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Bitcoin just passed $4,000

What a day for Bitcoin.

24 hours ago the cryptocurrency was trading below $3,700. About an hour ago it surged passed $4,000 and has no signs of stopping. It’s now trading around $4,135.00. For reference, a week ago Bitcoin hit an all-time high as it .

Check out the chart below to see what the price has done in the last 24 hours.

So the million dollar bitcoin question is…why now?

Without wasting too much of your Saturday night with detailed analysis, here are a few possible reasons you can tell your friends during brunch tomorrow.

Two weeks ago Bitcoin went through a hard fork, and came out essentially unscathed. Sure, a , but it’s gotten a lot less attention than most people expected. A few days later , a code modification that fixes malleability issues and frees up space in blocks, allowing for more transactions to be stored in each one.

These two code-related developments have helped boost conference in Bitcoin’s future.

Another reason – the . The amount recently raised via initial coin offerings have now (at least temporally) amount raised via early stage venture capital. Just last week . Most investors have to convert fiat currency to bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies to participate in ICOs, which could be driving up the price (and providing some investors with their first taste of bitcoin).

Another reason – Wall Street’s new obsession is bitcoin. You can’t watch CNBC for five minutes without seeing a trader or analyst give their opinion – which is usually something insanely bullish like “it’s going to be the best performing investment of the year”. For better or for worse, statements like these are getting non-technically inclined investors interested in bitcoin, some of which are definitely buying coins for the first time.

So what happens next? No one knows. Bitcoin could crash 50% to $2,000 tomorrow or spike to $5,000 – and I don’t think anyone who truly knows crypto would be surprised at either option. E

veryone has a different opinion – some say the bubble is oversized and should have popped months ago – others think that bitcoin is currently just a fraction of what it could eventually trade at.

Whichever camp you fall in, here’s one friendly reminder: don’t invest more than you can afford to lose – because if you ask anyone who’s spent more than a few months in the cryptocurrency world they’ll tell you it’s a roller coaster.

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Amazon is refunding purchases of unverifiable eclipse eyewear

Amazon is issuing refunds for those who’ve purchased possibly fake solar eclipse glasses on the site in anticipation of this summer’s big solar eclipse event.

A lot of folks have been gearing up for the event that will — depending on where you are — either totally block out the sun or partially block it as the eclipse moves across the North American hemisphere on August 21st. Many of these same people have turned to the ease of Amazon for ordering the protective eyewear needed to look directly up at the sky while the solar phenomenon passes overhead.

However, Amazon has not been able to verify all of the glasses on its site have come from reputable manufacturers and, as first reported in the has now sent out a safety warning, telling customers not to use the questionable eyewear.

“Safety is among our highest priorities,” an Amazon spokesperson told TechCrunch about the matter. “Out of an abundance of caution, we have proactively reached out to customers and provided refunds for eclipse glasses that may not comply with industry standards. We want customers to buy with confidence anytime they make a purchase on  and eclipse glasses sold on  are required to comply with the relevant ISO standard.”

Reports of safety issues have been going on for a couple of months. One woman whom Amazon recently refunded, bought 500 eclipse glasses in bulk on the site from a who told her they were safe. It was only later she learned the manufacturer had purposely misled her with a fake safety labeling.

It goes without saying, but improper eyewear could seriously damage the vision of those looking directly into the eclipse. “Homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe for looking at the Sun; they transmit thousands of times too much sunlight,” warns the (AAS).

Amazon has reportedly been shutting down shops offering unverifiable eclipse eyewear and issuing notifications not to use them in case they cause eye damage but it may be a little too late for some who don’t get the warning in time. We’re also right up to the edge of purchasing the proper glasses from the site in time for the eclipse for those without Prime.

Of course, there’s still a available to choose from on the site if you are looking to get a pair. But, look for a mark on the glasses with the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard before purchasing. These glasses are verified to block out all but 1/100,000th of the Sun’s light and can protect your eyes from harmful radiation while you enjoy the event.

Also keep in mind NASA and the AAS only recognize a short list of brandsthat meet the proper safety standards. Check out the full list of approved manufacturers before buying online.

Those Amazon customers who did not receive a message from the company warning them of the safety concerns have purchased a product that was confirmed by the supplier to be ISO compliant, according to Amazon. Those concerned they may have a non-compliant product can still reach out to Amazon’s customer service for a refund under the A-to-z Guarantee.

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Can protein startups and their investors take on Big Cow?

Joanna GlasnerContributor

is a reporter for .

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For many of us, our first experience with fake meat involves rubbery tofu that tastes more like sneaker sole than seared filet. As we forage on, next come the veggie burgers, the soy dogs, the meatless meatballs, the caramel-brown vacuum-sealed lumps called field roasts.

Eventually, we grow accustomed to these chewy, protein-dense, vaguely meat-like foodstuffs. And yet, the dream lives on: What if fake meat tasted and satiated like the real deal?

These days, startups are developing products that more closely resemble animal proteins. Venture capitalists and strategic investors are piling on, too, collectively putting hundreds of millions of dollars to work in companies developing meatless foods offering high protein and, in some cases, a meaty taste.

Over the past two years, Crunchbase has identified about $250 million in  in what we call the alternative protein space. Actual investment levels may be quite a bit higher as strategic investors don’t always reveal round size.

While progress has been made, there’s work to be done. Heading to the Marina Umami Burger in San Francisco on a weekend afternoon, Crunchbase News ordered an Impossible Burger, a veggie patty heralded for its beefiness, and a regular burger made the same way. We then cut them in half and had each variety in sequence.

A post shared by Alex (@alexwilhelm1) on Aug 6, 2017 at 2:22pm PDT

Without question, the Impossible Burger was edible. It was not lumpy; it was not an old shoe. But it was also very much not a burger. It remains firmly a substitute, not a replacement.

Luckily, there’s still plenty of capital sloshing around the fake meat venture ecosystem to fuel further innovation. Crunching the numbers, we’ve identified a few noteworthy trends for the alternative protein space. Here’s a quick overview of the key investment themes.

Investors chomp down on more late-stage rounds

It’s just as well there is no alternative protein unicorn. It just seems wrong to give a fake-meat company an animal moniker, even if it is a mythical one.

That said, there are alternative protein companies that have raised substantial sums of venture capital. This month, for instance, , maker of the aforementioned burger, closed a  round that brings total funding for the six-year-old Silicon Valley company to more than . Backers include Bill Gates, Google and . So if anyone’s going to be the first soy-based unicorn, it’s probably Impossible.

The next most heavily funded company, , has had its share of troubles delivering on its plan to produce veggie-based foods, in particular eggless versions of traditionally egg-reliant products like mayo. The San Francisco company has raised more than $200 million, , and has its products on the shelves of major food retailers. But    for internal problems, including the  of four out of five board members.

 is also bulking up as it distributes more veggie burgers and mock chicken strips to grocery chains. The eight-year-old company has only disclosed  but the actual total is much higher since the last several funding rounds have been of undisclosed size. Most recently, Beyond closed a . The interest of Tyson, America’s largest beef producer, indicates that “big meat” sees promise, and potential competition, in the space.

Burgers and the art of “artificial meatener”

Much of the innovation in the fake-meat sector is centered around figuring out whether vegetables can be mixed up or engineered to taste more like meat. Just as the soda industry spent decades optimizing non-caloric sweeteners, alternative protein entrepreneurs are racing to perfect the 100 percent vegetarian “artificial meatener.”

Impossible’s quest began in 2011, with a five-year research project devoted to what creates the unique sensory experience of meat, and how to recreate it with plants. The closest thing Impossible has to an artificial meatener is an ingredient called “heme,” which is abundant in animal muscle and contributes to the characteristic color and taste of meat. The startup figured out how to take heme from soy roots and produce it using fermentation.

Beyond Meat, meanwhile, relies on pea protein for its meatless burger products. The startup uses “a proprietary system that applies heating, cooling, and pressure to align plant-proteins in the same fibrous structures that you’d find in animal proteins.” Beyond also adds yeast extract for flavoring, as it contains amino acids, including Glutamic acid, that add something resembling a savory meat taste to its faux beef and chicken.

Another approach, not targeted to those on a solely plant-based diet, relies on producing meat from animal cells, eliminating the need to raise livestock.  (actually based in San Francisco) has raised $3 million to pursue this goal. The startup isn’t selling products yet, but it has unveiled some of what it’s cooked up in labs, including a meatball, chicken and duck. Hampton Creek has also announced plans to deliver lab-made meat as early as next year.

Just add some protein

Not all the alternative protein investments are around mimicking meat. There’s also high consumer demand for healthy, convenient sources of protein, whether it’s in the form of pasta, shakes, chips or even water.

And these days, it seems like everybody wants more protein. While dieters cut carbs and slash fat intake, protein generally gets a pass, seen as a source of “good calories” that promote satiety and sustained energy levels. And although the pros and cons of  are a topic of continued debate, there’s broad consensus about the value of high-protein foods in a balanced diet. Startups are seeking to address the cross-section of consumers who want the protein, but prefer to limit or avoid consumption of animal products.

Most recently, Detroit-based  raised $8 million to scale up production of chickpea-based pastas that offer a few grams more protein per serving than wheat-based varieties. At least three protein and meal-replacement beverage providers, ,  and , also closed multi-million-dollar rounds in the past three months. Soylent alone has raised more than $70 million to date to sell more beverages fortified with soy protein.

Eat bugs

Lastly, we look at bugs. Many bugs, and grasshoppers, in particular, are high in protein. They’re also commonly eaten in many parts of the world, and potentially marketable as feed source for livestock. And after looking at round counts, there are actually quite a few recent deals involving bug farmers, bug protein products and marketers of said products.

The Crunchbase database contains  in the insect protein space that have secured funding. The largest funding recipient is , which makes snack bars containing cricket flour. The most recent funding recipient, meanwhile, is , an Israeli startup that raised $600,000 this summer to build what it claims will be the world’s first commercial grasshopper farm.

Given that there’s not a lot of venture capital directed at this space, we’ll have to wait and see if it develops into something bigger.

A meaty conclusion

Anyone who thinks today’s alternative protein products sound too weird to satiate mainstream appetites should consider how drastically eating habits have changed over the last few generations. Some of the most popular meals of the 1900s apparently include , like chicken pudding and liver loaf, that would repel modern palates.

Fake-meat companies can get acquired for lots of money, too. Just ask , whose private equity backers sold the company to Philippines food conglomerate  in 2015 for $830 million.

Quorn describes its veggie protein recipe as “taking a natural nutritious fungus from the soil and fermenting it to produce a dough called Mycoprotein.” Doesn’t sound too yummy, but apparently, the process produces tasty mock ground beef and chicken cutlets.

Image credit to Alex, master of burger shots.

Embrace empathy

Two unconnected events that splashed controversy over the tech industry this week share the same underlying theme: Empathy. Or rather a lack of it.

Here’s the first: An internal memo written by a Google staffer was leaked to the press. The 10-page , authored by a white, male software engineer called James Damore, argued that Google’s left-leaning political bias has created an “ideological echo chamber” that shames “dissenters” into silence.

Specifically, the writer criticized the company’s diversity efforts and tried to ascribe tech’s gaping gender gap to innate biological differences between the sexes. Among his suggestions for reworking the company’s internal culture was that Google should “de-emphasize empathy”.

“I’ve heard several suggestions for increased empathy on diversity issues,” wrote Damore. “While I strongly support trying to understand how and why people think the way they do, relying on affective empathy — feeling another’s pain — causes us to focus on anecdotes, favor individuals similar to us, and harbor other irrational and dangerous biases. Being emotionally unengaged helps us better reason about the facts.”

As , this amounts to a manifesto for the mass employment of robots instead of humans.

Shortly after the document was , Damore was  by Google for “perpetuating gender stereotypes”.

In an email to staff explaining his decision to terminate Damore’s employment, Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote: “To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK.”

And here’s the second event: A consumer app, called FaceApp, which uses neural networks to power photorealistic face-editing features, added a new set of filters that gave users the ability to .

Asked why he thought it was OK to create what he termed “ethnicity change filters”, and why he did not feel the filters were , FaceApp’s founder, a white male software engineer called Yaroslav Goncharov, told us the filters were “designed to be equal in all aspects”, asserting: “They don’t have any positive or negative connotations associated with them. They are even represented by the same icon. In addition to that, the list of those filters is shuffled for every photo, so each user sees them in a different order.”

A few hours later, after public criticism of the filters, and after we had pointed out the historical context that makes ‘blackface’  and offensive, FaceApp removed them from the app.

Apparently, Goncharov and his team’s perspective on racism did not extend to considering the .

And this despite FaceApp chalking up a , after a ‘hotness’ filter was shown to be equating whiteness with attractiveness by bleaching the skin of people of color. In that instance, FaceApp later said the issue had been caused by bias in their AI training dataset.

Now if we assume no out-and-out malicious intent, we must conclude that FaceApp’s team suffers from a lack of diversity, and thus exhibits low empathy for ethnicities outside its caucasian baseline — all of which drastically limits its perspective, causing the team’s product choices to bounce them from one offensive controversy to another.

At the same time, software engineers having less empathy is literally being lauded as a desirable goal — by a privileged, white male software engineer, Damore, who, until very recently, held one of the most coveted jobs in tech, as a “Googler”.

At the time of writing, Damore is busy , describing his firing from Google as a ““, and being as a ‘free speech martyr’ — instead of considering how his own limited (i.e. white, male) perspective has derailed his own career.

This former college kid is also displaying an apparent lack of historical awareness vis-a-vis what living inside a Gulag would actually be like…

FaceApp’s snafu is exactly the kind of situation that would — it logically follows — be more likely to occur if you were to adopt Damore’s idea of de-emphasizing empathy in your software engineering team, most especially should that team be drastically lacking in diversity (NB: ).

.text .crunchreport h3 {color:#fff}Latest Crunch Report

So, basically, [insert full spectrum facepalm emoji bar right here].

Don’t be stupid (or evil)

No consumer product exists in a societal vacuum. Which was a point we apparently had to make to FaceApp, as controversy flared over its latest racist filters — yet the team apparently remained clueless as to why they were once again offending masses of potential users.

You can’t ignore context. Or, well you demonstrably can, but you do so at your peril. Because it’s a spectacularly stupid thing to do.

The ability to see not only a bigger picture, but a fully rounded, full spectrum color picture is essential if you want your product to win friends and influence people everywhere, in all walks of life.

See, for example, how long it took Apple — a company whose executive ranks still skew overwhelmingly male — to add . Um, ignoring the needs of ~50 per cent of the population isn’t good business sense, guys!

Being ignorant of gender issues or historical and cultural context might explain why you’ve failed to avoid the massive pitfall opening up in front of you. But it’s not a defense against failing massively.

You’re still going to trip up and fall right into that gaping hole.

Nor can your personal ‘sense of fairness’ and/or ‘facts/logic’ shield you from causing wider offense if you also lack the ability to see beyond your own monotone boundaries (also known as having a ‘limited perspective’ — a typical human state that can be ameliorated by empathizing with people other than and different to yourself).

If you have no idea about the history of racist stereotypes, and how they have been deployed to misrepresent and oppress, then I guess it’s possible to convince yourself that all you need to do to make sure your race-related product choices aren’t horribly offensive is to randomly shuffle the order you present your “ethnicity filters” and badge them all with an identical, globe-shaped icon.

However your product will remain horribly offense to people who do not share your (i.e. white, privileged) world view.

And you will quickly find yourself wearing the equivalent of an egg-on-your-face filter, as FaceApp has. At least they quickly pulled the filters when their obvious idiocy was pointed out to them.

Just as, if you have zero life experience outside of the privileged confines of elite engineering schools, where you probably mostly encountered other privileged white guys who shared the same world view as you, it’s apparently possible to convince yourself that the gaping gender disparity so massively evident all around you in the highly privileged space you and your male peers occupy and enjoy, is somehow, y’know, a naturally occurring phenomenon — like rainbows or cumulonimbus clouds — instead of stemming from the tectonic social forces that continually shape and bend individual choices and opportunities, i.e. long after a developing foetus has been exposed to prenatal testosterone.

It’s frankly amazing to watch a twentysomething Googler disinterre and rehash sexist myths that men are more ‘logical’ and women more prone to “neuroticism” — cherry picking some stuff he found on the Internet to use as citations to justify a prejudiced view — before confidently (and now publicly) calling for less empathy in the workplace.

And yet here we are.

The ugly connective tissue that’s being glimpsed behind the scenes across the tech industry, whether via outspoken anti-diversity sentiments or ill-judged digital product launches or indeed that’s so , does not look like a coincidence.

Nor indeed does the growing tsunami of dubious data readily available online — and trivially amplified with the help of additional powerful tech tools.

Crunchbase

Data, remixed and selectively spewed, is the weapon of choice in the culture wars. And it can be made to . Someone should really tell Damore that’s not “science”; it’s fiction.

Increasingly, we’re glimpsing a sort of warped reverse mirror view of the Silicon Valley utopianism that tech CEOs love to project as a halo to shine over their “world changing” products.

The reality is rather more destabilizingly narrow and damaging to those who lie outside the member’s club.

Or, to put it another way, world changing for the worse.

To really spell it out: Your lack of perspective, your lack of diversity and your lack of empathy are your blindspots. And your blindspots will sink you and/or your product if you let them.

In Damore’s case, they have sunk his immediate career prospects.

Although, given he hails from a position of privilege, and is already being raised up by those who identify with an anti-diversity viewpoint — and handed a platform to continue to expose and amplify such views — he’s unlikely to be forced to go unemployed for long. Just as he’s hardly being silenced.

A better choice of T-shirt for Damore would carry the slogan: ‘RIP Irony’.

Other slogans are also available.

Off the top of my head, here’s a couple of ideas —

We reached out to Damore with questions about his views on empathy. At the time of writing he had not responded to, nor apparently read, our email — although he had updated his LinkedIn profile to add his #NewProfilePic

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OpenAI bot remains undefeated against world’s greatest Dota 2 players

Last night, OpenAI’s Dota 2 bot beat the world’s most celebrated professional players in one-on-one battles, showing just how advanced these machine learning systems are getting.

The bot beat Danil “Dendi” Ishutin rather easily at The International, one of the biggest eSports events in the world, and remains undefeated against the world’s top Dota 2 players.

Elon Musk’s OpenAI trained the bot by simply copying the AI and letting the two play each other for weeks on end.

“We’ve coached it to learn just from playing against itself,” . “So we didn’t hard-code in any strategy, we didn’t have it learn from human experts, just from the very beginning, it just keeps playing against a copy of itself. It starts from complete randomness and then it makes very small improvements, and eventually it’s just pro level.”

To be clear, a 1v1 battle in Dota 2 is far less complex than an actual professional battle, which includes two teams of five players completing a variety of tasks simultaneously to achieve victory. But OpenAI said that’s working on another bot that could play against and alongside humans in a larger 5v5 battle.

Not shockingly, Elon Musk was watching along and had some thoughts of his own, calling unregulated AI vastly more dangerous than North Korea:

This isn’t the first time Elon Musk has spoken up about the dangers of AI without regulation. He that the process of setting up a government body to regulate AI should start in the immediate future, speaking at the International Space Station R&D conference a few weeks ago.

Musk has also thrown shade at Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Twitter, saying that Zuck’s understanding of AI is .

Speaking at TC Sessions: Robotics, Rodney Brooks, founder of iRobot and Rethink Robotics, with Musk saying that, currently, there isn’t much to regulate.

If you’re going to have a regulation now, either it applies to something and changes something in the world, or it doesn’t apply to anything. If it doesn’t apply to anything, what the hell do you have the regulation for? Tell me, what behavior do you want to change, Elon? By the way, let’s talk about regulation on self-driving Teslas, because that’s a real issue.

At the same event, head of Amazon Robotics Tye Brady :

I’m not really a fan of regulation. I’m a fan of doing whatever the customer seeks. We have a mission in mind to do order fulfillment in the best way possible. So, yeah, I’m not a fan of regulation.

Obviously, some of the world’s greatest minds in the fields of robotics/AI/ML are at an impasse, but the maturation of AI .

Moneytis is like a travel fare aggregator, but for sending money abroad

If you don’t care too much about loyalty programs, chances are that you’ve been relying on platforms like Booking.com and Expedia to find the cheapest flights and hotel rooms. wants to do the exact same thing, but for foreign exchange services.

is arguably the biggest consumer brand in international transfers. Instead of telling your bank to send money to your bank account, you send money to TransferWise first. The startup then converts the amount and transfers your money to the other account abroad.

It’s been an eye-opening experience for many consumers who realized that they’re getting by banks, Western Union, Moneygram, etc.

But TransferWise is just one player in this space. For instance, while the startup is usually quite competitive when you want to convert GBP into EUR, it’s not as competitive when you want to send money from the U.S. to Europe. Other services, such as let you keep more money at the end of your transfer.

That’s why Moneytis is applying the Booking.com model to international transfers. The experience is quite straightforward as you just have to put two different currencies and how much money you plan on sending.

“I was an expat in China and Etienne [Tatur] was in Europe. And I was shocked by hidden fees every time I wanted to send money,” co-founder and CFO Christophe Lassuyt told me. “That’s when we listed and compared all solutions out there. Friends quickly asked us to see the list. We ended up launching a comparison tool. We then understood that users wanted to compare, but also transfer easily. That’s the service we’re launching.”

Moneytis then compares many services and displays the fastest service, the cheapest one, the most popular one, etc. You don’t have to sign up to other services as you can send your money directly on Moneytis.

The startup doesn’t add any fee. Instead, Moneytis takes a small cut from third-party services as it is generating leads for those foreign exchange services. On average, clients are sending $2,000 — Moneytis takes 0.3 percent (representing $6) and it’s transparent for the user.

There’s no clear winner in the foreign exchange space as big players like TransferWise only cover some currencies. Exchange rate volatility also means that some services are going to be cheaper one day and more expensive the next day. Finally, some services will be able to get better deals for particular routes.

Moneytis is clearly a volume play as the startup will need thousands of transfers per day to scale. It could build an API so that big clients can automate transfers and always use the cheapest service out there. This way, the service could become an essential tool for companies doing business in many different countries.

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Uber investor Shervin Pishevar petitions Benchmark to step down from board and sell some of its stock

Shortly after a group of to relinquish its spot on Uber’s board of directors, Benchmark via Change.org to remove itself from Uber’s board. The petition also asks Benchmark to sell at least 75 percent of its stock so that the firm no longer has rights to appoint members to Uber’s board of directors.

“We have investors ready to acquire these shares as soon as we receive communication from Benchmark that they are willing to withdraw their lawsuit and sell a minimum of 75% of their holdings,” the petition states.

, alleging violation of fiduciary duty and fraud by seeking to “increase his power over Uber for his own selfish ends.” Benchmark’s lawsuit ultimately seeks to remove Kalanick from the board. Since filing the lawsuit, the tables have turned, and a group of shareholders is now asking Benchmark to remove itself from the board.

Uber’s board of directors has also spoken out against the lawsuit, .”

Now back to the petition. At the time of publication, Pishevar’s petition had just 41 supporters. Change.org will deliver the petition to Benchmark once it hits 100 supporters. A source says Pishevar has sent the petition to some fellow Uber investors, asking them to get on board.

Why Pishevar thinks Change.org will be more effective, I’m not sure. I’ve reached out to him and will update this story if I hear back.

Here’s the full petition:

As a group of shareholders of Uber Technologies, Inc. (the “Company”) we were surprised and distressed to learn through the media of the lawsuit brought by your firm against the Company, and its founder and former Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick.

Naturally, we share your concerns about the problems that the Company has confronted in recent months, but we are greatly concerned about the tactics employed by Benchmark to address them, which strike us as ethically dubious and, critically, value-destructive rather than value enhancing.

Specifically, we do not feel it was either prudent or necessary from the standpoint of shareholder value, to hold the company hostage to a public relations disaster by demanding Mr. Kalanick’s resignation, along with other concessions, on a few hours’ notice and within weeks of a personal tragedy, under threat of public scandal. Even less so your escalation of this fratricidal course – notwithstanding Mr. Kalanick’s resignation – through your recent lawsuit, which we fear will cost the company public goodwill, interfere with fundraising and impede the critical search for a new, world-class Chief Executive Officer. Benchmark has used false allegations from lawsuits like Waymo as a matter of fact and this and many actions has crossed the fiduciary line.

Benchmark’s investment of $27M is worth $8.4 billion today and you are suing the founder, the company and the employees who worked so hard to create such unprecedented value. We ask you to please consider the lives of these employees and allow them to continue to grow this company in peace and make it thrive. These actions do the opposite.

Accordingly, we would request that Benchmark help the Company realize its full potential by allowing the necessary work to be done in the Board Room rather than the Courtroom. To this end, at this point, in light of your suit against the Company, we believe it would be best, and hereby request, that Benchmark remove its representative from the Company’s Board and move promptly to divest itself of enough shares in the Company so as to cease to have Board appointment rights. We have investors ready to acquire these shares as soon as we receive communication from Benchmark that they are willing to withdraw their lawsuit and sell a minimum of 75% of their holdings.

We are also asking for a symbolic Board of Directors vote on this matter at today’s Board meeting to show how the Board of Directors stands on this lawsuit brought against the company, its founder and the 15,000 employees of Uber who have all worked so hard in concert to create the fastest growing company in history.

Many other shareholders share our views and will be adding their names in the days ahead.

Sincerely,

Shervin Pishevar
Personal Investor, Advisor and Former Uber Board Observer (2011-2015) Coordinator, Uber Shareholder Alliance

Ron Burkle
Chairman
Yucaipa Companies

Adam Leber
Partner, Maverick

Crunch Report | Benchmark Sues Travis Kalanick

Today’s Stories 

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    FCC adds 2 weeks to comment period for the proposal to eliminate net neutrality rules

    The comment period for the FCC’s proposal to roll back the net neutrality rules established in 2015 was originally August 16 — next Wednesday. But after advocacy organizations asked the agency to add time to the clock in order to look through existing comments, the deadline has been extended (against the strenuous arguments of the broadband industry) by two weeks, to August 30.

    The EFF, Public Knowledge, the ACLU and more asking for eight weeks to be added. There’s adequate reason for it; 20 million comments are a lot to wade through, and thousands of them are more than the simple “I support/oppose the proposal.” is from Representatives who actually helped write and modify the Telecommunications Act that grants the FCC its powers to begin with.

    Given the enormous volume, scope, complexity, and importance of the issues raised in the first round of comments, good cause plainly exists for this request. An extension is necessary to give Movants and other interested persons a minimum of adequate time to work through the initial comment record and prepare thorough and well-informed replies.

    A filing from several broadband and telecom industry groups opposed the motion, saying that there’s already been plenty of time, and anyway we’ve talked it all over before.

    The debate over the proper regulatory classification and treatment of broadband internet access is neither new nor novel. All stakeholders have had multiple opportunities to weigh in on the core issues in play here for over fifteen years across a range of public dockets…the facts and issues presented remain the same today as they have been for the entirety of this debate.

    The filing also points out that millions of comments appear to be fraudulent — associated with nonexistent addresses, or duplicates, or what have you. There’s no denying that, on both sides of the equation, it turns out. But if anything that suggests more time should be spent examining the comment record, not less.

    At any rate, the Commission , but by two weeks — less than the eight asked for by the movants, but more than the ten days suggested (if extension there must be) by the opponents.

    It will, reads the order from Daniel Kahn from the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau, provide the Commission with more thorough commentary, “ensuring that the Commission has a complete record on which to develop its decisions.”

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    Uber board ‘disappointed’ by Benchmark’s lawsuit against former CEO

    The Uber saga continues, and the board of directors has weighed in on the brewing battle between early investor Benchmark and former CEO Travis Kalanick.

    In wake of a lawsuit Benchmark filed against Kalanick, the company’s board has issued a statement urging both parties to resolve their differences so that employees can get back to work and the company can get back to hiring a new CEO.

    Yesterday for fraud, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty in Delaware Chancery Court. The lawsuit was filed in an effort to kick Kalanick off the board and get rid of a few empty board seats that were added last year, with Benchmark arguing that it never would have approved the addition of those seats had they been aware of Kalanick’s “gross mismanagement” of the company.

    The mismanagement Benchmark cites in the case includes brought against Uber earlier this year, as well as the acquisition of autonomous trucking company Otto, which has led to a by Google-owned self-driving car unit Waymo.

    Benchmark’s lawsuit led some investors earlier today to urge the investment firm to  and divest enough shares so that it would no longer have board voting rights.

    And now, Uber’s board is weighing in, through a statement sent out by Uber co-founder chairman Garrett Camp on behalf of all the directors — or at least, those who are not Kalanick or Benchmark.

    In it, the board says it is “disappointed” the disagreement between shareholders has resulted in litigation and has urged the two parties to resolve the matter “cooperatively and quickly.” It also says that the board is taking steps to facilitate that process, but doesn’t go into details.

    Already Camp has said Kalanick , despite reports that he has . The specter of the combative founder pulling strings behind the scenes has apparently spooked some CEO candidates, but of course, the litigation by Benchmark probably doesn’t help as the company continues its search for a new chief executive.

    Full statement is below:

    The Board of Directors is disappointed that a disagreement between shareholders has resulted in litigation. The Board has urged both parties to resolve the matter cooperatively and quickly, and the Board is taking steps to facilitate that process. At a time when thousands of employees around the world are working hard to serve our drivers and riders and continue to innovate, our priority remains to select Uber’s new CEO as quickly as possible. We are fortunate to have several outstanding candidates who share our belief in Uber’s great future.

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