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A Date to Remember

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Everything was telling Sam Thirlwall not to take this job. Joining Zapproved, a legal services technology company in Portland, Ore., would mean a pay cut. It also would mean being a manager responsible for a large team, rather than doing what he had done for years, which was building cybersecurity software. Mr. Thirlwall, 36, didn’t know much about the company or legal technology. Even the interview process seemed weird.

Mr. Thirlwall took the job.

This was early 2018, and he was so tired at that point he needed a drastic change. He had spent several years at a company called Cylance developing a cybersecurity program that had devoured his time and energy. He had two young daughters he was trying to help raise. He was going through a painful divorce. Through the stress of it all, he had put on weight. The new job, at least, would be fewer hours and let him concentrate on his daughters and his own well-being. A fresh start.

Caitlin Halla, 31, had been a software developer at Zapproved for almost a year and, frankly, was ready to leave. She had just been moved from a shared window office to a shared windowless office to make room for the new engineering director, Mr. Thirlwall. A company email said he enjoyed cooking with his daughters and in his free time wrote software to track the movement of ISIS. That’s awfully braggadocious, Ms. Halla had thought. She considered his photo, then turned to a colleague: “Is it weird that I think he’s kind of cute?”

Image

Credit…Amanda Lucier for The New York Times

Ms. Halla had taken a circuitous path to software. The daughter of teachers in San Juan Bautista, Calif., she studied biology at California State Polytechnic University, but as a senior had switched to creative writing. After graduation, she got a teaching credential and taught kindergarten. She then moved to Portland, where she turned her love of language in a new direction, to software coding. Along the way, she had been married and divorced. Zapproved was her first job out of coding school.

Hoping to retain Ms. Halla at the company, her supervisor told her about a new team being formed and set up a meeting with Mr. Thirlwall. She put the meeting in her calendar: April 30, 2018, 1 p.m.

Mr. Thirlwall had taken a circuitous path to Zapproved, too. He was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, but moved with his family to Cocoa Beach, Fla., as a child. He went to Emerson College in Boston, intending to major in film, but a teacher said he was wasting his time. Film wasn’t really his passion; he was writing papers on subjects like genocide during the Boer War. What he should really do, the teacher said, is join the F.B.I. He transferred to the Florida Institute of Technology and became fascinated with cybercrime. He worked in government contracting (and, yes, he did write programs to track terrorists) joining Cylance and moving to Portland with his former wife and their children.

He had seen Ms. Halla around the office, but this meeting would be their first real conversation. What was supposed to be a 30-minute one-on-one meeting about a new position turned into a rambling two-hour conversation about work and family, wolves and artificial intelligence, Inuits, dogs and tattoos. As they left the conference room, she turned to him and said, “What just happened? Did I just tell you about my entire childhood?” Indeed she did.

Mr. Thirlwall was enthralled. “I walked out of the meeting and my first thought was, ‘I’m so glad she’s interested in moving to another team,’” he said.

Credit…Amanda Lucier for The New York Times
Credit…Amanda Lucier for The New York Times

He sent her tutorials on machine learning, a subject in which she had expressed interest. (It involves computer algorithms searching for patterns in large amounts of data.) She responded via Slack, and pretty soon the messages were flying.

Not sparks, just messages. Neither was quite sure how the other felt, even as the days and weeks progressed. Looking back, Mr. Thirlwall said, “I’m sure it would have been quite obvious to anyone looking on.” But at the time, all they knew was that they enjoyed one another’s company.

“Are we becoming best friends?” Ms. Halla wondered. “Connected in a romantic way? We just didn’t know.”

Their relationship shifted a little when she confessed over Slack that as a software developer, she sometimes felt like an impostor. He wrote back: Would it be weird if I called you?

As Ms. Halla recalled it, he told her how capable she was, how valuable her ideas were. There are some loud and insistent voices in the software realm, he explained, but they held no monopoly on answers. She felt instantly at ease, more ready to tackle the next work challenge.

“Sam is so very open and welcoming and kind,” she said. “It felt like we’d been friends for years.”

Neither had experienced a connection quite like this before. Slack messages became text messages became long emails, until Mr. Thirlwall suggested they meet for a Sunday lunch; Ms. Halla picked a city park called Colonel Summers. Through the afternoon, they shared more and more with one another, checking off a list of questions that Ms. Halla had prepared in advance — something along the lines of the 36 questions for intimacy outlined in Modern Love.

[Sign up for Love Letter and always get the latest in Modern Love, weddings, and relationships in the news by email.]

Credit…Amanda Lucier for The New York Times

Over the coming weeks, they kept the questions going, getting up before sunrise to meet on a dock along the Willamette River, talking and sharing until it was time to go to work.

“It was this weird situation where we were having these very intense, long talks, but we weren’t in a relationship at that point,” Mr. Thirlwall said.

The fact that he was her manager’s boss felt strange. She soon transferred to another team. Later, both changed employers. Ms. Halla now works as a software engineer at New Relic and Mr. Thirlwall returned to Cylance.

In what can only be described as equal parts sweet and nerdy, Mr. Thirlwall started a Google doc to record milestones in their relationship: first date, first trip, and so on. “This was so special and so different,” he said. “I know life gets super busy and chaotic and random things happen — like pandemics, apparently — and I just didn’t want to lose sight of this. I didn’t want to look back and wonder, did we…?”

They realized they both adored music. (Mr. Thirlwall had a vinyl record pressed with their favorite songs for Ms. Halla as a gift.) They loved reading and cooking. Mr. Thirlwall even joined Ms. Halla in her CrossFit workouts.

Last May, he took her back to Colonel Summers Park, got down on one knee, and presented her with a ring in a small wooden box he had made with his daughters.

They planned a tiny ceremony. No guests, just them, a witness and an officiant on the Oregon coast at Oswald West State Park, the site of their first hike together. They would walk from the parking lot on a short trail, through the temperate rainforest, until the sound of cars was replaced with a gurgling creek and, eventually, the rumble of the Pacific. To Mr. Thirlwall, the place had the feel of Endor in the “Star Wars” universe. An adventure photography company would document the day.

“We wanted to reflect on our journey together and reflect on our love rather than having a performance or showy thing,” Ms. Halla said. Both had felt constricted by others at many times in their lives, and struggled with revealing their true selves.

“We both were finding our voices and finding ourselves in parallel,” Ms. Halla said. “And that’s when we met.”

In late March, the Oregon governor declared state parks closed because of the coronavirus, and their wedding was off.

Credit…Amanda Lucier for The New York Times
Credit…Amanda Lucier for The New York Times

Plan B emerged through the social networking app Nextdoor. “Hey neighbors!” Ms. Halla’s post on April 24 began, explaining their last-minute change to a wedding at their Portland house. “Might anyone have any ideas, D.I.Y. projects, or materials that might be good for sprucing up our backyard space and getting it wedding ready?” They had just moved in and didn’t know the neighbors, but the response was overwhelming.

One stranger offered to make a bouquet; another made dozens of origami butterflies to hang around the backyard; a third offered decorations they had saved from their own wedding. There were offers of plastic flamingos and glass fishing floats, vases and bubbles and a set of antique teacups to use for a toast. A few days before the ceremony, as Ms. Halla ran around picking everything up, strangers waved from front porches to say how excited they were to be part of the celebration. Returning home and looking through all the bags, she realized one neighbor had tucked in a bottle of wine.

“I think we’ve never felt more connected to people despite being socially distanced from them,” Ms. Halla said.

The wedding took place April 30 at 1 p.m., commemorating their first meeting in the office. They had sent out last-minute invitations for friends and family to watch via Zoom.

Mr. Thirlwall’s daughters, Aurelia, 9, and Juliette, 8, in tiaras and matching blue striped sundresses, acted as wedding decorators, bridesmaids, ring bearer and flower girl. When the skies opened into a downpour a few minutes before the ceremony was set to start, Mr. Thirlwall draped a towel over the Zoom-enabled laptop, picked up the lace shawl that Ms. Halla’s mother had worn for her own wedding, and calmly waited out the storm as his gray suit grew damp. His daughters seemed more concerned than him. “You’ve got to be dynamic,” he said brightly. That’s one of many things, he said, that he loves about Ms. Halla. She can shift gears on the fly, turning a tough situation into something positive.

By the time Ms. Halla emerged in her wedding dress — a high-neckline, open-back gown with a tulle skirt — there was a break in the rain.

Susie Cunningham, a Life-Cycle Celebrant, presided over the ceremony, which included lengthy vows, space for reflection, and a long family hug.

After a toast with cans of locally made mead, the newlyweds rushed to the laptop to greet their guests. It turned out to be scores of people. “This is wild!” Mr. Thirlwall said, excited to see smiling faces “from Canada to Mexico!”

Ms. Halla’s parents, Ken and Valerie Halla, watched from San Juan Bautista. Mr. Thirlwall’s mother and stepfather, Judi and Reg Oswald, watched from Melbourne, Fla., and his father and stepmother, David Thirlwall and Nevi Koscevic, from Montreal. (The groom, who had used the surname Oswald after his mother remarried, took his wedding as an opportunity to legally change it back to Thirlwall.)

As the congratulations reached a crescendo, the camera jumped so quickly it was hard to know who was talking. “We’re all dressed up!” one woman said. From kitchen tables and living room couches, they clinked beer cans and champagne flutes, and somebody, somewhere shouted out, “It’s almost like we were there!”


When April 30, 2020, 1 p.m. Two years earlier, on the same day, at the same time, they had their first work meeting and felt an instant connection.

Where Portland, Ore., in the couple’s backyard.

The Rings Ms. Halla’s engagement ring features twisting, intertwined stones on slender gold strands representing their circuitous path to each another. Mr. Thirlwall found a jeweler who taught him how to make his own band, and together, the couple took raw gold found around town, pressing it into the concrete to form impressions at all the places they loved.

United by the Universe “When you think about all the little things that had to happen for this to fall into place,” Ms. Halla said. “We both had to marry the wrong people. Sam had to change his major. I had to go to coding school. He had to hit a low point to change his life. It’s mind-boggling.”

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/12/fashion/weddings/a-date-to-remember.html

CNBC

Google Assistant’s driving mode for Android is nearly ready, one year later

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Google Assistant driving mode on Android
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Google promised an Assistant driving mode for phones would arrive in mid-2019, but that clearly didn’t happen — over a year passed without any sign of it. It appears to be ready, though. XDA-Developers has discovered (via Android Police) that Google Assistant’s driving mode is at least partially enabled for Android users. The interface has changed considerably from the I/O 2019 demo you see above, but the concept remains the same with large buttons and text that let you chat, message and play music while keeping your driving distractions to a minimum.

The rollout appears to be server-side, and might be part of a test. It’s not attached to any particular versions of Google’s Maps or search apps, and also works on a variety of devices. Your access might depend on your account.

We’ve asked Google for comment.

It’s rare for Google to have Android feature delays this long, and it’s not certain what prompted the extended wait. However, the redesign suggests that Google wasn’t completely satisfied with the Assistant driving mode it showed at I/O. Whatever the reasoning, this gives you one more way to handle common tasks during your trips.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/google-assistant-driving-mode-215249421.html

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Cloud leak exposed sensitive data from over 200,000 voicemails

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Some data leaks contain more sensitive info than most. Security researcher Bob Diachenko and Comparitech discovered (via Threatpost) that Broadvoice, a cloud VoIP provider for businesses, left over 350 million records exposed online in an unprotected cluster, including 2 million voicemail records with 200,000 transcripts. Many of those transcripts included sensitive data, and not just common elements like names and phone numbers — medical conditions, mortgages and insurance policies were all left open.

The largest general data collection, 275 million records, typically included full names, phone numbers, and cities.

The company told Comparitech that the data had been stored on September 28th and was locked down October 2nd, a day after Diachenko notified Broadvoice. There hasn’t been evidence of “misuse” so far, the company said. Marketing VP Rebecca Rosen told Threatpost that it believed “less than 10,000” businesses were impacted, although that doesn’t say how many of those companies’ customers were at risk.

The practical damage appears to have been limited as a result. Even so, this illustrates the dangers of insecure data. The wrong decision can expose vast amounts of info, and it can only take a subset of that data to create serious problems.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/broadvoice-voicemail-data-leak-211913573.html

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Startups

VCs reload ahead of the election as unicorns power ahead

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This is The TechCrunch Exchange, a newsletter that goes out on Saturdays, based on the column of the same name. You can sign up for the email here.

It was an active week in the technology world broadly, with big news from Facebook and Twitter and Apple. But past the headline-grabbing noise, there was a steady drumbeat of bullish news for unicorns, or private companies worth $1 billion or more.

A bullish week for unicorns

The Exchange spent a good chunk of the week looking into different stories from unicorns, or companies that will soon fit the bill, and it’s surprising to see how much positive financial news there was on tap even past what we got to write about.

Databricks, for example, disclosed a grip of financial data to TechCrunch ahead of regular publication, including the fact that it grew its annual run rate (not ARR) to $350 million by the end of Q3 2020, up from $200 million in Q2 2019. It’s essentially IPO ready, but is not hurrying to the public markets.

Sticking to our theme, Calm wants more money for a huge new valuation, perhaps as high as $2.2 billion which is not a surprise. That’s more good unicorn news. As was the report that “India’s Razorpay [became a] unicorn after its new $100 million funding round” that came out this week.

Razorpay is only one of a number of Indian startups that have become unicorns during COVID-19. (And here’s another digest out this week concerning a half-dozen startups that became unicorns “amidst the pandemic.”)

There was enough good unicorn news lately that we’ve lost track of it all. Things like Seismic raising $92 million, pushing its valuation up to $1.6 billion from a few weeks ago. How did that get lost in the mix?

All this matters because while the IPO market has captured much attention in the last quarter or so, the unicorn world has not sat still. Indeed, it feels that unicorn VC activity is the highest we’ve seen since 2019.

And, as we’ll see in just a moment, the grist for the unicorn mill is getting refilled as we speak. So, expect more of the same until something material breaks our current investing and exit pattern.

Market Notes

What do unicorns eat? Cash. And many, many VCs raised cash in the last seven days.

A partial list follows. It could be that investors are looking to lock in new funds before the election and whatever chaos may ensue. So, in no particular order, here’s who is newly flush:

All that capital needs to go to work, which means lots more rounds for many, many startups. The Exchange also caught up with a somewhat new firm this week: Race Capital. Helmed by Alfred Chuang, formerly or BEA who is an angel investor now in charge of his own fund, the firm has $50 million to invest.

Sticking to private investments into startups for the moment, quite a lot happened this week that we need to know more about. Like API-powered Argyle raising $20 million from Bain Capital Ventures for what FinLedger calls “unlocking and democratizing access to employment records.” TechCrunch is currently tracking the progress of API-led startups.

On the fintech side of things, M1 Finance raised $45 million for its consumer fintech platform in a Series C, while another roboadvisor, Wealthsimple, raised $87 million, becoming a unicorn at the same time. And while we’re in the fintech bucket, Stripe dropped $200 million this week for Nigerian startup Paystack. We need to pay more attention to the African startup scene. On the smaller end of fintech, Alpaca raised $10 million more to help other companies become Robinhood.

A few other notes before we change tack. Kahoot raised $215 million due to a boom in remote education, another trend that is inescapable in 2020 as part of the larger edtech boom (our own Natasha Mascarenhas has more).

Turning from the private market to the public, we have to touch on SPACs for just a moment. The Exchange got on the phone this week with Toby Russell from Shift, which is now a public company, trading after it merged with a SPAC, namely Insurance Acquisition Corp. Early trading is only going so well, but the CEO outlined for us precisely why he pursued a SPAC, which was actually interesting:

  • Shift could have gone public via an IPO, Russell said, but prioritized a SPAC-led debut because his firm wanted to optimize for a capital raise to keep the company growing.
  • How so? The private investment in public equity (PIPE) that the SPAC option came with ensured that Shift would have hundreds of millions in cash.
  • Shift also wanted to minimize what the CEO described as market risk. A SPAC deal could happen regardless of what the broader markets were up to. And as the company made the choice to debut via a SPAC in April, some caution, we reckon, may have made some sense.

So now Shift is public and newly capitalized. Let’s see what happens to its shares as it gets into the groove of reporting quarterly. (Obviously, if it flounders, it’s a bad mark for SPACs, but, conversely, successful trading could lead to a bit more momentum to SPAC-mageddon.)

A few more things and we’re done. Unicorn exits had a good week. First, Datto’s IPO continues to move forward. It set an initial price this week, which could value it above $4 billion. Also this week, Roblox announced that it has filed to go public, albeit privately. It’s worth billions as well. And finally, DoubleVerify is looking to go public for as much as $5 billion early next year.

Not all liquidity comes via the public markets, as we saw this week’s Twilio purchase of Segment, a deal that The Exchange dug into to find out if it was well-priced or not.

Various and Sundry

We’re running long naturally, so here are just a few quick things to add to your weekend mental tea-and-coffee reading!

Next week we are digging more deeply into Q3 venture capital data, a foretaste of which you can find here, regarding female founders, a topic that we returned to Friday in more depth.

Alex

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/10/17/vcs-reload-ahead-of-the-election-as-unicorns-power-ahead/

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