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Apple hardware updates have become boring, and the company knows it

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Apple’s new features: What to expect
ZDNet’s David Gewirtz tells TechRepublic’s Karen Roby about the ins and outs of Apple’s new services and breaks down what he expects to happen with them. Read more: https://zd.net/2UbQOxn

How long until new iPhones unveilings are nothing more than a press release and an update to the Apple Store website? Not long I’m betting, especially given how Apple rolled out the recent updates to the iMac, iMac Pro, iPad Air and iPad Mini, and the AirPods. All we got was a few press releases and an Apple Store website update (the iMac Pro update didn’t even warrant a press release).

Yup, Apple’s hardware has become boring, and Apple knows it.

But I’m not surprised. After all, the new iPads are much like the old ones. The same with the new iMacs and AirPods. They’re incremental updates to products, adding a bit more oomph, and a few new features, but on the whole, they’re the same thing.

Also: Apple AirPods (2019) review: A subtle, but meaningful upgrade 

So, while Apple still thinks that iMacs and iPads and AirPods are exciting, it also understands that the technological advancements are in of themselves boring. Apple also understands that for most buyers, what’s inside the product, or even when it was last updated, matters little.

So how long until a new iPhone is launched into the tech world not with a huge event, but with a press release? Good question.

Since a huge chunk of Apple’s profits come from the iPhone, and smartphones seem to have a pretty regular upgrade cycle measured in years (which is not the same for tablets, desktop computers, and earphones) I’m willing to bet that we’ll still be treated to big iPhone releases for the foreseeable future. But outside of the iPhone, Apple has sent out a very clear message that incremental hardware updates are boring, and that events packed with tech press are not required for these products to sell.

The company would rather reserve such events for the unveiling of streaming services and credit cards.

Is it a gamble?

I’m presuming that Apple has a good idea of how tech press events affect sales, so the fact that Apple didn’t hold an event to unveil the new iMacs, iPads, and AirPods suggests that such events don’t move the sales needle that much.

If that’s the case, then even buyers are bored by incremental updates.

The risk, however, is that people forget about certain products. For example, it’s been such a long time since the iPad Mini was updated that it may very well have fallen off some people’s radar. But on the other hand, I don’t think that the iPad Mini contributes that much to the company’s bottom line!

Also: Apple iPad Mini 2019 review: A beloved classic with internal improvements and Apple Pencil support 

Even for expensive high-end products such as the iMac Pro, it’s unlikely that Apple shifts that many of them as to make that much of an impact on the bottom line.

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HBO Max is removing 36 titles and creators are not happy – TechCrunch

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HBO Max is continuing its content removal spree with 36 titles going off the service this week including 20 of its in-house productions. Other titles include originals from HBO and Cartoon Network along with a few acquired titles. The development first reported by Variety noted that this move was aligned with the big HBO Max-Discovery+ merger slotted to take place next year.

In order to prepare for the merger, the company has been silently removing titles for some weeks now. Earlier this month, during its quarterly earnings call, Warner Bros. Discovery said HBO Max will start showing Discovery+ reality shows from Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Network starting September 30.

“As we work toward bringing our content catalogs together under one platform, we will be making changes to the content offering available on both HBO Max and discovery+. That will include the removal of some content from both platforms,” the firm said in a statement to Variety. We have reached out to HBO Max to learn when exactly these titles will be removed.

The company is likely removing titles to cut costs and make way for newer titles in the combined service. While it’s just a money-saving tactic for the streaming giants, creatives are worried that their hard work in creating shows will be wasted because of executive decisions.

Julia Pot, the creator the of animated show “Summer Camp Island” said on Twitter that the makers didn’t have much information about the reasons behind this move. We have asked HBO Max for a comment on its communication with creators, and we will update the story if we hear back.

Here is the full list of titles being removed from the service:

HBO Max and HBO Originals

  • 12 Dates of Christmas
  • About Last Night
  • Aquaman: King of Atlantis
  • Close Enough
  • Ellen’s Next Great Designer
  • Esme & Roy
  • The Fungies!
  • Generation Hustle
  • Generation
  • Infinity Train
  • Little Ellen
  • My Mom, Your Dad
  • My Dinner with Herve
  • Odo
  • Ravi Patel’s Pursuit of Happiness
  • Summer Camp Island
  • Share
  • The Not-Too-Late Show with Elmo
  • The Runaway Bunny
  • Theodosia
  • Tig n’ Seek
  • Yabba Dabba Dinosaurs

Cartoon Network

  • Dodo
  • Elliott From Earth
  • Mao Mao, Heroes of Pure Heart
  • Mighty Magiswords
  • OK K.O.! – Let’s Be Heroes
  • Uncle Grandpa
  • Victor and Valentino

Licensed Titles

  • Detention Adventure”
  • Messy Goes to Okido
  • Mia’s Magic Playground
  • The Ollie & Moon Show
  • Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures
  • Make It Big, Make It Small
  • Squish

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Tiger Global leads new funding in savings and investments app Jar – TechCrunch

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Tiger Global has led a new funding round in Jar, the Indian fintech that is helping millions of Indians save small amounts to invest in digital gold as the startup gears up to launch a host of new offerings including insurance, mutual funds and lending.

Jar said Thursday it has raised $22.6 million in its Series B financing round. The funding values the one-year-old startup at over $300 million, it said, and saw participation from Folius Ventures, Panthera Capital, Prophetic Ventures, Yes VC, WealthFront founder Adam Nash and Founders Fund principal Zachary Hargreaves as well as early-backers Arkam Ventures, Rocketship.vc and WEH.

TechCrunch previously reported the early deliberations of the round. The Bengaluru-headquartered startup has raised over $58 million to date.

Even as banks in India have opened a billion accounts for citizens in the South Asian market, a significant number of individuals don’t maintain any savings. In the event of an unplanned expense or emergency, many are forced to rely on friends and family or shark lenders for capital injection.

Part of the reason why so many Indians never save or invest is confusion, explained Nishchay AG, co-founder and chief executive of Jar, in an interview. “Should they invest in mutual funds, stock market, crypto, various schemes from banks? The choices are aplenty as the world around them is littered with ads,” he said.

Jar is removing the pressure by giving people an asset class that Indians can relate to: gold.

(To say Indians, who have a private stash worth $1.5 trillion of the precious metal, have a fascination with gold would be an understatement. For generations, Indians across the socio-economic spectrum have preferred to stash their savings — or at least a part of it — in the form of gold. In fact, such is the demand for gold in India — Indians stockpile more gold than citizens in any other country — that the South Asian nation is also one of the world’s largest importers of this precious metal.)

A familiar asset class is part of the solution. Jar’s other value proposition is just how easy it has made it for its users to save and invest. On its eponymous app, the startup allows users to choose from different savings options such as roundups – where the nearest round number after a transaction gets saved automatically, as well as setting recurring savings amounts and performing one-time execution, explained Misbah Ashraf, co-founder of Jar.

Jar has rapidly gained traction since launching the product a year ago. Its app has amassed over 9 million registered users and each day it is clocking over 220,000 transactions, it said. The startup, which is seeing an average monthly growth of 20%, is also spending far less on attracting new users: less than $1.5 per user, it said.

Jar’s eponymous app. The startup also lets users keep a track of who all they have lent money to, and send them reminders.

“By starting with digital gold, a well-understood and well-loved asset class in India, Jar’s savings app has quickly gained trust and traction with young earners interested in developing a saving and investment strategy,” said Alex Cook, Partner at Tiger Global, in a statement. “We are impressed with the company’s rapid growth and are excited to double down as they expand into new asset classes.”

The startup, which employs about 90 people, is now gearing up to broaden its offerings. “We are working on building the most ubiquitous and contextual platform to help people navigate the financial options without getting intimidated,” said Nishchay.

Jar, which is also looking to hire another 50 people, is developing and testing secured and unsecured lending, mutual funds, fixed deposits, peer-to-peer loans, and insurance, he said. The startup plans to roll out these new offerings in the coming quarters, he said.

Misbah, whose inspiration to starting Jar was his family’s personal struggle with finances, believes that Jar has been able to help people build a habit of financing savings. These customers, most of whom he said live in small cities and towns of the country, “are now ready to explore evaluating other instrument options,” he said.

India has become a key fintech hub in the past decade as scores of banks, startups, and other institutions have raced to tap what many believe is the last great growth market.

For years, local legacy banks and mutual funds have been trying to tap India masses with their products. But their non-personalized offerings and over-reliance on local credit bureau’s books have cut their customer base to just 30 million individuals.

“Manufacturing a product is one thing and being able to sell it is another. All these institutions are good at manufacturing. For selling, you have to be aligned with the individual’s persona, idiosyncrasies, insecurities, cognitive load and the cultural significance. That’s an art and science by itself,” said Nishchay in an earlier interview.

“Jar’s growth story would be incomplete without the mention of the guard rails that have preemptively been put in place to make growth a controllable output versus it an incomprehensible vector. The company has an equal measure of thoughtful execution as well as a high standard of transparency where stakeholders ranging from employees, partners, and investors are fully aware of key initiatives and priorities. We are sure this approach is helping create a sustainable company with a predictable growth trajectory,” said Rahul Chandra, Managing Director of Arkam Ventures, in a statement.

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Kenyan agtech iProcure raises $10.2M to grow its input supply network – TechCrunch

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The shortage of agricultural inputs like fertilizer, unpredictable prices, and the proliferation of substandard products into markets are some of the biggest challenges for Kenya’s agricultural sector. This impact is especially felt in the country because agriculture accounts for 23% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), making it the single largest contributor to its economy, and its biggest employer – agriculture employs nearly 40% of the country’s population and 70% of its rural people.

It, therefore, is certain that difficulties in accessing the required resources for sustained production, not only threatens food security, but also family earnings and livelihoods. To bridge the input-access gap, iProcure, a B2B agtech, has since 2014 been connecting agricultural manufacturers and distributors to local retailers (agro-dealers), through its unique distribution infrastructure that interlinks agricultural supply chains.

Iprocure told TechCrunch it is now on a path to grow its presence in Kenya and Uganda, which are its current markets, and to enter Tanzania after securing $10.2 million in series B funding. The latest round includes $1.2 million debt, and was led by Investisseurs & Partenaires (I&P), and it brings the total funding raised by iProcure, so far, to $17.2 million. Novastar Ventures, Ceniarth, and British International Investment (BII), which recently took part in Apollo Agriculture’s $40 million Series B fundraising, also participated in the round.

“We have built out a Pan-African distribution infrastructure, and we are using these funds to scale our operations in our two markets and to enter Tanzania. We’re also going to be allocating some of the resources towards introducing higher quality cheaper products that we are sourcing from international players,” said iProcure co-founder and chief data and growth officer, Stefano Carcoforo – also the former CEO who since been replaced by ex-Novastar partner Niraj Varia.

Carcoforo co-founded iProcure with Nicole Galletta (head of innovation), Patrick Wanjohi (chief technical officer) and Bernard Maingi (chief commercial officer).

Iprocure currently connects 5,000 agro-dealers to different manufacturers but this number is set to grow as it onboards more partners and retailers across the three markets, and as it doubles its distribution hubs to 20, boosting its last-mile delivery.

Agro-dealers are the focal point for suppliers hoping to introduce new products into Kenya’s input markets, as they are trusted by millions of farmers to be sources of sound agricultural advice. They are also well-spread across the country, giving them a broad coverage of farmer communities. Through agro-dealers, iProcure targets to double the reach of farmers to 2 million in the next one year.

The agtech provides the agro-dealers with an end-to-end Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system that operates from mobile devices, helping them manage their sourcing and distribution.

This technology has introduced new efficiencies that control the penetration of sub-standard supplies as retailers are able to source directly from certified manufacturers and distributors. By helping manage stock-outs, the agtech ultimately helps stabilize product prices for the benefit of both the sellers and end-users.

“The agro-dealers use our technology to keep track of their sales, process sales, to manage inventory, to place orders, and build CRMs that can help deploy loyalty programs to the farmers. It does everything they need. We provide a completely transparent system from the factory all the way down to the point when the farmer purchases the product,” said Carcoforo.

For added reach, iProcure plans to extend zero-interest credit to agro-dealers, increasing their ability to purchase the hardware required to use its ERP system. By plugging in more retailers to its system, iProcure will additionally, get access to data required to inform its growth strategy, including a buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) service currently in the pipeline.

“Work capital is an issue facing these retailers, and we’ve demonstrated that if we provide supplies on a BNPL model, retailers buy 30% more. This shows that retailers themselves are cash constrained and can’t buy all the inventory they can sell; meaning that farmers aren’t able to access all the inputs they need. The BNPL service we are introducing will sort this problem,” said Varia.

According to Varia, iProcure has grown 16 times over the last four years, doubling its revenue every year, except for 2020 due to Covid. In the short term, he expects further expansion through the onboarding of more retailers and the introduction of the BNPL offering.

 

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