Actress Maisie Williams to launch Daisie, a social app for talent discovery and collaboration


Actress Maisie Williams, best known for her role as Arya Stark on Game of Thrones, is the latest celeb to venture into tech entrepreneurship, with the launch of a new company aimed at connecting creatives, called Daisie. Available later this summer as a mobile app, Daisie will offer a platform where creators can network, like, share and collaborate on projects within a social networking setting.

The overall goal is to help newcomers gain exposure for their work while connecting them with others who can provide guidance as they continue their careers.

Williams, who advocates for women’s rights, also sees Daisie as something that could give women in the creative community the ability to promote their own work and be discovered in a more appropriate way than is often the case today.

This speaks to the sea change underway in the creative industry, where people are rapidly dismantling the old ways of doing things; and where the abusers who took advantage of the old system are being called out for things like sexual harassment and abuse, and losing their jobs.

In that light, the launch of an alternative network for talent discovery and collaboration seems especially relevant.

“I couldn’t be happier about the change we are currently seeing in creative industries and the movement towards women becoming truly valued,” said Maisie Williams, in a statement about the app’s development.

“I want Daisie to give other creatives the opportunities that I was lucky enough to receive at the beginning of my career. Daisie will break down the archaic gap between youth and creative jobs; offering new opportunities for individuals to collaborate, learn and create – establishing a new way for talented individuals to be discovered and employed,” she said.

The company, which is co-founded by film producer Dom Santry, also aims to address the issues of trying to use existing social media sites, like Facebook, for self-promotion purposes.

“Social media can be a very lonely place, and somewhere that doesn’t necessarily inspire collaboration or foster meaningful connections,” explained Santry. “It’s very easy for creative voices to get lost in platforms riddled with ads and unimportant content; we’re hoping to eradicate these, providing a focused, industry specific platform.”

The app’s development is still in its early stages, the company tells us.

The technology team, led by U.K.-based Tim Novis, is only 4 months into a 10-month build, to give you an idea of its progress. The expectation is that Daisie will be ready to launch in the App Store and online by August, 2018.

The company is also working with WME to put together a talent roster who will be participating in Daisie at launch. Some of those people will be confirmed by March. (Daisie’s team is actually flying to L.A. in February to lock in names, we understand).

In addition to building a social network for talent discovery and collaboration, Daisie aims to generate revenue in almost Tinder-like fashion.

The app will offer a “Plus” program that opens up locked areas of its site and allow the use of additional features, like the ability to toggle on or off a “looking for work” setting, for example.

But neither the website nor app will display advertising.

The app has another advantage for Williams and Santry, too.

It may be a potential source of new talent for their U.K. production company Daisy Chain Productions, which was founded along with Bill Milner. The company has a similar goal to Daisie, in fact: projects with a focus on youth and talent development, as ScreenDaily reported last fall.

Santry will lead Daisie as CEO, managing its day-to-day operations.

However, the company will give the network time to grow before tapping into Daisie’s creator community for its own ends. For the first six months, there will be “no visible synergies” between Daisie and Daisy Chain Productions, the company told TechCrunch.

Afterwards, the two will come together to create content by selecting the most talented individuals on the site.

Given that Daisie is not yet available, the website is currently accepting email sign-ups to be alerted about its launch.

MoneyLion raises $42M to grow its personal finance platform for the middle class


MoneyLion, the part lending, part savings and part wealth management app targeted at the financial middle class has raised $42M in Series B funding.This brings total equity funding to $67M since being founded in 2013.

The startup provides an all-in-one platform for anything finance related. A user connects their bank accounts and credit cards and then gets personalized advice based on their spending patterns, as well as access to loans to help with fluctuating monthly income and expenses.

Essentially, the startup takes the spectrum of financial services that a customer would typically get from 3 or 4 different banks or providers and rebundles them into one app.

The round was led by existing investor Edision Partners, who has now invested a total of $27M in MoneyLion. Other existing investors like Fintech Collective, Grupo Sura, and new investors Greenspring Associates and Danhua Capital also participated. Chris Sugden, Managing Partner at Edision explained that the firm was attracted to the fact that MoneyLion’s product is targeted at the financial middle class.

“Many traditional financial institutions and fintech platforms cater to super-prime, mass affluent consumers, which is only a small part of the U.S. market. In fact, more than 75 percent of America’s consumers remain underserved by financial services provides. By delivering both a liability and wealth management digital solution on the same platform, MoneyLion brings a complete financial toolkit for consumers who earn less than $100,000” explained Sugden.

A great example – MoneyLion has a rewards program that gives customers points for doing things like connecting a bank account or keeping their credit utilization low. These points can be redeemed for gift cards and other perks, essentially giving American Express-style rewards to middle class customers who may not have a points-earning credit card.

And MoneyLion isn’t only providing financial services to an underserved middle class – they’re also showing that they can make money while doing it. The startup generates most of its revenue from its loan product – it’s originated over 250,000 loans to date to a group of 1.5M total users. MoneyLion also generates revenue via lead generation by recommending other financial service offerings to consumers who may benefit from them.

The startup also recently launched MoneyLion Plus, a subscription service that provides access to lower APR loans and an automated savings tool. While the service costs $29 per month users are refunded $1 for each day they log in, meaning the service is essentially free if users log in every day.

These apps will help you keep your New Year’s resolutions

Almost half of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. Far fewer stick to them.

“Losing weight” and “exercising more” are among the most popular goals. A sizeable percentage of Americans also aim to “be a better person.”

TechCrunch reviewed apps that are designed to help people stay on track with these plans. Here are a few that will help you stay focused in 2018.

8fit

8fit

There are countless fitness and diet apps. But if you’re looking for a new one, 8fit is worth checking out. Whether you want to “lose fat” or “gain muscle mass,” 8fit lets you track specific fitness goals. There are workout videos for yoga and tabata. It’s also adding videos to target your core and arms. You can also log exercises and sync steps with Apple Health. 8fit additionally has a diet section, for monitoring what you eat. Whether you’re vegetarian or looking to avoid carbs, there are plenty of options suitable for various diets. 8fit will help you build a customized meal plan, complete with recipes. The basic app is free and available on both iOS and Android. Users are charged $5 per month for 8fit Pro, with added functionality. The app is currently ranked #10 in the health & fitness category on Apple’s App Store.

Done

Done

Regardless of what your resolutions are, this app will help you get it done. The aptly named “Done,” lets you set your own goals and get reminders. Done charts your progress, so you can see how you performed this week or this month. The data is exportable and can be backed up by Dropbox. The beauty of the app is the simplicity. Another similar one is Habit List. (It actually helped me keep my fitness resolution last year!) I also use iHydrate, but that’s just for water-tracking. Done is free and available on iOS.

ShareTheMeal

sharethemeal

Forget self-improvement, what about helping others? ShareTheMeal is an app created by the United Nations World Food Programme to help children in poverty. For just 50 cents, the app will let you feed a child for a day. Or for $15, you can feed the child for a month. Whether its Syrian refugees or kids in Haiti, ShareTheMeal will let you determine which region your food is going to. You can also spread the word about the program, by using the app to share photos of your meals on social media. Over 18 million meals have been shared so far. The app itself is free and available on both iOS and Android.

Here’s an easy trick to get an extra life on HQ Trivia without a referral


Want an extra life on HQ but hate shilling out your referral code? Try this trick.

Open HQ to the main page (where it shows the next game time and your balance) and swipe up really fast with two fingers over and over again. Do this and you should get an extra life.

Yeah, it’s that easy.

I just tried it and it worked perfectly, although one friend who already had an extra life said it didn’t work for them – so it may only work if you currently have no extra lives, but that’s not confirmed.

You may also have to be running the latest version of the app, so try updating if it doesn’t work.

The trick was first discovered a couple of days ago by Mashable, and is a great holiday present for any HQtie.

In other HQ news, their Android beta launched today in Canada, just a day after the startup confirmed it should be available for all Android users before the end of the year.

Photosynth returns as a feature in Microsoft’s Pix camera app

Earlier this year, Microsoft shut down Photosynth, its service for stitching multiple images into panoramas and semi-3D models. When it launched in 2008, the service was extremely impressive, but it never quite caught on. Still, it had its fans and now Microsoft is bringing it back in the form of a new feature in its Pix camera app for iOS.

In addition, the Pix app is also getting a comics feature (the result of an internal hackathon) that uses a machine learning model to find the best frames from your Pix Moment captures to create a basic comic strip. All you need to do is add your speech bubbles.

Microsoft notes that the new Photosynth feature uses some of the technology behind the original platform, but it also notes that Photosynth in Pix is now faster and allows for smoother capture. It also makes use of the built-in Pix features like auto-enhancements for white balance, tone and sharpness.

“The idea came after some frustrations I had when trying to take a picture of Snoqualmie Falls,” said Josh Weisberg, principal program manager within Microsoft’s AI & Research organization in Redmond, Washington, in today’s announcement. “I didn’t want to have to choose which part of the scene to capture, and I wanted it all with detail. Photosynth means you no longer have to choose. I can now capture the whole scene in a way that feels natural. As with all Pix features, we have also worked to give the best image quality by introducing more intelligent ways to compute exposure and stitching.”

Sadly, if you’re an Android user, Microsoft didn’t have any news to share about when (or if) it plans to bring Pix to your mobile platform of choice.

Plexamp, Plex’s spin on the classic Winamp player, is the first project from new incubator Plex Labs


Media software maker Plex, which has been enjoying a bit of growth following its newer focus on DIY cord-cutters, today announced a new incubator and community resource called Plex Labs. The idea here is to help the company’s internal passion projects gain exposure, along with those from Plex community members. Plex Labs will also offer in-depth technical writing about Plex, the company says.

Today, Plex Labs is also unveiling its first project: a music player called Plexamp.

The player’s name is a nod to the long-lost Winamp, which it’s designed to replace. The player was built by several Plex employees in their free time, and is meant for those who use Plex for music.

As the company explains in its announcement, the goal was to build a small player that sits unobtrusively on the desktop and can handle any music format. The team limited itself to a single window, making Plexamp the smaller Plex player to date, in terms of pixel size.

Under the hood, Plexamp uses the open source audio player Music Player Daemon (MPD), along with a combination of  ES7, Electron, React, and MobX technologies.

The end result is a player that runs on either macOS or Windows and works like a native app. That is, you can use media keys for skipping tracks or playing and pausing music, and receive notifications. The player can also handle any music format, and can play music offline when the Plex server runs on your laptop.

Plexamp can be brought the foreground with a focus on search with the global activation hotkey (cmd + shift + space). It offers other keybindings for advanced users, too.

The player also supports gapless playback, soft transitions and visualizations to accompany your music. Plus, the visualizations’ palette of colors is pulled from the album art, Plex notes.

Additionally, Plexamp makes use of a few up-and-coming features that will be included in Plex’s subscription, Plex Pass, in the future. These new features are powering functionality like loudness leveling (to normalize playback volume), smart transitions (to compute the optimal overlap times between tracks), soundprints (to represent tracks visually), waveform seeking (to present a graphical view of tracks), Library stations, and artist radio.

While Plexamp is the first to emerge from the new Labs division, the company tells us that it will also highlight those projects that have before been published outside Plex, including those posted to its forums, on Reddit, and elsewhere.

The community has built a number of projects over the years, but it has sometimes been difficult to find them, Plex says. Plex Labs hopes to provide a more central resource for that.

Open Garden wants to give you tokens for sharing your Internet connection


Open Garden launched its mesh networking platform at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2012. Since then, the company has gone through a few iterations and found unexpected success in its Firechat offline messaging service. Now, it’s ready for the next step in its evolution. The company now wants to make it easier for anybody with an Android phone to share their WiFi connections with anyone who is nearby. And to incentivize people to do so, the company plans to launch its own Ethereum token (called OG…) in early 2018.

The company bills this as the launch of a “decentralized Internet Service Provider (ISP).” You still need a regular ISP to become an Open Garden ISP, so I admit that the whole concept doesn’t quite seem right to me. Unsurprisingly, Open Garden CEO Paul Hainsworth (who took over from the company’s founded CEO in early 2016) doesn’t see it that way. “The concept of a decentralized ISP is entirely new,” he told me. “The traditional, centralized ISP is a one-to-many relationship between provider and customer. A decentralized ISP is the combination of millions of individual people, companies and products creating a new kind of network. These millions of people sharing their Internet are ISPs, tiny or large, and in aggregate they form a decentralized ISP.”

The argument here is that most people only use a small amount of their broadband connection’s bandwidth cap. So why not share this access with others and earn some OG in the process? While Open Garden argues that this is a totally new concept, the likes of Fon and others have long enabled WiFi sharing without the need for Ethereum tokens and mesh networks. Most have done so with mixed success, likely because few people actually want to share their Internet access.

A decentralized network like this can also only work if enough people participate. Open Garden is trying to jumpstart this process by using its FireChat app to bootstrap this process. The company says its messaging service has over 5 million registered users and they will form the basis for seeding this network. Over time, Open Garden also plans to add apps for iOS, Mac, Windows and set-top streaming boxes. “Project Open Garden, our open source project, will enable developers to build OG into their own apps and hardware solutions,” the company argues. “OG can be used by existing WiFi infrastructure owners – such as municipal WiFi, shopping malls, stadiums, airports, restaurants, and small businesses – to monetize their existing capital investment.”

And why use tokens (besides, I assume, that this is obviously a hip thing to do right now)? “Our intent is to enable regular consumers to buy Internet access without having to understand anything about crypto, blockchains or anything technical,” Hainsworth told me. He also argues that tokens are a good way to incentivize growth. “By issuing our own token, instead of just using Bitcoin or Ethereum, we can give away a very large percentage of the total tokens (or coins) in our economy to participants,” he noted. “We do this to incentivize network growth, user acquisition and retention. Incentives work at an individual level. Early adopters can earn additional bonus OG for being first to market, for example.”

So if all the incentive you ever needed to share your Internet connection with random strangers was a bit of Ethereum OG, then your dreams have come true. The Open Garden app is now available for download in the Google Play store.