Elevate: Fintech for Freelancers – A YC-Backed Success Story from Sudan’s War-Torn Beginnings

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For them, the difficulty hasn’t been opening local USD accounts; it’s been cost-effectively facilitating payments from international employers and online platforms. “Using local products meant many remote workers had large chunks of their earnings eaten away with excessive fees. The USD products couldn’t be local,” said Oudjidane, who is also the founding partner of emerging markets fintech fund Byld Ventures. “The product would need to move to offering U.S.-based USD accounts,” accounts that, critically, would facilitate ACH payments to enable those freelance payments and came with the security that you get with U.S. banking, such as FDIC assurance. “Freelancers and remote workers in these markets will undoubtedly be a critical source of foreign income to help rebuild,” Oudjidane said.

Thousands of Companies Face Fresh Disaster as Firewall Bug Plagues Palo Alto Networks

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Palo Alto Networks urged companies this week to patch against a newly discovered zero-day vulnerability in one of its widely used security products, after malicious hackers began exploiting the bug to break into corporate networks. Because the vulnerability allows hackers to gain complete control of an affected firewall over the internet without authentication, Palo Alto gave the bug a maximum severity rating. The ease with which hackers can remotely exploit the bug puts thousands of companies that rely on the firewalls at risk from intrusions. Adding another complication, Palo Alto initially suggested disabling telemetry to mitigate the vulnerability, but said this week that disabling telemetry does not prevent exploitation. Security firm Volexity, which first discovered and reported the vulnerability to Palo Alto, said it found evidence of malicious exploitation going back to March 26, some two weeks before Palo Alto released fixes.

Unlocking the Power of AI: How CommentSold’s Live Selling Startup Creates Socially-Savvy Shoppable Clips

The “AI ClipHero” feature creates short clips from livestreamed selling events, which often last for hours. “Shoppable ‘explainer’ videos are the most powerful video commerce medium right now, with TikTok and Instagram becoming the primary way Gen Z discovers, learns about products and purchases products. However, creating shoppable videos [requires] significant production times,” CommentSold CEO Guatam Goswami told TechCrunch. AI-powered clipping software isn’t new, but not many companies have developed AI-powered tools specifically designed for live commerce. Since launching in 2017, CommentSold now helps over 7,000 small- and mid-sized businesses deliver live shopping and e-commerce experiences.

“Simple Payment Solutions for Smaller Merchants: Flatpay Raises $47M”

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In one of the latest developments, Danish company Flatpay, which builds payment solutions for small and medium physical merchants like shops, restaurants and salons, has raised €45 million ($47 million) led by Dawn Capital. Founded in 2022, Flatpay currently has just 7,000 customers across its current footprint of Denmark, Finland and Germany. Perhaps most interestingly, on the sales side, despite its focus on streamlined technology, Flatpay only sells via live sales visits. No online sales (although there are specialists who will help arrange those in-person sales visits and handle support), no virtual visits, and no plans to introduce either. And the only way they could understand the products really well was by the company paring down the products themselves.

“Prime Video and Freevee: Immerse Yourself in the World of Shoppable Videos with Amazon Live”

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Amazon is trying to keep live shopping relevant with the launch of an “Amazon Live” FAST (free ad-supported TV) channel on Prime Video and Freevee. Previously only available as a feature on desktop, mobile, and Fire TV, the new live channel will give customers in the U.S. more ways to engage with interactive, shoppable content. Viewers can browse and buy the items influencers show off by using the Amazon Shopping app on their mobile device. Amazon Live launched in 2019 as a QVC-like shopping experience to help brands get their products discovered and for talent to interact with fans. According to the company, more than 1 billion customers in the U.S. and India streamed Amazon Live’s shoppable videos in 2023 alone.

Pula Secures $20 Million in Series B Funding for Agricultural Insurance in Africa, Asia, and Latin America

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Pula, an insurtech based in Kenya, has since 2015 been keen on enhancing the access to agricultural insurance by small-holder farmers across emerging markets, shielding them against losses from pests, diseases and/or extreme weather events like floods and droughts. “Partnering with this group of like-minded investors to boost the growth of Pula globally is a very exciting milestone in driving our triple 100 vision, through which we intend to bring insurance to 100 million smallholder farmers. Pula embeds insurance in partners’ productsInstead of selling insurance directly to farmers, Pula has built a distribution channel of over 100 partners, including charitable organizations, banks, governments and agricultural input companies, to serve even the hard-to-reach farmers, by embedding insurance, for instance, in farm input costs or credit. Each product Pula offers is customized to suit the demands of its clients, and the needs of the beneficiary farmers. Pula, through insurance partners, has been offering rural families in Nigeria comprehensive coverage against banditry, disease and death of animals.

Proton Enhances its Privacy Portfolio with Acquisition of Standard Notes

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Switzerland-based Proton, the privacy-focused firm behind end-to-end encrypted (E2EE) webmail ProtonMail and other apps, has acquired Standard Notes, a note-taking app founded back in 2017. By adding Standard Notes to its portfolio of apps, Proton will deepen its reach with an engaged community of pro-privacy users, layering on additional cross-selling opportunities as well as boosting the utility of its app ecosystem. And while there is some usage overlap, a Proton spokesperson said that less than a quarter of Standard Notes users are already Proton users. Proton said the Standard Notes app, which is available for both mobile and desktop, will remain “open source, freely available and fully supported”. Commenting in a statement, Mo Bitar, founder and CEO of Standard Notes, talked up the sense of shared mission.

Introducing Fairphone’s Convenient and Repairable Earbuds

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The right to repair has been a hot topic for several years now, hitting a kind of critical mass with domestic and international legislation. Advocates note that these proposals give users more control over their own property, while expanding products’ shelf life and reducing e-waste. Fairphone is, perhaps, the most prominent hardware company to make repairability the foundation of its consumer electronic design ethos, rather than a simple afterthought. In the consumer electronics world, right to repair has largely focused on handsets and PCs. But anything that can help reduce e-waste and give users more control over these products is probably a net positive.

YouTube Introduces Fresh Shopping Tools for Creators to Boost Product Promotions and Increase Profits

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YouTube announced on Tuesday that it’s launching new Shopping features that allow creators to curate shoppable collections, better plan their shoppable videos, quickly monetize older videos and more. The launch of the new features come as TikTok Shop is seeking to take on YouTube Shopping and other competitors in the space. TikTok is reportedly aiming to grow the size of its TikTok Shop U.S. business tenfold to as much as $17.5 billion this year. YouTube is launching “Shopping Collections” to allow creators to curate products from their favorite brands for users to browse through. By allowing users to connect their Fourthwall shop, YouTube is making it easier for users to create and manage their content directly in YouTube Studio.

“Empowering Beauty: Kiki World Secures $7M Investment from a16z through Revolutionary Web3 Implementation”

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Kiki World, a beauty startup launched last year, wants consumers to co-create products and co-own the company with the help of web3 technology. Kiki co-founder Jana Bobosikova said she believes that being a loyal user of a brand in the Web 2.0 world could be a net negative experience. Kiki is flipping that model by allowing its community members to vote on the features they want before the beauty products are made. Although members’ product votes are recorded on Ethereum, Bobosikova said some participants don’t need to know they are taking action on blockchain. But, as Simpson pointed out, Kiki has plans to eventually expand beyond the world of beauty.