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Nufa lets you live up to unrealistic beauty standards at the tap of an app

It isn’t like Instagram is a beacon of truth as it is, but things are about to get a lot worse, as Nufa takes any image and sculpts you into the “after” picture dream that every gym owner wants to project into our souls as they continue on their mission to make us all look like body-building beasts with cleavage out the wazoo and abs for days.

The new mobile app “seamlessly transforms the human body into a picture in one click,” as it considers muscle structure, body type, skin color, body position and even tattoos to provide a “digital experience that hardly differs from real body transformation pics.”

“For women, we have an additional feature of transforming the breast from the 1st to the 5th size that works even with neckline clothes,” Nufa’s head of Analytics, Artem Petrikeev, said in an email to TechCrunch. “We are changing body pics similar to how Faceapp changes selfies.”

Can we be done making ourselves feel less than already?

But hey, if this is your jam, I guess you, too, can see what you’d look like if you conformed to completely unrealistic beauty standards. You do you, boo, but if you install this app, perhaps think about what it is you’re buying into. You’re perfect as you are, and if you don’t believe that, think about where that belief came from.

Nufa lets you live up to unrealistic beauty standards at the tap of an app by Haje Jan Kamps originally published on TechCrunch

State-sponsored hackers in China compromise certificate authority

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

Nation-state hackers based in China recently infected a certificate authority and several government and defense agencies with a potent malware cocktail for burrowing inside a network and stealing sensitive information, researchers said on Tuesday.

The successful compromise of the unnamed certificate authority is potentially serious, because these entities are trusted by browsers and operating systems to certify the identities responsible for a particular server or app. In the event the hackers obtained control of the organization’s infrastructure, they could use it to digitally sign their malware to make it more easily slip past endpoint protections. They might also be able to cryptographically impersonate trusted websites or intercept encrypted data.

While the researchers who discovered the breach found no evidence the certificate infrastructure had been compromised, they said that this campaign was only the latest by a group they call Billbug, which has a documented history of noteworthy hacks dating back to at least 2009.

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Google says that it has, for the first time, licensed its AI research model for breast cancer screening to a medical company, iCAD, looking to deploy it in 2024 (Justine Calma/The Verge)

Justine Calma / The Verge:
Google says that it has, for the first time, licensed its AI research model for breast cancer screening to a medical company, iCAD, looking to deploy it in 2024  —  Google announced today that it has licensed its AI research model for breast cancer screening to medical technology company iCAD.

Move over, operators — consultants are the new nontraditional VC

Operating experience has become a buzzword over the last few years as venture capitalists pump up their resumes in a quest to set themselves apart from other sources of startup capital. Now, it seems that we are seeing the next evolution of that trend.

This year has seen a wave of startup consultant firms looking to raise venture funds of their own to take stakes in companies they are already working with or that align with their practice. In theory, this makes total sense because both consultants and venture capitalists have the same goal at the end of the day: helping companies grow.

“Most come on board because we provide the capital, plus. What is that plus? The plus with us is storytelling.” FNDR CEO James Vincent

But why are so many consultant-led venture capital funds launching now? It’s a particularly rough time in the broader venture market, and economy in general, in addition to being one of the toughest periods for emerging managers and first-time fundraisers. It’s worth noting that all of these funds are raising outside capital as opposed to investing off their balance sheets.

For one thing, the startups they were already working with were asking them to.

Move over, operators — consultants are the new nontraditional VC by Rebecca Szkutak originally published on TechCrunch

Elon Musk’s next trick? Picking a fight with Apple

After decimating Twitter’s workforce, imperiling its infrastructure and emptying its ad coffers all within his first month at the company, it’s on to the next thing for Elon Musk.

The erratic billionaire picked a fight with Apple in a series of tweets on Monday, bracing for a battle — or perhaps just another volley of tweets — that would comfortably position the perpetually aggrieved Twitter owner as the David to Apple’s Goliath.

Musk is now claiming that Apple threatened to “withhold” Twitter from the App Store, implying that the iPhone maker might take action against the social app over changes under its new ownership without offering any evidence of that. TechCrunch has reached out to Apple for clarification, but for now we don’t know if Apple really contacted Twitter over content moderation concerns or something else entirely.

Apple has also threatened to withhold Twitter from its App Store, but won’t tell us why

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 28, 2022

Apple has mostly stopped advertising on Twitter. Do they hate free speech in America?

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 28, 2022

Twitter’s new owner also claims that Apple has pulled most of its advertising on the platform, which seems possible or even likely considering how many other major ad buyers have done the same since Musk’s takeover, citing concerns about brand safety and content moderation changes.

Whatever is really going on here, a few things are true. For one, Twitter needs to stay in the App Store and to do so it needs to clear Apple’s low bar for content moderation, which Truth Social and Parler — apps with far less mature algorithmic content moderation systems — have managed to do. Even with Musk’s threatened policy changes and his deep cuts to moderation teams, Twitter would likely still remain on Apple’s good side if those apps pulled it off.

It’s also true that Apple’s rules for what gets an app get kicked out of the App Store are vague and arbitrarily enforced. Apple warns against “content that is offensive, insensitive, upsetting, intended to disgust, in exceptionally poor taste, or just plain creepy” which would seem to rule out a lot of social apps, pre-Musk Twitter included, if it really came down to it.

At the same time that Musk is portraying Apple as a censor, he’s also railing against the fees the company charges apps that operate in its ecosystem. Musk calls this a “secret 30% tax” but in reality Apple’s cut is well-documented and much-discussed. Epic Games and Apple went to court over Apple’s fees in 2020, with Epic arguing that the iPhone maker wields monopoly power in the software market.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 28, 2022

Whether intentional or not, Musk reigniting the App Store antitrust battle is timely. Epic’s ongoing fight with Apple is kicking off again in appeals court and Congress could be poised for another push to pass the Open Markets Act, a bipartisan bill that would crack open the App Store and “tear down coercive anticompetitive walls in the app economy,” according to its sponsors.

It’s also possible that Apple actually has cautioned Musk that reinstating thousands of accounts banned for stuff like hate speech and harassment might nudge the app afoul of the App Store’s actually quite lenient content moderation requirements. In that case, Musk could position himself as a high profile champion of the anti-Apple crowd, joining Epic’s whole thing and making nice with regulators who are rightfully concerned over Musk’s Twitter plans (or lack thereof).

But even then, Twitter needs Apple in both the short and long term and Apple certainly doesn’t need Twitter. And fighting on yet another front would stretch Musk’s attention even more when he should probably be focused on the basics, like not bankrupting Twitter or running his myriad other companies, say.

At the end of the day, Musk, the world’s literal richest man and maker of luxury cars and spaceships, generally seems to enjoy portraying himself as a scrappy upstart fighting against larger powers that be. If Musk wants to recreate that dynamic at Twitter, Apple is arguably one of the only entities that can still make the hugely influential social media company look like the little guy. Musk might be the Twitter boss now, but he knows that turning everyone against the big boss is a good way to maintain the approval of the miscellaneous internet devotees that affirm his existing beliefs and vote in his deeply unscientific tweet polls, so maybe it’s just about that.

Whatever inspired his anti-Apple tirade, waging a war on Apple is probably a losing fight. But it’s a fresh conflict that diverts attention from Musk’s embarrassing and seemingly endless parade of catastrophes as he fumbles Twitter’s policy, personnel and product alike, possibly running one of the world’s biggest social networks into the ground in the process.

Elon Musk’s next trick? Picking a fight with Apple by Taylor Hatmaker originally published on TechCrunch

Sources: Microsoft will likely soon offer the EU concessions regarding the Activision deal; source: the main remedy would be a 10-year licensing deal to Sony (Foo Yun Chee/Reuters)

Foo Yun Chee / Reuters:
Sources: Microsoft will likely soon offer the EU concessions regarding the Activision deal; source: the main remedy would be a 10-year licensing deal to Sony  —  Microsoft (MSFT.O) is likely to offer remedies to EU antitrust regulators in the coming weeks to stave off formal objections …

US crypto exchange Kraken agrees to pay $360K+ to the Treasury Department to settle accusations of sanctions violations involving transactions by users in Iran (New York Times)

New York Times:
US crypto exchange Kraken agrees to pay $360K+ to the Treasury Department to settle accusations of sanctions violations involving transactions by users in Iran  —  The crypto exchange, which had been under investigation for violating U.S. sanctions, agreed to pay $360,000 to settle the allegations.

On affinity-focused fintechs, the future of BNPL, and more

Of all the venture capital funding invested in 2021, around one in every five dollars went to fintech. But this boom now seems behind us, as global fintech funding activity returned to pre-2021 levels.

Worse, fintech didn’t escape the recent waves of tech layoffs, with high-profile companies like Brex, Chime and Stripe making headlines for this disheartening reason over the last few weeks.

And yet, fintech startups are still getting founded and funded this year. Of the 223 companies in Y Combinator’s summer 2022 batch, 79 fell more or less into the fintech category.

Why are founders and investors still placing bets in fintech, and where? To find out more, we reached out to fintech-focused VC firm Fiat Ventures.

Fiat co-founders Alex Harris, Drew Glover, and Marcos Fernandez also run its sister arm, Fiat Growth, a growth consultancy working with fintech and insurtech clients. This enables them to comment not only on sector trends from an investor perspective, but also to share practical advice.

One of their key recommendations is for fintech startups to lean into customer acquisition channels whose cost is less variable or seasonal than others, but our exchange covered a wider range of topics, from financial inclusion to offline channels and more. Read on:

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Many of the linked companies are portfolio companies of Fiat Ventures or clients of Fiat Growth.

TC: What makes you say that “fintech acquisition funnels are too complicated”?

Alex Harris: Fintech products by nature have complicated acquisition funnels and enrollment flows. Some complications are unavoidable in a highly regulated environment, but superfluous complications can arise when rigorous testing is not applied and funnels include unnecessary bloat.

Even the smallest detail can generate friction. For example, in the know-your-customer (KYC) process, many fintechs will ask a customer for their entire Social Security Number. In most cases, for non-credit products, only the last four digits of the SSN are needed for identification purposes. While only a five-digit difference, this can have a meaningful impact on conversion rates that can save large sums of money at scale.

Data is certainly king, but there is a time and place for data collection and personalization. Too often, a well-intentioned data team will ask personalization and demographics questions directly in an enrollment process. However, these questions can most often come in a post-enrollment survey or periodically throughout the lifecycle of a customer. Even post-enrollment, these questions need to be thought out. We regularly see data collected for the sake of collecting it, without actionable insights derived from them.

On affinity-focused fintechs, the future of BNPL, and more by Anna Heim originally published on TechCrunch

The Latest on the FTX Crisis

The collapse of FTX, one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency companies, is still sending shock waves through the crypto world.

Elon Musk Takes On Apple’s Power, Setting Up a Clash

In a series of tweets on Monday, Mr. Musk accused Apple of threatening to pull Twitter from its App Store and of trying to censor.

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