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Announcing the complete agenda for TC Sessions: Justice

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TC Sessions: Justice, our second-ever dedicated event to diversity, equity, inclusion and labor in tech, is coming up on March 3, 2021. This is a virtual one-day conference featuring the brightest innovators, leaders and worker-activists in the industry.

We’re pumped to be able to host Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Backstage Capital founder and Managing Partner Arlan Hamilton, Gig Workers Collective’s Vanessa Bain, Alphabet Workers Union Executive Chair Parul Koul, Color of Change President Rashad Robinson, Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt and others.

In addition to the firesides and panel discussions of the virtual stage, the event will also include networking, startup presentations and the chance to connect with attendees from around the world.

Below, you’ll find the official agenda for TC Sessions: Justice. If you want to be a part of this event, you can grab a ticket here for just $5.

If you’re interested in a sponsored speaking opportunity to join the stage with these fantastic speakers, contact us here to speak with someone from our sales team!

AGENDA

Wednesday, March 3

State of the Union with Parul Koul (Google), Grace Reckers (Office and Professional Employees International Union) and Clarissa Redwine (NYU)

Labor unions have been fairly uncommon in tech. That’s finally starting to change in recent years, as workers have pushed to organize at some the industry’s biggest companies, from Alphabet to Kickstarter. Parul Koul (Google), Grace Reckers (Office and Professional Employees International Union) and Clarissa Redwine (NYU) will join us to discuss the growing movement.

Finding the Next Unicorn with Arlan Hamilton (Backstage Capital)

Arlan Hamilton, the founder and managing partner of Backstage Capital, has raised more than $12 million to back 150 companies led by underrepresented founders. In this session, Hamilton will discuss how she vets the biggest opportunities in investment, and how to disrupt in a positive way.

The Path Forward for Essential Tech Workers with Vanessa Bain (Gig Workers Collective), Jessica E. Martinez (National Council for Occupational Safety and Health) and Christian Smalls (The Congress of Essential Workers)

Gig workers and warehouse workers have become essential in a pandemic-ravaged economy. In California, a law went into effect earlier this year that makes gig workers independent contractors. Meanwhile, Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama are actively seeking to form a union to ensure better protections at the workplace. You’ll hear from workers and organizers about what’s next for gig workers and tech’s contractor workforce, and what battles lie ahead for these essential workers.

Creating Equity in Tech with Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA)

The ‘pipeline problem’ is often cited as the reason for a lack of diversity in the tech industry. But it’s a myth. Congresswoman Barbara Lee, having represented the East Bay of California for almost a decade, knows all too well about the rise of tech in the Bay Area. We’ll talk with Congresswoman Lee about the opportunities before us to create an equal playing field in tech so that underrepresented investors, founders, designers, coders and the like can reap the benefits.

Identifying and Dismantling Tech’s Deep Systems of Bias with Haben Girma (Disability Justice Lawyer), Mutale Nkonde (AI for the People) and Safiya Umoja Noble (UCLA)

Nearly every popular technology or service has within it systems of bias or exclusion, ignored by the privileged but obvious to the groups affected. How should these systems be exposed and documented, and how can we set about eliminating them and preventing more from appearing in the future? AI for the People’s Mutale Nkonde, disability rights lawyer Haben Girma and author of “Algorithms of Oppression” Safiya Umoja Noble discuss a more inclusive future.

Sponsored by Latinx Startup Alliance: Latinx Founders Leading with Inclusion 

Latinx Founders who are leading with inclusion through diverse teams and/or supporting a diverse mission, inclusion is a part of their DNA.

Founders in Focus with Tracy Chou (Block Party)

We sit down with the founders poised to be the next big disruptors in this industry. Here we chat with Tracy Chou of Block Party, which works to protect people from abuse and harassment online.

The Role of Online Hate and Where Social Media Goes from Here with Naj Austin (Somewhere Good and Ethel’s Club), Jesse Lehrich (Accountable Tech) and Rashad Robinson (Color of Change)

Toxic culture, deadly conspiracies and organized hate have exploded online in recent years. We’ll discuss how much responsibility social networks have in the rise of these phenomena and how to build healthy online communities that make society better, not worse.

Sponsored by StartOut: The Impact of Out LGBTQ+ Entrepreneurs

StartOut and Socos Lab are excited to speak at TechCrunch Justice, and cover the Inclusion Impact Indexes. Its first iteration; the StartOut Pride Economic Impact Index quantifies the economic value of under-utilized LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs. The project looks at entrepreneurs’ economic impact in terms of job creation, patents, financings, and exits in the U.S. Our agenda will be a brief introduction, a demo of the index and its current findings, and a Q&A discussion with the publishers of the index.

Sponsored by Onshape: Fireside Chat – Diversity Is More Than Hiring People of Color

It may appear that the country is accepting change – from racial diversity to equality in the workplace. However, we still have ways to go. For example, organizational diversity is still about hiring from diverse talent pools. In reality, to activate the full potential of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) requires more than a “people strategy.” Robust and sustainable work in this area requires embedding DEI principles, policies, systems, and practices into all parts of the business, including the employee and customer experience, brand culture, and overall industry/corporate citizenship.

Networking Break

With our virtual platform, attendees can network via video chat, giving folks the chance to make meaningful connections. CrunchMatch, our algorithmic matching product, will be available to ensure you’re meeting the right people at the show, as well as random matching for attendees who are feeling more adventurous.

Demystifying First-Check Fundraising with First-Check Investors with Brian Brackeen (Lightship Capital), Astrid Scholz (Zebras Unite) and Sydney Thomas (Precursor Ventures) 

There are so many ways to finance your startup that don’t include Y combinator or a traditional fund. In this stacked panel, founders will hear from a trio of decision-makers about how to leverage unconventional communities and resources to get the first dollars they need to execute.

Tech in the Era of Accountability with Jonathan Greenblatt (Anti-Defamation League

A hands-off approach to moderating online platforms invited hate to flourish in plain sight over the last four years. We’ll speak with Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt on proposed policy solutions, if tech is on the cusp of a real era of accountability and what the organization’s mission looks like in 2021 and beyond.
Meeting of the Minds with Sandra Altine (Facebook),  Wade Davis (Netflix) and Bo Young Lee (Uber)

Diversity and inclusion as an idea has been on the agenda of tech companies for years now. But the industry still lacks true inclusion, despite best efforts put forth by heads of diversity, equity and inclusion at these companies. We’ll seek to better understand what’s standing in the way of progress and what it’s going to take to achieve real change.

Access All Areas: Designing Accessibility from Day One with Cynthia Bennett (Carnegie Mellon University), Srin Madipalli (formerly of Accomable and Airbnb) and Mara Mills (NYU)

The session will examine the importance of ensuring accessible product design from the beginning. We’ll ask how the social and medical models of disability influence technological evolution. Integrating the expertise of disabled technologists, makers, investors, scientists, software engineers into the DNA of your company from the very beginning is vital to the pursuit of a functioning and equitable society. And could mean you don’t leave money on the table.

Reimagining Pathways for Returned Citizens with Jason Jones (The Last Mile), Deepti Rohatgi (Slack) and Aly Tamboura (Chan Zuckerberg Initiative)

Reentering society after having been incarcerated presents challenges few of us can understand. In this panel, we will examine the role tech can play in ensuring pathways to employment for returned citizens.


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Identiq, a privacy-friendly fraud prevention startup, secures $47M at Series A

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Israeli fraud prevention startup Identiq has raised $47 million at Series A as the company eyes international growth, driven in large part by the spike in online spending during the pandemic.

The round was led by Insight Partners and Entrée Capital, with participation from Amdocs, Sony Innovation Fund by IGV, as well as existing investors Vertex Ventures Israel, Oryzn Capital, and Slow Ventures.

Fraud prevention is big business, which is slated to be worth $145 billion by 2026, ballooning by eightfold in size compared to 2018. But it’s a data hungry industry, fraught with security and privacy risks, having to rely on sharing enormous sets of consumer data in order to learn who legitimate customers are in order to weed out the fraudsters, and therefore.

Identiq takes a different, more privacy-friendly approach to fraud prevention, without having to share a customer’s data with a third-party.

“Before now, the only way companies could solve this problem was by exposing the data they were given by the user to a third party data provider for validation, creating huge privacy problems,” Identiq’s chief executive Itay Levy told TechCrunch. “We solved this by allowing these companies to validate that the data they’ve been given matches the data of other companies that already know and trust the user, without sharing any sensitive information at all.”

When an Identiq customer — such as an online store — sees a new customer for the first time, the store can ask other stores in Identiq’s network if they know or trust that new customer. This peer-to-peer network uses cryptography to help online stores anonymously vet new customers to help weed out bad actors, like fraudsters and scammers, without needing to collect private user data.

So far, the company says it already counts Fortune 500 companies as customers.

Identiq said it plans to use the $47 million raise to hire and grow the company’s workforce, and aims to scale up its support for its international customers.

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Zynga acquires Echtra, maker of Torchlight 3, to double down on RPG games

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Games company Zynga has been on an acquisition tear the last several years to beef up its activity in particular in mobile and casual-puzzle games, spending over $3 billion to pick up a range of startups across Europe (specifically Turkey and Finland) in the process. Today, however, it’s taking a turn towards more immersive, highly graphic cross-platform experiences. The company has announced that it is acquiring San Francisco’s Echtra Games, the role-playing game publisher behind Torchlight III, which is available on Steam, XBox One, PS4 and Nintendo Switch.

The team will be working on releasing a new title in partnership with Zynga’s NaturalMotion studio, the company said. No other details on that were released for now.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. It’s also not clear who backed Echtra, if anyone.

But Echtra is in some ways a classic example of a gaming startup built out of a burning idea, rather than cold, calculated moneymaking — perhaps the best kind of company you can have.

Max Schaefer, the co-founder and CEO, had previously been at Runic Games, the developer of the original Torchlight series, as well as Diablo and others. Runic was shuttered by its owner, Perfect World, and so in 2016, Shaefer went on to form a new company, Echtra, with some of his Runic colleagues and others in the industry because he saw more life left in the franchise.

The plan will be to bring on Echtra’s team and expertise both to continue building the franchise and to more generally help Zynga build out more of a footprint in cross-platform games, and also gaming technology, in particular around tools built on Unreal Engine, the platform of choice at the moment for RPG and other immersive applications.

“Max and his team at Echtra Games are responsible for some of the most legendary game properties ever created, and they are experts in the action RPG genre and cross-platform development.  I’m excited to welcome the Echtra Games team into the Zynga family,” said Frank Gibeau, Chief Executive Officer of Zynga, in a statement. “This acquisition will be instrumental in growing our iconic licenses and brands from mobile to PCs and consoles, while helping to further expand Zynga’s total addressable market.”

“Echtra Games is delighted to be joining the Zynga family,” added Max Schaefer. “We share Zynga’s vision that cross-platform play is an essential part of the future of RPGs and interactive entertainment and are eager to apply our vast experience and talents to this effort.”

Gaming has been one of the bright spots in the last year — no surprise, since people are spending so much more time indoors and at home because of the pandemic. Zynga, as a consequence of that, has also been on a roll in recent times, with its fourth quarter earnings, released last month, beating analyst expectations. Its revenues of $616 million are the highest ever quarterly bookings posted by the company. Acquisitions are major part of its strategy these days, the company said at the time.

Going for more immersive RPG titles outside of mobile is an ambitious and potentially more expensive undertaking and is a very notable swerve away from the company’s acquisitions in recent years, which have included a majority stake in Turkey’s Rollic for $228 million, Peak for $2.1 billion, 80% of Small Giant Games for $718 million; and Gram Games for $299 million.

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Netflix to release 41 original Indian shows and movies this year

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Netflix said on Wednesday it will roll out 41 Indian films and shows this year, its biggest annual roster of Indian content to date, as the American giant makes further push to win subscribers in the world’s second largest internet market.

The streaming giant, which committed to spending about $420 million on locally produced Indian content in 2019 and 2020, is this year spending significantly more on the new Indian catalog, which is three times larger than the past two years combined.

The new titles feature high-profile Indian actors and producers including Madhuri Dixit, Karan Johar, Manoj Bajpayee, R. Madhavan, Raveena Tandon, Neena Gupta, and Dhanush.

The new roster includes “Bombay Begums,” which follows stories of five women across generations wrestling with desire, ethics, and personal crises, “Decoupled,” a comedy by writer Manu Joseph on India and marriage, and a second season of Emmy-winning drama “Delhi Crime.”

Also in the list are comedy specials that have become immensely popular on streaming services in India. Netflix said comedians including Sumukhi Suresh, Aakaash Gupta, Rahul Dua, and Prashasti Singh — all of whom have participated in comedy shows by Amazon Prime Video — will have shows on the streaming service this year.

Kota Factory, a show that debuted on YouTube about a group of students preparing to compete to get into the prestigious engineering colleges, will premier its second season on Netflix. The Viral Fever, the producer of the show, had collaborated with Indian edtech startup Unacademy, for the first season of the show.

Dice Media’s “Little Things”, which also began its life as native advertisement for a few firms but has since grown into its own show, is getting a fourth season this year.

“Our upcoming lineup features more variety and diversity than we have seen before. From the biggest films and series, to gripping documentaries and reality, and bold comedy formats. We are taking our next big leap in India to bring you more than 40 powerful and irresistible stories from all corners of the country,” said Monika Shergill, Vice President of Content at Netflix India.

“This is just a taste of the films and series to come. We are so excited to share these rich and diverse stories from the best and brightest creators and talent from India to the world,” said Shergill.

R. Madhavan and Surveen Chawla in a still from Netflix’s upcoming show “Decoupled.” (Netflix)

Netflix’s growing catalog in India comes as Bollywood, which churns out more movies than any other film industry, struggles to deliver big hits as theatres across the country report low footfall amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Last year, the Indian film industry began releasing several movies directly on streaming services after some pushback from several key players.

Karan Johar said at Netflix’s virtual press conference today that streaming services have attained the level of scale in India that the next “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai” — one of the biggest blockbuster films in India, and also one produced by Johar — can release directly on Netflix.

Thanks to the availability of some of the world’s cheapest mobile data and proliferation of low-cost Android smartphones, more than half a billion Indians came online in the past decade, much of it in the last five years.

YouTube reaches more than 450 million internet users in India, TechCrunch reported in January. (India’s IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad corroborated the figure at a press conference last month.) Disney’s Hotstar has amassed over 30 million paying subscribers in India. Media consulting firm MPA estimates that Netflix has about 5 million subscribers in India, a figure that has grown in recent years as the streaming service inked a deal with India’s largest telecom operator Jio Platforms.

Netflix’s growing focus on India also comes at a time when New Delhi is getting more involved with the nature of content on on-demand streaming services. Until now Amazon Prime Video and other streaming services have operated in India without having to worry too much about the nature of their content. But that’s changing, according to new rules announced by India last week.

“The category classification of a content will take into account the potentially offensive impact of a film on matters such as caste, race, gender, religion, disability or sexuality that may arise in a wide range of works, and the classification decision will take account of the strength or impact of their inclusion,” the new rules state.

Amazon issued a rare apology to viewers in India on Tuesday after some people — including lawmakers with governing Bhartiya Janata Party — objected to some scenes from its political mini-series “Tandav.” Netflix, itself, has faced some heat, too. A police case was filed against two top executives of Netflix, including Shergill, after some people objected to scenes of the show “A Suitable Boy.”

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