Andrew Ng’s AI companies expand to Medellin, Colombia – gpgmail


After his tenure as Chief Scientist at Baidu, Andrew Ng, the founder of the Google Brain project and former CEO of Coursera, set up a number of different proejcts that all focus on making AI more approachable. These include the education startup Deeplearning.ai, the AI Fund startup studio for building AI companies and Landing.ai, which helps enterprises (and especially manufacturing companies) use AI. Today, Ng announced that he has opened a second office for these projects in Medellin, Colombia.

At first, Medellin may seem like an odd choice. But today’s Medellin is very different from the one you may have seen on Narcos (and a lot safer). It’s home to a number of universities and over the course of the last few years, it’s a hub for Colombia’s startup scene thanks to incubators like Ruta N and others.

Ng told me that he chose Medellin after looking at a wide range of cities in Europe, Asia and Latin America. Medellin, he believes, offers a strong talent pool, educational system and business ecosystem. it also helps that the Colombia government has made tech a focus in recent years.

“I see early signs of momentum for Colombia being a talent magnet both regionally and globally,” he told me. Indeed, the company was able to hire team members from Poland, Bangladesh, Egypt and Chile for its offices in Medellin, which now has just under 50 people. Over the course of the next two years, Ng plans to expand this team to between 150 and 200 employees.

It’s important, Ng argues, that we set up AI hubs outside of Silicon Valley and China, in part, because they’ll provide a different perspective. “We are able to share our AI ecosystem and Silicon Valley know-how with Medellín,” he writes in today’s announcement. “We’re equally thrilled for our Silicon Valley team to be learning from the Medellín community. Local knowledge and innovation shared with a global community is what will catapult the technology forward.”

The teams in Medellin will work on all of Ng’s projects, including four unannounced stealth portfolio companies that are looking into using AI in sectors like healthcare, education and customer support. In total, the teams in Medellin are working on about a dozen projects right now. And that’s very much Ng’s approach to AI — and for Landing.ai in particular: build lots of specialized components for various verticals that can then be generalized. “AI isn’t some piece of SaaS software that everybody can just swipe their credit card and use,” he said.


Andrew Ng will also join us for our first gpgmail Sessions: Enterprise event in San Francisco on September 5 to talk about Landing.ai and the future of AI in general. You can find more information about the event (and buy tickets) here.


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Torch CEO and Well Clinic founder Cameron Yarbrough on mental health & coaching – gpgmail


There has long been a stigma associated with therapy and mental health coaching, a stigma that is even more pronounced in the business world, despite considerable evidence of the efficacy of these services. One of the organizations that has set out to change this negative association is Torch, a startup that combines the therapeutic benefits of executive coaching with data-driven analytics to track outcomes.

Yet, as Torch co-founder and CEO Cameron Yarbrough explains in this Breaking Into Startups episode, the startup wasn’t initially a tech-oriented enterprise. At first, Yarbrough drew on his years of experience as a marriage and family counselor as he made the transition into executive coaching, even referring to the early iterations of Torch as little more than “a matchmaking service between coaches and professionals.”

In time, Yarbrough identified a virtually untapped market for executive coaching — one that, by his estimate, could amount to a $15 billion industry. To demonstrate to investors the great potential of this growing market, he first built up a clientele that provided Torch with sufficient recurring revenue and low churn rate.

Only then was Yarbrough able to raise a $2.4 million seed round from Initialized Capital, Y Combinator, and other investors, convincing them that data analytics software could enhance the coaching process — as well as coach recruitment — enough to effectively “productize feedback,” as he puts it.

For Yarbrough and Torch, “productizing feedback” involves certain well-known business strategies that complement traditional coaching methods. For instance, Torch’s coaching procedure includes a “360 review,” a performance review system that incorporates feedback from all angles, including an employee’s manager, peers, and other people within an organization who have knowledge of the employee’s work.

The 360 review is coupled with an OKR platform, which provides HR departments and other interested parties with the metrics and analytics to track employee progress through the program. This combination is designed to promote the development of soft skills, which in turn drive leadership.

Torch has achieved considerable success, landing several influential clients in the tech sector through its B2B approach. But Yarbrough is clear that his goal with the company is to “democratize” access to professional coaching, in hopes of providing the same kind of mental health counseling and support to employees in all levels of an organization.

In this episode, Yarbrough discusses the history and trajectory of Torch, his experience scaling a company many considered unscalable, and the methods he uses to manage his own emotional and mental health as the CEO of an expanding startup. Yarbrough offers insights into the feelings of anxiety and dread common among entrepreneurs and provides a close look at how he has found business and personal success with Torch.


Breaking Into Startups: There’s a difference between a mentor and a coach. Today, I want to talk about that difference and in addition to the intersection between business and psychology, What Cameron Yarbrough, CEO of Torch and Founder of Well Clinic.

If you’re someone that is looking for a mentor or a coach as you break into tech, or if you just want to be surrounded by peers, make sure you download the Career Karma app by going to www.breakingintostartups.com/download.

On today’s episode, you’re going to understand the importance of therapy, mental health and coaches, as well as how historically, it has been inaccessible to people and how Cameron is using his background to democratize this for the world.

If this is your first time listening to the Breaking Startups Podcast, make sure you leave a review on iTunes and tell your friends. Listen to it on Soundcloud and talk about it on Spotify. If you have any feedback for us, positive or negative, please let us know. Without further ado, let’s break-in.

Cameron Yarbrough is the CEO of Torch. He’s one of the best executive coaches in the world. Not only are we going to be talking about coaching and mentoring for executives, but we’ll also be talking about coaching in general for everyone. We’re going to go into how he created his company.


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Amazon customers say they received emails for other people’s orders – gpgmail


Users have said they are receiving emails from Amazon containing invoices and order updates on other customers, gpgmail has learned.

Jake Williams, founder of cybersecurity firm Rendition Infosec, raised the alarm after he received an email from Amazon addressed to another customer with their name, postal address, and their order details.

Williams said he ordered something months ago which recently became available for shipping. He checked the email headers to make sure it was a genuine message.

“I think they legitimately intended to email me a notification that my item was shipping early,” he said. “I just think they screwed something up in the system and sent the updates to the wrong people.”

He said the apparent security lapse was worrying because emails about orders sent to the wrong place is a “serious breach of trust” that can reveal private information about a customer’s life, such as sexual orientation, proclivities, or other personal information

Several other Amazon customers also said they received emails seemingly meant for other people.

“I made an order yesterday afternoon and received her email last night,” another customer who tweeted about the mishap told gpgmail. “Luckily I’m not a malicious person but that’s a huge security issue,” she said.

Another customer tweeted out about receiving an email meant for someone else. He said he spoke to Amazon customer service who said they will investigate additional security issues.

“Hope you didn’t send my sensitive account info to someone else,” he added.

And, one other customer posted a tweet thread about the issue, saying they spoke to a supervisor about the issue who gave a “nonchalant” response, she wrote. She said the supervisor said the issue happens frequently.

A spokesperson for Amazon did not return a request for comment when we asked how many customers were affected and if the company plans on informing customers of the breach. If we hear back, we’ll update.

It’s the second security lapse in a year. In November the company emailed customers saying a “technical error” had exposed an unknown number of their email addresses. When asked about specifics, the notoriously secretive company declined to comment further.




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Group dating app 3fun exposed sensitive data on 1.5 million users – gpgmail


More than 1.5 million users of a group dating service had their personal data exposed — including their real-time location — because of a vulnerability in the app.

The app, 3fun, bills itself as a “private space” where you can meet “local kinky, open-minded people.” But the data wasn’t private at all. Ken Munro, founder of Pen Test Partners, which published the research Thursday and shared its findings with gpgmail, said it was “probably the worst security for any dating app we’ve ever seen.”

Pen Test Partners researchers found the app was leaking the precise location, photos and other personal details of any nearby user.

Worse, because the app wasn’t properly secured, the researchers found they could plug in any coordinates they wanted to spoof their location, revealing sensitive information on anyone within any location of their choosing, including government buildings, military bases, and even intelligence agencies.

gpgmail ran the same tests as Pen Test Partners and confirmed its findings. We were able to modify our current geolocation to any set of coordinates we wanted — including the White House and the CIA.

Using a man-in-the-middle tool like Burp Suite, we could capture our real location, manipulate it in transit on the way to the server, and receive a batch of data for that location.

One of the exposed user records (left) and an approximate representation of several users (right).

We found profiles of users at both locations, including their sexual preferences — including sexual orientation and their preferred matches; their age; username and their partner’s username; their bio — many of which included expansive, specific and personal information on the user; and their full-resolution profile picture. In some cases, dates of birth were also exposed.

None of the data was encrypted. The researchers called the app a “privacy train wreck.”

The researchers contacted 3fun on July 1 to report the bugs. Munro said the app maker took weeks to fix the issues.

We emailed 3fun with several questions, but spokesperson Jennifer White did not respond to a request for comment.

It’s the latest app to fall foul of proper security standards in recent months. Jewish dating app JCrush left 200,000 user records exposed in June following a security lapse. Last year on its launch day, conservative dating app Donald Daters exposed its entire user base — at the time some 1,600 users — after leaving a set of hardcoded keys in its app, which was quickly found after a security researcher decompiled the app.

Another dating app, Coffee Meets Bagel, was breached on Valentine’s Day, no less.

Well, that’s one way to a person’s heart — hacking their dating profile.


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PodcastOne is launching LaunchpadDM, a free hosting platform for independent podcasters – gpgmail


PodcastOne, the celebrity podcasting network from the founder of radio powerhouse WestwoodOne, is launching a free hosting platform for podcasters.

The Los Angeles-based syndicated podcasting platform, which counts athletes, politicians, talk radio, and reality television stars like Adam Carolla, Shaquille O’Neal, Steve Austin, Kaitlyn Bristowe, Dan Patrick, Spencer and Heidi Pratt, Jim Harbaugh, Ladygang, Dr. Drew, Chael Sonnen, Rich Eisen, Barbara Boxer, is angling to get insight into potential new talent through the venture. 

We will see which podcasts are performing well and offer them the opportunity to partner and grow with PodcastOne, and provide them with all the resources the network offers, including production, talent booking, promotion, a dedicated sales team and more,” said PodcastOne chief executive, Peter Morris, in a statement. “As the leading ad-supported podcast network, we are embracing the over 700,000 podcasts out there, and are here to support the long-term growth of independent podcasters.”

Called Launchpad Digital Media, the new hosting service is pitching podcasters a free platform including unlimited hosting; access to analytics including listenership, geography, and device data; total ownership of direct monetization channels for a podcast’s subscriber base, and complete control over how podcasts are distributed via Apple, Spotify or other services.

The company is also billing itself as a discovery platform, offering free promotion for the services various podcasts across its own network of popular podcasting talent.

“Over the years, people have shared with us how hard it can be out there in the desert of independent podcasting: you have to pay to host and get your podcast heard; you get no help in discoverability; you’re scared to leave and stop paying your hosting platform because you might lose your subscribers; and it’s virtually impossible to get noticed by a major podcast network who can help you take your hard work to the next level,” said Morris, in a statement. “Launchpad was built with the independent podcaster in mind. We wanted to help solve these problems… for free.”

Since nothing is actually free, and since PodcastOne wants to get paid, the catch is the company’s own ability to insert pre- and mid-roll advertising into podcasts that are hosted on the new service.

So podcasters can manage their direct advertising, but they give PodcastOne the ability to slot in ads that the company chooses across any of the podcasts that agree to be hosted on the service. It gives the company access to both marquee talent for high value, big spending advertisers, and a way to flood other podcasts with whatever ads the company wants.

Ads that LaunchpadDM inserts won’t be longer than two total minutes per episode and podcasters can determine the location of the midroll spot when uploading the episode.


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StockX admits ‘suspicious activity’ led to resetting passwords without warning – gpgmail


StockX, a popular site for buying and selling sneakers and other apparel, has admitted it reset customer passwords after it was “alerted to suspicious activity” on its site, despite telling users it was a result of “system updates.”

“We recently completed system updates on the StockX platform,” said the email to customers sent to gpgmail on Thursday. The email provided a link to a password reset page but said nothing more.

The company was only last month valued at over $1 billion after a $110 million fundraise.

Companies reset passwords all the time for various reasons. Some security teams obtain lists of previously breached passwords that make their way online, scramble them in the same format that the company stores passwords, and find matches. By triggering the reset, it prevents passwords stolen from other sites from being used against one of a company’s own customers. In less than desirable circumstances, passwords are reset following a data breach.

But the company admitted it was not “system updates” as it had told its customers.

“StockX was recently alerted to suspicious activity potentially involving our platform,” said StockX spokesperson Katy Cockrel. “Out of an abundance of caution, we implemented a security update and proactively asked our community to update their account passwords.”

“We are continuing to investigate,” said the spokesperson.

The password reset email sent by StockX on Thursday. (Image: supplied)

We asked several follow-up questions — including who alerted StockX to the suspicious activity, if any customer data was compromised, and why it misrepresented the reason for the password reset. We’ll have more when we know it.

Throughout the day customers were tweeting screenshots of the email, worried that their accounts had been compromised. Others questioned whether the email was genuine or if it was part of a phishing attack.

“Did they get hacked, find out somehow, and then to cover it up send out that email and ask for a password change?” one of the affected customers told gpgmail.

Customers were given no prior warning of the password reset.

StockX founder Josh Luber kept with the company’s line, telling a customer in a tweet that the password reset was “legit” but did not respond to users asking why.

StockX tweeted back to several customers with a boilerplate response: “The password reset email you received is legitimate and came from our team,” and to contact the support email with any questions. We did just that — from our gpgmail email address — and heard nothing back hours later.

Security experts expressed doubt that a company would reset passwords over a “systems update” as StockX had claimed.

Security researcher John Wethington said it is “rare” to see security overhauls that require password resets. “You wouldn’t just send out a random email about it,” he said. Jake Williams, founder of Rendition Infosec, said it was “bad communication” in any case.

Several took to Twitter to criticize StockX for its handling of the password reset.

One customer called the email “fishy,” another called it “suspicious,” and another called on the company to explain why they had to reset passwords in this unorthodox way. Another said in a tweet that he asked StockX twice but “refused to provide an answer.”

“Guess I’m closing my account,” he said.

Read more:
Slack resets user passwords after 2015 data breach
Capital One breach also hit other major companies, say researchers
An exposed password let a hacker access internal Comodo files
Security lapse exposed weak points on Honda’s internal network
Cryptocurrency loan site YouHodler exposed unencrypted user credit cards and transactions




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Mobile messaging financial advisory service, Stackin, adds banking features and raises cash – gpgmail


When Stackin initially pitched itself as part of Techstars Los Angeles accelerator program two years ago, the company was a video platform for financial advice targeting a millennial audience too savvy for traditional advisory services.

Now, nearly two years later, the company has pivoted from video to text-based financial advice for its millennial audience and is offering a new spin on lead generation for digital banks.

The company has launched a new, no-fee, checking and savings account feature in partnership with Radius Bank, which offers users a 1% annual percentage yield on deposits.

And Stackin has raised $4 million in new cash from Experian Ventures, Dig Ventures and Cherry Tree Investments, along with supplemental commitments from new and previous investors including Social Leverage, Wavemaker Partners, and Mucker Capital.

“Stackin’ has a unique and highly effective approach to connect and communicate with an entire generation of younger consumers around finance,” said Ty Taylor, Group President of Global Consumer Services at Experian, in a statement.

Founded two years ago by Scott Grimes, the former founder of Uproxx Media, and Kyle Arbaugh, who served as a senior vice president at Uproxx, Stackin initially billed itself as the Uproxx of personal finance.

It turns out that consumers didn’t want another video platform.

“Stackin’ is fundamentally changing the shape and context of what a financial relationship means by creating a fun, inclusive and judgement free environment that empowers our users to learn and take action through messaging,” said Scott Grimes, CEO and co-founder of Stackin’, in a statement. “This funding allows us to build out new features around banking and investing that will enhance the relationship with our customers.”

Later this fall the company said it would launch a new investment feature that will encourage Stackin users to participate in the stock market. It’s likely that this feature will look something like the Acorns model, which encourages users to invest in diversified financial vehicles to get them acquainted with the stock market before enabling individual trades on stocks.

According to Grimes, the company made the switch from video to text in March 2018 and built a custom messaging platform on Twilio to service the company’s 500,000 users.

“In a short time, we have built a large customer base with a demographic that is typically hard to reach. Having financial institutions like Experian come on board as an investor is a testament that this model is working,” Grimes wrote in an email.


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