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Following a record year, Illinois startups kick off 2019 on a strong foot – TechCrunch



Illinois’s startup market in 2018 was very strong, and it’s not slowing down as we settle into 2019. There’s already almost $100 million in new VC funding announced, so let’s take a quick look at the state of venture in the Land of Lincoln (with a specific focus on Chicago).

In the chart below, we’ve plotted venture capital deal and dollar volume for Illinois as a whole. Reported funding data in Crunchbase shows a general upward trend in dollar volume, culminating in nearly $2 billion worth of VC deals in 2018; however, deal volume has declined since peaking in 2014.1

Chicago accounts for 97 percent of the dollar volume and 90.7 percent of total deal volume in the state. We included the rest of Illinois to avoid adjudicating which towns should be included in the greater Chicago area.

In addition to all the investment in 2018, a number of venture-backed companies from Chicago exited last year. Here’s a selection of the bigger deals from the year:

Crain’s Chicago Business reports that 2018 was the best year for venture-backed startup acquisitions in Chicago “in recent memory.” Crunchbase News has previously shown that the Midwest (which is anchored by Chicago) may have fewer startup exits, but the exits that do happen often result in better multiples on invested capital (calculated by dividing the amount of money a company was sold for by the amount of funding it raised from investors).

2018 was a strong year for Chicago startups, and 2019 is shaping up to bring more of the same. Just a couple weeks into the new year, a number of companies have already announced big funding rounds.

Here’s a quick roundup of some of the more notable deals struck so far this year:

  • On Thursday, commercial real estate search firm Truss raised $15 million in additional financing, extending the Deerfield, IL-based company’s Series A round. The deal was led by Boston-based General Catalyst. The deal brings Truss’s total equity and debt funding to more than $24 million.
  • Learning management system company BenchPrep announced $20 million in a Series C round co-led by Chicago-based Jump Capital and Bay Area-based Owl Ventures, LP. Part of that capital reportedly comes in the form of debt. The SEC filing for the round, dated December 2018, discloses that $14.53 million was raised in an equity offering, of which $2,999,999 was used to buy shares from “certain executive officers” at the company.
  • Delivery service Bringg raised $25 million in Series C funding, which was led by Next47. Other investors in the deal include The Coca-Cola Company, Salesforce Ventures and Aleph. Bringg’s customers include Walmart and McDonald’s. The company has raised at least $52 million in known venture funding to date.

Besides these, a number of seed deals have been announced. These include relatively large rounds raised by 3D modeling technology company ThreeKit, upstart futures exchange Small Exchange and 24/7 telemedicine service First Stop Health.

Globally, and in North America, venture deal and dollar volume hit new records in 2018. However, it’s unclear what 2019 will bring. What’s true at a macro level is also true at the metro level. Don’t discount the City of the Big Shoulders, though.

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iPhone 13 is going to be a different deal: Here’s why



It is probably very early to make a claim about the forthcoming iPhone – or a new lineup. But with rumors flowing in from every side of the globe, it’s fitting to touch upon certain aspects that’ll make the iPhone 13 a different deal. Presumably, and various sources confirm, the 2021 iPhones will not have a dramatic change in the layout to outrightly contrast the already revamped and exciting iPhone 12 line introduced in fall last year, but some notable changes in features are expected to make things interesting.

A while back we talked about Cupertino company’s intentions – and directional work-in-progress – to tap on the foldable fad of the smartphone industry. Apple is working on prototypes of foldable displays, we said, but there has been no progress in developing a foldable handset per se. It’ll be overly jealous to expect Apple to roll out a foldable iPhone to take on the likes of Samsung, Motorola, and Huawei this year.

Apple for 2021 – given the slow production progress due to the pandemic – is going to stick to the single screen iPhones. These have been the main stake of the marque and that is how it is most likely to stay this year as well.

In that accord, there are rumors of Apple going with the iPhone 12S moniker for the next iPhone with minor changes. This has been a case with phones in the past where, for instance, the iPhone 5S, 6S, and XS have followed their beefed-up predecessors with minimal design alterations and something of sorts could transpire this time. It still won’t be a good bet to count out a line of new flagship devices which would be the iPhone 13 series, we believe. Let’s touch on a few things expected to make it a big deal at launch.

Touch ID makes comeback within the screen

In-screen fingerprint sensor would sound unfamiliar for the iPhone, it has been a feature that’s ruled Android smartphones for years now. There is a possibility, in 2021, for the iPhones to upgrade to this important feature. Important because in the pandemic when it’s not been easy for users wearing masks to login using Face ID, fingerprint sensor could offer another way for them to log in to their device.

Yes, Apple introduced an update to facilitate facial recognition when user is wearing a mask, the feature would still have its merits expecting we would have to keep our faces covered for an unforeseeable future. The return of Touch ID built under the screen wouldn’t affect the presence of Face ID – it is going to stay – fingerprint scanner is just going to be an alternate method for biometric authentication.

Display with tapered notch

Despite claims from some Chinese suppliers that the “enclosure design of the iPhone 13” will be same as the iPhone 12; rumors have it that the forthcoming iPhones will feature display with a slightly smaller notch. The likeliness of a less intrusive front-facing camera is countered by two claims: the notch will be less wide, or the notch would be of the same size in width but of smaller height.

However that pans out, there could be a distinguishable difference, but notably notch with Face ID sensor is there to stay. A reduction in height, which is more likely, going by multiple rumors, will intend to make the notch less noticeable, which means a new Face ID camera module is likely. In that context, a report via DigiTimes points at the supply of new Face ID module by Foxconn and Korea-based LG Innotek, while the front-facing camera modules are expected to be supplied by O-Film.

Higher refresh rates likely

120Hz and at times 144Hz screen refresh rates have been a common setting on smartphones from Apple’s direct competitors. While that should have deterred the brand and forced it to introduce 120Hz displays in the iPhone 12 series – but that didn’t happen – the current Apple flagships make up for this high response time with their OLED displays and fast processing.

That said, 2021 iPhones could rollout with a higher screen refresh rate – at least 120Hz is on the cards. If Apple was to pull this off, it would be doubling the refresh rates from 60Hz on the iPhone 12 line, which is going to be a welcoming upgrade for fanboys.

Port-less iPhone is all wireless

Apple has done away with the power adaptor in the box. Next in line is likely the charging port, which may not find a place on the upcoming iPhone. The idea is to offer iPhones that are powered wirelessly alone. As a step in that direction, Apple has already delivered magnetic MagSafe charging tech in iPhone 12, and according to eminent leaker Jon Prosser, Apple’s ultimate “goal is port-less.”

In all likeliness, a port-less future is fancy and all that, but to make wireless the only powering norm, Apple will have to drastically modify the wireless charging speeds for users to accept the change wholeheartedly.

Upgrades for mobile photography

iPhone 12 Pro models come with some exciting improvements on the camera front. Rumors suggest upgrades are likely in the new lineup of iPhones led by expected iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max variants getting a larger sensor, which camera in the triple lens setup would that be is not clear.

Additionally, the sensor-shift stabilization featured in iPhone 12 Pro Max is likely to reach the entry models of the iPhone 13 as well, which will be a remarkable improvement promising more stable images in every light condition.

Ming-Chi Kuo, who has a great record with predicting forthcoming features in Apple devices believes, the ultra-wide lenses on iPhone 13 Pro models see increase in aperture from f/2.4 to f/1.8 to allow more light to enter the lens and deliver improved photographs.

According to another rumor, there’s a possibility of improved zoom capabilities on the upcoming iPhones with a periscope camera system, while LiDAR scanner presently in the iPhone 12 Pros could trickle down to all the possible variants of the new iPhone in 2021.

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Google Search on mobile is about to get a big visual redesign



Google is about to roll out a redesigned Search on mobile, the company said in a blog post today, explaining the adjustments users can expect. Google describes the updated UI as a ‘major visual redesign,’ one that is intended to simplify things for users, bringing ‘information into focus,’ improving the readability of text, and more.

First things first, Google says the redesigned Search interface on mobile makes it easier for users to focus on the content, reducing some of the clutter from design elements. Beyond that, the redesign is also intended to make it easier for users to read content as they browse.

The text has been made bolder and larger, the result of which is easier scanning across search results for the content you want. Google has also added more of its own font into the mix, the one you see on Gmail and Android devices.

“Bringing consistency to when and how we use fonts in Search was important, too, which also helps people parse information more efficiently,” explained Google’s Aileen Cheng, who led the redesign. Beyond that, Google’s redesign uses color to highlight important things in search, emphasizing content first with colors used ‘more intentionally’ in places to guide the user’s eyes.

Shadow use has been minimized and results now span edge-to-edge, ultimately providing more ‘visual space,’ according to Aileen. Rounding it all out is the use of roundness in new places, something that better reflects the same roundness we see in the Google logo.

Google says the updated design will roll out on Search for mobile in coming days.

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Pinterest’s new AR feature lets you try on virtual eyeshadow



Shopping online is the primary way people get most of the items they want or need, but there are some downsides: you can’t try on clothes to make sure they’ll fit right and it’s not easy to determine whether a particular makeup color will look good on you. Pinterest has introduced another feature that addresses the latter problem, one that lets you virtually try-on eye shadow before buying it.

The feature is called ‘AR Try on,’ and it is now available for eyeshadows from a few brands: NYX Cosmetics, Urban Decay, Lancome, and YSL. Eyeshadow products listed on Pinterest that are included in this feature will show a small ‘Try on’ button in the bottom right corner of the image, as well as a camera icon.

Tapping this will pull up your phone’s camera in the app, where you’ll be able to scroll through different eyeshadow color options and see them realistically overlaid on your eyelids. The feature is powered by Pinterest’s Lens feature and is available on both iOS and Android.

The platform includes options for filtering the results to specific brands, price ranges, and color, as well as seeing similar products and saving items to a board. The new feature joins Pinterest’s Try on feature for lipstick, which works in the same way and currently includes more than 4,000 lipstick shades.

Users who decide to purchase a product they try on will be directed to the retailer’s website for the transaction, Pinterest notes. This is the latest expansion of the company’s augmented reality features, the most notable being its Lens tool. With this, users can point their phone’s camera at an object, then browse through results featuring similar content.

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