It’s no secret that the Trump administration has pursued a variety of avenues to keep foreigners out of the U.S., including through a recent overhaul of the H-1B visa program for high-skilled foreign workers that will require employers to pay H-1B workers higher wages and narrow the types of degrees that would qualify an applicant — a move which has ready triggered numerous lawsuits.
Still, it may surprise some to learn that U.S. visas issued to students around the world have fallen as dramatically as they have this year. According to a new report in Nikkei Asia, citing U.S. Department of State data, just 808 F-1 student visas were granted to applicants in mainland China between April and September’s end, which is 99% fewer than the 90,410 F-1 student visas granted during the same period last year. The story is much the same for students of other countries: with 88% fewer F-1 visas granted to students in India, 87% fewer for students in Japan, 75% fewer for students in South Korea and 60% fewer for students from Mexico.
What’s going on? A confluence of factors seemingly.
Coronavirus is most certainly among them, as families grow more hesitant to send their children to the U.S., which reported 93,581 new cases on Sunday alone, compared with 24 in China, 38,000 in India, 468 in Japan, 97 in South Korea, and 3,762 in Mexico.
So is racism, with many Asians and Asian-Americans noting that Donald Trump’s rhetoric around the coronavirus has sharpened the racism they’ve faced throughout their lives, with terms like “kung flu” and “China virus” common in responses, per a recent survey by Washington State University researchers who say that reports of racial discrimination that has increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic coincides with an increase in reported negative health symptoms. (The Nikkei notes that students already studying in the U.S. have been targets, too, citing a 23-year-old Chinese woman surnamed who recalled a white woman yelling at her to leave the U.S.)
But shifting standards in Washington also plays a role, says the outlet, which speculates that the difficulty in obtaining American visas is likely to drive some Chinese students to other countries, including Canada.
A backlash against Chinese students in particular is not a new one for the Trump administration, even while it’s been accelerated greatly in recent months. In 2018, the State Department began restricting visas for Chinese graduate students studying in certain research fields to one year, after which they need to reapply. The move rolled back an Obama-era policy that allowed Chinese citizens to secure five-year student visas.
Apple this week updated its list of “vintage” and “obsolete” devices to include iPhone 5c, effectively restricting aftermarket support programs for the seven year old handset.
According to Apple’s continuously updated support document, iPhone 5c was deemed “vintage” on Nov. 2.
Apple defines “vintage” products as devices that have not been sold for more than five and less than seven years ago.
The iPhone 5c debuted in 2013 as an affordable option to then-current iPhone 5S flagships. Built into a polycarbonate casing, the handset borrowed much of its internals — save for a larger battery — from iPhone 5.
Apple’s entry-level handset remained in rotation until 2015. A subsequent affordable model, the first iPhone SE, was unveiled in 2016.
With iPhone 5c now considered vintage, the smartphone is eligible for repair through Apple Stores and authorized repair facilities as long as parts are available. Prolonged support might available in regions that require such measures by law.
Even as the country is in the final days of a polarizing election, the cogs of VC never stop turning. On this ever-so-quiet, non-election-news Tuesday, venture firms still managed to file paperwork with the SEC indicating newly raised funds. Precursor Ventures and Insight Partners will join Hustle Fund in closing new capital.
The filings are noteworthy because they signal new capital coming into the startup world, which could look dramatically different in the coming weeks. Still, Precursor Ventures and Hustle Fund are both still fundraising, so expect them to (hopefully) add more capital in the coming months.
Precursor Ventures, led by Charles Hudson, has raised a new tranche of capital to invest in pre-seed companies. The firm first filed in March 2020 that it had plans to raise a $40 million fund, and today it appears that it has closed $29 million of that goal. Recent investments from Precursor include The Juggernaut, mmhmm and TeamPay. The fund made headlines recently because it promoted Sydney Thomas, its first hire, to principal. Hudson was unable to comment due to fundraising activity.
We also saw a filing from Insight Partners, which closed a $9.5 billion fund in April for startups and growth-stage investments, indicating that it has raised money for its first-ever Opportunity Fund. The SEC filing shows that Insight Partners has raised $413 million for the opportunity fund. Insight did not return a request for comment.
Earlier today, SEC filings also showed that Hustle Fund has raised $30 million for a second fund, surpassing its previous fund of $11.5 million. Interestingly, paperwork for this new fund was first filed in May 2019 with the intention to raise $50 million. Today’s news, thus, is its first close. While the firm is still fundraising, it’s a long gap between filing and first close. The fund was launched in 2018 by ex-500 Startup partners Eric Bahn and Elizabeth Yin to, similar to Precursor, invest in pre-seed startups. Hustle Fund invests $25,000 checks into 50 startups per year.
Yin declined to comment due to ongoing fundraising activity.
While the spree of funds on Election Day was noteworthy, it was somewhat expected. Generally speaking, funds want to get their paperwork cleared and closed before a potentially chaotic event or time of unrest. We saw closes from OpenView, Canaan, True Ventures and more, while firms including First Round and Khosla filed paperwork for new funds. Time will tell if this is a final exhale of news until January 1, or if the VC world will continue pushing droves of capital, holidays be damned.
A scourge of robocalls that urges Americans to “stay safe and stay home” has gotten the attention of the FBI and the New York Attorney General over concerns of voter suppression.
The brief message, which doesn’t specifically mention Election Day, has prompted New York Attorney General Letitia James to launch an investigation into the matter. James announced Tuesday that her office is actively investigating allegations that voters are receiving the robocalls.
“Voting is a cornerstone of our democracy,” James said in a statement Tuesday. “Attempts to hinder voters from exercising their right to cast their ballots are disheartening, disturbing and wrong.”
James added that such calls are illegal and will not be tolerated.
The FBI told TechCrunch that the agency is aware of reports of robocalls. The agency wouldn’t say if it is investigating the robocalls; however, a senior official at the Department of Homeland Security told reporters Tuesday that the FBI was investigating calls that seek to discourage people from voting, according to the AP.
“As a reminder, the FBI encourages the American public to verify any election and voting information they may receive through their local election officials,” the FBI said in a statement sent to TechCrunch.
The announcement from James follows subpoenas issued earlier this week by the New York AG office to investigate the source of these robocalls allegedly spreading disinformation. New York voters who receive concerning disinformation, or face issues at the polls can contact her office’s Election Protection Hotline at 1-800-771-7755.
“Every voter must be able to exercise their fundamental right to vote without being harassed, coerced, or intimidated. Our nation has a legacy of free and fair elections, and this election will be no different,” James added. “Voters should rest assured that voting is safe and secure, and they should exercise their fundamental right to vote in confidence. We, along with state leaders across the nation, are working hard to protecting your right to vote, and anyone who tries to hinder that right will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that an interagency working group convened by Attorney General William P. Barr released a report to Congress on efforts to stop illegal robocalls. The report described efforts by the DOJ, including two civil actions filed in January 2020 against U.S.-based Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) companies, the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission to combat illegal robocalls. Despite those efforts, and even evidence of some declines in robocalls for a time, the presidential election and the COVID-19 pandemic has fueled a spike in calls.
Kernel.org manager Konstantin Ryabitsev describes the Git signed-push functionality, which is now supported by the kernel.org system. “To help hedge against this problem, git provides developers a way to sign their actual pushes, as a means to attest ‘yes, I actually did intend to push these commits into this ref in this repository on this server, and here’s my PGP signature to prove it.’” Among other things, these signatures can be preserved in a commit transparency log, which is also now provided by kernel.org.
Apple’s Siri voice assistant on Tuesday returned incorrect information regarding the date of Election Day in the U.S., though the problem was quickly rectified.
Earlier today, Siri informed users that Election Day was on “November 8th,” an obviously incorrect response that appears to trace back to a backend data issue.
As noted by TechCrunch, telling Siri, “Happy Election Day,” invoked a message that read, “Thanks! But Election Day is on November 8th.” Queries asking the assistant to recite the date of Election Day returned similar results.
Apple has since fixed the problem. It appears that Siri lacked contextual data for the call-and-response questions, as the report notes an election day does fall on Nov. 8. Specifically, the next major U.S. election takes place on Nov. 8, 2022.
Siri, like all virtual assistants, has gone through its fair share of growing pains. While the technology has matured significantly from the fledgling service launched in 2011, it still suffers from sporadic, one-off errors like today’s Election Day gaffe.
Apple continues to add to Siri’s feature set, and with the latest iOS 14 introduced new capabilities like audio messages, deeper Apple Maps integration and more. Siri’s knowledge graph has also expanded, with Apple claiming the assistant now has access to 20 times more facts than it did three years ago.
Yes, there’s a high-stakes presidential election underway, but tech news doesn’t stop completely: Chinese regulators pull the brakes on Ant Group’s IPO, Spotify adds standalone streaming support on Apple Watch and PayPal outlines its plans for 2021. This is your Daily Crunch for November 3, 2020.
The big story: China postpones Ant Group IPO
The Shanghai stock exchange has postponed Ant Group’s IPO a day after Chinese regulators held a closed-door meeting with Jack Ma and other company executives. The company has also halted plans for its public listing in Hong Kong.
Ant Group, a financial technology giant that spun out of Alibaba, was previously on track to raise $34.5 billion in the world’s largest IPO. It’s not exactly clear why the offering was called off, but Alibaba’s founder Ma recently gave a speech criticizing China’s financial regulation.
“We are sincerely sorry for any inconvenience brought to investors,” the company said in a statement. “We will properly handle follow-up matters following compliance regulations of the two exchanges.”
The tech giants
Spotify adds standalone streaming support to its Apple Watch app — The feature was spotted in testing back in September, and it arrives roughly two years after Spotify first debuted its dedicated Apple Watch app.
Twitter hides Trump tweet attacking Supreme Court’s decision on Pennsylvania ballots — In a preview of what to expect in the coming days, President Trump pushed the limits on Twitter’s election-specific policies Monday night.
PayPal details its digital wallet plans for 2021, including crypto, Honey integration and more — The company said it plans to roll out substantial changes to its mobile apps over the next year, including support for enhanced direct deposit, crypto and all of Honey’s shopping tools.
Startups, funding and venture capital
REEF Technology raises $700M from SoftBank and others to remake parking lots — REEF began its life as Miami-based ParkJockey, providing hardware, software and management services for parking lots.
Udacity raises $75M in debt, says its tech education business is profitable after enterprise pivot — The online learning company is now focused on winning over business customers.
Walmart reportedly ends contract with inventory robotics startup Bossa Nova — Walmart has reportedly pulled the plug on one of its highest-profile partnerships.
Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch
Four takeaways from fintech VC in Q3 2020 — The latest on insurtech, banking, wealth management and payments startups.
Gaming rules the entertainment industry, so why aren’t investors showing up? — Venture activity doesn’t seem to match the size of the games market.
How startups can shake up their first idea and still crush the market — Some thoughts on the ol’ startup pivot.
(Reminder: Extra Crunch is our membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)
Tech stocks rip higher on Election Day — The gains came long before any results that would indicate the election’s winner.
NBC News launches an iOS 14 widget that puts election results on your home screen — NBC News allows users to customize a series of widgets with information related to early voting stats, polls, current election results and more.
The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.
Waymo has taken a dual approach to operations on Election Day.
In San Francisco, where Waymo has been testing its autonomous vehicles, driving operations have been temporarily suspended Tuesday and Wednesday “out of an abundance of caution.” Its fleet of autonomous vehicles were moved Monday to nearby Mountain View, according to an internal email first reported by The Verge. Waymo has continued its testing operations on public roads in Mountain View, according to an email from Transdev, the vendor that Waymo has contracted with to staff its fleet operations. TechCrunch confirmed that Waymo has paused operations in San Francisco.
Over in Phoenix, where Waymo’s on-demand robotaxi service operates and shuttles actual customers, it’s business as usual. Waymo told TechCrunch that in Phoenix it “will continue to serve riders through our autonomous ride hailing service, in order to help facilitate travel to the polls, and will continue to closely monitor the situation in all cities where we operate. The safety of our team, riders and partners is of paramount importance.”
Waymo’s actions in San Francisco follow other businesses in the city, which have closed up shop and even boarded up windows over concern that civil unrest related to the election will boil over this week. Other AV companies such as Cruise and Zoox, which also test in San Francisco, have taken a wait-and-see approach.
Cruise, which has about 200 vehicles in its fleet and uses Aerotek to staff its driver operations, is monitoring events.
“Safety is our number one priority,” according to Cruise spokesperson Milin Mehta. “Our Operations team is monitoring the situation in real time, and has turnkey plans in place to ground the fleet and take all necessary steps to keep our team members safe.”
Cruise also gave all employees, including contract workers the day off to vote.
Zoox, which has a smaller fleet of about 50 vehicles that are tested in San Francisco and near its Foster City headquarters, continued testing today, although paused operations earlier than usual. The company is also monitoring the situation for the rest of the week.
Uber Advanced Technologies Group has tested in San Francisco in the past, but currently only has test operations in Pittsburgh. The company is not operational today because it has given all employees the day off to volunteer and vote. Testing is expected to resume in Pittsburgh this week, although a company spokesperson noted that they will reassess if the environment changes.
Aurora, which tests in Pittsburgh, the Dallas-Fort Worth area and the Silicon Valley enclaves of Palo Alto and Mountain View, is continuing operations in those locations and will “change course if needed.”
Argo AI wouldn’t provide specifics on whether it was testing today or altering its operations due to Election Day. However, a spokesperson did say that the company “places safety as the No. 1priority in all respects when it comes to our fleet testing operations and always monitors local environments where we operate and take whatever precautions are appropriate, no matter what day it is.”
Hustle Fund, a pre-seed fund built by former operators and founders, has raised $30 million for a new fund, per SEC filings. Hustle Fund first filed paperwork for this fund, its second to date, in May 2019 with intention to raise $50 million. Its inaugural investment vehicle closed at $11.5 million.
Hustle Fund was unable to comment because it is still in fundraising mode.
Hustle Fund was created by Elizabeth Yin and Eric Bahn, two former 500 startups partners, with the goal of investing in pre-seed software startups. The firm has traditionally operated by investing $25,000 in a company, usually with a minimum-viable product, and then works with the team to help them grow. It does around 50 investments per year, according to its website.
It’s a small but focused investing approach, one that has gotten Hustle Fund into deals such as Webflow, NerdWallet, and The Hustle. But, as pre-seed grows and companies raise absurdly high first-check rounds, the need for bigger checks might be necessary for VCs to continue getting into deals. Thus, a bigger fund size for a fund a few years in is both practical and expected.
Still, don’t expect Hustle Fund to be changing up its investment appetite just yet. Yin joined us at Extra Crunch a few months ago to detail her check appetite.
“I think to a certain extent, putting money into faster experiments helps, but it only goes so far,” Yin said. “You can’t drive speed of execution with money; it happens through the speed of learning. And I think that’s something that there’s an upper bound as to how much and how many resources you can put into increasing that speed of learning in the earlier stages.”