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Slack’s hidden origins, cybersecurity, fintech, plus Africa’s startup growth – TechCrunch

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The Slack Origin Story

Slack is one of the most iconic enterprise companies to come out of Silicon Valley. Part of the reason is the mythos surrounding the startup’s founding as a games company and later pivot into workplace communication. But what’s the story behind the story of the high-flying company? Who supported the company every step of the way?

Our venture capital reporter Kate Clark has the history and background on Slack, soon to be trading as WORK on the NYSE.

“We realized, wow, this is hugely a productive way of working and I think all of us agreed we wouldn’t work without a system like this again and maybe other people would like it,” Butterfield said in a recent video released by Slack ahead of its June 20 direct listing on the New York Stock Exchange.

So the team reimagined their future and looked to their investors for support.

Accel, sources tell TechCrunch, remained committed. Andreessen Horowitz, however, had a more complicated response. According to sources familiar with the matter, a16z was highly skeptical of Butterfield and whether he could succeed in the enterprise space. When Tiny Speck went out to raise its first round of capital as an enterprise software upstart in what would technically be its Series C, a16z hesitated.

A source close to Slack told TechCrunch that a16z put the company “through the ringer,” telling Butterfield that enterprise “wasn’t in his DNA.” A16z denies these accounts citing their close relationship with Butterfield and the business in 2019. Admittedly, it’s unclear how much capital a16z may or may not have funneled to Slack at the Series C but given it currently owns nearly 10 percent less of Slack than Accel, a fellow early investor, its likely to have cut back its capital commitments around the time of Tiny Speck’s pivot.

Feedback on product and editorial?

It’s been about 15 weeks since we launched Extra Crunch. Since then, we have covered everything from deep dives into Patreon and Niantic (Unity is coming right up – I’ve been editing the drafts) to growth tactics and how to raise venture capital really, really fast, to building out a Verified Experts list of top startup professionals.

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With iPhone 13 in hand, I miss Touch ID more than ever

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I’ve been traveling this past week, and the iPhone 13 Pro Max has been my trusty sidekick. Whether it’s boarding passes, camera duties, messaging, or keeping me occupied with ebooks and music, I’ve found myself staring at the excellent 120Hz ProMotion display a whole lot. Problem is, when the sensors above that screen stare back, they’re not seeing what they want to.

Face unlock – Face ID in Apple-world – has been a side victim of the coronavirus pandemic. Consistently wearing masks (along with regularly washing your hands, and being vaccinated) is one of the CDC’s big recommendations for avoiding COVID-19, and it’s a legal requirement when you’re in airports and on trains.

Having half your face obscured isn’t especially helpful to a system which relies on scanning it in order to unlock your iPhone. And, with how much I’ve been using the iPhone 13 Pro Max this week – and enjoying it, too, particularly the excellent cameras – its a hurdle I’ve been running into hundreds of times a day, if not more.

Apple’s workaround, of course, is a singularly Apple-y way of dealing with half-masked faces: you need to have an iPhone and and Apple Watch. The feature, launched earlier this year as an iOS 14 update, allows you to bypass security on the iPhone just as long as your Apple Watch is on your wrist and unlocked.

Now, leaving aside the fact that clearly not everyone who has an iPhone also has Apple’s smartwatch, this workaround actually held up pretty well. I’ve been using it on an iPhone 12 Pro Max since it was released, and while there were times it simply didn’t actually unlock, or would unlock without my intending it, it did make using iOS while masked more streamlined. Unfortunately, it’s not working any more.

Since switching to iOS 15 and the iPhone 13 Pro Max, I’ve lost the ability to unlock with Apple Watch. Trying to turn the feature on in the iOS settings simply gets me a “can’t create a secure connection with the Apple Watch” message. A quick search online confirms I’m not alone.

It looks to be an iOS 15 issue, not an iPhone 13 one, but since Apple’s latest version comes preloaded and you can’t downgrade it, anybody in the same situation as I am will probably find that distinction little comfort. I’ve tried all the “fixes” and suggestions listed online – rebooting the phone and the watch; updating to the latest software version of each; even unpairing the Apple Watch and then repairing it from scratch – and nothing works.

I’ve been traveling this week, so wearing a mask a whole lot, and it’s been a reminder of just how many times you need to unlock your phone. Even just checking the latest notifications, if you have iOS’ privacy feature which only reveals their content on the lock screen when iOS is unlocked, requires a PIN now. The iPhone 13’s screen notch may be smaller this generation, but that doesn’t really matter when Face ID can’t see enough of you to do its thing.

Meanwhile, I’m looking enviously over at devices like the new iPad mini, and its Touch ID sensor built into the power button. I can understand why Apple shifted away from a fingerprint scanner in the iPhone, and – when unmasked – I’m a big fan of Face ID. I particularly enjoy how it makes logging into apps, and unlocking payments, simple. Honestly, it took a global pandemic to get frustrated by it.

Rumors of a return of Touch ID to the iPhone have given plenty of people – myself included – a glimmer of hope about striking that balance of security and convenience again. Unlock with Apple Watch was generally functional, but still could be clunky in the same way that anything wirelessly-dependent (I’m looking at you, AirDrop) can periodically leave you longing for a physical alternative. Just as even that took its time arriving in iOS, however, it always seemed a fact of reality that if Apple really was intending to return a fingerprint sensor to its phones, that wouldn’t be in time for 2021.

SEE TOO: The iPhone 13 Pro Max’s 120Hz ProMotion Display is the real deal

As it stands, for a variety of reasons – not least vaccine holdouts – it looks like we’ll be masked-up well into 2022 and probably beyond. An iPhone 14 with a built-in Touch ID sensor probably will be just as relevant as an iPhone 13 would’ve been with that today. Talk about disheartening.

Security is, of course, one thing you should never compromise on. Tempting as it is to change the settings on my iPhone so that it waits a little longer to unlock, or shows the content of my notifications for anyone who glances at them on the lock screen, I know that’s a foolhardy thing to do. Instead, I’ll wait (semi) patiently for the inevitable iOS update which hopefully fixes iPhone unlock with Apple Watch, and punch in my regular PIN until that arrives.

All the same, I can’t help but wonder whether, as we rush to embrace new technology, being equally quick to leave behind what came before it might be a missed opportunity. I’m not someone who particularly mourns the loss of the headphone jack, but these past few days have certainly left me more sympathetic to those who discovered the tech world changed and, in the process, decided something that was important to them could actually be left behind.

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Peak Design Mobile modular magnetic accessory line launches in time for iPhone 13

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Peak Design released their full mobile ecosystem of magnetic and protective accessories today, coordinated with the launch of Apple’s iPhone 13. This collection was part of a Kickstarter back in December of 2020 and rolled out for general availability for the first time today. The mobile line starts with the “Everyday Case”, available for iPhone 11, 12, 13, and Samsung Galaxy S21.

Peak Design has a brand for name for the magnetic system they use with their smartphone case and accessories: SlimLink. SlimLink is a ceramic zirconia insert surrounded by custom tuned magnets that are inserted into each Peak Design Everyday Case.

This SlimLink system does not prohibit Qi standard wireless charging – so users will not need to remove their case in order to use a wireless charging pad. The Everyday Case is thin enough that wireless charging will work, and thick enough that it’ll protect a smartphone from harm.

Included in the launch collection of accessories are the Everyday Case, the Everyday Loop Case, and a wide variety of connecting peripherals. There is also a Universal Adapter that can be attached to third-party phone cases.

In the Peak Design Mobile collection at launch, there is a Car Mount, Motorocycle Bar Mount, Motorcycle Stem Mount, Out Front Bike Mount, Universal Bar Mount, and a Wall Mount. You’ll also find a Creator Kit, Mobile Tripod, Mobile Wallet, and a Wireless Charging Stand, right out the gate.

Take a peek at our previous features with Peak Design and let us know if you’re planning on attaching this series of accessories to your brand new device. We’ll be back with reviews of the lot once we get up close and personal with the cases and the accessories of all sorts!

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Five features to un-do in iOS 15 for your iPhone

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Today we’re taking a peek at iOS 15 and a few ways in which it’s changed some very basic features in your iPhone. If you’ve been using your iPhone for quite a few years and have gotten used to the way you’ve done business, chances are the update to iOS 15 threw you for a bit of a loop. The good news is, nothing is set in stone, and basically everything that’s changed can be effectively un-changed.

Widget Suggestions

Much like Shared with You (which we’ll get to later), the Widget Suggestions system in iOS 15 might not be particularly beloved by all users. If you’re seeing Widget Suggestions in iOS 15 and you’d rather not, you’ll need to tap and hold a widget, and tap “Edit Stack”.

If you have Smart Rotate enabled and Widget Suggestions enabled, you’ll likely see options for Smart Rotate (On/Off), and Widget Suggestions (On/Off). You know what to do!

Accidental Opening

After updating to iOS 15, you may find that you accidentally trigger the Spotlight Search feature from your lockscreen. If you do not want to continue seeing this Search system every time you swipe down on your locked iPhone, no worries!

Open Settings – Face ID & Passcode – Today View and Search. Disable Today View and Search and bang! No more accidental search system when you run your finger across the locked phone screen.

Safari Window Tinting

If you’re looking to remove the Website Tinting element in iOS 15 inside your Safari web browser, the pathway to a fix is simple. You’ll need to back out of your Safari app, back to your main iOS Settings. Tap Safari and flip the switch for “Allow Website Tinting.”

Bonus! This is also the place you need to go to find Safari’s Tab Bar / Single Tab, and the Landscape Tab Bar. You can also choose where you open links and when tabs will close.

Separation Anxiety

If you have more than one iOS device – like an iPhone and an iPad – iOS 15 might start to send you Separation alerts. This system can be great – especially if you’re the sort of person who forgets their iPad under a stack of newspapers, or if you tend to leave at least one device behind whenever you visit your relatives’ house for the holidays.

If, however, you find yourself in a situation where you’re being alerted when you’ve left a device in one location on purpose, you have options. Probably the best option for you – to start – is to add “New Location” to your list with the “Find My” app.

Open Find My, tap your device under “Devices”, tap “Notify When Left Behind”, tap “New Location.” You could also just turn the “Notify When Left Behind” option off entirely if you do so wish.

End Shared With You

If you find the new Shared With You sections less than appealing in apps like Photos, Podcasts, Music, News, and Safari, you can flip them off completely. Each individual app will have a switch to turn off Shared With You. If you’d like to turn off ALL the Shared with You at once, head to Settings – Messages – Shared with You, and disable Automatic Sharing.

OR if you’ve not yet upgraded to iOS 15, take a peek at the timeline of links below to see the path you’ll likely take. This software update is available now for quite a few iPhone devices from the past few years. The same is true of iPad devices and iPadOS 15 this week too!

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