection.

“Entrepreneurs are savage individuals and they will do anything to protect their runway, which I don’t blame ‘em for,” White added.

And just to be clear, he’s opposed to the idea of raising outside funding, either. Loom, after all, raised a $600,000 seed round to hire its first employees.

Featured Image: WOCinTech Chat/Flickr UNDER A CC BY 2.0 LICENSE

Facebook plans customizable filters for nudity and violence

Facebook wants to give you the power to define what is and isn’t objectionable, and influence the local defaults of those who don’t choose voluntarily. You’ll eventually be able to select how much nudity, violence, graphic content and profanity you’re comfortable seeing.

Mark Zuckerberg revealed this massive shift in Facebook’s Community Standards policy today in his 5,000-word humanitarian manifesto, which you can read our highlights and analysis of here.

Currently, Facebook relies on a one-size-fits-most set of standards about what’s allowed on the network. The only exception is that it abides by local censorship laws. But that’s led to trouble for Facebook, as newsworthy historical photos including nudity and citizen journalism accounts of police violence have been wrongly removed, then restored after media backlash or executive review.

Zuckerberg explains the forthcoming policy, writing:

“The idea is to give everyone in the community options for how they would like to set the content policy for themselves. Where is your line on nudity? On violence? On graphic content? On profanity? What you decide will be your personal settings. We will periodically ask you these questions to increase participation and so you don’t need to dig around to find them. For those who don’t make a decision, the default will be whatever the majority of people in your region selected, like a referendum. Of course you will always be free to update your personal settings anytime.

With a broader range of controls, content will only be taken down if it is more objectionable than the most permissive options allow.”

This approach allows Facebook to give vocal, engaged users choice, while establishing reasonable localized norms, without ever forcing specific policies on anyone or requiring all users to configure complicated settings.

To classify potentially objectionable content Facebook will lean more heavily on artificial intelligence, which is already delivering 30 percent of all content flags to its human reviewers. Over time, Zuckerberg hopes Facebook’s AI will learn to make nuanced distinctions, such as between terrorist propaganda and a news report about a terrorist attack.

There are still plenty of questions about how this system will work. For example, what happens to teens? Do they get strict defaults or the same control, and do parents have license to select their kids’ settings? And we don’t know when this will launch, though Zuckerberg implied it would all take time.

This new system of governance could make Facebook’s policies feel less overt, as they should align with local norms. It might also be a boon to certain content creators, such as photographers or painters who make nude art, videographers who capture action or war or unfiltered pundits with niche views.

Personalized and localized site governance might prove more democratic than treating Facebook as one giant country. Its 2012 experiment with allowing people to vote on policies failed and was scrapped because it required 30 percent of a users to vote on long, complicated documents of changes for their majority decision to be binding. The final vote would have needed 300 million votes to be binding, but received just 619,000. Now users who don’t “vote” on their settings receive the local defaults, “like a referendum” in a U.S. state.


Zuckerberg also outlined several other product development plans. Facebook hopes to add more suggestions for local Groups to tie users deeper into their communities. Facebook will also give Group leaders more tools, akin to what Facebook provides Page owners. Zuckerberg didn’t provide specifics, but those features might include analytics about what content is engaging, the ability to set more types of admins and moderators or the option to add outside app functionality.

As far as safety and information, Facebook wants to expand AI detection of bullying or self-harm, and potentially allow people to report mental health issues, disease or crime. And to fight polarization and sensationalism, not just objectively fake news, it wants to present users with a range of sources across the political spectrum about a given topic. That could potentially come through showing Related Articles on links that draw on sources from other parts of the spectrum.

The central theme of these changes is Facebook empowering users to define their own experience. It wants to see the world move toward a supportive, safe, informed, civically engaged and inclusive global community. But it still sees itself as just a tool, with the direction of progress defined by those who wield it.

Faster than a bullet? ZTE’s going full speed ahead with the Gigabit Phone at MWC

Why it matters to you

Phones that are capable of gigabit download speeds? As we approach 5G connectivity, our smartphone experience is about to get much faster, starting with the ZTE Gigabit Phone.

ZTE has quite a portfolio of smartphones lined up for Mobile World Congress this year — so much so that the company has pre-announced what may be its next flagship device a little early: the ZTE Gigabit Phone. The firm describes it as “forward-looking,” meaning it incorporates technology that we expect to define the future. While we may immediately think of bezel-less screens and artificial intelligence, ZTE’s headed in another direction with the Gigabit Phone: High-speed data connectivity.

The phone is apparently capable of downloading data at speeds of 1Gbps, which is a lot. This, says ZTE, opens up the world of streaming VR video, instant access to files stored in the cloud, and hi-res music streaming to owners of the phone. It all sounds very exciting. After all, who doesn’t want speeds more regularly associated with home broadband internet connections on their phone?

More: The Quartz will be ZTE’s first Android Wear watch, and it was just leaked online

However, ZTE isn’t saying anything about how these speeds will be achieved, or where they will be achieved. Just because the Gigabit Phone will be capable of dealing with gigabit speeds, doesn’t mean your network will be. While ZTE will stay quiet about these issues until the phone’s announcement, we can still speculate about them.


For example, ZTE’s phone may be the first smartphone announced to use Qualcomm’s X16 LTE modem, which itself is the first “Gigabit Class LTE modem,” and has a peak download speed of 1Gbps. The modem has already been used in a Netgear router, launched with Ericsson and Telstra in Australia. In smartphones, it comes packaged with the new Snapdragon 835 processor, which is expected to be a main feature of the Samsung Galaxy S8. Will ZTE somehow announce a Snapdragon 835 phone before Samsung? The company has a history of announcing and then waiting to release the device, so possibly.

What about networks? Various carriers around the world, including Telstra, Singtel, Swisscom, and EE, have all been running 1Gbps trials and real-world tests over the past year. In the U.S., T-Mobile has been doing the same, and at the end of 2016 released a video demonstrating the technology on an unreleased prototype phone. Could that be ZTE’s Gigabit Phone? ZTE and T-Mobile have worked together for some time, so another mutually beneficial partnership makes sense.

Gigabit mobile connectivity speeds are being viewed as a crucial early step towards 5G, which is still many years away from wide public use. ZTE’s Gigabit Phone, and the networks supporting it, will give us a taste of what it’ll feel like to have Google Fiber-like speeds on the move. Exciting stuff.

Unfortunately the company’s announcement is largely a teaser — we don’t have any other information regarding specifications or even what the Gigabit Phone will look like. You’ll have to wait until the official unveiling in Barcelona, Spain, at the end of February.

Anything else from ZTE?

The Gigabit Phone won’t be the only new smartphone unveiled by ZTE, though, as the company said there will be more additions to its Blade series.

More: ZTE Axon 7 mini review

We will likely learn more about ZTE’s Hawkeye project as well, which looked to crowd-source ideas for a smartphone and fund it via Kickstarter. The project has hit a few roadblocks and may need to be pulled until the company comes back from the drawing board with some tweaks.

There are also rumors that the company is building an Android Wear smartwatch with LTE connectivity — the ZTE Quartz. It’s rumored to arrive later this year, but we could see the announcement at MWC.

We’ll keep you updated as we learn more about the Gigabit Phone and other upcoming announcements from ZTE.

Article originally published on 02-15-2017 by Julian Chokkattu. Updated on 02-16-2017 by Andy Boxall: Added in further speculation on the Gigabit Phone.

YouTuber creates 20-foot tornado fire that’s as mesmerizing as it is dangerous

It's a video you'll never forget.
It’s a video you’ll never forget.

Image: courtesy of colin furze via youtube

Playing with fire is probably not the best idea, but what if you do it in a super cool way? Like make a giant 20-foot tall spiral of flames trapped inside a huge metal cage that spins around continuously?

Well if you had that idea, sorry, it’s already been taken by Colin Furze, a “British garage inventor/video maker.” The Youtuber has already amazed the internet with a number of mad scientist creations, like a homemade hoverbike, a giant Star Wars AT-ACT garden den, and, of course, fully automated claws inspired by X-Men’s Wolverine. 

His newest wonder — that awe-inspiring tornado fire which could be the largest ever built by a human — was put together using a go-kart and a 20-foot cage. The go-kart spins the cage around while a bunch of fireworks at the top make the whole thing even more spectacular.

You kind of have to see it to believe it.

[embedded content]

But Furze might not want to light that flame again … or at least Smokey Bear probably wouldn’t recommend it.

A device that helps blind people see

These high-tech eSight 3 glasses are helping legally blind people see. The visor-like headset uses high-speed, high-definition cameras to capture what the user is looking at.The device uses algorithms to enhance the video feed, and displays the video through eSight 3’s OLED screens in front of the users’ eyes.

The wearable headset has Wi-Fi and HDMI capabilities to stream digital content, and it can send pictures and videos.

Each person who wears the glasses is able to control color, contrast, focus and magnification.

Right now, eSight 3 is not cheap, selling for $9,995, and insurance companies do not cover it, but the company that makes it says it has been able to provide headsets to people in need through fundraisers and grants.

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IBM, The Weather Company launch mesh-powered app for internet-poor regions

Why it matters to you

IBM and The Weather Company’s mesh networking tech can deliver storm alerts without the need for a cellular network.

Having a wealth of up-to-the-minute climate data at our fingertips is something most of us take for granted. Thanks to a reliable cell connection, our smartphones, and the work of hundreds of meteorologists and climatologists around the globe, keeping abreast of an incoming storm isn’t so much a matter of how, but how quickly. Unfortunately, though, that isn’t the case for everyone.

In developing countries, cellular connectivity is congested, intermittent, and in the worst cases inaccessible. That’s why IBM, in collaboration with developers at The Weather Company, introduced Mesh Network Alerts, a new technology that provides a peer-to-peer means of facilitating communications between residents of underserved nations.

More: Songza, Weather Channel team up to tailor your tunes to the weather

“The combination of the innovative Mesh Network Alerts and global reach of The Weather Channel mobile app can help deliver a new level of emergency awareness to underserved populations,” Bijan Davari, IBM Fellow and vice president at IBM research, said in a press release. “We’re proud to be able to quickly offer a critical and potentially lifesaving capability to hundreds of millions of people around the world.”

Mesh Network Alerts work by linking mobile devices directly to one another, daisy-chaining handsets in a sort of node network. Using a combination of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, each connected smartphone stores and propagates messages to devices within a 300- to 500-foot radius, creating a mesh that can effectively reach more devices.

Normally, government-issued messages are broadcast via cell towers. IBM’s network steps in as a fallback — when central networks go down, the mesh activates. And it works off the grid in remote areas and disaster zones without impacting battery “any more than an ordinary app.”

More: IBM creates Internet of Things division, announces deal with The Weather Company

IBM’s mesh works in a version of The Weather Channel app for Android specially designed for emerging markets. At 3.2MB, it’s significantly smaller than The Weather Channel app and so easier on unreliable connections and pricey data plans. It’s optimized for low-powered devices, and can launch within two seconds on 2G. And it sports built-in options allow users to store weather data offline for up to 24 hours or choose to update on Wi-Fi, cellular, or on request.

The Weather Channel says that many of the new app’s features will launch broadly in the coming months.

IBM, which bought The Weather Company in 2016, has made significant investments in the data-forward company. Last year, it expanded the weather.com site to 62 languages and 178 countries. And on mobile devices, it launched global weather forecast notifications that provide severe weather information in the form of real-time notifications.

More: IBM’s Deep Thunder gives weather forecasters an injection of tech

“IBM once again shows its leadership in edge computing capabilities, and this next important milestone will help bring the value of edge compute to life. Mesh Network Alerts extend the ability to receive a potentially lifesaving alert to a global audience, even with limited connectivity,” Cameron Clayton, general manager and CEO of The Weather Company, said. “With IBM collaboration, investment, and research, we can now reach users in previously underserved areas and better deliver the information they need.”

AWS Unveils Chime Conferencing Service

Amazon Web Services on Tuesday introduced Amazon Chime, a cloud-based unified communications offering that lets users engage in high-quality audio and HD video meetings across Windows and Mac desktops, and iOS and Android mobile devices.

Companies just have to download the app; they don’t need to make upfront investments in hardware or software.

Users can switch seamlessly between desktop and mobile apps as needed, even in mid-conference.

User-Friendly Disruption

Participants click a button on the Chime app to join a meeting instead of dialing a number then entering a PIN.

A visual roster shows all attendees. Any attendee can mute any other, and muted attendees can unmute themselves.

Meetings can be restricted. All communications are encrypted, and a meeting’s chat history is never stored on the devices used.

Chat rooms are provided for ongoing collaboration outside of meetings, where chat histories and files are saved securely.

“I’m really surprised someone didn’t do this sooner,” remarked Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

“The current tools are pretty annoying … and particularly unreliable,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

“This will disrupt the segment, leaving no player unaffected and putting them all on notice that they’d either better invest in improving the usability of their products or exit,” Enderle warned.

“Device syncing and high-quality audio and video are rapidly becoming table stakes,” observed Michael Brandenburg, an industry analyst at Frost & Sullivan.

Amazon Chime is “really on feature parity with the other conferencing on the market today,” he told the E-Commerce Times, noting that Amazon is bringing its “ability to scale and a feature-rich conferencing solution at aggressive price points.”

Chime Pricing

There are three pricing tiers for Chime:

  • Basic – The free version lets users attend online meetings, call another person over voice or video, and use Chime’s messaging and chat services;
  • The Plus Edition, at US$2.50 per user per month, adds the ability to manage an email domain, configure Active Directory, and integrate with identity management systems. It stores 1 GB of messages per user;
  • Chime Pro, which costs $15 per user per month, adds the ability to host meetings with up to 100 participants with screen sharing and video. It supports mobile, laptop and in-room video, and includes unlimited VoIP support.

Basic and Plus users can join conferences set up in Chime Pro.

Companies can mix and match licenses to keep down costs. There are no minimum fees. Charges are usage-based, and users can cancel or change subscriptions at any time.

Interested users can sign up for a free trial of Amazon Pro. After 30 days, they can continue to use the Basic level for free or subscribe to a paid tier.

Chime will be available in the second quarter from AWS partners Level 3 Communications and Vonage, which will offer its business customers Amazon Chime Pro at no charge.

Chime’s Sweet and Sour Notes

The Amazon Chime service is “vastly easier than virtually all mainstream offerings and well priced, given the feature set,” noted Enderle. Still, “it’s new and not yet fully load-tested, suggesting that until it reaches some level of critical mass, problems won’t be known and can’t be addressed.”

Many companies already have begun transitioning from on-premises conferencing solutions to the cloud, Frost’s Brandenburg remarked. However,”their existing conferencing contracts and investments into those ecosystems will likely be more of a factor than pure costs alone.”

Chime’s focus on usability and convenience “is the critical factor for broad adoption of unified communication solutions,” said Rebecca Wettemann, VP of research at Nucleus Research.

However, “infrastructure buyers — the typical Amazon customers — are a few steps removed from the business drivers driving demand for collaboration tools,” she told the E-Commerce Times.

Chime will heighten competition in the unified communications and collaboration market, which may reach $96 billion by 2023, based on Global Market Insights’ projections.

Amazon Chime “will drive innovation up and prices down,” Wettemann said. The obvious targets are Microsoft Skype for business and Google Hangouts, “although many smaller players are likely to be impacted.”

Richard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology. Email Richard.

Twitter makes another anti-abuse update

Twitter will no longer notify you about replies in conversations started by people you’ve either blocked or muted, Twitter said today. You will, however, still get notified if someone you follow directly mentions you in the thread.

Twitter made this decision after hearing “consistent feedback from the safety community regarding notifications from conversations started by people you’ve blocked/muted,” Twitter Safety posted on Twitter today.

“If you mute an account you do not follow and they start a conversation that mentions you, you will only receive notifications from those you do follow who reply in the conversation and mention you,” Twitter writes on its support page. “If you’d like to view all of your mentions, you can do so by searching your username.”

To be clear, blocking someone means you’re not going to see their tweets and they’re not going to see yours. With muting, you might want to mute someone who tweets abusive or other types of harmful content, but don’t want to give the abuser the pleasure of knowing they’ve gotten under your skin. If you mute someone, you won’t see their tweets and they won’t know you’ve muted them.

This comes after Twitter announced that it would make a number of changes to fix abuse online. Earlier today, Twitter started putting some online abusers in “Time out” as part of its anti-abuse measures.

Featured Image: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

Trump supporters boycott Meetup after company creates #Resist groups, makes its politics known

Meetup, the site that helps people organize get-togethers like hiking trips and cooking classes, is taking a very solid political stance in the face of the new administration’s policies here in the U.S. — a move that has angered Trump supporters, who are deleting their accounts and calling for a boycott.

While Meetup’s platform is open to anyone on both sides of the political spectrum, the previously apolitical company has taken upon itself to seed the site with 1,000 #Resist meetup groups, and has emailed its 30 million members to alert them of that fact.

In the email, the company says that the site will always welcome people with different beliefs, but after Trump’s executive order aimed at blocking people “on the basis of nationality and religion,” it reads, Meetup says it felt a duty to spark more civic participation.

The message states there are now 1,000 #Resist groups on the site, which are meant to serve as local hubs for those who want to take action on behalf of “democracy, equality, human rights, social justice, and sustainability.”

In addition, the email included a link users could click to find a #Resist meetup locally.


The company, like many others today, had been struggling as to how it wanted to approach the situation in the U.S. with regard to the Trump administration and its controversial policies. Trump’s actions have led to protests and the organization of a “Resistance” movement, which is now more actively engaging in politics at federal, state and even local levels.

Much of this resistance activity has been taking place on Facebook through Groups and Events. The Women’s March on Washington, for example, grew out of a Facebook post that turned into a grassroots-organized event.

Earlier this month, Meetup decided it was time to take sides on the matter.

It stopped normal operations for two days to host a company-wide hackathon, whose goal to “unleash as much resistance on the Meetup platform as possible,” the company said.

As a result, Meetup launched these #Resist groups and rolled out product changes designed to make it easier for anyone to schedule meetups.

The groups were also launched in partnership with the Women’s March, Planned Parenthood, the Anti-Defamation League, Amnesty International and Human Rights Campaign. These organizations are helping supply templates for the Meetup events and making suggestions as to what people can actually do when they come together.


Ahead of the company’s email, 11,500 members signed up for the groups during that first weekend. By the time the email was sent, 50,000 members had joined. And today, the groups have grown to include more than 90,800 members.

There are now 500 more groups in the process of getting set up, in addition to the original 1,000, and 15,240 Meetup members have RSVP’d to 2,453 scheduled events.

As expected, Meetup’s move has enraged those on the opposite side of the political spectrum.

Many are calling for a boycott, deleting accounts or saying they’re angry at Meetup for stirring political unrest.

Above: An angry tweet. It’s not clear if the user is intentionally using imagery from a movie about a family fleeing the Nazis, or if the irony was lost on them. 

Meetup isn’t the only tech company to be impacted by U.S. politics, or face a boycott because of their positions.

On the flip side, those protesting Trump’s immigration and refugee ban led a campaign to boycott Uber, when they believed it to have taken advantage of a taxi strike against the ban to promote its own car-hailing service. (Users were also concerned about Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s politics, given his position as an economic advisor to President Trump.)

A cynic could argue that Meetup saw the opportunity to bring the growing number of Resistance members to its own site, boosting its user base numbers and therefore its revenue. But making a decision like this is a risk for a company like Meetup, which is dependent on paid subscriptions. It went into this knowing it would lose Trump supporters as members, and anger others.

CEO Scott Heiferman explains why Meetup went this route. “We felt an obligation to our country and to humanity to stand up for core values of democracy. We heard people after the Women’s March. We heard people wanting to do something,” Heiferman told TechCrunch. “We knew our platform could help people.”

He also noted that Meetup took a cue from organic activity already on the site, where meetups like this were mobilizing quickly.

Heiferman also expected there would be a backlash, but moved forward anyway.

“We feel more compelled to stand up for rights of those who might suffer. We knew our platform could empower people to take actions locally — because it was already happening,” he said. “And we chose not to stay quiet out of fear.”

Sprint now has the cheapest unlimited plan, but its 4G LTE network is the worst

Image: Christina ascani/mashable

Verizon and T-Mobile aren’t the only U.S. mobile networks with new “unlimited” data plans trying to win your hard-earned money.

Sprint, the fourth largest carrier in America, announced on Thursday a new “Unlimited Freedom” plan that matches Verizon and T-Mobile’s and costs less.

Like its rivals, Sprint’s “unlimited” plan offers unlimited calling, texts, and a solid amount of usable data (23GB) at 4G LTE speeds (speeds may be reduced during network congestion times after exceeding the data limit), unlimited HD video streaming and 10GB of mobile hotspot data per line.

Pricing for the new Unlimited Freedom plan is the same as the old one: $60 for a single line, $100 for two lines, $130 for three lines and $160 for four lines. 

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Sprint’s new unlimited plan is sweeter for new customers, who can take advantage of special promotional pricing that runs until March 31, 2018. As detailed in the chart above, new customers will pay $50 for a single line and $90 for lines 2-5 until next year. After March 31, 2018, the pricing goes back up to normal pricing.

On paper, Sprint’s revamped Unlimited Freedom plan definitely is a good deal, but look more closely and you’ll see some fine print that might make it a deal breaker.

First, Sprint’s pricing, like Verizon and AT&T’s, doesn’t include taxes and fees, which means the advertised prices in the chart are slightly misleading. The only carrier that includes taxes and fees in is T-Mobile. You’ll have to run your own calculations to see which plan actually saves you the most.

Sprint’s network coverage and 4G LTE download speed lags behind the competition.

Second, Sprint’s network coverage and 4G LTE download speed lags behind the competition.

According to OpenSignal, Sprint is in last place in coverage compared to Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile, and last place in average download speed.

Sprint’s average download speed is 6.56Mbps compared to 12.26Mbps on T-Mobile and 11.98Mbps on Verizon. Even AT&T has faster average download speeds of 7.93Mbps. If you want the fastest LTE network, Sprint’s just not going to cut it.

Even with the caveats, Sprint’s new Unlimited Freedom plan is a helluva lot better than its old one, and it’s even better if you’re a new customer.

Unlimited data is back, baby, and you can thank good ol’ competition for making it better on every carrier.