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November 19, 2018
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How cities can fix tourism hell

in Artificial Intelligence/Augmented Reality/cities/civic tech/Cloud/congestion/connected cities/Delhi/Europe/Government/govtech/hospitality/India/Internet of Things/IoT/Policy/Politics/smart cities/Startups/TC/tourism/Transportation/Travel/travel and tourism/urban planning/Urban Tech/zoning by

A steep and rapid rise in tourism has left behind a wake of economic and environmental damage in cities around the globe. In response, governments have been responding with policies that attempt to limit the number of visitors who come in. We’ve decided to spare you from any more Amazon HQ2 talk and instead focus on why cities should shy away from reactive policies and should instead utilize their growing set of technological capabilities to change how they manage tourists within city lines.

Consider this an ongoing discussion about Urban Tech, its intersection with regulation, issues of public service, and other complexities that people have full PHDs on. I’m just a bitter, born-and-bred New Yorker trying to figure out why I’ve been stuck in between subway stops for the last 15 minutes, so please reach out with your take on any of these thoughts: @Arman.Tabatabai@techcrunch.com.
  

The struggle for cities to manage “Overtourism”

Well – it didn’t take long for the phrase “overtourism” to get overused. The popular buzzword describes the influx of tourists who flood a location and damage the quality of life for full-time residents. The term has become such a common topic of debate in recent months that it was even featured this past week on Oxford Dictionaries’ annual “Words of the Year” list.

But the expression’s frequent appearance in headlines highlights the growing number of cities plagued by the externalities from rising tourism.

In the last decade, travel has become easier and more accessible than ever. Low-cost ticketing services and apartment-rental companies have brought down the costs of transportation and lodging; the ubiquity of social media has ticked up tourism marketing efforts and consumer demand for travel; economic globalization has increased the frequency of business travel; and rising incomes in emerging markets have opened up travel to many who previously couldn’t afford it.

Now, unsurprisingly, tourism has spiked dramatically, with the UN’s World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) reporting that tourist arrivals grew an estimated 7% in 2017 – materially above the roughly 4% seen consistently since 2010. The sudden and rapid increase of visitors has left many cities and residents overwhelmed, dealing with issues like overcrowding, pollution, and rising costs of goods and housing.

The problems cities face with rising tourism are only set to intensify. And while it’s hard for me to imagine when walking shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers on tight New York streets, the number of tourists in major cities like these can very possibly double over the next 10 to 15 years.

China and other emerging markets have already seen significant growth in the middle-class and have long runway ahead. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the global middle class is expected to rise from the 1.8 billion observed in 2009 to 3.2 billion by 2020 and 4.9 billion by 2030. The new money brings with it a new wave of travelers looking to catch a selfie with the Eiffel Tower, with the UNWTO forecasting international tourist arrivals to increase from 1.3 billion to 1.8 billion by 2030.

With a growing sense of urgency around managing their guests, more and more cities have been implementing policies focused on limiting the number of tourists that visit altogether by imposing hard visitor limits, tourist taxes or otherwise.

But as the UNWTO points out in its report on overtourism, the negative effects from inflating tourism are not solely tied to the number of visitors in a city but are also largely driven by touristy seasonality, tourist behavior, the behavior of the resident population, and the functionality of city infrastructure. We’ve seen cities with few tourists, for example, have experienced similar issues to those experienced in cities with millions.

While many cities have focused on reactive policies that are meant to quell tourism, they should instead focus on technology-driven solutions that can help manage tourist behavior, create structural changes to city tourism infrastructure, while allowing cities to continue capturing the significant revenue stream that tourism provides.

Smart city tech enabling more “tourist-ready” cities

THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images

Yes, cities are faced with the headwind of a growing tourism population, but city policymakers also benefit from the tailwind of having more technological capabilities than their predecessors. With the rise of smart city and Internet of Things (IoT) initiatives, many cities are equipped with tools such as connected infrastructure, lidar-sensors, high-quality broadband, and troves of data that make it easier to manage issues around congestion, infrastructure, or otherwise.

On the congestion side, we have already seen companies using geo-tracking and other smart city technologies to manage congestion around event venues, roads, and stores. Cities can apply the same strategies to manage the flow of tourist and resident movement.

And while you can’t necessarily prevent people from people visiting the Louvre or the Coliseum, cities are using a variety of methods to incentivize the use of less congested space or disperse the times in which people flock to highly-trafficked locations by using tools such as real-time congestion notifications, data-driven ticketing schedules for museums and landmarks, or digitally-guided tours through uncontested routes.

Companies and municipalities in cities like London and Antwerp are already working on using tourist movement tracking to manage crowds and help notify and guide tourists to certain locations at the most efficient times. Other cities have developed augmented reality tours that can guide tourists in real-time to less congested spaces by dynamically adjusting their routes.

A number of startups are also working with cities to use collected movement data to help reshape infrastructure to better fit the long-term needs and changing demographics of its occupants. Companies like Stae or Calthorpe Analytics use analytics on movement, permitting, business trends or otherwise to help cities implement more effective zoning and land use plans. City planners can use the same technology to help effectively design street structure to increase usable sidewalk space and to better allocate zoning for hotels, retail or other tourist-friendly attractions.

Focusing counter-overtourism efforts on smart city technologies can help adjust the behavior and movement of travelers in a city through a number of avenues, in a way tourist caps or tourist taxes do not.

And at the end of the day, tourism is one of the largest sources of city income, meaning it also plays a vital role in determining the budgets cities have to plow back into transit, roads, digital infrastructure, the energy grid, and other pain points that plague residents and travelers alike year-round. And by disallowing or disincentivizing tourism, cities can lose valuable capital for infrastructure, which can subsequently exacerbate congestion problems in the long-run.

Some cities have justified tourist taxes by saying the revenue stream would be invested into improving the issues overtourism has caused. But daily or upon-entry tourist taxes we’ve seen so far haven’t come close to offsetting the lost revenue from disincentivized tourists, who at the start of 2017 spent all-in nearly $700 per day in the US on transportation, souvenirs and other expenses according to the U.S. National Travel and Tourism Office.

In 2017, international tourism alone drove to $1.6 trillion in earnings and in 2016, travel & tourism accounted for roughly 1 in 10 jobs in the global economy according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. And the benefits of travel are not only economic, with cross-border tourism promoting transfers of culture, knowledge and experience.

But to be clear, I don’t mean to say smart city technology initiatives alone are going to solve overtourism. The significant wave of growth in the number of global travelers is a serious challenge and many of the issues that result from spiking tourism, like housing affordability, are incredibly complex and come down to more than just data. However, I do believe cities should be focused less on tourist reduction and more on solutions that enable tourist management.

Utilizing and allocating more resources to smart city technologies can not only more effectively and structurally limit the negative impacts from overtourism, but it also allows cities to benefit from a significant and high growth tourism revenue stream. Cities can then create a virtuous cycle of reinvestment where they plow investment back into its infrastructure to better manage visitor growth, resident growth, and quality of life over the long-term. Cities can have their cake and eat it too.

And lastly, some reading while in transit:

News Source = techcrunch.com

Blockchain gaming gets a boost with Mythical Games’ $16M Series A

in blockchain/Delhi/funding/Gaming/India/niantic/Politics/Seismic Games/Startups/Venture Capital/Yahoo by

Fortnite, the free multi-player survival game, has earned an astonishing $1 billion from in-game virtual purchases alone. Now, others in the gaming industry are experimenting with how they too can capitalize on new trends in gaming.

Mythical Games, a startup out of stealth today with $16 million in Series A funding, is embracing a future in gaming where user-generated content and intimate ties between players, content creators, brands and developers is the norm. Mythical is using its infusion of venture capital to develop a line of PC, mobile and console games on the EOSIO blockchain, which will also be open to developers to build games with “player-owned economies.”

The company says an announcement regarding its initial lineup of games is on the way.

Mythical is led by a group of gaming industry veterans. Its chief executive officer is John Linden, a former studio head at Activision and president of the Niantic-acquired Seismic Games. The rest of its C-suite includes chief compliance officer Jamie Jackson, another former studio head at Activision; chief product officer Stephan Cunningham, a former director of product management at Yahoo; and head of blockchain Rudy Kock, a former senior producer at Blizzard — the Activision subsidiary known for World of Warcraft. Together, the team has worked on games including Call of Duty, Guitar Hero, Marvel Strike Force and Skylanders.

Galaxy Digital’s EOS VC Fund has led the round for Mythical. The $325 million fund, launched earlier this year, is focused on expanding the EOSIO ecosystem via strategic investments in startups building on EOSIO blockchain software. Javelin Venture Partners, Divergence Digital Currency, cryptocurrency exchange OKCoin and others also participated in the round.

It’s no surprise investors are getting excited about the booming gaming business given the success of Epic Games, Twitch, Discord and others in the space.

Epic Games raised a $1.25 billion round late last month thanks to the cultural phenomenon that its game, Fortnite, has become. KKR, Iconiq Capital, Smash Ventures,Vulcan Capital, Kleiner Perkins, Lightspeed Venture Partners and others participated in that round. Discord, a chat application for gamers, raised a $50 million financing in April at a $1.65 billion valuation from Benchmark Capital, Greylock Partners, IVP, Spark Capital and Tencent. And Dapper Labs, best known for the blockchain-based game CryptoKitties, even raised a VC round this year — a $15 million financing led by Venrock, with participation from GV and Samsung NEXT.

In total, VCs have invested $1.8 billion in gaming startups this year, per PitchBook.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Stoop aims to improve your news diet with an easy way to find and read newsletters

in Apps/Delhi/India/Media/mobile/Politics/Startups by

Stoop is looking to provide readers with what CEO Tim Raybould described as “a healthier information diet.”

To do that, it’s launched an iOS and Android app where you can browse through different newsletters based on category, and when you find one you like, it will direct you to the standard subscription page. If you provide your Stoop email address, you’ll then be able to read all your favorite newsletters in the app.

“The easiest way to describe it is: It’s like a podcast app but for newsletters,” Raybould said. “It’s a big directory of newsletters, and then there’s the side where you can consume them.”

Why newsletters? Well, he argued that they’re one of the key ways for publishers to develop a direct relationship with their audience. Podcasts are another, but he said newsletters are “an order of magnitude more important” because you can convey more information with the written word and there are lower production costs.

That direct relationship is obviously an important one for publishers, particularly as Facebook’s shifting priorities have made it clear that publications need to “establish the right relationship to readers, as opposed to renting someone else’s audience.” But Raybould said it’s better for readers too, because you’ll spend your time on journalism that’s designed to provide value, not just attract clicks: “You will find you use the newsfeed less and consume more of your content directly from the source.”

“Most content [currently] is distributed through a third party and that software is choosing what to surface next not based on the quality of the content, but based on what’s going to keep people scrolling,” he added. “Trusting an algorithm with what you’re going to read next is like trusting a nutritionist who’s incentivized based on how many chips you eat.”

So Raybould is a fan of newsletters, but he said the current system is pretty cumbersome. There’s no one place where you can find new newsletters to read, and you may also hesitate to subscribe to another one because it “crowds out your personal inbox.” So Stoop is designed to reduce the friction, making it easy to subscribe to and read as many newsletters as your heart desires.

Raybould said the team has already curated a directory of around 650 newsletters (including TechCrunch’s own Daily Crunch) and the list continues to grow. Additional features include a “shuffle” option to discover new newsletters, plus the ability to share a newsletter with other Stoop users, or to forward it to your personal address where they can be sent along to whomever you like.

The Stoop app is free, with Raybould hoping to eventually add a premium plan for features like full newsletter archives. He’s also hoping to collaborate with publishers — initially, most publishers will probably treat Stoop readers as just another set of subscribers, but Raybould said they could get access to additional analytics and also make subscriptions easier by integrating with the app’s instant subscribe option.

And the company’s ambitions even go beyond newsletters. Raybould said Stoop is the first consumer product from a team with a larger mission to help publishers. They’re also working on OpenBundle, an initiative around bundled news subscriptions with a planned launch in 2019 or 2020.

“The overarching thing that is the same is the OpenBundle thesis and the Stoop thesis,” he said. “Getting publishers back in the role of delivering content directly to the audience is the antidote to the newsfeed.”

News Source = techcrunch.com

CodeStream lets you collaborate and talk directly in VS Code

in CodeStream/Delhi/Developer/Fundings & Exits/India/Politics/Startups by

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

Meet Uber’s newly promoted Chief Product Officer, Manik Gupta

in Automotive/Collaborative Consumption/Delhi/Google-Maps/India/Logistics/Manik Gupta/Personnel/Politics/Startups/talent/TC/Transportation/Uber by

Manik Gupta got his first taste of solving logistics nightmares when fresh out of college, he was delivering Palm Pilots around Singapore. He’d started a precursor to Groupon called BuyItTogether. “We were a full stack marketplace where we were also delivering the goods. That’s what caused us to not have good profit margins. Actually, zero profit margins” he recalls with a laugh.

His new gig isn’t earning profits either. Uber lost nearly $1 billion last quarter. But the company sees Gupta’s experience with delivery and maps as crucial to building an app that caters to people’s every desire so they never stray and keep earning it money. That’s why today Uber announced that it’s promoted its VP of maps and marketplace Manik Gupta to become its new Chief Product Officer.

“We look at ourself at Uber as the starting point of all your transportation needs” Gupta tells me. “Here’s a company that’s causing this interesting change in user behavior. With my own knowledge and capability, I thought I could help the company get to the next level of understanding the real world, which is very different from digital habits.” His first big projects will be augmenting GPS for more accurate pickups and making Uber’s new rider and driver loyalty program work in every market.

From entrepreneurship to the massive supply chain of HP, to the top of Google India and now at Uber, Gupta is one of those technologists who lives to eliminate frustration. He framed nearly every question I asked him in the sense of problems and solutions. In the messy physical realm of clogged streets, that mentality goes a long way.

“I grew up in India and things weren’t always very structured” Gupta says when asked where that philosophy came from. “I learned to manage uncertainty and the importance of having a Plan B at a very early age. I faced a lot of real time micro-problems needing micro-solutions and I guess I’ve honed this skill over time.”

Back in 1999 with BuyItTogether, there were no logistics networks. “We couldn’t get the retailers to do the delivery themselves. So we had to do it” Gupta remembers, seeming like he’s still a bit exhausted by the experience. He eventually sold BuyItTogether to a Norwegian company called CoShopper and spent a few years bringing the service to Europe. “That was my first foray into doing things in the real world and being focused how we can move things from point A to point B as fast as possible.”

Manik Gupta’s first startup, the very 90s “BuyItTogether”

From there he joined Hewlett Packard as it struggled to match Dell’s direct-to-consumer sales model, which he says “required building tons of muscles for HP. ” After getting an MBA, he joined Google India in Bangalore. “My first week, my manager asked me what are the things I’m interested in, and told me ‘There’s something called Maps that no one seems to be owning. Do you want to work on that?’”

That opportunity would set him on the path to Uber. He launched Google Maps in India and managed MapMaker, the crowdsourcing tool that gave Google feet on the ground in tiny towns around the world. Gupta moved to Mountain View in 2011 to oversee Google’s push to make its own maps, which after seven years at the company set him up to join as Uber’s VP of maps and marketplace in 2015.

Now after nearly three years, and spending the last five months filling in since Uber’s VP of Product Daniel Graf left, Gupta is in the top product spot at Uber. He’s humble about the new gig, repeating “I’m here to help” rather than to lead or become some tech luminary. He seems happy leaving that to Uber’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi

Knowing that Uber is spread across so many culturally distinct places, Gupta wants his teams to build what’s right for the world around them rather than trying to make Uber the same everywhere. “One of the things I learned back at Google is that you really have to empower teams that are locally situated.” For example, the India team was fully responsible for the development of its new Uber Lite app for emerging markets with slow connections and old phones.

One thing I hope he develops a coherent cross-border strategy for is helmets. With Uber’s bikes and scooters proliferating, people around the world are increasingly hopping on and hopping off. But the spontaneous nature of the experience means many riders aren’t wearing helmets. If that practice continues, major injuries will stack up. Not only is it a moral imperative that Uber develop a helmet solution, like something collapsible or that attaches to the vehicle between rides, but its relationship with local governments will depend on keeping citizens safe.

As for Gupta’s personal roadmap, he’s concentrating on rolling out the Uber Rewards rider loyalty and Uber Pro driver loyalty initiatives. “Both of these programs are just getting started, so I’m focused on getting them install the communities we serve.”

Drawing on his Google Maps experience, Gupta is developing a new way to make sure drivers and riders can always find each other.We’re rethinking GPS to solve a major pain point for riders and drivers: pick up location. These locations are particularly tricky for GPS to find when they’re in “urban jungles” or areas with a lot of tall buildings” Gupta explains. “The technology we’re piloting in a handful of cities improves GPS performance in these cities by using maps and satellite signal strengths to help drivers find pick up points more easily.” The means you might not have to run across four lanes of traffic to get to your ride.

But knowing Uber’s history of culture issues, Gupta wants to ensure his team lives by Dara’s new mantra of ‘Do the right thing. Period.’ “This is a super important topic as well. I believe that the way you set culture starts at the top. Dara has been a phenomenal agent of change within the company. Over the course of this year we have attracted excellent talent for the product team — from the Facebook’s and Google’s of the world. We have this melting pot of people from all different backgrounds.” To build for everyone, he knows each of those voices must be heard.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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