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Remotion raises $13M to create a workplace video platform for short, spontaneous conversations

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One of the broader trends of the pandemic has been the unbundling of Zoom with startups pulling out a feature or two and designing entire products centered around a specific vision of remote work. One of the more tempting product ideas has been the development of the omnipresent always-on video workspace where managers can always see their directs onscreen and team members are only a shout away from getting someone else’s attention. While it’s seemed like an exciting product for the founders building those startups amid the remote work boom, it also sounded awful for the workers using the software.

Remotion CEO Alexander Embiricos was never crazy about the idea of an always-on camera either, but he did like the idea of making it easier to build face-to-face time over video chat into a team’s culture. The startup he co-founded has been building an always-there dashboard that pins your co-workers profile pictures to a workspace taskbar on your Mac desktop.

Mouse over a team member’s profile pic bubble, click the video chat icon, send a quick chat request and get to talking over video. It’s far from a revolutionary workflow, but Remotion is aiming to build a platform that makes video calls feel like less of an event and more like a lightweight way to quickly get to the bottom of something without back-and-forth emails or Slacks .

Remotion CEO Alexander Embiricos and CTO Charley Ho

“Right now, when we look at teams we say, okay, we have ways to schedule meetings, and it works. We have ways to message each other, and it works,” Embiricos tells TechCrunch. “There’s no problems there that we want to fix, what we fundamentally want to change is when we use video and how we use video, making it so that you can use video informally.”

Remotion is launching their product in beta today and announcing that they’ve raised $13 million in funding, including a Series A led by Greylock and a seed round led by First Round. The startup is debuting its product on the heels of a historic pandemic that many believe could fundamentally shift companies away from strict office cultures towards embracing more hybrid and fully remote workforces.

“I think that the pandemic has permanently changed the way people work,” Greylock’s Sarah Guo, who led the Series A deal, tells TechCrunch. “I think people are disengaged in big video meetings — they just go in and multitask, and Slack is great, it’s instant and asynchronous, but… I just don’t see most companies doing distributed work in a text-first way.”

You won’t see an endless cascade of team member bubbles on Remotion, users designate favorites that sit on their desktop, and the app is largely designed around helping small teams collaborate anyway. Fittingly, Embiricos, who is based in Brooklyn, has been building Remotion with a small remote team, alongside co-founder Charley Ho, who is based in Chicago.

One of Remotion’s biggest risks is pushing users to give it a permanent home on their desktop. Users can opt to let the hub of profile bubbles hover over their other windows or recede behind them but the app is designed to leave your co-workers and their availability statuses just a glance away at most times. All of that screen real estate can be a big sacrifice to workers that might be already be dealing with more cramped workspaces than they’re used to in the office.

Credit: Remotion

The app aims to give users controls to designate when they’re heads-down, need to talk or just open for some idle chitchat. Users can set standard or custom availability statuses, quickly update profiled pictures with a Photobooth-esque feature, or let a Google Calendar integration automatically do the work in signaling what they’re busy with.

There’s a familiar danger for new workplace collaboration tools where something that was meant to help users cut back on another form of communication like emailing or Slacking ends up just adding to the noise, jamming notifications into your feed and giving you another inbox to check obsessively. Embiricos hopes that the ambient nature of just being pinned to the desktop can prevent this from becoming a problem.

“Showing up to Slack in the morning — it’s a wall of text and like eight channels you have to check,” Embiricos says. “What we’re trying to create is like, you wake up and show up in the product, but there’s nothing to check, you didn’t miss anything. It’s just the product is just there. And when someone comes online or doesn’t come online there are no notifications. If you want to know, you can glance over your team and find out.”

Remotion is live in beta for Mac with a waitlist for Windows and Linux users.

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How to Vote If You Catch COVID

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Illustration for article titled How to Vote If You Catch COVID

Photo: Steve Heap (Shutterstock)

People are already voting by mail in record numbers this year, but what happens if you planned on voting in-person, but then get sick right before Election Day? Maybe it’s COVID-19, maybe it’s something else. Whatever it is, you want to make sure you don’t get any of the poll workers or other voters sick (plus you probably shouldn’t be doing something as strenuous as voting in person anyway). In that case, you may need to get an emergency ballot—some version of which is available in most states. Here’s what to do if that happens to you.

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First, check mail-in ballot deadlines in your state

When it comes to mail-in ballots, there are a few different deadlines to keep in mind—and yes, each state has its own timeline. In some cases, there is a deadline to request an absentee ballot, as well as other cutoffs stating the latest possible postmark on the ballot and/or the date it must be received by the local elections board. At this point, it’s pretty late in the game to request an absentee ballot, but as always, check your state’s election guidelines to find out when everything is due.

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How to get an emergency ballot

If you end up getting sick past the point when you’re able to request an absentee ballot, most states give you the option of requesting some form of emergency ballot. Again, check with your state or local election office to find out what the process involves, but it’s pretty safe to assume you’re going to need to find and fill out an application of some sort (which should also be available on your state’s website).

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) states handle emergency ballots in varying ways:

38 States permit emergency absentee voting in the case of a medical emergency

Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

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Election officials in 6 states will deliver an emergency ballot to you if you’re unable to get to the polls because of a medical emergency

Arizona, California, Georgia, Minnesota, Vermont and West Virginia.

Hospitalized voters in 17 states may designate someone to request/deliver/submit their emergency ballot

Arkansas, Colorado*, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Utah.

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*Colorado mails ballots to all eligible voters, but if there is an emergency or natural disaster after the deadline by which ballots are mailed and a voter can’t get a replacement ballot in person, they may designate an authorized representative to obtain a replacement ballot on their behalf.

For full details on the regulations in your state, see the NCSL website.

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Bored at home? Here’s 10 handy tools you can build with Python

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Python project ideas for developers

If you have made up your mind about the platform you’re going to use, let’s jump straight into the projects. Mentioned below are some fun projects addressed towards developers of all skill levels that will play a crucial role in taking their skills and confidence with Python to the next level.

Content aggregator

content aggregator tool
Photo by Obi Onyeador on Unsplash

The internet is a prime source of information for millions of people who are always looking for something online. For those looking for bulk information about a specific topic can save time using a content aggregator.

A content aggregator is a tool that gathers and provides information about a topic from a bulk of websites in one place. To make one, you can take the help of the requests library for handling the HTTP requests and BeautifulSoup for parsing and scraping the required information, along with a database to save the collected information.

Examples of Content aggregators:

URL shortener

URLs are the primary source of navigation to any resource on the internet, be it a webpage or a file, and, sometimes, some of these URLs can be quite large with weird characters. URL shorteners play an important role in reducing the characters in these URLs and making them easier to remember and work with.

The idea behind making a URL shortener is to use the random and string modules for generating a new short URL from the entered long URL. Once you’ve done that, you would need to map the long URLs and short URLs and store them in a database to allow users to use them in the future.

Examples of URL shortener:

File renaming tool

File Renaming tool created with Python
Photo by Brett Sayles from Pexels

If your job requires you to manage a large number of files frequently, then using a file renaming tool can save you a major chunk of your time. What it essentially does is that it renames hundreds of files using a defined initial identifier, which could be defined in the code or asked from the user.

To make this happen, you could use the libraries such as sysshutil, and os in Python to rename the files instantaneously. To implement the option to add a custom initial identifier to the files, you can use the regex library to match the naming patterns of the files.

Examples of bulk file rename tools:

Directory tree generator

A directory tree generator is a tool that you would use in conditions where you’d like to visualize all the directories in your system and identify the relationship between them. What a directory tree essentially indicates is which directory is the parent directory and which ones are its sub-directories. A tool like this would be helpful if you work with a lot of directories, and you want to analyze their positioning. To build this, you can use the os library to list the files and directories along with the docopt framework.

Examples of directory tree generators:

MP3 player

mp3 player built by Python
Photo by Mildly Useful on Unsplash

If you love listening to music, you’d be surprised to know that you can build a music player with Python. You can build an mp3 player with the graphical interface with a basic set of controls for playback, and even display the integrated media information such as artist, media length, album name, and more.

You can also have the option to navigate to folders and search for mp3 files for your music player. To make working with media files in Python easier, you can use the simpleaudiopymedia, and pygame libraries.

Examples of MP3 players:

Tic Tac Toe

Tic Tac Toe is a classic game we’re sure each of you is familiar with. It’s a simple and fun game and requires only two players. The goal is to create an uninterrupted horizontal, vertical, or diagonal line of either three Xs or Os on a 3×3 grid, and whoever does it first is the winner of the game. A project like this can use Python’s pygame library, which comes with all the required graphics and the audio to get you started with building something like this.

Tic tac toe
Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

Here are a few tutorials you can try:

More fun Python projects for game dev:

Quiz application

Another popular and fun project you can build using Python is a quiz application. A popular example of this is Kahoot, which is famous for making learning a fun activity among the students. The application presents a series of questions with multiple options and asks the user to select an option and later on, the application reveals the correct options.

As the developer, you can also create the functionality to add any desired question with the answers to be used in the quiz. To make a quiz application, you would need to use a database to store all the questions, options, the correct answers, and the user scores.

Examples of quiz applications:

Calculator

Developing a calculator with Python
Photo by Eduardo Rosas from Pexels

Of course, no one should miss the age-old idea of developing a calculator while learning a new programming language, even if it is just for fun. We’re sure all of you know what a calculator is, and if you have already given it a shot, you can try to enhance it with a better GUI that brings it closer to the modern versions that come with operating systems today. To make that happen, you can use the tkinter package to add GUI elements to your project.

Build a virtual assistant

Build a virtual assistant with Python
Photo by BENCE BOROS on Unsplash

Almost every smartphone nowadays comes with its own variant of a smart assistant that takes commands from you either via voice or by text and manages your calls, notes, books a cab, and much more. Some examples of this are Google Assistant, Alexa, Cortana, and Siri. If you’re wondering what goes into making something like this, you can use packages such as pyaudioSpeechRecognitiongTTS, and Wikipedia. The goal here is to record the audio, convert the audio to text, process the command, and make the program act according to the command.

Currency converter

As the name suggests, this project includes building a currency converter that allows you to input the desired value in the base currency and returns the converted value in the target currency. A good practice is to code the ability to get updated conversion rates from the internet for more accurate conversions. For this too, you can use the tkinter package to build the GUI.

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Root targets $6B+ valuation in pending IPO, a boon for insurtech startups

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This morning Root Insurance, a neo-insurance provider that has attracted ample private capital for its auto-insurance business, is targeting a valuation of as much as $6.34 billion in its pending IPO.

The former startup follows insurtech leader Lemonade to the public markets during a year in which IPOs have been well-received by investors focused more on growth than profitability. In the wake of Lemonade’s strong public offering and rich revenue multiples, it was not impossible to see another, similar startup test the same waters.

Root’s $6.34 billion valuation upper limit at its current price range matches expectations for its bulk. The company is targeting $22 to $25 per share in its debut.

The startup will raise over $500 million from the shares it is selling in its regular offering. Concurrent placements worth $500 million from Dragoneer and Silver Lake raise that figure to north of $1 billion and could help boost general demand for shares in the company; Snowflake’s epic IPO came with similar private placements from well-known investors in what became the transaction of the year.

Will we see Root boost its target? And what does Root’s IPO price range mean for insurtech startups? Let’s dig into the numbers.

Root’s numbers

We’ve dug into Root’s business a few times now, both before and after it formally filed its IPO documents. This morning we will merge both sets of work, snag a fresh revenue multiple from Lemonade, apply it to Root’s own numbers, observe any valuation deficit and ask ourselves what’s next for the debuting company.

Will we see Root’s IPO price rise? Here’s how to think about the question:

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