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Equity Monday: Twilio buys Segment, and Airkit raises $28M for its low-code platform

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Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This is Equity Monday, our weekly kickoff that tracks the latest big news, chats about the coming week, digs into some recent funding rounds and mulls over a larger theme or narrative from the private markets. You can follow the show on Twitter here and myself here — and don’t forget to check out last Friday’s episode.

So, what was on our minds this morning?

  • Headlines: The Twilio-Segment deal is real, happening, and is priced about where we expected. Big names in the ex-China Internet want to make encryption worse. And, how the United States government would break up Google is becoming clearer by the week.
  • On the Twilio Segment deal, as TechCrunch and Forbes anticipated, the transaction came in around $3.2 billion, forming something of a API monster from their combined form. As we noted on the show, a lot of investors made a mint from the transaction.
  • Airkit has raised $28 million while in stealth since 2017. What does it do? Per Forbes, it’s a “low-code platform” that wants to “improve customer engagement.” That’s notably similar to what Segment does.
  • Flash Express raised $200 million, as the on-demand and delivery spaces stay hot.
  • And Razorpay raised $100 million at a valuation of $1 billion, meaning that we have just witnessed the birth of yet another fintech unicorn.
  • And, finally, warm public markets mean that the startup and VC game will stay afoot, even if we see a pre-election dip in IPOs.

We hope that you are well and warm and fully of good spirits. Back soon!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PT and Thursday afternoon as fast as we can get it out, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

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This app lets you ‘cut-and-paste’ real life objects

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Apple has boasted a lot about the AR capabilities of its new LiDAR equipped iPhone 12 Pro. It means that your new iPhone will be able to ‘map’ the room better to place objects.

However, I hadn’t found an AR app that I might use regularly — until now. A few months ago, developer Cyril Diagne showed off a demo of an app called ClipDrop that lets you ‘drop’ real-life objects to your desktop. Now, the app is here as a beta version, and I already love it. It’s pretty evident by the feature image of this story.

The concept of the app is cool. You can take a picture of any object and the app with automatically remove the background and convert it into an image. You can then paste the image on your desktop and use it in your applications. In addition to objects and people, you can also extract text from a book or page that you have.

[Read: What’s a LiDAR sensor and why’s it on the iPhone 12 Pro?]

ClipDrop mostly does a good job of separating the object in focus from the background. But sometimes you’ll see blurred edges or missed parts. Since the app is in the beta stage, hopefully, it’ll improve over time.

It also works directly with apps like Pages, Powerpoint, Photoshop, and Canva. So, you can directly paste objects around you to your project. Plus, you can use the desktop app to extract text or images from websites or apps.

The app is available on all platforms (iOS, Android, macOS, and Windows) to try out. However, you’ll need to pay $39.99 for a year to unlock all features.

For more gear, gadget, and hardware news and reviews, follow Plugged on Twitter and Flipboard.

Published October 23, 2020 — 09:06 UTC

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Scottish city to get ‘world’s largest’ fleet of hydrogen-powered garbage trucks

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This article was originally published by Christopher Carey on Cities Today, the leading news platform on urban mobility and innovation, reaching an international audience of city leaders. For the latest updates follow Cities Today on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube, or sign up for Cities Today News.

Glasgow is set to introduce a fleet of 19 hydrogen-powered refuse trucks after being awarded £6.3 million (US$8 million) in funding under the UK government’s £23 million Hydrogen for Transport Program (HTP).

UK Transport Minister Rachel Maclean said the trucks would form “the world’s largest fleet of hydrogen refuse vehicles” and showcase “how the UK is at the forefront of green transport technology”.

The investment will also see the launch of a new hydrogen refueling station and is part of the government’s wider strategy to support the growth of hydrogen infrastructure alongside the deployment of new vehicles.

Glasgow, the UK’s fifth-largest city, was set to host the COP26 UN summit in November this year, but this has now been postponed until November 2021 due to COVID-19.

In September, three energy industry firms – Scottish Power Renewables, BOC (a Linde company) and ITM Power – announced ‘Green Hydrogen for Glasgow‘, a partnership to offer an end-to-end market solution for reducing vehicle emissions through a proposed green hydrogen production facility located on the outskirts of Glasgow. The Scottish city aims to become the first net-zero city in the UK by 2030.

Hydrogen hub

The UK’s shift towards decarbonizing its transport sector has gained traction in recent years, and last week its first hydrogen-powered train, the HydroFLEX, ran trials following a £750,000 grant from the Department for Transport (DfT) and more than £1 million of investment by rail firm Porterbrook and the University of Birmingham.

Speaking at the trial, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps also announced the government’s ambition for the Tees Valley region in north-east England to become a “trailblazing hydrogen transport hub”, which would bring together representatives from academia, industry and government to drive forward the UK’s plans to embrace the use of hydrogen as an alternative fuel.

The move could see the region become a global leader in the green hydrogen sector while creating hundreds of jobs.

A shift to hydrogen is part of a masterplan commissioned by the DfT to understand the feasibility of the hub and how it can accelerate the UK’s ambitions in hydrogen. The plan, expected to be published in January, will pave the way for exploring how green hydrogen could power buses, lorries, rail, maritime and aviation transport across the country.

Only around a third of the UK rail network has been electrified, with little extra track converted in the last few years. Without continuing to diversify the network, the government is faced with the dilemma of how to eliminate diesel trains that produce carbon dioxide and other harmful pollutants.

While the use of hydrogen can be ‘green’ – by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen using renewable electricity from solar and wind power – concerns have been raised about a cheaper and more prevalent method to extract it from natural gas or coal, which emits carbon dioxide.


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Published October 23, 2020 — 09:00 UTC

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Here’s our first look at Huawei’s Mate 40 Pro

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Huawei announced the Mate 40 Pro yesterday, and now we have one in hand. It might not be easy to recommend Huawei phones outside of China, since the Trump administration’s targeted sanctions have prevented it working with US companies like Google, but devices like the P40 Pro Plus and last year’s Mate 30 Pro have had hardware as impressive as anything else on the global smartphone market.

The situation shouldn’t be any different with the new Mate 40 Pro. It’s likely to be Huawei’s most advanced device yet — even if there are still questions over the extent to which the company is actually able to manufacture it.

I thought the Mate 30 Pro was the best-looking phone released in 2019, and the Mate 40 Pro builds on that design. The unit I have is in the “Mystic Silver” colorway, which Huawei is promoting the most heavily. It’s a lot more unusual than the name makes it sound — the back is frosted glass, but there’s a kaleidoscopic effect where the phone shimmers different colors depending on the light. It looks great.

The camera module is circular, as it was last year, but this time the lenses are arranged in a ring around the Leica logo. I think I preferred the Mate 30 Pro’s two-tone glossy effect a little better, but Huawei says this year’s model was inspired by a black hole, so make of that what you will. This is still an attractive device from behind.

Around the front, the notch has been jettisoned in favor of a double-wide hole punch cutout for the dual selfie cameras. The OLED display is a little bigger this year at 6.76 inches, and it still has the 88-degree “waterfall” curves on the edges, which Huawei calls a “horizon” display.

These edges mean the power button on the side is still pushed back further to the rear than on most other phones. Unlike the Mate 30 Pro, however, Huawei has found space for physical volume buttons this time, which should be an improvement in usability.

Overall the Mate 40 Pro is looking like another physically and technically impressive Huawei flagship phone, and I’m looking forward to finding out what the company has managed to achieve — particularly with the camera and the new Kirin 9000 processor. The software, of course, will be another matter entirely. Stay tuned for a full review.

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