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November 16, 2018

Weather Up’s app can give you forecasts for your calendar events

There are plenty of weather apps to choose from on the App Store, but the newly released Weather Up app is doing something different. Instead of just offering the daily weather, it will now offer Event Forecasts – meaning forecasts that sync with your calendars so you can see what the weather will be for your upcoming appointments and various events.

The feature is customizable, so you don’t have to use it with all your calendars – or even all your events. You can opt to tag specific events in order to show the weather forecast for just those.

Event Forecasts is useful for planning your outdoor activities like the kid’s soccer games, outdoor concerts, and more, but also for planning for events you’ll walk to or drive to.

The app itself is not new. It actually began its life last year as Weather Atlas, from LauncherPro developer David Barnard. He admits the first version app struggled with retention so he’s now overhauled it from a usability perspective, based on user feedback and testing.

The revamped app – basically the 2.0 release of Weather Atlas – is now rebranded as Weather Up, as a result of these and other changes, which also includes a new set of cute app icons.

“Apps that don’t take off are often abandoned, but the weather category is just so interesting to me I’m going to keep pushing until I carve out a decent niche. And I think Weather Up is a great step in the right direction,” says Barnard.

He says a lot of time was spent on making the app feel more intuitive – especially in terms of its gestural interface. The new design makes use of the extra vertical space on X-series iPhones and makes most of its buttons and gestures easily accessible from the lower portion of the screen, he says.

Another interesting thing he’s trying in the new app is an in-app Merch Store, which is certainly a first for a weather application – or productivity apps in general, for the most part.

To help with monetization, the store will sell things like shirts, mugs, bags, hats and more emblazoned with the new icons – which Barnard recently showed off on Twitter.

The store is also available on the developer’s website.

The app’s core feature set, of course, is its weather forecasts. In addition to temperature, it also shows humidity and precipitation accumulation, and warns about weather events like thunderstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes and tropical tracks.

As an indie developer, Barnard hopes people will choose his app over others because he vows not to sell user data or even location data to advertisers – even though that would be more profitable, he says.

Weather Up is a free download on the App Store, with a pro feature set available for $9.99/year or $1.99/month.

 

News Source = techcrunch.com

CodeStream lets you collaborate and talk directly in VS Code

Adding comments to your code is nothing new. But what if you could @-mention your coworkers and start a thread about a specific part of your code? Meet CodeStream, a Y Combinator-backed startup that wants to do just that.

The best way to discuss some content is right next to the content itself. That’s why Google Docs annotations, PowerPoint comments and Word revisions are so useful. Slack shouldn’t be the home to all discussions.

And yet, collaboration between two developers too often start with a private conversation on Slack. CodeStream doesn’t want to replace git commits or native comments in your code. But it adds a useful conversation layer on top of your code.

If you want to involve someone else, you first select a text and start a discussion. It creates a thread with your coding block as the original post. If you link CodeStream with your Slack instance, it starts a thread in the right Slack channel. You can @-mention someone, copy and paste a few lines of code and more.

If a developer gets mentioned, they can click on the thread and CodeStream opens up the right file at the right line. Even if two developers aren’t on the same branch, they’ll both be looking at the same line of code — even if there’s some new code in one of the branch.

Months later, if your code base evolved, your conversation threads will still be there. At any time, you can look at past conversations and understand why something has been done this way.

Right now, CodeStream supports VS Code. After installing CodeStream, you can split up your IDE in two columns with your main coding window on the left and CodeStream threads on the right.

In the future, the company plans to add support for more IDEs, such as Visual Studio, JetBrains editors and Atom. CodeStream is still in beta so it’s free for now.

The company recently raised a $3.2 million funding round from S28 Capital with PJC also participating. Additional investors include Y Combinator, Steve Sordello, Mark Stein and David Carlick.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Facebook Messenger is building a “Watch Videos Together” feature

Netflix and chill from afar? Facebook Messenger is now internally testing simultaneous co-viewing of videos. That means you and your favorite people could watch a synchronized video over group chat on your respective devices while discussing or joking about it. This “Watch Videos Together” feature could make you spend more time on Facebook Messenger while creating shared experiences that are more meaningful and positive for well-being than passively zombie-viewing videos solo. This new approach to Facebook’s Watch Party feature might feel more natural as part of messaging than through a feed, Groups, or Events post.

The feature was first spotted in Messenger’s codebase by Ananay Arora, the founder of deadline management app Timebound as well as a mobile investigator in the style of frequent TechCrunch tipster Jane Manchun Wong. The code he discovered describes Messenger allowing you to “tap to watch together now” and “chat about the same videos at the same time” with chat thread members receiving a notification that a co-viewing is starting. “Everyone in this chat can control the video and see who’s watching” the code explains.

A Facebook spokesperson confirmed to TechCrunch that this is an “internal test” and that it doesn’t have any more to share right now. But other features originally discovered in Messenger’s code like contact syncing with Instagram have eventually received official launches.

Watch Party exists on Facebook but could be more popular as a chat feature

A fascinating question this co-viewing feature brings up is where users will find videos to watch. It might just let you punch in a URL from Facebook or share a video from there to Messenger. The app could put a new video browsing option into the message composer or Discover tab.  Or if it really wanted to get serious about chat-based co-viewing, Facebook could allow the feature to work with video partners, ideally YouTube.

Co-viewing of videos could also introduce a new revenue opportunity for Messenger. It might suggest sponsored videos, such as recent movie trailers. Or it could simply serve video ads between a queue of videos lined up for co-viewing. Facebook has recently been putting more pressure on its subsidiaries like Messenger and Instagram to monetize as News Feed ad revenue growth slows down due to plateauing users growth and limited News Feed ad space.

Other apps like YouTube’s Uptime (since shut down), and Facebook’s first president Sean Parker’s Airtime (never took off) have tried and failed to make co-watching a popular habit. The problem is that coordinating these synced-up experiences with friends can be troublesome. By baking simultaneous video viewing directing into Messenger, Facebook could make it as seamless as sharing a link.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Popular Chinese selfie app Meitu now includes 3D editing

You’ve probably had the experience of posing awkwardly for a photo while everyone else looks great. Now China’s top photo-editing firm Meitu has a solution that helps you resist the urge to trash that photo.

Meitu’s namesake app, which claims over 100 million monthly active users as of August, recently launched a feature that lets users virtually rotate their faces up, down, to the left, or to the right. There’s already a plethora of editing apps out there that allows people to polish their shots like a pro, but Meitu wants to take retouching to another level.

“Traditional image processing technology can only perform plane stretching in two dimensions, and the image has no depth information and therefore is unable to truly reflect the changes in the posture of real life,” says a spokesperson for the company.

The feature, called “3D Reshape,” takes hints from a static portrait and applies face recognition and reconstruction technologies to generate 3D information of the user’s face. In other words, it simulates how the user’s head tilts or rotates in real life, yielding results that the firm claims are more “natural” and “realistic”.

The process is a bit eerie, but the result looks satisfying. / Credit: Meitu

The feature also works for group photos, so users can choose to fix a particular person’s unflattering pose. The Chinese company isn’t the only photo app that’s come up with 3D editing. Google’s Snapseed has a similar offer.

Meitu goes all out to perfect portraits by maintaining an in-house R&D team of 200 staff. For the 3D project, the researchers collected 18 unique facial expressions from 1,200 people who were primarily Chinese and aged between 12 and 60.

Despite being a dominator in its space, Meitu has had to look beyond photo editing for monetization since its early days. For the six months ended June 30, the firm generated 72 percent of its revenues from selling smartphones designed to take outstanding selfies, while internet-related services brought in the rest of the money.

Nonetheless, Meitu has seen its hardware revenues drop as smartphone shipments slow in China and competition heats up. By contrast, internet-based revenues jumped 132 percent year-over-year thanks to growth in advertising and “value-added” services. The latter stands for virtual items sales on Meitu’s video streaming app Meipai.

Meitu’s trove of users may have other practical use. In July, the firm shelled out $30 million for an undisclosed stake in Gengmei, a social media platform that connects customers with plastic surgeons who offer them advice. It’s not hard to imagine a future where Meitu links its beauty-seeking users to not only virtual tools but also long-lasting, real-life means.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Africa’s agtech wave gets $10 million richer as Twiga Foods raises more capital

Kenya’s Twiga Foods has raised $10 million from investors led by the International Finance Corporation to add processed food and fast moving consumer goods to its product line-up.

The startup has built a B2B platform to improve the supply chain from farmers to markets. Twiga Foods now aims to scale additional merchandise on its digital network that coordinates pricing, payment, quality control, and logistics across sellers and vendors.

CEO and co-founder Grant Brooke sees “a growth horizon…to build a B2B Amazon,” with produce as the base.

“If we can build a business around fresh fruit and vegetables, everything else after that is much simpler to add on,” he told TechCrunch.

“Fresh food and vegetables gives you clients that are ordering every two days, and now that’s paying for access to vendors and a proper way to be on every street,” said Brooke.

“It’s now much easier to lay things over that that would have been very expensive to get to end retailers.” In addition to the processed food FMCG it will add now, CEO Grant Brooke named household goods, such as light-bulbs that stock and sell in lower volumes than produce, as something the startup could include in the future.     

The $10 million IFC led investment—co-led by TLcom Capital—comes in the form of convertible notes, available later as equity, according to Wale Ayeni, regional head of IFC’s Africa VC practice. As part of the deal, Ayeni will join Twiga Foods’ board.

Of the decision to fund the startup, Ayeni indicated IFC likes what the company’s already done in “figuring out a way to service a mass market with a digital platform focused on food in a sector that’s not really been touched,” he said. Another factor was Twiga’s prospects to create additional revenue by improving B2B supply chain for FMCG and other consumer products.

Co-founded in Nairobi in 2014 by Brooke and Kenyan Peter Njonjo, Twiga Foods serves around 2000 outlets a day with produce through a network of 13,000 farmers and 6000 vendors. Parties can coordinate goods exchanges via mobile app using M-Pesa mobile money for payment.

The company has reduced typical post-harvest losses in Kenya from 30 percent to 4 percent for produce brought to market on the Twiga network, according to Brooke.

“That’s savings we can offer the outlets and better pricing we can offer the farmers,” he said.

Twiga Foods generates revenues from margins on the products it buys and sells. As an example, the company could buy bananas at around 19 Schillings ($.19) a kilo and sell at 34 ($.34) Schillings a kilo.

“Our margin is how efficient we are at moving products between those two elements” and the company purchases from farmers at roughly 10 percent higher than Kenya’s traditional produce middle-men, according to Brooke.

Agtech has become a prominent startup sector in Africa. A number of companies, such as Ghana’s Agrocenta and Nigeria’s Farmcrowdy, have raised VC for apps that coordinate payments, logistics, and working capital across the continent’s farmers and food markets.

In 2017 Twiga Foods raised a $10.3 million Series A round lead by Wamda Capital. Earlier this year the startup partnered with IBM Africa to introduce a blockchain enabled finance working capital platform to its network of vendors.

With the new investment and product expansion, Twiga Foods will explore offering additional financial services to its client network. The startup doesn’t divulge revenue information but “profitability is on the horizon for us,” said Brooke.

Twiga Foods will maintain its focus primarily on Kenya, but “we’re starting to research and dabble in Tanzania,” according to Brooke.

The startup doesn’t plan to move beyond B2B to direct online retail. “I don’t think B2C e-commerce is viable on the continent once you factor in job size and cost of acquisition versus lifetime value,” said Brooke. He also named the high cost of marketing: “In B2C e-commerce space you really have to be in the advertising space. Our clients are ordering every two days with no marketing budget,” said Brooke.

So for the time being, Twiga Foods aims to stick with improving the supply chain for products between Kenya’s buyers and sellers.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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