Track Your Alcohol Consumption Tonight and in 2020 With This App

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It’s New Year’s Eve, which means a lot of us will be drinking. Depending on how 2019 went for you, you might be potentially drinking a lot. My Limit is a free app that can help you monitor that consumption so you keep it within safe limits.

The app is designed to offer you a real-time estimate of your blood alcohol content so you know when it’s safe to drive. While I think it’s a good idea to monitor what your BAC level might be during a heavy night of drinking, I’ll go ahead and say that I think doing so for the sake of knowing when you’re officially not wasted enough to get behind the wheel is an absolutely horrible idea.

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If you plan to go out drinking, also plan on taking an Uber/Lyft/cab ride home afterward or have a friend who isn’t drinking at all designated to be your driver home. Period.

Just because you “feel ok” or your last drink was “hours ago” doesn’t make it a good idea. Different drinks take different amounts of time to “hit” all of us. Don’t start 2020 off making a rookie idiot move. If you’re worried about the price of a ride, calling a Lyft/Uber right at midnight can typically get you a cheap fare (mine home last year was $6!), and if you wait an hour after the ball drops, the price will also drop. If that’s still a deal-breaker, then plan to stay at your friend’s house or simply opt for mocktails all night.

Now that’s out of the way – What My Limit can be great for is helping you remember to pace yourself. Sure, you can typically drink 4 beers when you’re out with friends, but New Year’s means you’re probably also going to have a glass of champagne, and maybe a shot or a cocktail or two will make their way in there as well along with those beers. All that to say, you’re probably not drinking how you normally do, so you’re not going to be able to pace yourself like you normally do either.

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When you first launch My Limit you’re prompted to enter your body weight and gender, which is what the app uses to guesstimate how alcohol is going to impact you. While you’re drinking, an “add a Drink” button allows you to quickly tally what you consumed using pre-set buttons.

Beers, for instance, allow you to choose between Light, Regular, and Craft with ABVs ranging from 4.2% to 8%. Obviously there are beers with ABVs lower than 4% and higher than 8%, so you’re just going to have to do your best here.

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Liquor is added by ounces you consumed and proof, and wine is added by type, although it too makes some sweeping generalizations about what the BAC might be of that wine.

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All that to say, this is not going to be a perfect spot-on analysis of your current ABV. That’s even more of a reason to not use it to determine when you’re good to drive, because it definitely won’t be correct.

What it will do is give you a decent estimate of where you are blood alcohol wise and let you know when you should probably pump the brakes.

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For instance, I told the app I had 8oz of champagne and a shot of 80-proof liquor, and it immediately put me in an orange zone, told me my reactions are impaired, and that it will be 4 hours and 18 minutes before I’ll likely be fully sober. If I actually had just downed those two drinks I might opt to switch to water before grabbing another beer, even though they haven’t actually hit me yet. In all likelihood that would be setting me up for some regrets in around 30 minutes.

Screenshot: My Limit

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Where I think the app will really shine is if you use it throughout the year. A “Drink History” section can track your consumption over a day, week, month, or the entire year so you can see how much you’ve really consumed.

You know how we all tell our doctor we only have 2 drinks a week? This way you’ll actually know the correct answer. Maybe it is 2 drinks, but maybe it actually averages out to more like 5 or 6.

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If you’re looking to cut down on your drinking in 2020 it could potentially be a great tool to help get you there, and even if you’re not, it can be a great way to pay attention to how much alcohol you’re consuming during an evening with friends or across a month to notice any trends before they might become an issue.

Tech’s biggest companies are worth ~$5T as 2019’s epic stock market run wraps

Look, this is the last post I’m writing in 2019 and I’m tired. But I can’t let the year close without taking stock of how well tech stocks did this year. It was bonkers.

So let’s mark the year’s conclusion with some notes for our future selves. Yes, we know that the Nasdaq has been setting new records and SaaS had a good year. But we need to dig in and get the numbers out so that we can look back and remember.

Let’s cap off this year the way it deserves to be remembered, as a kick-ass trip ’round the sun for your local, public technology company.

Keeping score

We’ll start with the indices that we care about:

  • The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite rose 35% in 2019
  • The SaaS-heavy Bessemer Cloud Index rose 41% this year

Next, the highest-value U.S.-based technology companies:

  • Microsoft was up around 55% in 2019
  • Apple managed an 86% gain in the year
  • Not be left out, Facebook rose 57%
  • Amazon posted its own gain of 23% in 2019
  • Alphabet managed to grow by 29%, as well

Now let’s turn to some companies that we care about, even if they are smaller than the Big Five:

  • Salesforce? Up 19% this year
  • Adobe was up 46% in 2019, which was astounding
  • Intel picked up 28% in the year, making it no slouch
  • Even Oracle managed to gain 17% in 2019

And so on.

The technology industry’s epic run has been so strong that The Wall Street Journal noted this morning that, powered by tech companies, U.S. stocks “are poised for their best annual performance in six years.” The Journal highlighted the performance of Apple and Microsoft in particular for helping drive the boom. I wonder why.

How long will we live in the neighborhood of Nasdaq 9,000? How long can two tech companies be worth more than $1 trillion at the same time? How long can the biggest tech companies be worth a combined $4.93 trillion (I remember when $3 trillion for the Big Five was news, and I recall when the group reach a collective value of $4 trillion).1

But the worst trade in recent years has been the pessimists’ gambit. No matter what, stocks have kept going up, short-term hiccoughs and other missteps aside.

For nearly everyone, that is. While tech stocks in general did very well, some names that we all know did not. Let’s close on those reminders that a rising tide lifts only most boats.

2019 naughty list

Several of the most lackluster public tech companies were 2019 technology IPOs, interestingly enough. Who didn’t do well? Uber earns a spot on the naughty list for not only being underwater from its IPO price, but also from its final private valuations. And as you guessed, Lyft is down from its IPO price as well, which is not good.

Some 2019 IPOs did well in the middle of the year, but fell a little flat as the year came to a close. Pinterest, Beyond Meat and Zoom meet that criteria, for example. And some SaaS companies struggled, even if we think they will reach $1 billion in revenue in time.

But it was mostly a party. The public markets were good, and tech stocks were great. This helped create another 100+ unicorns in the year.

Such was 2019. On to 2020!

  1. In time, those numbers will look small. But sitting here on December 31, 2019, they appear huge and towering and, it must be said, somewhat perilously stacked.

Book a One-Way Southwest Flight For As Little As $39 Today

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If travel is in your plans for the first half of 2020, then you may want to check out Southwest’s final sale of 2020. The airline is offering deep discounts on some one-way flights today, with flights from the continental U.S. and Hawaii running as low as $39 and flights within the continental U.S. coming in as low as $49.

You can search the sale-specific prices here.

Like all great sales, there are a pretty decent amount of caveats to this one. Tickets will need to be purchased at least 14 days in advance in order to be eligible for the sale price, 21 days if you plan on traveling to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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In cases where the route has a nonstop, the discounted fare is only for that non-stop (which should be good news), otherwise, you’ll only be able to get the discount on fares with one stop between you and your destination.

And travel has to happen between January 14th and May 20, 2020. Additionally, the discounted fares only apply to certain travel days and markets.

U.S. travel is not valid on Fridays and Sundays. Travel to Ft. Myers/Naples, Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Tampa, Orlando, and Las Vegas and from Ft. Myers/Naples, Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Tampa, Orlando to Las Vegas is valid only on Sundays through Wednesdays. Travel from Ft. Myers/Naples, Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Tampa, Orlando and Las Vegas and from Las Vegas to Ft. Myers/Naples, Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Tampa, and Orlando is valid only on Tuesdays through Fridays. Interisland Hawaii travel is valid Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Travel to/from San Juan, Puerto Rico is valid Monday – Thursday.

It’s a lot of restrictions, for sure, but a quick search from my home in San Francisco brought up a number of options as well.

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Worth noting: Southwest is one airline where you can change your flights without paying a change fee. That means if you book a flight for April now and then realize you can’t take it, or need to fly a different time, you’ll be able to cancel the flight or move it around at no charge.

If you cancel the flight, the amount you pay for a ticket now will be a Southwest credit to use on a future flight. If you change your flight, you’ll have to pay the difference in fare between the ticket you buy now and the ticket you get later. That said, there’s a chance Southwest might have another sale between now and your travel dates, so you might even be able to rebook for even cheaper a few months for now and pocket a little Southwest credit along the way.

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It’s a pretty low-risk buy as plane tickets go, and worth a look if you have travel aspiration in the new year.

TRACED Act signed into law, putting robocallers on notice

The Pallone-Thrune TRACED Act, a bipartisan bit of legislation that should make life harder for the villains behind robocalls, was signed into law today by the president. It’s still possible to get things done in D.C. after all!

We’ve covered the TRACED Act several times previously, as robocalls are, in addition to being horribly annoying, a uniquely annoying high-tech threat. Using clever targeting and spoofing technology, scammers are placing millions of calls that at best irritate and at worst take advantage of the vulnerable.

The new law won’t end that practice overnight, but it does add some useful tools to regulators’ toolboxes. Here’s how I summarized the bill’s provisions earlier this month:

  • Extends FCC’s statute of limitations on robocall offenses and increases potential fines
  • Requires an FCC rulemaking helping protect consumers from spam calls and texts (this is already underway)
  • Requires annual FCC report on robocall enforcement and allows for it to formally recommend legislation
  • Requires adoption on a reasonable timeline of the STIR/SHAKEN framework for preventing call spoofing
  • Prevents carriers from charging for the above service, and shields them from liability for reasonable mistakes
  • Requires the attorney general to convene an interagency task force to look at prosecution of offenders
  • Opens the door to Justice Department prosecution of offenders
  • Establishes a handful of specific cutouts and studies to make sure the rules work and interested parties are giving feedback

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai was effusive in his praise in a statement:

I applaud Congress for working in a bipartisan manner to combat illegal robocalls and malicious caller ID spoofing.  And I thank the President and Congress for the additional tools and flexibility that this law affords us.  Specifically, I am glad that the agency now has a longer statute of limitations during which we can pursue scammers and I welcome the removal of a previously-required warning we had to give to unlawful robocallers before imposing tough penalties.

And I thank the American people for never letting us forget how fed up they are with scam, spoofed robocalls.  It’s their voices that power our never-ceasing push to fight back against the scourge of robocalls and malicious spoofing.

The FCC is limited in what it can do, and even major fines like this $120 million one have had a negligible effect on the nefarious industry. “Like emptying the ocean with a teaspoon,” said Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel at the time.

Here’s hoping the TRACED Act amounts to more than a bigger spoon. We’ll find out as regulators and the mobile industry grow into their new capabilities and begin the long process of actually applying them to the problem. It may take months or more to see any real abatement, but at least we’re taking concrete steps.

TechCrunch Include yearly report

Welcome to the third annual TechCrunch Include Progress Report. Our editorial and events teams work hard throughout the year to ensure that we bring you the most dynamic and diverse group of speakers and judges to our event stages. And finally, at the tail end of 2019, we bring you … 2018 data. (You can see 2017 data here.)

In 2018, TechCrunch produced Disrupts in San Francisco and Berlin, as well as regional Battlefield events in Zug, Switzerland; Lagos, Nigeria; São Paulo, Brazil and Berlin, Germany. We also produced a number of Sessions events, including the increasingly popular Robotics edition, as well as Blockchain and AR/VR.

It is important to us that we foster an environment that reflects the increasingly diverse tech industry. We are pleased to report that we saw an overall increase across the board with regard to inclusion, while still acknowledging that we weren’t yet where we needed to be when it comes to women and people of color across our stages. Happily, 2019 has been even better, and we’ll bring you those numbers soon.

Below we have compiled data from our 2018 events about the makeup of people who appeared as panelists, judges and founders of the Battlefield competitors. 

Disrupt

Our flagship conference attracts speakers, judges and Battlefield contestants from all over the world. It serves as a global arena for startups in all stages of development, as well as investors interested in finding their next big investment.

At Disrupt SF in 2018, of the 153 total speakers and judges, 33% were women and 27% were people of color. On the Battlefield stage, of the 22 teams, 36% had female founders. This is up from 29% the year before.

At Disrupt Berlin, of the 56 speakers and judges, 39% were women and 18% were people of color. Of the 12 teams that competed on the Battlefield stage, half the founders were women.

Regional Battlefield 

Our Battlefield competition isn’t limited to Disrupt. We take it on the road in order to give as many startups an opportunity to compete. In addition, these events include panels designed around region-specific topics. In 2018, we hosted Battlefield competitions in the Middle East and North Africa, Latin America and Africa regions.

Battlefield MENA showcased 15 teams; of those, 53% were founded by women. Of the 28 speakers and judges, 35% were women and 75% were people of color.

Fifteen teams competed in Battlefield LatAm, 20% of which were led by women. Out of the 28 speakers and judges, 32% were women and 68% were people of color.

And finally, in Battlefield Africa, a total of 15 teams competed. Of those, 33% were founded by women. Of the 28 speakers and judges, 14% were women and 75% were people of color.

Sessions

Our daylong Sessions events are targeted at specific topics. In 2018, we held events about Blockchain, robotics and AR/VR. TechCrunch Sessions events attract to the stage specialists in their industries speaking to rapt audiences.

Of the 28 speakers who appeared onstage in Berkeley for Sessions: Robotics, 25% were women and 21% were people of color. In Zug, Switzerland for Sessions: Blockchain, of the 29 speakers, 17% were women and 21% were people of color. And in Los Angeles at Sessions: AR/VR, 34% of the 29 speakers were women and 24% were people of color.

Miscellaneous

Tel Aviv

Our event in Tel Aviv leaned heavily toward mobility, and served as a preview of what would become Sessions: Mobility in 2019. Of the 38 speakers in our programming, 21% were women and 63% were people of color.

VivaTech

In 2018, TechCrunch also hosted a hackathon at VivaTech in Paris, as well as presented editorial programming. Of the 20 speakers, 45% were women and 30% were people of color.

How income share agreements will spark the rise of career accelerators

The income share agreement (ISA), a financing model where students pay for an education program with a certain percent of their income for several years after graduating, has been one of 2019’s new buzzwords among VCs and entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. While still a nascent market that faces regulatory uncertainty in the US and abroad, ISAs are a mainstay of learn-to-code bootcamps and are being piloted at dozens of universities. This financing model is receiving attention because it directly aligns education programs with students’ career outcomes — something that could transform parts of higher education.

ISAs will transform the labor market even further though. In the next few years, use of ISAs will likely go beyond formal education programs to create a new category of career accelerators that are more like scaled talent agencies for businesspeople. Across industries and seniority levels, we will see ambitious professionals choose to pay a small percentage of their future income to partner companies that promise to accelerate their career’s rise. 

Those companies will provide ongoing hard and soft skills trainings, job scouting, guidance on picking the career track and geographic location with the most promise, prep for compensation negotiations, personal branding guidance, and other tactical support like key people to meet and which conferences or private gatherings are most important to target.

This movement will start with graduates of ISA-financed education programs but will quickly expand to other professionals. As career accelerators prove effective at enhancing participants’ career prospects, peers of those participants will fear that they are less competitive in the job market without having the advantage of a career accelerator helping them as well.

Outsourcing career guidance

The average annual operating budget for career services departments across US colleges is merely $90,000. For universities, there’s almost no support for job placement upon graduation despite the claims of universities in their marketing materials. And there’s definitely no support provided during the years after graduation.

The promise of ISAs is to incentivize higher education programs to design their curriculum with their students’ future financial success in mind. Most of the ISA initiatives active right now are either used as a replacement for private student loans at accredited universities or as the financing solution for non-accredited vocational programs (a.k.a. “bootcamps”) that don’t qualify for federal student aid. Their focus remains on curriculum though — it’s a wholly different activity to focus on guiding graduates in their careers for years afterward.

How to Find the ‘What Disney Character Are You?” Filter on Instagram

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If you’ve looked at Instagram Stories over the past week or so you’ve probably noticed at least one friend showing off who they might be if they were a cartoon character.

For me, the first one I saw was the “Which Pokemon Character Are You?” filter, followed later by the Disney and Harry Potter iterations. In all three, a box appears above your head when you activate the filter and rotates through a series of options before landing on your fate.

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If you’ve gone searching for the filters; however, you may have had a little trouble.

All three of the filters are made by third parties, which means they’re not automatically added to your Instagram app.

The easiest way to get access to the filter (and any other similar ones that come out down the line) is to tap on the name of it at the top left side of the page when you see a friend using it. When you do, Instagram will launch a pop up with a button for you to “Try It.” Tap on that and you’ll be able to try it in the moment.

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You’ll also see it temporarily as an option whenever you launch Instagram Stories going forward. If you love the filter, you can save it by tapping the name of the filter (in the photo below “What Pokemon?” Which will bring up the option to save the effect or send it to a friend who might be struggling with finding it. There’s also a link there for you to browse through the effect gallery, which can be a fun way to kill a few minutes/hours.

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If you don’t have a friend that’s already using these, here are links to some of the most popular options. These are links to their creator’s profile pages. From here, you’ll need to scroll to the creator’s filter options to find the respective filters. You’ll find those by tapping the smiley face emoji above their photos. And obviously, you should do this on your phone, not on your computer.

Which Disney Character Are You?

Which Pokemon Character Are You?

Which Harry Potter Character Are You?

Once you have them added to your account you’ll be able to share them with friends as well.

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Can a $30 pair of wireless earbuds actually be any good?

2019 was the year wireless earbuds went mainstream. The category has been around much longer, of course, and Apple really broke the whole thing open a full three years ago with the release of the first AirPods, but sales exploded in 2019. The category experienced a 183% YOY increase in shipments last quarter, according to a new study.

The space continues to be driven by Apple, which currently controls 43% of the market (a number that will likely increase with the arrival of the AirPod Pros), but its near future seems destined to be defined by a race to the bottom. With Apple, Samsung, Sony and Google battling it out for the high end of the market, other players are determined to undercut the competition on price.

At $30, JLab’s Go Air True Wireless Earbuds (the first and last time I’m going to type that full name) are positioned right around Xiaomi’s category-defining AirDots. The Chinese manufacturer controls around 7% of the market (a notch above Samsung’s more premium offerings), and it seems well-positioned to repeat its fitness band market share success with such offerings.

So, where does that leave JLab? Well, there’s a lot of market to be had. As more phone manufacturers eschew headphone jacks on even mid-range handsets, there’s bound to be a rush on low-price wireless earbuds. The Go Air are, well, nothing if not that. Price is their defining characteristic. And honestly, that’s fine.

Here’s the thing: I’ve been walking around with the AirPods Pro in my ears for a while now. I was less hot on the original AirPods, but these really feel like the category done right. But it’s not fair to any party involved to compare the two. You can buy eight and a third pairs of these for the price of the Pros. Different price points, different markets, different consumers.

And while it’s true that JLab has already gone a ways toward saturating the market with different models, low cost is the defining characteristic. The company claims to be the top manufacturer of sub-$100 wireless earbuds in the U.S. And the Go Airs are the lowest of the low. On paper, it’s certainly a good deal. The earbuds are light, get five hours on a charge (plus 15 from the case) and are sweat resistant.

I’ve only been playing around with them for the day, and I’ve got a smattering of complaints. The sound isn’t what you would deem “good.” In fact, they’re pretty reminiscent of that $10 pair of earbuds you bought at Walgreens in a pinch. The earbuds and the charging case both feel cheap (and I certainly can’t speak to how long they’ll last), while a USB C or even microUSB port has been traded for a half-USB connector dongle.

Also, unlike most models, the earbuds don’t automatically shut off when they leave your ears. Though that might be more feature than bug for some. Mostly, you just have to remember to pause playback on your phone. The headphones can operate independently of one another, so you can keep one bud in at a time.

Honestly, any quibble I have here comes with the giant, red-lettered caveat that the things are only $30. If nothing else, it shows how quickly such products have gone from luxury to commodity. It’s kind of crazy, honestly. If you want premium headphones, look elsewhere, obviously. For something serviceable and more than anything, cheap, the Go Airs scratch that itch.

They’ll hit retail in March.

Counting down Boston’s biggest venture rounds from 2019

Hello and welcome back to our regular morning look at private companies, public markets and the gray space in between.

Today, the last day of 2019, we’re taking a second look at Boston. Regular readers of this column will recall that we recently took a peek at Boston’s startup ecosystem, and that we compiled a short countdown of the largest rounds that took place this year in Utah. Today we’re doing the latter with the former.

What follows is a countdown of Boston’s seven largest venture rounds from the year, including details concerning what the company does and who backed it. We’re also taking a shot after each entry at where we think the companies are on the path to going public.

As before, we’re using Crunchbase data for this project (here). And we’re only looking at venture rounds, so no post-IPO action, no grants, no secondaries, no debt, and no private equity-style buyouts.

Ready? Let’s have some fun.

Countdown

Boston has produced a number of big exits in recent years, like Carbon Black’s IPO, DraftKings’ impending kinda-IPO, Cayan’s billion-dollar exit, and SimpliVity’s huge sale to HP. Despite that, however, Boston is often pigeon-holed as a biotech hotbed with little technology that folks from San Francisco can understand. That’s not really fair, it turns out. There’s plenty of SaaS in Boston.

As you read the list, keep tabs on what percent of the companies included you were already familiar with. These are startups that will to take up more and more media attention as they march towards the public markets. It’s better to know them now than later.

Following the pattern set with Utah, we’ll start at the smallest round of our group and then count up to the largest.

7. Motif FoodWorks’ $90 million Series A

We could actually call the Motif FoodWorks‘ Series A a $117.5 million round as it came in two parts. However, the first tranche was $90 million total and landed in 2019 so that’s our selection for the uses of this post. The company is backed by Fonterra Ventures, Louis Dreyfus Corp, and General Atlantic.

Motif works in the alternative food space, creating things like fake meat and alt-dairy. Given the meteoric rise of Beyond Meat and Impossible Food’s big year, the space is hot. Lots of folks want to eat less meat for ethical or ecological reasons (often the two intertwine). That demand is powering a number of companies forward. Motif is riding a powerful wave.

The company’s known raised capital is encompassed in a large, early-stage round. That means that we won’t see an S-1 from this company for a long, long time.

6. Klaviyo’s $150 million Series B

An email marketing and analytics company, Klaviyo gets point for having a pricing page that actually makes sense — a rarity in the enterprise software world.

The Boston-based company was founded in 2012 and, according to Crunchbase data, has raised a total of $158.5 million. It raised just $8.5 million in total (across a small Seed round and a modest Series A) before its mega-round. How did it manage to raise such an enormous infusion in one go? As TechCrunch reported when the round was announced in April of this year:

The company is growing in leaps and bounds. It currently has 12,000 customers. To put that into perspective, it had just 1,000 at the end of 2016 and 5,000 at the end of 2017.

That will get the attention of anyone with a checkbook. The Summit Partners and Astral Capital-backed company has huge capital reserves for what we presume is the first time in its life. That means it’s not going public any time soon, even if our back-of-the-napkin math puts it comfortably over the $100 million ARR mark (warning: estimates were used in the creation of that number).

5. ezCater’s $150 million Series D

ezCater is an online catering marketplace. That’s an attractive business, it turns out, as evinced by the Boston company’s funding history. The startup has raised over $300 million to date according to Crunchbase, including capital from Insight Partners, ICONIQ Capital, Wellington Management, GIC, and Lightspeed.

The company’s 2019 $150 million Series D-1 that valued the company at $1.25 billion wasn’t its only nine-figure round; ezCater’s 2018 Series D was also over the mark, weighing in at $100 million.

When might the Northeast unicorn go public? An interview earlier this year put 2021 on the map as a target for the startup. That’s ages away from now, sadly, as I’d love to know how the company’s gross margin have changed since it started raising venture capital in huge gulps.

4. Cybereason’s $200 million Series E

Cybereason competes with CrowdStrike. That’s a good space to play in as CrowStrike went public earlier this year, and it went pretty well. That fact makes the Boston’s endpoint security shop’s $200 million investment pretty easy to understand. Indeed, CrowdStrike went public to great effect in June of 2019; Cybereason announced its huge round two months later in August. Surprise.

As far as backing goes, Cybereason has friends at SoftBank, with the Japanese conglomerate leading its Series C, D, and E rounds. Prior leads include CRV and Spark Capital.

The market is hot for SaaS-y security companies, meaning that there is natural pressure on Cybereason to go public. The firm, worth a flat $1.0 billion post-money after its latest round, is therefore an obvious IPO candidate for 2020. If it has the guts, that is. With SoftBank in your corner, there’s probably always another $100 million lying around you can snap up to avoid filing. (More from CrowdStrike’s CEO coming later this week on the 2019 and 2020 IPO markets, by the way. Stay tuned.)

3. DataRobot’s $206 million Series E

DataRobot does enterprise AI, allowing companies to use computer intelligence to help their flesh-and-blood staffers do more, more quickly. That’s the gist I got from learning what I could this morning, but as with all things AI I cannot tell you what’s real and what’s not.

Given its investor list, though, I’d bet that DataRobot is onto something. New Enterprise Associates led its 2014, 2016, and 2017 Series A, B, and C rounds. Meritech and Sapphire took over at the Series D, with Sapphire heroing DataRobot’s $206 million Series E. That round creatively valued the firm at, you guessed it, $1.0 billion according to Crunchbase.

DataRobot is hiring like mad (343 open positions as of this morning) and buying other companies (three in 2019). Flush with its largest round ever, I don’t see the company in a hurry to go public. That means no 2020 debut unless it’s monetizing faster than expected.

In 2020, Here’s How You Can Help Address the Climate Crisis

Photo: Getty

This is the time of year when we talk about nice things. Hopeful things.

But honestly, I can’t get excited about hope when it comes to the climate crisis. It’s a monstrous mess. Multinational corporations worth billions of dollars have caused it while lying about their role in doing so. And people in the halls of power have aided and abetted them. The world’s emissions have continued to rise to the point that we now need to cut them a staggering 78 percent over the next decade to limit the damage to bad as opposed to catastrophic.

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“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here,” is emblazoned on the gates of Hell in Dante’s Inferno, but it may as well have been written about climate change.

I get that hope is a thing we’re all looking for amidst the worsening climate carnage, but I firmly believe hope isn’t the most useful thing to steer us away from a worst-case scenario. And I’m not alone. In a—and I can’t believe I’m about to write these words—viral Twitter thread, climate essayist, activist, and Hot Take podcast host Mary Heglar laid out the case against hope better than I could, noting it’s “stale AF and ending shit on a high note has fueled a lot of inertia.”

Her solution was to stop asking what gives climate activists hope and start asking “how can I help?” Which at the end of the day is the exact question we should be asking. The climate crisis will be only be solved through sustained, collective action over the coming decade. We’ve seen what the start of a public pressure campaign can look like globally with the climate strike movement, but it’s a start, not the end. And it’s hardly the only way into the fight for a future we can be proud of.

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Earther reached out to a handful of activists to ask “how can I help?” Their answers are below, lightly edited for brevity.

Fuck hope. Long live action.

Bill McKibben, founder 350.org and author

“I think that some of the tasks for the year are, for obvious reasons, political, and that others involve taking on the financial industry that bankrolls gas, oil and coal. I seem to be concentrating on the latter tasks for the moment.”

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Margaret Klein Salamon, founder of the Climate Mobilization

“Break the silence: Start talking about the climate emergency and the need for WWII scale climate mobilization — in a realistic, blunt, emergency-focused way, in your family, social circles, and beyond.

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“Join the Climate Emergency Movement. There are a lot of organizations that have burst forth this year that are championing a climate emergency message and solution— Sunrise, Extinction Rebellion, Youth Climate Strikes, The Climate Mobilization, and more. Join us, support us, help us build power!”

Anthony Karefa Rogers-Wright, policy coordinator at the Climate Justice Alliance

“One of the literary treasures of our time, Rebecca Solnit, offered us in her book, Hope in the Dark, ‘Hope is not a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. It is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency.’ I would never presume to speak for Sister Solnit, but what I get from this quote is that Hope without action is like expecting a rock to float on water because you meditate.

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“Sister Heglar was absolutely correct to take umbrage with questions like, ‘what gives you hope?’ If that question is not followed by, ‘how does your hope catalyze your drive to act,’ it’s not at all helpful and perambulates what is really called for at this moment, it fosters torpidity through an illusion of action. The people of Haiti have hope, the people of Bolivia, Chile and Ecuador have hope, the people in Hong Kong and France have hope, but they seem to realize that hope alone does not bring about transformational and structural change. Being hopeful can be risky, being hopeful without action is even riskier, and the biggest risk is the one not taken.”

Sydney Ghazarian, steering committee member for the National DSA Ecosocialist Working Group

“I think people are going to want to hear there is a quick, simple thing they can do: recycle, go to a march, talk about the science, etc. Those are good things, but it would be dishonest of me to say that’s enough. In order to ‘help’ we must address the actual problem, which is a growth-dependent, fossil-fueled economic system that has stratified power in favor of an elite few who put profit above people and the planet. The way ordinary people can and have overcome the injustice of our economic system and the 1% is through the Labor Movement and our power as workers to strike and halt the economy in its tracks. So, my unconventional answer is that you can help by organizing your workplace to address the Climate Emergency through ‘green’ collective bargaining agreements, advocating for a Green New Deal, endorsing ‘climate’ candidates, and building community alliances through strikes for the planetary good.

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“The fight for our future must be an all-hands-on-deck effort, and another way you can help is by utilizing your social networks to bring more people into the climate movement. Organize your sports team, church, university, professional association, etc. to leverage its power to fight for climate action and a Green New Deal.”

Elizabeth Sawin, co-director of Climate Interactive

“When people ask me about the ‘best’ action they might take to address climate change, I talk about the things we all need to do together and the things we can each uniquely do. Together, there’s voting and otherwise supporting strong climate candidates at all levels and supporting, with your dollars or your two feet or both, the grassroots organizing movements that push politicians to do better. This opens up systems change opportunities, and ensures you have compatriots when the going gets tough.

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“But don’t forget to also look for the things that you uniquely can do, the conversation only you can have with your uncle because he trusts you, the art that only you can make that might inspire someone else to act, the community conversation you can convene so beautifully because you know so many different types of folks. Also, you uniquely can leverage your expertise in healthcare, or museums, or teaching, or farming towards climate protection. Because climate touches everything, you don’t need to drop everything to work on climate, you just need to figure out what it means to do what you do in way that also reduces emissions or builds resiliency.”