Amazon puts $10M in Closed Loop Fund to make recycling easier in more American cities

Amazon announced today that it has invested $10 million in Closed Loop Fund, which finances the creation of recycling infrastructure and services in U.S. cities. In a statement, the e-commerce behemoth claimed that its investment will keep one million tons of recyclable material out of landfills and “eliminate the equivalent of two million metric tons of CO2 by 2028, equivalent to shutting down a coal-fired power plant for six months.”

Founded in 2014, Closed Loop Fund invests in companies and organizations working on services, infrastructure, or technology that will make recycling accessible to more communities in the U.S. Only a few cities have made recycling mandatory and in many municipalities, trucking trash to the landfill is still much cheaper than offering curbside recycling. According to Amazon’s announcement, about half of Americans “lack access to convenient, sufficient curbside recycling at their homes.” Over the next 10 years, Closed Loop Fund wants to save more than 8 million tons of waste from landfills by making recycling easier for 18 million households.

In a statement, Closed Loop Fund CEO Ron Gonen said “Amazon’s investment in Closed Loop Fund is another example of how recycling is good business in America. Companies are seeing that they can meet consumer demand and reduce costs while supporting a more sustainable future and growing good jobs across the country. We applaud Amazon’s commitment to cut waste, and we hope their leadership drives other brands and retailers to follow suit.”

As the largest online retailer in the U.S. by far, Amazon packages produce a massive amount of cardboard and packaging waste every year. More than 5 billion items were shipped through Amazon Prime last year, while the company’s fulfillment and shipping network increased by more than 30% in square footage.

The burden placed on overwhelmed municipalities and waste collection services that need to dispose of packaging from Amazon and other e-commerce stores has been dubbed the “Amazon Effect” and blamed for contributing to the decline in the cardboard recycling rate. According to the American Forestry and Packaging Association, the recycling rate for cardboard fell to 88.8% in 2017 from 92.9% in 1999.

Amazon claims its Frustration-Free Packaging program, which offers brands incentives to use less wasteful packaging, has eliminated more than 244,000 tons of packaging materials and made it possible to avoid more than 500 million shipping boxes since launching 10 years ago. But with its rapid pace of growth—Amazon is expected to reach $258.22 billion in U.S. retail sales this year, accounting for 49.1 percent of all online retail spending in the country and 5 percent of all retail sales—there is still a lot of work to do if it really wants to stop contributing to packaging waste.

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Announcing the Disrupt Berlin Agenda

TechCrunch Disrupt is the world’s biggest and most impactful tech startup conference, and we can’t wait to bring the hype to Berlin.

We’re very proud of the show we’ve put together and are thrilled to give you a look at what’s in store.

Editor’s Note: Not all of our speakers are included on this agenda as we like to keep a couple tricks up our sleeves. 😉

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 29

Morning


Racing to the Future with Lucas Di Grassi (Roborace)

Hear from Roborace’s new CEO and former F1 driver Lucas Di Grassi on how Roborace is merging human driving and artificial intelligence to build a better racing series. Including a sneak peak at their latest vehicle! Main Stage @ 9:05AM

A New Start with Anne Kjaer-Riechert (ReDI School of Digital Integration), Aline Sara (NaTakallam)

The world has been shocked by the plight of refugees from both war zones and natural disasters in the last few years. But the tech world has stepped up to the plate to assist refugees and NGOs, in this case with ReDI School’s hugely successful code school for refugees and NaTakallam’s global platform for refugees to teach languages. Main Stage @ 9:25AM

In The Money with Pieter van der Does (Adyen)

Payments company Adyen has achieved that rare thing all startups hope for but many do not achieve: it went public as a profitable company with a huge IPO pop. Hear how a startup quietly built up a payments empire under the radar, out of Amsterdam. Main Stage @ 9:45AM

Regaining Momentum in Europe with Saul Klein (LocalGlobe)

Saul Klein has long had an outsized imprint on Europe’s tech scene, as an operator, founder and investor, as well as the mastermind behind the global meet up concept OpenCoffee and the “YC of Europe,” Seedcamp. We’ll talk with Klein about creating a sustainable ecosystem, as well as how Europe now competes against faster-growing markets, including in China. Main Stage @ 10:05AM

STARTUP BATTLEFIELD

The hottest startups compete for the Disrupt Cup, $50,000 USD, and eternal glory. Main Stage @ 10:50AM

Bootstrapping Your Way To The Top with Denys Zhadanov (Readdle)

Readdle, a strartup out of Ukraine, has racked up 100 million downloads of its popular PDF app, and is now making a bold move into other productivity tools, all without a single dime of funding. It can be done! Hear Denys Zhadanov tell his startup’s story. Main Stage @ 11:55AM

STARTUP BATTLEFIELD

The hottest startups compete for the Disrupt Cup, $50,000 USD, and eternal glory. Main Stage @ 1:15PM

Afternoon


Sharing the Ride-Sharing Industry with Daniel Ramot (Via), and other speakers to be announced

It’s time to say it: there won’t be a single global leader in the ride-sharing industry. Many companies will survive and compete in dozens of countries with different offerings. But how do you beat Uber at its own game? Main Stage @ 2:40PM

Pioneering Crypto with Jamie Burke (Outlier Ventures), Vinay Gupta (Mattereum), and other speakers to be announced

Investing in Crypto and Blockchain startups has never been hotter. We’ll hear from these key pioneers in the field who are feeling their way in this brand new arena. Main Stage @ 3:45PM

Making Everyone A Secondary VC with Kaidi Ruusalepp (Funderbeam)

As startups stay private longer and more people want to gamble on them, CEO Kaidi Ruusalepp will discuss the risks and rewards of would-be investors turning to Funderbeam’s secondary market. Main Stage @ 4:10PM

STARTUP BATTLEFIELD

The hottest startups compete for the Disrupt Cup, $50,000 USD, and eternal glory. Main Stage @ 4:30PM


FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 30TH

Morning


Going Global with Brynne Kennedy (Topia)

Topia’s Brynne Kennedy will discuss building the tools that enable companies to manage the 21st century mobile workforce. Main Stage @ 9:25AM

The European Fintech Fever with Ricky Knox (Tandem) and other speakers to be announced

Thanks to a unified market, fintech startups have boomed in Europe. And yet, with so many megarounds and startups doing the same thing, are we experiencing a fintech fever? Main Stage @ 9:45AM

Learning Languages and Building a Startup with Julie Hansen and Markus Witte (Babbel)

Babbel is now managing the top-grossing language learning app in the world. It’s a European success story. The company is now facing a new challenge: conquering the U.S. Main Stage @ 10:10AM

Building Your Next Car, Today with Laurin Hahn (Sono Motors), Ole Harms (MOIA)

The car industry has never been so exciting. Everybody is working on the car of the future, which will represent the perfect combination of automation, connectivity, electric motors and mobility services. But who will do it better: Startups or car giants trying to reinvent themselves? Including a sneak peak of Sono’s new vehicle. Main Stage @ 11:05AM

Becoming a “Unicorn Factory” with Philipe Botteri, Sonali De Rycker, Luciana Lixandru, and Harry Nelis (Accel)

Accel London has built a very strong brand in Europe over the past 18 years, with bets that include Deliveroo and Supercell. Yet staying relevant means continuing to bet on winners. How does Accel think about its heritage and its future, and what does that mean for the startups looking to work with the firm? Main Stage @ 11:30AM

Afternoon


European Space Tech Comes of Age with Mike Collett (Promus Ventures), Rafal Modrzewski (ICEYE)

Mike Collett has built a reputation as a savvy investor in deep-technology software and is now an investor in one of Europe’s hottest space-tech startups, ICEYE, which ICEYE recently became the first company to launch a Synthetic-Aperture Radar satellite under 100 kilograms which can scan the globe in 3D. Where does space technology go from here? Main Stage @ 1:00PM

STARTUP BATTLEFIELD FINALS

The hottest startups compete for the Disrupt Cup, $50,000 USD, and eternal glory. Main Stage @ 1:45PM

Emerging Market Tech is About to Explode with Lizzie Chapman (Zestmoney) and Alan Mamedi (Truecaller)

With a $100M warchest, Truecaller has gone from a simple anti-spam service to a payments and chat service for huge new markets like India. Meanwhile, Zest is India’s first completely automated consumer digital lending platform which is giving consumers there new options in financing. We’ll get into how these two pioneers are expanding. Main Stage @ 3:30PM

Selling Fashion in a Post-Web World with Sophie Hill (Threads)

Threads, a startup out of London, has found the perfect way to sell to its target millennial customer: forget the web and focus on messaging apps instead. That bold choice has helped the company land tons of clients and millions in backing from VCs who want in on the action. Hear from founder Sophie Hills about how she got here, and what will come next. Main Stage @ 4:20PM

Can Starling Become the Next HSBC with Anne Boden (Starling Bank)

Starling has now convinced hundreds of thousands of people, but it is still far behind the biggest consumer banks. Anne Boden has worked in the banking industry for decades, so she knows what’s missing to jump from a small competitor to a dominant player. Main Stage @ 4:40PM

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Video-based recruitment startup JobUFO scores €2M seed

JobUFO, the Berlin-based startup that has built a video focussed app to help facilitate better job applications, has raised €2 million in seed funding. Leading the round is IBB and Hevella Capital, with the investment to be used for growth.

Claiming to re-invent the way companies handle the application process, JobUFO has developed an online/mobile application form that focuses on the personality of the candidate. This includes being asked to created a CV in a specific format and the ability to record or upload a personal application video. The JobUFO application form can be embedded anywhere online, such as a company’s career page or job ad, so that it becomes the preferred way to receive applications.

“The HR market is overloaded with too many information and recruiting tools,” JobUFO co-founder and CEO Thomas Paucker tells me when asked to describe the problem being tackled. “This makes it very hard to find the best process of applying to a job. That’s why everybody is writing the same motivational letters. You still need a laptop and there is no real first impression of yourself when you apply. Recruiters do not read motivational letters because someone else could have written it. The longer a recruiting process is, the higher the average dropout rate of an applicant”.

To remedy this, the JobUFO mobile app or web-version enables applicants to quickly create a “DIN-correct” CV in combination with a guided video of up to thirty seconds. Paucker says the idea is to be able to give a good first impression at the very moment the application is received. JobUFO powered applications are pushed directly into a company’s application tracking system via the JobUFO API.

“Recruiters get more and reliable applications without changing their daily routine,” he says. “Applicants get recommendations based on big data and are guided nearly fully automatically during their whole work life. Additionally we automate the communication between those two groups to focus on the main goal: filling the vacancy with someone who fits and likes the job”.

To that end, in two years since being founded, JobUFO has grown its customer base to over 30 well-known companies operating in Germany. They include Deutsche Bahn, Edeka, Evonik, Hertz, and Ikea. In 2018 alone, over 60,000 applications have been generated.

“Digitalisation is changing the recruiting sector,” adds Paucker, noting that younger applicants have no prior knowledge of a more traditional application process and are much more akin to using consumer apps such as Instagram and YouTube. “Since we guide the applicants directly through the application process, JobUFO is particularly popular with this younger target group,” he says.

In addition, the “talking application photos” concept is resonating with recruiters and HR managers since the last mile to the applicant is often the most time-consuming and least scalable. “The company sees the video as well as the checked data of the applicant directly in its own applicant management system. For both sides, this is an uncomplicated process that continues to spur us on to expand,” says the JobUFO CEO.

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Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks publicly for the first time about its censored China search engine

Commenting publicly for the first time about Google’s censored search engine for China, CEO Sundar Pichai said onstage at the WIRED 25 summit in San Francisco that the company is taking “a longer-term view” about the country. Codenamed Project Dragonfly, the controversial development has been public knowledge since a report in August by the Intercept, generating significant backlash, with several employees resigning in protest.

Google did not confirm Project Dragonfly’s existence until its chief privacy officer, Keith Enright, spoke at a Senate hearing last month. Even then, Enright did not provide much information about the project, so this means Pichai’s comments at WIRED 25 are the most detailed ones made officially by Google’s leadership so far.

Even before Project Dragonfly was revealed by The Intercept, Google had already been quietly working on a strategy to re-enter China, including launching (or re-launching) apps through third-party Android stores (Google Play is not available in China) and working with partners like Xiaomi and Huawei to introduce its ARCore technology for augmented and virtual reality there. Pichai said Google has not decided if it will actually launch Project Dragonfly in China, but if it does, the search engine’s biggest competition would be Baidu.

Pichai said that Chinese tech innovations means it’s time for Google to get an understanding of the market from the inside out. “It’s a wonderful, innovative market. We wanted to learn what it would look like if we were in China, so that’s what we built internally,” adding that “given how important the market is and how many users there are, we feel obliged to think hard about this problem and take a longer-term view.”

Even though it follows China’s strict censorship laws, Pichai claimed that Project Dragonfly will still be able to answer “well over 99% of the queries” put to it and that “there are many, many areas where we would provide information better than what’s available.”

Google once operated a censored search engine in China at Google.cn, but pulled out of the country in 2010. At the time, Google said its decision was prompted by a “sophisticated cyber attack originating from China” that targeted human rights activists, and the country’s efforts to “further limit free speech on the web in China” by blocking websites like Googe Docs, Blogger, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

For its critics, Project Dragonfly’s existence means Google has reneged on the values it avowed nine years ago. While onstage at WIRED 25, however, Pichai said working on a search engine is in line with the company’s mission to “provide information to everyone,” noting that China contains about 20% of the world’s population.

Google only embarked on Project Dragonfly after much deliberation, he said. “People don’t understand fully, but you’re always balancing a set of values” when entering new countries,” adding “but we also follow the rule of law in every country.”

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Uber and Lyft are responsible for about half of SF’s rise in traffic since 2010, SFCTA says

Uber and Lyft are often times the ones to blame for the rise in traffic and congestion in cities. In San Francisco, the two ride-hailing services are undoubtedly partially to blame, but not entirely to blame, according to a new study from the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. The gist is that while ride-hailing companies have contributed to the increase in traffic congestion in San Francisco, jobs and population growth also play a major role.

Between 2010 and 2016, according to the SFCTA, ride-hailing services accounted for:

  • 51 percent of the increase in daily vehicle hours of delay
  • 47 percent of the increase in vehicle miles traveled
  • 55 percent of the average speed decline
  • 25 percent of total vehicle congestion citywide

While ride-hailing services increase congestion throughout the entire city, there are concentrated effects in certain districts. Take District 6, which includes the tech company-heavy SOMA neighborhood, where ride-hailing services account for 45 percent of the increased delay while employment change accounts for 36 percent of the increased delay. But in District 3, which includes tourist-heavy areas like The Embarcadero and North Beach, Uber and Lyft account for 73 percent of increased delays.

“One thing that has really been sorely absent is that we have remained largely in the realm of the hypothesis” in terms of why there’s been such an increase in traffic in the city, said Joe Castiglione, the study’s co-author and SFCTA Deputy Director for Technology, Data and Analysis. “We’re seeking to ground this in a real data-driven and rigorous analytic approach to answering this question.”

The SFCTA utilized data from INRIX, a commercial dataset that combines numerous real-time GPS monitoring sources with data from highway performance monitoring systems. It also tapped Northeastern University for its transportation network services trip data set. There are, however, some limitations to this data, Castiglione pointed out. There’s no data set available on delivery services — think FedEx, UPS, and even Postmates, Caviar and UberEats.

Now that there’s all this data-driven information, it begs the question of what the city will do with it. The SFCTA is not a policy-making agency, but its bosses (the San Francisco Board of Supervisors) are.

“We’re silent on policy prescriptions,” Castiglione said. “We’re trying to peel the onion a bit more but we’re not going to lay on policy recommendations. We’re trying to give people some insight into what happens. Ultimately, our board, they’re the policymakers.”

This report comes at a time when the city is actively grappling with how to manage and regulate emerging modes of transportation, like bike-share and scooter-share.

“To the extent we believe all of these things will shape our future, then we want to wrestle with them,” Castiglione said. “We’re working with the SFMTA to determine how to look at all these on-demand delivery services.”

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