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Is your smart fridge putting your home at risk?, Tech News & Top Stories

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All it took to infiltrate a home Wi-Fi network was a smart light bulb.

Last month, researchers at cyber-security firm Check Point showed how a vulnerability in market-leading Philips Hue smart lights could be used as the entry point for malware to attack other devices that share the same Wi-Fi network.

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Startups demand liquidity lifeline to stay afloat, Technology News, ETtech

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Illustration: Rahul Awasthi
Illustration: Rahul Awasthi

India’s startups are lobbying the government for a lifeline as they cope with an existential liquidity crisis amid a disruption of their ecosystem due to Covid-19, the national lockdown and a spiraling global market. Half of them may be forced to close if no support is forthcoming, according to one of the letters sent to the finance minister.

Startups sought loans free of interest or linked to income tax and goods and service tax (GST) refunds to meet funding needs in a March 30 letter to finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman signed by the Confederation of Indian Industry, Nasscom, Indian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association as well as leading entrepreneurs and venture capital investors. Among the 75 signatories are Kris Gopalakrishnan, Rajan Anandan, TV Mohandas Pai, Arihant Patni and Mukesh Bansal.

The startups want public sector banks and state-controlled Small Industries Development Bank of India (Sidbi), the implementing agency of the ₹10,000 crore Fund-of-Funds, to offer loans up to the full extent of the refunds they’re due.

“These refunds are undisputed… but are yet to get transferred to the startups due to various reasons,” said Siddarth Pai, founding partner of 3one4 Capital and a signatory to the March 30 joint letter.

“While these are assets on the balance sheet of the startups, what’s needed now is the translation of this to cash,” said the letter.

This will provide startups with liquidity for the near-to-short-term without stressing government resources, the note said.

“Covid crisis threatens to destroy all of the progress and future potential of our startup ecosystem in a few short months,” the letter stated. “We seek your urgent intervention to help ensure India’s startup ecosystem survives… We need the startup ecosystem to survive in order to help the economy bounce back.”

Another communication from LocalCircles, an online community platform that represents 29,000 startups and small and medium enterprises (SMEs), to the finance minster said “startups want that some or all of CSR (corporate social responsibility) funds be permitted into startups as grants”.

Companies should be allowed to invest in startups and avail CSR benefits and claim it’s CSR, the letter said. “The startup and SME community is hopeful that the government will consider these asks with the highest importance,” said the March 31 LocalCircles note. “It is critical for startups and SMEs to survive… and if nothing is done, at least 50% of them will soon be shut.” ET has seen both the letters.

Venture capital firms have issued warnings to portfolio companies and the broader ecosystem to conserve cash and tighten spending, given the worsening macroeconomic climate and meltdown of global indices. Ecommerce and food delivery unicorn startups have been struggling because of the lockdown. Some of the top startups in the country are reported to have started cutting staff costs.

“The government’s focus rightfully seems to be on health and like in the past it will come to the rescue of the startup ecosystem soon,” said Sanjay Mehta, founder, 100X. “Also, the corporate venture capitalist as an asset class has gone away due to the current situation, and any access to fresh capital in small businesses will be the only way growth will come.”

Multiple ongoing deals talks have been shelved or put on hold citing force majeure, threatening companies that don’t have adequate funding to last out the crisis, ET has reported.



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Larsen Motorsports In the News For Virtual Field Trips Initiative

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Larsen Motorsports co-owner and world champion jet dragster driver Elaine Larsen speaks to Spectrum News 13 about the virtual field trip program the organization has launched for homebound students to vividly illustrate how STEM disciplines guide many aspects of their operation.

Larsen Motorsports is helping to ensure homebound students keep their minds fired up, just like the flame-blasting jet dragsters the Florida Tech partner is known for.

Working from their equipment- and display-filled facility at Florida Tech’s Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Innovative Design in Palm Bay, Larsen Motorsports owners Chris and Elaine Larsen and their team, including several Florida Tech students and alumni, have begun producing videos and worksheets highlighting the STEM-based work involved in operating a business based around jet-powered vehicles.

“There is a lot of science all around you and we are able to take the science that’s in our race shop and apply it what these students are learning in the classroom,” Elaine Larsen said. “We are able to engage the students in a new way. They need to be engaged, they need to be challenged.”

These virtual field trips kicked off with Chris Larsen’s extensive tour of the Larsen Motorsports facility. The new one features NASA astronaut and Florida Tech executive Winston Scott speaking about his experience on multiple space shuttle missions, on space walks and how he built and achieved his remarkable career.

“It is important for us to utilize this time in the best way and be able to go out and reach these kids in Brevard County and across America and give them something that is relevant,” Elaine Larsen told Spectrum New 13’s Greg Pallone. “One of them could be the next Winston Scott.”

The story is available here through May 5.

Future editions of the virtual field trips will center on other STEM topics such as computer numeric controlled machining, engines and high-tech fabrication.

For more on this program, visit www.blazingtrails.info.

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Girl Scout Cookies Are Now Available Online…And Other Small Business Tech News

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Here are five things in technology that happened this past week and how they affect your business. Did you miss them?

1 — Girl Scout cookies are now available online so you can drown your quarantine sorrows in thin mints.  

All varieties of Girl Scout cookies are now available for purchase online, allowing cookie lovers in quarantine to have their favorite boxes delivered right to their door. In the past, cookies were able to be purchased online—however—the only way to receive a link was through a face-to-face interaction with a Girl Scout. Now, all you need to do is visit the official Girl Scout website and put in your zip code in order to see what options you have local to you. The price of each box is $5 and—once you order through their site—boxes will be delivered right to your doorstep. (Source: News Week)

Why this is important for your business:

The Coronavirus is changing a lot of distribution and other business models – including the Girl Scouts. What about your business?

2 — Microsoft 365 is bundling Office 365 with AI and cloud-powered features.

Microsoft announced this past week that Office 365 will be making some changes toward end of the month to Microsoft 365. The newest version of the suite will include Office 365 features while adding on robust templates and content, cloud-powered elements, and newer AI. Office 365 will now be known as Microsoft 365 Personal, while Office 365 Home will go by Microsoft 365 Family. (Source: Venture Beat)

Why this is important for your business:

The subscription costs won’t change—however, —with Microsoft 365 Personal costing $7 a month and Microsoft 365 Family $10 a month. The plans laid out for Microsoft 365 will contain all of the newest features detailed this week as well as the older favorites such as 60 Skype minutes, technical support, security features, and 1TB of OneDrive cloud storage for each user. This may be all that you need for your home workers to use if you don’t have other licenses available.

3 —The bartering economy has exploded on Nextdoor.  

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, people are avoiding stores more and more and—instead—turning to Nextdoor to trade items or supplies of theirs for items they need. Nextdoor is an app that allows users from the same community or neighborhood to interact and share information. While trading through the popular app is not a new concept, the app has seen a rise in these types of exchanges. Hand sanitizer has been traded for sugar, potatoes for toilet paper, activities for children in exchange for vegetables are only some of the ways that people are getting creative in how to manage without going out to stores in order to avoid exposing themselves to the virus. (Source: One Zero)

Why this is important for your business:

Nextdoor has been growing significantly over the past year and with the Coronavirus pandemic it’s become an even more popular way for communities – including business owners – to share information, news…and products. Given the number of people that are using the platform during these shelter-in-place days, it could be a great way to build relationships for when you re-open your doors.

4 — Now you can get the most out of your old laptop by turning it into a Chromebook if you’re working from home.

With more and more people working from home due to COVID-19, some are finding that their laptops may not be equipped to handle the amount of work they need to get done in their home office. Employees who have the ability to complete all of their tasks within a browser could potentially capitalize on being able to transform their older macOS or Windows machine into a more efficient Chromebook. Neverware— a company that helps schools and businesses refurbish their aging devices—can transform nearly any laptop into a Chromebook through their CloudReady branch and is now offering a free version of the software to individual users. (Source: Android Police)

Why this is important for your business:

Have a lot of employees working from home that need devices? Don’t have the budget to go out and buy a new laptop? Or do you just want to have better control over the devices your work-from-home people are using when they access your network? A Chromebook checks those boxes and this method of conversion may be a big help to your precious cash flow.

5— Researchers are finding that AI is bad at predicting GPA, grit, eviction, job training, layoffs, and material.

Recently developed research has shown that AI misses the mark—overall—when trying to predict social outcomes for children, families, and entire households. The study—titled the Fragile Families Study— contained data which included information about a child’s parent, teacher, other caregivers, as well as the actual child involved in the study. Out of the 1,617 variables considered in the study, the main focus was on items like job training, eviction, grit, layoffs, material hardship, and GPA. With more than 3,000 models studied, many using sophisticated AI,  most were not accurate and—additionally—only slightly better than predictions conducted through non-machine learning methods. (Venture Beat)

Why this is important for your business:

The takeaway is that with all the hype surrounding artificial intelligence, the technology is still in its infancy. 

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