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Politics

Report: Trump Officials Helped Meatpackers Thwart Covid Safety Measures

Workers at a Missouri pork-processing facility in 2017, prior to the pandemic.Preston Keres/Planet Pix via ZUMA Wire

This investigation was originally published by the Guardian. It is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Trump officials “collaborated” with the meatpacking industry to downplay the threat of Covid to plant workers and block public health measures which could have saved lives, a damning new investigation has found.

Internal documents reviewed by the congressional select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis reveal how industry representatives lobbied government officials to stifle “pesky” health departments from imposing evidence-based safety measures to curtail the virus spreading—and tried to obscure worker deaths from these authorities.

At least 59,000 workers at five of the largest meatpacking companies—Tyson Foods, JBS USA Holdings, Smithfield Foods, Cargill and National Beef Packing Company which are the subject of the congressional inquiry—contracted Covid in the first year of the pandemic, of whom at least 269 died.

According to internal communications, the companies were warned about workers and their families falling sick within weeks of the virus hitting the US. Despite this, company representatives enlisted industry-friendly Trump appointees at the USDA to fight their battles against Covid regulations and oversight.

In addition, company executives intentionally stoked fears about meat shortages in order to justify continuing to operate the plants under dangerous conditions. The fears were baseless—there were no meat shortages in the US, while exports to China hit record highs.

Yet in April 2020, Trump issued an executive order invoking the Defense Production Act to keep meat plants open following a flurry of communication between the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, the vice-president’s office, USDA allies and company executives.

The order, which was proposed by Smithfield and Tyson (whose legal department also wrote the draft), was an overt attempt to override health departments and force meat plant workers—who are mostly immigrants, refugees and people of color—to keep working without adequate protections while shielding the industry from lawsuits.

James Clyburn, chairman of the subcommittee, condemned the conduct of the industry executives and their government allies as “shameful.”

“Trump’s political appointees at USDA collaborated with large meatpacking companies to lead an administration-wide effort to force workers to remain on the job during the coronavirus crisis despite dangerous conditions, and even to prevent the imposition of commonsense mitigation measures. This coordinated campaign prioritized industry production over the health of workers and communities, and contributed to tens of thousands of workers becoming ill, hundreds of workers dying, and the virus spreading throughout surrounding areas.”

The meatpacking industry, which includes slaughterhouses and processing plants—is one of the most profitable and dangerous in the US. It is a monopoly business, with just a handful of powerful multinationals dominating the supply chain which, even before Covid, was bad news for farmers, workers, consumers and animal welfare.

As Covid spread, the industry was warned about the high risk of transmission in their plants. For example, a doctor near the JBS facility in Cactus, Texas, wrote to a company executive in April 2020 saying “100 percent of all Covid-19 patients we have in the hospital are either direct employees or family member[s] of your employees,” warning that “your employees will get sick and may die if this factory continues to be open.”

In late May 2020—well after the importance of prevention measures such as testing, social distancing and personal protective equipment was widely recognized—an executive told an industry lobbyist that temperature screening was “all we should be doing.” The lobbyist agreed, replying: “Now to get rid of those pesky health departments!”

The report, Now to get rid of those pesky healthy departments!, reveals how USDA Trump appointees did the industry’s bidding in order to carry on with business as usual. The report is based on more than 151,000 pages of documents collected from meatpacking companies and interest groups, as well as interviews with meatpacking workers, former USDA and CDC officials, and state and local health authorities among others.

The documents show that:

  • In March 2020, the industry aggressively lobbied USDA officials, who in turn escalated their wishes to Vice President Mike Pence’s office, to ensure states were advised to designate meatpacking workers as “critical infrastructure” employees who could be exempt from social distancing and stay at home orders. This conduct was “particularly egregious considering that the nation’s meat supply was not actually at risk,” the subcommittee found.
  • Mindy Brashears, the undersecretary of food safety, was considered the go-to fixer, who could stop health departments enforcing Covid safety measures at local plants. Brashears “hasn’t lost a battle for us,” said one lobbyist.
  • Career USDA staff told the congressional subcommittee how they were sidelined, while Brashears and her deputies communicated with industry officials on their personal phones in order to avoid leaving a paper trail.
  • Meatpacking companies also successfully lobbied USDA officials to advocate for Department of Labor policies that deprived their employees of benefits if they missed work or quit, while also seeking insulation from legal liability if workers then fell ill or died.

As reports of Covid clusters at meatpacking plants increased, industry officials and the USDA jointly lobbied the White House to dissuade frightened workers from staying home or quitting. For instance in April 2020 the CEOs of JBS, Smithfield and Tyson among other companies asked the secretary of agriculture, Sonny Perdue, during a call to “elevate the need for messaging about the importance of our workforce staying at work to the POTUS or VP level.”

It worked. At a press briefing soon after, Mike Pence told meatpacking workers that “we need you to continue … to show up and do your job,” admonishing recent “incidents of worker absenteeism.”

The report concludes: “Meatpacking companies knew the risk posed by the coronavirus to their workers and knew it wasn’t a risk that the country needed them to take. They nonetheless lobbied aggressively—successfully enlisting USDA as a close collaborator in their efforts—to keep workers on the job in unsafe conditions, to ensure state and local health authorities were powerless to mandate otherwise, and to be protected against legal liability for the harms that would result.”

The trade association for meat and poultry packers and processors rejected the report’s findings and accused the subcommittee of “cherry-picking data.”

“The report ignores the rigorous and comprehensive measures companies enacted to protect employees and support their critical infrastructure workers,” said Julie Anna Potts, president and CEO of the North American Meat Institute.

In addition, a spokesperson for JBS said the company “did everything possible to ensure the safety of our people who kept our critical food supply chain running.” In a statement Cargill said: “We’ve worked hard to maintain safe and consistent operations to feed families during the pandemic, yet we did not hesitate to temporarily idle or reduce capacity at processing plants in the interest of our employees’ wellbeing.”

A spokesman for Smithfield said: “The concerns we expressed were very real and we are thankful that a food crisis was averted and that we are starting to return to normal…Did we make every effort to share with government officials our perspective on the pandemic and how it was impacting the food production system? Absolutely.”

Tyson said collaboration with the government was crucial to the supply chain and for worker safety: “Over the past two years, our company has been contacted by, received direction from, and collaborated with many different federal, state and local officials—including both the Trump and Biden Administrations—as we’ve navigated the challenges of the pandemic.”

The subcommittee investigation into the meatpacking industry’s response to the pandemic was launched in February 2021 following reports that meat companies had refused to take adequate safety measures precautions to protect workers during the first year of the pandemic. Last year, the subcommittee found that the illness and death toll at plants owned by the five big meatpackers had been grossly underestimated, and that the companies put profits over worker safety.

The Guardian has contacted the USDA and former Trump administration officials for comment.

Categories
Technology

SafeBoda bets on super app to boost recovery from pandemic slump

Powered by 25,000 motorcycle taxis at the start of 2020, SafeBoda was at its peak, ferrying thousands of pillion passengers in cities across Uganda and Nigeria. And then the COVID pandemic hit, throwing everything into a spin. Containment measures like work from home directives meant a slump in business, which was worsened by the lockdowns, curfews and bans on public transport, bringing the motorcycle taxi business to an unprecedented lull.

While this pause badly affected SafeBoda, it fueled the startup’s change of strategy from a single service provider to an integrated multi-service and digital payment technology platform.

The startup, which was co-founded in 2017 by Ricky Rapa Thomson, Alastair Sussock and Maxime Dieudonne, recently obtained a payments license from the Central Bank of Uganda, officially marking its debut in the fintech space, and adding to a list of the new services it has introduced over the last two years.

“When we entered the space, we realized that people needed more than rides. People who interacted with the app kept telling us that it could do more. By listening to them, and taking their feedback seriously, and by doing research, we have been able to provide a number of other services besides rides… and that’s going to help the business be more sustainable going forward,” SafeBoda co-founder Thomson told TechCrunch.

SafeBoda

SafeBoda co-founders (L-R) Ricky Rapa Thomson, Alastair Sussock and Maxime Dieudonne. Image Credits: SafeBoda

Using its new SafeBoda wallet, users can send money to each other at no cost (other providers in the market, like telcos, charge transfer fees) — a service that makes it possible for the taxi operators to receive cashless payment too — as card payments remain very low across the continent. Users can also pay partner vendors using the wallet as well as withdraw cash (for a fee) from the more than 200 agents across Kampala. Savings in the SafeBoda wallet also fetch a 10% annual interest.

In a way, the wallet has contributed to the financial inclusion growth within the country as the riders, most of whom are unbanked, can now generate a history of earnings that can be used to assess their creditworthiness for loans. This is also paving the way for the introduction of new services.

“These drivers were actually earning money, but they cannot even have access to loans and other financial services. And we actually know that to drive inclusion, we need to get the right partners to work with, but we also need to have our users’ history. With the help of our platform, we are now able to generate a history of income for the riders and that is a game changer right now.”

Thomson said that the company is lining up new products in the near future — keeping up with its strategy of continuously reevaluating and improving its offering, while extending to customers the much-needed convenience. He said the new products have been built for a global audience, as SafeBoda is keen to launch them in new markets.

“We are building a global product that is going to be available in cities across Africa…and SafeBoda will continue to build better services that will allow us to serve the population better and grow beyond Uganda so that anyone in Africa will have access to services just by clicking a button. We will also make sure that the lives of our drivers are improved,” he said.

SafeBoda, which recently became the first to benefit from Google’s $50 million Africa Investment Fund, is looking to tap its user base (over 1 million downloads) to grow its new businesses and keep competitors at bay. Its other investors include Allianz X, Unbound, Go-Ventures and Gojek, the Indonesian multi-service super app.

In the line-up of businesses SafeBoda has started recently is an e-commerce platform, which was launched in April of 2020, with the riders on its log being used to fulfill last-mile delivery. The e-commerce business, which was an addition to the startup’s parcel and food delivery services, ensured that as the need for on-demand ride-hailing service dropped under lockdowns, the riders were kept occupied, effectively ensuring business continuity. It also marked the beginning of the startup’s journey as a super app.

SafeBoda

A curfew on Motorcycle taxi (bodaboda) operators, which has been in effect since 2020, was lifted two weeks ago in Uganda. Image Credits: SafeBoda

By adding more value options for its users, SafeBoda is set to remain competitive in an environment that has the presence of well-funded ride hailing operators like Uber and Bolt, as well as e-commerce platforms like Jumia.

Two weeks ago, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni lifted the curfew for motorcycle taxi (bodaboda) operators, which has been in effect since 2020, paving the way for the resumption of hailing services by SafeBoda and Uber and Bolt.

“We are the number one ride-hailing company in Africa for motorcycle taxis. We have gone through waves of different competition; big guys have entered our market and we still remain the market leader in this space. We will continue to grow and stay very competitive,” said Thomson.

The effects of the COVID pandemic on the mobility industry were not unique to Uganda’s transport industry. The world over, transportation services were badly affected by travel restrictions and lockdowns, leading to the collapse of some businesses in the transport industry, among them airlines and taxi companies. But slowly the industry is coming back to life and, overall, the global ride-hailing service industry is expected to more than double over the next seven years to hit $98 billion, with an expected 10% CAGR year-on-year according to this report.

Categories
Technology

DoorDash announces new pricing for restaurants, with commissions as low as 15%

DoorDash is announcing new pricing plans for the restaurants that use the platform for pickups and deliveries.

Before this, the company did not offer standardized pricing across restaurants. However, the question of how high delivery app fees might go (and how parsimonious the payments might be for restaurants as a result) prompted DoorDash to publish a long blog post about its fee structure last fall.

In fact, Oregon and Washington have passed caps on delivery fees, while lawmakers in California, New York and Texas have proposed similar caps. On a call with reporters to discuss the new pricing, DoorDash COO Christopher Payne denied that the company changed its pricing to appease lawmakers.

“This is not designed in response to legislation,” Payne said. “It’s designed in response to listening to restauranteurs and learning what they need.”

DoorDash now offers three plans: DoorDash Basic, where restaurants only pay a 15% commission on deliveries, which shifts “a higher portion of the delivery cost to the customer” and supports a smaller delivery area; DoorDash Plus, where restaurants pay 25% to be part of DoorDash’s DashPass subscription program and get increased visibility in the DoorDash app; and DoorDash Premier, where restaurants pay 30% in exchange for the lowest customer fees, the largest delivery area and a growth guarantee of at least 20 orders per month across pickup, delivery and DoorDash-owned Caviar.

Across all plans, DoorDash says it will now charge only a 6% commission on pickup orders.

The company’s announcement includes statements from restaurant owners who are adopting the new plans. For example, here’s Sherry Copeland, owner of Jai Meals in Plano, Texas:

Jai Meals operates out of a local mall, so delivery has been an important part of how I have made up for lost income over the past year of dine-in closures. Despite this, my previous commission didn’t work for my business; it was hard to absorb that high of a cost, especially when delivery became a large percentage of my orders. With the Basic plan, I can offer delivery to customers, who increasingly enjoy the convenience delivery provides, but at a cost that is more aligned with my products, my goals and my customers’ needs.

Payne said these plans will become available to all restaurants on DoorDash today, although it may take up to five days for the new pricing to fully take effect. He added that DoorDash has been testing these plans over the past few months and that “we believe this will have negligible impact — no impact, really — on our economics, nor on Dasher earnings.”

 

Categories
Technology

This Week in Apps: TikTok viral hit breaks Spotify records, inauguration boosts news app installs, judge rules against Parler

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy.

The app industry is as hot as ever, with a record 218 billion downloads and $143 billion in global consumer spend in 2020.

Consumers last year also spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on Android devices alone. And in the U.S., app usage surged ahead of the time spent watching live TV. Currently, the average American watches 3.7 hours of live TV per day, but now spends four hours per day on their mobile devices.

Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re also a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus. In 2020, investors poured $73 billion in capital into mobile companies — a figure that’s up 27% year-over-year.

This week, we’re looking into how President Biden’s inauguration impacted news apps, the latest in the Parler lawsuit, and how TikTok’s app continues to shape culture, among other things.

Judge says Amazon doesn’t have to host Parler on AWS

logos for AWS (Amazon Web Services) and Parler

Logos for AWS (Amazon Web Services) and Parler. Image Credits: TechCrunch

U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein in Seattle this week ruled that Amazon won’t be required to restore access to web services to Parler. As you may recall, Parler sued Amazon for booting it from AWS’ infrastructure, effectively forcing it offline. Like Apple and Google before it, Amazon had decided that the calls for violence that were being spread on Parler violated its terms of service. It also said that Parler showed an “unwillingness and inability” to remove dangerous posts that called for the rape, torture and assassination of politicians, tech executives and many others, the AP reported.

Amazon’s decision shouldn’t have been a surprise for Parler. Amazon had reported 98 examples of Parler posts that incited violence over the past several weeks before its decision. It told Parler these were clear violations of the terms of service.

Parler’s lawsuit against Amazon, however, went on to claim breach of contract and even made antitrust allegations.

The judge shot down Parler’s claims that Amazon and Twitter were colluding over the decision to kick the app off AWS. Parler’s claims over breach of contract were denied, too, as the contract had never said Amazon had to give Parler 30 days to fix things. (Not to mention the fact that Parler breached the contract on its side, too.) It also said Parler had fallen short in demonstrating the need for an injunction to restore access to Amazon’s web services.

The ruling only blocks Parler from forcing Amazon to again host it as the lawsuit proceeds, but is not the final ruling in the overall case, which is continuing.

TikTok drives another pop song to No. 1 on Billboard charts, breaks Spotify’s record

@livbedumb♬ drivers license – Olivia Rodrigo

We already knew TikTok was playing a large role in influencing music charts and listening behavior. For example, Billboard last year noted how TikTok drove hits from Sony artists like Doja Cat (“Say So”) and 24kGoldn (“Mood”), and helped Sony discover new talent. Columbia also signed viral TikTok artists like Lil Nas X, Powfu, StaySolidRocky, Jawsh 685, Arizona Zervas and 24kGoldn. Meanwhile, Nielsen has said that no other app had helped break more songs in 2020 than TikTok.

This month, we’ve witnessed yet another example of this phenomenon. Olivia Rodrigo, the 17-year-old star of Disney+’s “High School Musical: The Musical: the Series” released her latest song, “Drivers License” on January 8. The pop ballad and breakup anthem is believed to be referencing the actress’ relationship with co-star Joshua Bassett, which gave the song even more appeal to fans.

Upon its release the song was heavily streamed by TikTok users, which helped make it an overnight sensation of sorts. According to a report by The WSJ, Billboard counted 76.1 million streams and 38,000 downloads in the U.S. during the week of its release. It also made a historic debut at No. 1 on the Hot 100, becoming the first smash hit of 2021.

On January 11, “Drivers License” broke Spotify’s record for most streams per day (for a non-holiday song) with 15.17 million global streams. On TikTok, meanwhile, the number of videos featuring the song and the views they received doubled every day, The WSJ said.

Charli D’Amelio’s dance to it on the app has now generated 5 million “Likes” across nearly 33 million views, as of the time of writing.

@charlidamelio♬ drivers license – Olivia Rodrigo

Of course, other TikTok hits have broken out in the past, too — even reaching No. 1 like “Blinding Lights” (The Weeknd) and “Mood” (24kGoldn). But the success of “Drivers License” may be in part due to the way it focuses on a subject that’s more relevant to TikTok’s young, teenage user base. It talks about first loves and being dumped for the other girl. And its title and opening refer to a time many adults have forgotten: the momentous day when you get your driver’s license. It’s highly relatable to the TikTok crowd who fully embraced it and made it a hit.

Platforms: Apple

  • Apple stops signing iOS 12.5, making iOS 12.5.1 the only versions of iOS available to older devices.
  • A report claims Apple’s iOS 15 update will cut support for devices with an A9 chip, like the iPhone 6, iPhone 6s Plus and the original iPhone SE.
  • New analysis estimates Apple’s upcoming iOS privacy changes will cause a roughly 7% revenue hit for Facebook in Q2. The revenue hit will continue in following quarters and will be “material.”

Platforms: Google

  • Google adds “trending” icons to the Play Store. New arrow icons appeared in the Top Charts tab, which indicate whether an app’s downloads are trending up or down, in terms of popularity. This could provide an early signal about those that may still be rising in the charts or beginning to fall out of favor, despite their current high position.
  • Google appears to be working on a Restricted Networking mode for Android 12. The mode, discovered by XDA Developers digging in the Android Open Source Project, would disable network access for all third-party apps.

Gaming

  • Goama (or Go Games) introduced a way for developers to integrate social games into their apps, which was showcased at CES. The company focuses on Asia and Latin America and has more than 15 partners, including GCash and Rappi, for digital payments and communications.
  • Fortnite maker Epic Games is getting into movies. The animated feature film Gilgamesh will use Epic’s Unreal Engine technology to tell the story of the king-turned-deity. The movie is not an in-house project, but rather is financed through Epic’s $100M MegaGrants fund.

Augmented Reality

  • Patents around Apple’s AR and VR efforts describe how a system could be identified in a way that’s similar to FaceID, then either permitted or denied the ability to change their appearance in the game.
  • Pinterest launches AR try-on for eyeshadow in its mobile app using Lens technology and ModiFace data. The app already offered AR try-on for lipsticks.

Entertainment

  • The CW app became the No. 1 app on the App Store this week, topping TikTok, Instagram and YouTube, thanks to CW’s season premieres of Batwoman, All American, Riverdale and Nancy Drew.
  • Users of podcasting app Anchor, owned by Spotify, say the app isn’t bringing them any sponsorship opportunities, as promised, beyond those from Spotify and Anchor itself.
  • YouTube launches hashtag landing pages on the web and in its mobile app. The pages are accessible when you click hashtags on YouTube, not via search, and weirdly rank the “best” videos through some inscrutable algorithm.
  • Apple’s Podcasts app adds a new editorial feature, Apple Podcasts Spotlight, meant to increase podcast listening by showcasing the best podcasts as selected by Apple editors.

E-commerce

  • WeChat facilitated 1.6 trillion yuan (close to $250 billion) in annual transactions through its “mini programs” in 2020. The figure is more than double that of 2019.

Fintech

  • Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, launched an e-wallet, Douyin Pay. The wallet will supplement the existing payment options, Alipay and WeChat Pay, and will help to support the Douyin app’s growing e-commerce business.
  • Neobank Monzo founder Tom Blomfield left the startup, saying he struggled during the pandemic. “I think [for] a lot of people in the world…going through a pandemic, going through lockdown and the isolation involved in that has an impact on people’s mental health,” he told TechCrunch.
  • New estimates indicate about 50% of the iPhone user base (or 507 million users) now use Apple Pay. 
  • Samsung’s newest phones drop support for MST, which emulates a mag stripe at terminals that don’t support NFC.

Social

  • Indian messaging app, StickerChat, owned by Hike, is shutting down. Founder Kavin Bharti Mittal said India will never have a homegrown messenger unless it bars Western companies from its market. Hike pivoted this month to virtual social apps, Vibe and Rush, which it believes have more potential.
  • Instagram head Adam Mosseri, in a Verge podcast, said he’s not happy with Reels so far, and how he feels most people probably don’t understand the difference between Instagram video and IGTV. He says the social network needs to simplify and consolidate ideas.
  • Facebook and Instagram improve their accessibility features. The apps’ AI-generated image captions now offer far more details about who or what is in the photos, thanks to improvements in image recognition systems.
  • TikTok launches a Q&A feature that lets creators respond to fan questions using text or videos. The feature, rolled out to select creators with more than 10,000 followers, makes it easier to see all the questions in one place.

Health & Fitness

  • Health and fitness app spending jumped 70% last year in Europe to record $544 million, a Sensor Tower report says. The year-over-year increase is far larger than 2019, when growth was just 37.2%. COVID-19 played a large role in this shift as people turned to fitness apps instead of gyms to stay in shape.

Government & Policy

  • Biden’s inauguration boosted installs of U.S. news apps up to 170%, Sensor Tower reported. CNN was the biggest mover, climbing 530 positions to reach No. 41 on the App Store, and up 170% in terms of downloads. News Break was the second highest, climbing 13 positions to No. 65. Right-wing outlet Newsmax climbed 43 spots to reach No. 108. In 2020, the top news apps were: News Break (23.7 million installs); SmartNews (9 million); CNN (5 million); and Fox News (4 million). This month, however, News Break saw 1.2 million installs, followed by Newsmax with about 863,000 installs, the report said.
  • Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) sent a draft decision to fellow EU Data Protection Authorities over the WhatsApp-Facebook data sharing policy. This means a decision on the matter is coming closer to a resolution in terms of what standards of transparency is required by WhatsApp.
  • German app developer Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents filed a complaint with the EU, U.S. DOJ and other antitrust watchdogs around the world over Apple and Google’s rejection of his COVID-related mobile game. Both stores had policies to only approve official COVID-19 apps from health authorities. Mueller renamed the game Viral Days and removed references to the novel coronavirus to get the app approved. However, he still feels the stores’ rules are holding back innovation.

Productivity

  • Basecamp’s Hey, which famously fought back against Apple’s App Store rules over IAP last year, has launched a business-focused platform, Hey for Work, expected to be public in Q1. The app has more App Store ratings than rival Superhuman, a report found. Currently, Hey has a 4.7-star rating across 3.3K reviews; Superhuman has 3.9 rating across only 274 reviews.

Trends

  • Baby boomers are increasingly using apps. Baby boomers/Gen Xers in the U.S. spent 30% more time year-over-year in their most used apps, App Annie reports. That’s a larger increase than either Millennials or Gen Z, at 18% and 16%, respectively.
  • Curtsy, a clothing resale app for Gen Z women, raised an $11 million Series A led by Index Ventures. The app tackles some of the problems with online resale by sending shipping supplies and labels to sellers, and by making the marketplace accessible to new and casual sellers.
  • Storytelling platform Wattpad acquired by South Korea’s Naver for $600 million. The reading apps whose stories have turned into book and Netflix hits will be incorporated into Naver’s publishing platform Webtoon.
  • On-demand delivery app Glovo partnered with Swiss-based real estate firm, Stoneweg, which is investing €100 million in building and refurbishing real estate in key markets to build out Glovo’s network of “dark stores.”
  • Pocket Casts app is up for sale. The podcast app was acquired nearly three years ago by a public radio consortium of top podcast producers (NPR, WNYC Studios, WBEZ Chicago and This American Life). The owners have now agreed to sell the app, which posted a net loss in 2020. (NPR’s share of the loss was over $800,000.)
  • Travel app Maps.me raised $50 million in a round led by Alameda Research. The funding will go toward the launch of a multi-currency wallet. Cryptocurrency lender Genesis Capital and institutional cryptocurrency firm CMS Holdings also participated in the round, Coindesk reported.
  • Bangalore-based hyperlocal delivery app Dunzo raised $40 million in a round that included investment from Google, Lightbox, Evolvence, Hana Financial Investment, LGT Lightstone Aspada and Alteria.
  • London-based food delivery app Deliveroo raised $180 million in new funding from existing investors, led by Durable Capital Partners and Fidelity Management, valuing the business at more than $7 billion.
  • Dating Group acquired Swiss startup Once, a dating app that sends one match per day, for $18 million.

Bodyguard

Image Credits: Bodyguard

A French content moderation app called Bodyguard, detailed here by TechCrunch, has brought its service to the English-speaking market. The app allows you to choose the level of content moderation you want to see on top social networks, like Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Twitch. You can choose to hide toxic content across a range of categories, like insults, body shaming, moral harassment, sexual harassment, racism and homophobia and indicate whether the content is a low or high priority to block.

Beeper

Image Credits: Beeper

Pebble’s founder and current YC Partner Eric Migicovsky has launched a new app, Beeper, that aims to centralize in one interface 15 different chat apps, including iMessage. The app relies on an open-source federated, encrypted messaging protocol called Matrix that uses “bridges” to connect to the various networks to move the messages. However, iMessage support is more wonky, as the company actually ships you an old iPhone to make the connection to the network. But this system allows you to access Beeper on non-Apple devices, the company says. The app is slowly onboarding new users due to initial demand. The app works across MacOS, Windows, Linux‍, iOS and Android and charges $10/mo for the service.