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High-profile startup execs back Indian influencers platform CreatorOS

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The advent of low-cost Android smartphones and the world’s cheapest mobile data has paved the way for millions of social media influencers in India to amass a following of tens of millions of users in recent years.

These influencers, also known as creators, share their daily vlogs, thoughts on a wide range of issues, and some engage with big brands to help sell their products to niche, loyal audiences. E-commerce giant Flipkart and scores of several other businesses today work with these influencers.

But India’s ban on TikTok, the Chinese short-video app that reached more than 200 million users in the country, in late June unearthed some of the biggest problems these creators face today: They are too reliant on a handful of platforms, and their work structure is not well organized.

A new startup believes it has built the platform to help creators assume more control over their work. And a number of high-profile entrepreneurs agree.

On Friday, Madhavan Malolan announced CreatorOS, a platform that enables creators to build, manage and grow their businesses. About 1,000 creators including a number of short-film makers, teachers, consultants have already joined the platform, Malolan, who co-founded the startup, formerly known as Socionity, in January this year. Prior to CreatorOS, he worked at a number of firms including Microsoft.

“We believe that these creators will become an entrepreneur in the coming decade. So we are creating tools, connections and infrastructure that they will need to run their digital businesses. Currently, there is a lot of spray and pray happening on the creator’s part. They are producing videos in hopes that they go viral so more people in the industry discover them,” said Malolan in an interview with TechCrunch.

The marquee tool on CreatorOS today is an app-builder that allows creators to build their own apps, push and sell their content in it, and build their own communities. Malolan said CreatorOS has overly reduced the efforts that need to go into building an app to simply drag and drop.

The startup said today it has also raised $500,000 from a clutch of high-profile names. Some of the angel investors include Phanindra Sama (founder and former chief executive of online ticket booking platform RedBus.in), Gaurav Munjal (co-founder and chief executive of online learning platform Unacademy), Kalyan Krishnamurthy (chief executive of Flipkart Group), Sujeet Kumar (co-founder of business-to-business marketplace Udaan), Vidit Aatrey (co-founder and chief executive of social e-commerce Meesho), Vivekananda Hallekere (co-founder and chief executive of mobility firm Bounce), and Alvin Tse (GM of Xiaomi Indonesia).

Malolan said that the trust that so many established entrepreneurs showed in CreatorOS convinced him that he did not need to engage with VC firms yet and instead put the entire focus on serving creators. He said the ban on TikTok and how so many startups are trying to scale their short-video apps has created an immense opportunity for CreatorOS.

The startup expects to have more than 5,000 creators on its platform by the end of the year. It is working with creators to understand and build more features that would benefit them, said Malolan.

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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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This Dutch startup sells microdosing kits to boost productivity — so I did magic truffles for a month

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The idea of microdosing hallucinogenic drugs to boost productivity has always fascinated me. I’m easily distracted and quite chaotic, so taking tiny amounts of recreational drugs to help me address that sounds like a good time to me.

Microdosing for productivity is nothing new, of course. Silicon Valley nerds have been raving about taking tiny doses of drugs for ages and this TNW2017 talk from Paul Austin has always been one of the most popular ones on our YouTube channel:

[embedded content]

The idea of microdosing sparked real interest at TNW and we even set up a dedicated Slack channel for it and even had some offers to do a microdosing trial as a whole company. Despite loving his talk though, my colleagues and I didn’t dare to take the plunge and the idea just fizzled out… until I found Earth Resonance.

The magical moment

I my microdosing dreams were sparked again this year when a developer friend of mine wouldn’t shut up about how his productivity and problem-solving skills had improved after he started microdosing LSD. He made it sound like “NZT” — the wonder drug in that movie Limitless starring Bradley Cooper.

So I decided to take the plunge. I read some guides, got a tab of LSD, put it in some vodka, let it sit for a couple of days, and started doing tiny doses.

At first, I felt nothing, so I upped my dosage, until I noticed something. The feeling I got wasn’t like the Limitless productivity boost I was promised, I just felt antsy and restless instead. It was like a more uncomfortable version of the feeling you get when you drink too much coffee.

Slightly disillusioned, I dropped the idea of microdosing again and moved on with my life, until I stumbled across an Instagram ad from a company called Earth Resonance — an Amsterdam-based startup that sells microdosing packages from their webshop. It seemed I had finally found the streamlined (and legal) microdosing experience I had been looking for.

So how does it work?

As the name implies, they don’t sell LSD, but psilocybin truffles (commonly known as magic truffles). The concept is the same; you take a tiny dose of truffles (~1 gram) every other day and you get a very slight buzz – if you can even call it that – that helps you focus, organize, and work.

Credit: Reddit

Being the cheap writer that I am, I contacted them for an interview and asked them if I could try their product. After a good chat with their two founders I got a month’s worth of truffles, a tiny scale, and a document they call the Protocol.

The Protocol is an extensive guide that helps you with the process, determine your ideal dose, set your goal, and gives you some tips on stuff like meditation.

You start with a relatively small dosage every other day, and increase it until you hit your sweet spot, which turned out to be 1.2 grams for me. This is all dependent on body weight, health, et cetera, but you can easily figure out what works best for you by slightly increasing your dose every other day.

If you want to follow the Protocol the way it’s intended you’ll have to stop drinking coffee and alcohol, stop smoking, keep track of your daily progress and meditate every day.

I did this for the first week until I realized it wasn’t doing much for me. The reason I started microdosing was for productivity, not for personal growth. After spending a week at my mom’s cabin without microdosing (I didn’t want to tell her), I decided I would finish the month but not do all the Protocol-stuff. It turned out to be a great decision.

In the stressful months leading up to our flagship conference, I did a dose every time I had a busy day ahead of me. It noticeably improved my productivity, especially in the first half of the day.

It’s hard to describe the effects of a microdose accurately without sounding like an ad. You know how sometimes you have a really productive day, for no discernible reason? Microdosing gives a similar feeling. Tasks get easier to tackle, you feel more creative, and distractions are easier to ignore.

It’s important to note though that it’s a relatively minor effect — so I suggest you set you expectations accordingly — but it’s a powerful tool once you get used to it. The effect is subdued, you might even barely notice it, but the results I saw in my work were far from it.

Credit: Wikimedia

Earth Resonance is on a mission to give everyone a chance to see what it’s like to microdose psilocybin truffles — in a legal manner.

Lucky for me, a recent change in the Dutch tax code has that made possible here in the Netherlands. When magic truffles became a ‘luxury good’ (at 19% VAT), it got the legal status that allowed companies like Earth Resonance to start selling truffles online without having to worry about repercussions.

Earth Resonance’s founder, Robert Nass, told me people have opened up to microdosing since coronavirus lockdowns started. Orders have gone up as people start to seek new experimental ways to deal with these extremely weird conditions.

Credit: Earth Resonance

Of course experimenting with hallucinogenic drugs is daunting, and definitely not for everyone. That’s why Earth Resonance offers online consultancy (€89,00 for 1 hour) to help people prepare for their microdosing month. I didn’t get to try this aspect, but the thought of there being experts on staff to guide people gives you an idea of how serious this company is about normalizing microdosing.

The future of microdosing

The answer Nass gave when I asked him about the future of his company really stuck with me. I expected a stock answer about international expansion, but if it was up to Nass, his product would be part of the Dutch healthcare package. Seeing how birth control medication isn’t even part of our healthcare package, I wouldn’t hold my breath, but I admire his ambition and would love it if it came to fruition.

For now, the Netherlands is the only country that allows over-the-counter sales of psilocybin truffles. According to Nass, Canada is up next. He told me the pandemic delayed things, but he expects Canada to legalize it within the next three years. I really hope they do.

If you’ve been curious about microdosing (and live in the Netherlands), I can recommend you give it a go. We’re all working from home anyway, so why not experiment with small amounts of drugs while you’re there? It’s been a great experience for me and I’m confident more people can benefit from giving it a go.

Maybe the future of work isn’t just remote, it’s also on drugs.

Please read Earth Resonance’s healthcare disclaimer before ordering. If you have any underlying conditions or doubts, consult with your physician beforehand.

Published October 23, 2020 — 08:41 UTC

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How I passed the TensorFlow Developer Certification Exam

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Curriculum — what I studied to build the skills necessary for passing the exam

It should be noted that before I started studying for the exam, I had some hands-on experience building several projects with TensorFlow.

The experienced TensorFlow and deep learning practitioner will likely find they can go through the following curriculum at about the same pace I did (three weeks total), maybe faster.

The beginner will want to take as much time as needed. Remember: building any worthwhile skill takes time.

I’ve listed timelines, costs ($USD), and helpfulness level (towards passing the exam) for each resource. The timelines are based on my experience.

If you want to create a curriculum for yourself, I’d recommend something like the following.

Note: For paid resources, affiliate links have been used. This doesn’t change the price of the resource but if you do happen to purchase one, I will receive a portion of the payment: money I use towards creating resources like this.

Time: 1-hour.

Cost: Free.

Helpfulness level: Required.

This should be your first stop. It outlines the topics which will be covered in the exam. Read it and then read it again.

If you’re new to TensorFlow and machine learning, you’ll likely read this and get scared at all the different topics. Don’t worry. The resources below will help you become familiar with them.

Time: 3 weeks (advanced user) to 3 months (beginner).

Cost: $59 per month after a 7-day free trial, financial aid available through application. If you can’t access Coursera, see the equivalent free version on YouTube.

Helpfulness level: 10/10.

This is the most relevant resource to the exam (and getting started with TensorFlow in general). The careful student will notice the TensorFlow Certification handbook and the outline of this specialization are almost identical.

It’s taught by Laurence Moroney and Andrew Ng, two titans of TensorFlow and machine learning and if I had to only choose one resource to prepare for the exam, this would be it.

I appreciated the short video format and focus on hands-on examples as soon as possible. The multiple code notebooks at the end of each section were must-haves for any practical learner.

A tip for the programming exercises: don’t just fill in the code gaps, write the entire thing out yourself.

Time: 3 weeks (reading cover to cover, no exercises) — 3 months (reading cover to cover and doing the exercises).

Cost: Price varies on Amazon but I picked up a hard copy for $55. You can see all the code for free on GitHub.

Helpfulness level: 7/10 (only because some chapters aren’t relevant to the exam).

At 700+ pages, this book covers basically all of machine learning and thus, some topics which aren’t relevant to the exam. But it’s a must-read for anyone interested in setting themselves a solid foundation for a future in machine learning and not just to pass an exam.

If you’re new to machine learning, you’ll probably find this book hard to read (to begin with). Again, not to worry, you’re not in a rush, learning useful skills takes time.

Put it this way, if you want an idea of the quality of the book, I read the first edition during morning commutes to my machine learning engineer job. And I can tell you, more often than not, I’d end up using exactly what I read in the book during the day.

The 2nd edition is no different, except it’s been updated to cover the latest tools and techniques, namely TensorFlow 2.x — what the exam is based on.

If you’re only after relevant chapters to the exam, you’ll want to read:

  • Chapter 10: Introduction to Artificial Neural Networks with Keras
  • Chapter 11: Training Deep Neural Networks
  • Chapter 12: Custom Models and Training with TensorFlow
  • Chapter 13: Loading and Preprocessing Data with TensorFlow
  • Chapter 14: Deep Computer Vision Using Convolutional Neural Networks
  • Chapter 15: Processing Sequences Using RNNs and CNNs
  • Chapter 16: Natural Language Processing with RNNs and Attention

But for the serious student, I’d suggest the whole book and the exercises (maybe not all, but pick and the choose the ones which suit spark your interests most).

Time: 3-hours (I only watched 3 lectures) — 24-hours (1-hour per lecture, plus 1-hour review each).

Cost: Free.

Helpfulness level: 8/10.

World-class deep learning information from a world-class university, oh and did I mention? It’s free.

The first 3 lectures, deep learning (in general), Convolutional Neural Networks (usually used for computer vision), and Recurrent Neural Networks (usually used for text processing) are the most relevant to the exam.

But again, for the eager learner, going through the whole course wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Be sure to check out the labs and code they offer on GitHub, especially the Introduction to TensorFlow one. And again, I can’t stress the importance of writing the code yourself.

Time: 3-hours (depending on how fast your computer is).

Cost: Free.

Helpfulness level: 10/10 (using PyCharm is a requirement).

The exam takes place in PyCharm (a Python development tool). Before the exam, I’d never used PyCharm. And it’s suggested you get at least somewhat familiar with it before you start.

So to familiarize myself with PyCharm, I went through their getting started series on YouTube which was very straightforward, “here’s what this button does.”

But the main tests were making sure TensorFlow 2.x ran without any issues and my computer could run deep neural networks in a respectable time (my MacBook Pro doesn’t have a Nvidia GPU).

To test this, I replicated the following two TensorFlow tutorials on my local machine:

  1. Image Classification with TensorFlow
  2. Text classification with TensorFlow

Both of these worked fine locally, however, as we’ll see below, as soon as I started the exam, I ran into an issue.

Extras

  • deeplearning.ai videos on Coursera/YouTube — The examination is purely code-based (Python code) but if you want to know what’s going on behind the scenes of the code you’re writing (linear algebra, calculus), I’d jump in and out of videos here as you see fit. For example, if you’re not sure what mini-batch gradient descent is, search “deeplearning.ai mini-batch gradient descent.”
  • TensorFlow documentation — If you’re going to be a TensorFlow practitioner, you’re going to need to be able to read the documentation. If you don’t understand something, write the code and comment it yourself.
  • Coding with TensorFlow on YouTube (playlist) — Most of the TensorFlow in Practice Coursera Specialization in video series on YouTube, taught by the same instructor as well.

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