Archive for Martin Coulter

Google has offered the UK government full oversight of its plan to abandon third-party cookies in Chrome, which sent the ad industry into a tailspin

Sundar Pichai
Sundar Pichai's Google has offered the CMA oversight of its plans to drop the use of third-party cookies.
  • Google has offered UK officials full oversight of its plans to ditch third-party cookies in Chrome.
  • The tech giant's move to drop third-party cookies sent the ad industry into a tailspin last year.
  • The UK's CMA could soon have the power to block Chrome changes for up to 60 days.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Google has offered UK officials full oversight of its plans to abandon the use of third-party cookies within its Chrome browser, as competition authorities around the world consider antitrust action against the move.

The tech giant's plans to do away with third-party cookies, which help businesses target individual users, sent the advertising industry into a tailspin when it was first announced in January 2020 - no surprise, given Chrome is thought to make up almost two-thirds of web-browsing activity.

Third-party cookies allow advertisers to follow users around the internet, and target them with personalized ads. Without that option in Chrome, Google may be in a position to exercise greater control over the advertising market, offering ad products based around its first-party data collected from search, Gmail, YouTube, and app downloads, expected to come in the form of its still-in-development "Privacy Sandbox". Few of Google's peers and rivals in advertising can hope to match its data trove.

The plan has run into resistance from the ad industry, with Marketers for an Open Web, a consortium representing around 20 marketing firms, filing a complaint with the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), demanding "long-term competitive remedies to mitigate" its dominance. The watchdog announced an investigation into the move shortly thereafter.

On Friday morning, the CMA announced it had "secured commitments from Google to address concerns" around its plans to do away with third-party cookies in Chrome, including: Increased transparency, substantial limits on how Google will use Chrome data for advertising, and agreeing not to discriminate against rivals in favor of its own advertising products.

Most significantly, Google offered the CMA a 60-day "standstill period" before it introduces any changes, during which the watchdog retains the option of reopening its investigation, should any issues arise.

"The emergence of tech giants such as Google has presented competition authorities around the world with new challenges that require a new approach," Andrea Coscelli, the CMA's chief executive said.

"That's why the CMA is taking a leading role in setting out how we can work with the most powerful tech firms to shape their behaviour and protect competition to the benefit of consumers."

James Rosewell, the Marketers for an Open Web founder , said the CMA's intervention represented an opportunity for a "genuine privacy change", rather than the changes that Google had "tried to shoehorn in through the backdoor."

"I hope Google recognizes that it failed to engage with the industry: it lectured, rather than debated," he told Insider. "Luckily, this provides them with an opportunity to come back to the table and think more carefully about changes moving forward."

In a statement, Google legal director Oliver Bethell said the company had welcomed the CMA's investigation into the company's sandbox. Bethell said the tech giant had offered a set of commitments that were the result of "many hours of discussions with the CMA and more generally with the broader web community" around how the sandbox will be designed.

"The CMA is now asking others in the industry for feedback on these commitments as part of a public consultation, with a view to making them legally binding," he said.

"If the CMA accepts these commitments, we will apply them globally."

Are you a current or former Googler with more to share? You can contact this reporter securely using the encrypted messaging app Signal (+447801985586) or email ([email protected]). Reach out using a nonwork device.

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Google launched a $2 million funding programme for Black founders in Europe: ‘There is a lot of work to do.’

AudioMob cofounders Christian Facey (left) and Wilfrid Obeng
AudioMob cofounders Christian Facey (left) and Wilfrid Obeng previously took part in Google's Immersion scheme
  • Google just launched a $2 million fund for Black tech startup founders in Europe. 
  • Black people remain woefully underrepresented in tech investor and startup circles. 
  • Google's VP of startup partnerships said there was 'a lot of work to do' to improve representation.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Google has unveiled a $2 million funding scheme for Black startup founders in Europe, in an attempt to combat the dire lack of representation across the technology sector. 

According to Atomico's most recent State of European Tech report, less than half a percent of venture capital money goes to Black founders on the continent, and less than 3% of European venture capitalists identify as Black.

Google has made its own pledges to improve diversity internally following criticism from employees, with CEO Sundar Pichai promising to improve representation of underrepresented groups in the company's leadership by 30% by 2025.

Under the new initiative, Google for Startups will offer up to $100,000 in cash awards to selected European startups, as well as up to $220,000 per startup in credits to be spent on Google Ads and Cloud space.

Our hope is that this will be part of a wider commitment to change from the entire startup ecosystem," said Rachael Palmer, Google's head of VC and startup partnerships. "In the future we want to see more successful Black founders, more Black angel investors, and more Black general partners at the most successful VC firms.

"There's a lot of work to be done, but I am extremely pleased that Google is committed for the long term."

At the tail end of 2020, Google ran two "Immersion" schemes in Europe, 12-week programmes designed to help Black and female founders on their journeys to success. 

Osas Omoigiade, cofounder of photo management platform DeepMeta and a participant in last year's programme, said the new fund would "help unlock opportunities for founders today working on brilliant businesses to bring their creativity into the public sphere." 

He added: "I think this will motivate other funding bodies whether institutional or otherwise to begin to rethink how they allocate funding."

Rachael Corson, an Immersion alumna and founder of afro hair products startup Afrochenix, agreed, telling Insider: "We hope this will lead to a more equitable and fair system where the best talent, rather than the best connected talent, can build companies which improve society."

Wilfred Obeng, a fellow graduate of the Immersion scheme and cofounder at audio adtech firm AudioMob, told Insider the industry was "clearly not as representative as it should be," adding: "I believe this fund will be the catalyst and motivation for other companies to play their part in improving equality in technology and diversifying who receives venture capital."

Applications for Google's Black Founders Fund are now open and close on March 21. You can find more details here

Read the original article on Business Insider

Google’s AI lab DeepMind held secret discussions to launch a futuristic food division and one idea involved ‘nutricube’ vitamin supplements

Candy featuring the Google logo is seen in the company's offices on March 23, 2015 in Berlin, Germany
Candy featuring the Google logo is seen in the company's offices on March 23, 2015 in Berlin, Germany

One of Google's most prominent portfolio companies considered launching a futuristic food division - and one idea on the table was AI-designed food supplements.

Insider spoke to multiple sources about how DeepMind, the London-based AI company acquired by Google in 2014, considered launching a food division with vegan food startup Hampton Creek, but abandoned the plans after internal disputes over the value of the project - as well as a string of public controversies involving its proposed partner.

Google and its parent firm Alphabet have long been interested in "moonshot" futuristic ideas. Google hasn't made major inroads into the world of plant-based or lab-grown food but has invested in - and reportedly tried to buy - fake meat startup Impossible Foods.

Insider revealed how a DeepMind cofounder and staffers visited Hampton Creek in California for a meeting. Hampton Creek CEO Josh Tetrick presented proposals for a "nutricube" branded as being "powered by DeepMind," a square vitamin supplement customers could add to meals to improve their nutritional content.

Insiders said the talks never resulted in any "formal corporate partnership" and the food division never happened. One source close to DeepMind described the talks as "very early-stage exploratory conversations."

The project had also been dampened by some internal disagreements. "It was a waste of time," one source familiar with the plans told Insider adding that Hampton Creek "wasn't a tech company, it was a food factory."

Read more about how a DeepMind cofounder pitched a food division internally in Insider's full dive into the project here.

Are you a current or former Googler with more to share? You can contact this reporter securely using the encrypted messaging app Signal (+447801985586) or email ([email protected]). Reach out using a non-work device. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs has abandoned another US smart city project after reported fights about transparency

portland oregon
  • Yet another smart city project launched by Google-backed Sidewalk Labs has been scrapped.
  • Officials in Portland, Oregon said it had ended its relationship with Sidewalk spin-off firm Replica. 
  • The move follows failures to get another project off the ground in Toronto. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Sidewalk Labs, a sister company of Google, has ditched another smart city plan after reported disputes over data sharing with officials.

In 2019, Sidewalk Labs partnered with officials in Portland, Oregon, on a plan to track how people move around the city. Less than two years later, disagreements over transparency have brought the project to a halt. RedTailMedia first broke the news.

Sidewalk Labs used its Replica software to map how people move through the city, and planned to use this data to help officials make planning decisions that would increase mobility, reduce congestion, and improve residents' quality of life. 

Replica was later spun out as a separate company, which took on the project full-time.

RedTailMedia reported that there had been constant disagreements between senior figures on either side of the project, with Portland raising questions over the accuracy and transparency of Replica's data and eventually nixing the project.

A spokesperson for the company told the BBC that Portland officials were "frustrated" by its refusal to share subjects' personal data. 

"At Replica, we believe better insights should not come at the cost of personal privacy," they said. "We were not willing to compromise on our privacy principles, which frustrated our Portland Metro client and ultimately led to an early end to the project."

The decision comes less than a year after Sidewalk Labs abandoned an ambitious $900 million for a high-tech neighborhood in Toronto, citing economic "uncertainties."  

Around the same time, Protocol reported that Kansas City officials found a trial of Replica's software useful but "didn't have enough staff 'to take advantage of all of its capabilities.'"

A spokesperson for Portland Metro, the city agency in charge of the latest project to be scrapped, told the BBC: "After review of the draft data, Metro ended its relationship with Replica. Metro did not pay Replica for any services."

They added: "We wish Sidewalk Labs the best with its future work."

Insider approached Replica and Portland City Council for further comment. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

Google is reportedly close to a $30 million annual deal with Australian media titan Nine Entertainment

Sundar Pichai
Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai
  • Google has signed a $30 million deal licensing deal with Australia's Nine Entertainment. 
  • As part of the deal, users can access paywalled content for free via the Google News app.
  • The agreement follows a tense few months of wrangling between Google execs and Aussie lawmakers.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Google has reportedly struck a $30 million deal with Australian broadcaster Nine Entertainment amid growing political pressure to rebalance the relationship between tech platforms and legacy media outlets.

Nine has not officially confirmed the deal, although it was reported by its own Sydney Morning Herald newspaper. The company's other print titles include The Age and the Australian Financial Review. 

Under the terms of the deal, Google is understood to have agreed to pay Nine a little over $30 million annually for the next five years, and will provide Google users with free access to select content from Nine's newspapers, TV, and radio networks across different products. 

Are you a current or former Googler with more to share? You can contact this reporter securely using the encrypted messaging app Signal (+447801985586) or email ([email protected]). Reach out using a nonwork device. 

The agreement comes just days after the tech giant announced a similar deal with Nine's domestic rival Seven West Media, and comes amid months of wrangling with government officials over its relationship with the media. 

Australian lawmakers are set to debate proposals that would give news publishers the opportunity to "bargain individually or collectively" with Facebook and Google, and charge them a set rate to display their content in their search engine and news feeds. 

With the threat of this regulation looming, Google has set about making publishers counter-offers in the form of Google Showcase. This is a new, dedicated news feature whereby Google News users can access paid-for content for free, with the tech giant covering the price difference.

Google's recent deals with Nine and Seven West Media give it greater control over the terms, compared with the forced arbitration proposed by Australia.

Google executive Mel Silva warned that the latter route might result in the firm shutting down its search engine locally altogether

As Google continues to brand the legislation unworkable, it is actively luring publishers onto its Showcase platform.

The firm has thus far inked Showcase deals with more than 450 publications - the Financial Times, Le Monde, and Reuters among them - across 12 countries, including the UK, Germany, and Brazil.  The firm plans to spend $1 billion in total bringing on new partners globally. 

Insider approached Google and Nine Entertainment for comment. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

Google signs multimillion-dollar deal with major Australian publisher as it tries to signal cooperation on news payments

Sundar Pichai
Sundar Pichai is now CEO of both Google and its parent company Alphabet.
  • Google signed up a major Australian news publisher, Seven West, to its News Showcase platform. 
  • Showcase lets Google users access news and paywalled content free of charge. 
  • The deal indicates Google wants to sign deals ahead of laws that would force payments to media outlets.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Google has signed a multimillion dollar deal with Seven West Media, one of the biggest news publishers in Australia, amid months of wrangling with government officials over its relationship with the media. 

On Monday, Google announced Seven West - which runs a number of Australia's biggest TV channels and newspapers - was the first major news publisher in the country to join its Showcase platform, through which users can access paywalled content for free, with the tech giant covering the costs. The deal is worth a reported $30 million.

The tech giant launched Showcase as part of its Google News smartphone app late last year, amid mounting international pressure to recalibrate its relationship with traditional news publishers, which have suffered a serious downturn over the past two decades

Showcase has so far signed up more than 450 publications - such as the Financial Times, Le Monde, and Reuters - across 12 countries, including the UK, Germany, and Brazil. 

The Seven West update comes as Australian officials mull new proposals that would force Google and Facebook to pay publishers to display news articles in its Search results - a move that prompted local Google MD Mel Silva to warn the firm could shut down its search engine locally altogether.  

Tensions appear to have settled down, however, since Google CEO Sundar Pichai held a "constructive" one-to-one meeting with Australian PM Scott Morrison earlier this month.

A key question remains as to whether the final version of Australia's law would force payments in relation to Google's search engine, or the new News Showcase.

Seven West chairman Kerry Stokes said the deal represented a "great outcome" for both companies, adding that it would help ensure his firm's "digital future."

"The negotiations with Google recognise the value of quality and original journalism throughout the country and, in particular, in regional areas," he said. "Google is to be congratulated for taking a leadership position in Australia and we believe their team is committed to the spirit of the proposed code."

Seven West titles include The West Australian, 7NEWS, PerthNow, the Albany Advertiser, the Geraldton Guardian, Kalgoorie Miner, Harvey-Waroona Reporter, and the Broome Advertiser.

Are you a current or former Googler with more to share? You can contact this reporter securely using the encrypted messaging app Signal (+447801985586) or email ([email protected]). Reach out using a nonwork device. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

Google has shut down work on 3D painting app Tilt Brush, the latest in a string of VR disappointments

Tilt Brush
A 3D artwork created in Tilt Brush
  • Google has confirmed it is halting development of 3D painting app Tilt Brush. 
  • The tech giant said it would make the game's code available online. 
  • But the move represents another blow to Google's virtual and augmented reality aspirations. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Google has shut down its development of 3D painting app Tilt Brush, marking the latest in a string of virtual and augmented reality disappointments for the firm. 

The tech giant acquired the firm behind Tilt Brush, Skillman & Hackett, for an undisclosed sum in 2015, praising its "innovative approach to 3D painting." At one point, it hired Tilt Brush Artists in Residence.

But on Tuesday, Google confirmed in a blog post that it would halt development of the product, instead making its source code available on code-hosting platform Github. 

"As we continue to build helpful and immersive AR experiences, we want to continue supporting the artists using Tilt Brush by putting it in your hands," the blog read. "This means open sourcing Tilt Brush, allowing everyone to learn how we built the project, and encouraging them to take it in directions that are near and dear to them."

Google released Tilt Brush for the HTC Vive virtual reality headset in 2016, and the program later became available on Facebook-owned Oculus Rift. The program allowed users to create colourful, 3D paintings and animations.


Despite billions of dollars of investments from big tech firms, virtual reality is still struggling to break into the mainstream, and for most remains a novelty rather than a mature entertainment platform.

The Tilt Brush decision follows Google's decision to shut down a string of similar ventures, including VR headset Daydream, VR video production studio Spotlight Stories, and 3D content platform Poly

A few weeks ago, Patrick Hackett, one of the co-creators of Tilt Brush, confirmed he was leaving Google in order to join I-Illusions, the games studio behind popular VR title Space Pirate Trainer.

"To my #TiltBrush community: You've been inspiring and encouraging and wonderful and I love you," he wrote. "I've made so many great friends over these years and am indebted to you forever." 

Insider approached Google for comment. 

Are you a current or former Googler or DeepMinder with more to share? You can contact this reporter securely using the encrypted messaging app Signal (+447801985586) or email ([email protected]). Reach out using a non-work device.

Read the original article on Business Insider

10 things in tech you need to know today

Tim Cook
Apple's CEO Tim Cook.

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    1. Tim Cook said Parler could return to the App Store. Apple removed Parler from its platform in the wake of the deadly Capitol siege.

    2. Deliveroo raised a $180-million funding round. The Amazon-backed startup is preparing to go public later in 2021.

    3. Selena Gomez warned Facebook's COO Sheryl Sandberg about misinformation months ago. The star said she was frustrated tech platforms failed to heed warnings in the wake of the Capitol riots.

    4. Critics want populists like Bolsonaro and Modi kicked off social media. It comes after President Donald Trump was banned from Twitter on January 8, and heavily restricted on other platforms.

    5. Apple, Google, and Spotify are still hosting pro-Trump conspiracy podcasts. Insider found podcasts easily available on all three platforms that claimed President-elect Joe Biden's win was "a fraud."

    6. US election misinformation fell 73% after Trump's social media ban. Zignal Labs said conversations fell from from 2.5 million mentions to 688,000 across social media.

    7. WhatsApp says you shouldn't worry about it sharing personal data with Facebook. But experts say you should switch to 'highly trusted' Signal.

    8. Opinion: The Trump ban across social media wasn't censorship. It was a series of editorial decisions by media companies that call themselves social platforms, writes Becca Lewis.

    9. Exclusive: How Silicon Valley banished Trump in 48 hours. Insider spoke to numerous people involved in the frenetic days in which the decisions were made.

    10. Premium: Antitrust experts described Google's $2.1 billion Fitbit deal as sinister. They fear Google could funnel off the data to its other business units.
Read the original article on Business Insider

Quantexa CEO warns businesses must be ‘extra vigilant’ as COVID-19 continues to change the face of financial crime

Quantexa CEO Vishal Marria
Quantexa CEO Vishal Marria
  • COVID-19 has increased the threat of financial crime for businesses and individuals alike, with fraudsters targeting the millions of workers plugged into their devices at home around the clock.
  • Almost half of all businesses have been victim to some form of fraud in the past two years, according to professional services firm PwC.
  • Vishal Marria, founder and CEO of data analytics and fraud prevention startup Quantexa, told Business Insider what his firm was doing to help clients navigate a tumultuous period. 
  • Business Insider previously named Marria on our list of 10 leaders transforming enterprise tech in Europe
  • Visit Business Insider's Transforming Business homepage for more stories.

Amid the chaos and disruption unleashed by the COVID-19 pandemic the world over, the scourge of financial crime has only got worse. 

The crisis has brought with it a host of new opportunties for fraudsters, with millions stuck at home and plugged into their devices around the clock, while businesses scramble to adapt to the new normal. 

Almost half of all businesses (47%) have been victim to some form of fraud in the past two years, according to professional services firm PwC, based on a survey of 5,000 businesses around the world. The firm said this was likely to have increased significantly once all the data for 2020 had been tallied. 

For Vishal Marria, the CEO and founder of Quantexa, the startup using big data to help clients uncover the hidden risks of financial crime and fraud with its AI-driven platform, "digital resilience" is the watchword for 2021.

Vishal Marria was featured in Business Insider's Transformers 100 for 2020. 

"COVID-19 has changed the face of financial crime," Marria said in an interview with Business Insider. "This crisis has taught organizations that a new level of agility and digital resilience is needed across ecosystems, partners, and their supply chains."

Since stepping down from his role as an executive director at the well-known accounting firm Ernst and Young - where he oversaw their efforts against financial crime - Marria set up Quantexa, and has raised almost $100 million in funding to date.

"I was working with a lot of large banks, and they were often relying on just a small slither of data to try and figure out when there was an issue," he said. "But when you sound the alarm based on a small set of patterns, you end up seeing a lot of false positives popping up." 

The funding rounds have been put together with the support of industry stalwarts like HSBC, Accenture, and Evolution Equity Partners. Fundraising over Zoom at the height of a pandemic was never going to be easy, and Marria admits to being "a bit nervous" about the process. 

"Chemistry's really important to me," he said. "And meeting people over Zoom or Teams is always going to be different to having a face-to-face meeting. But our existing and new investors doubled down, and we're really pleased with what we've managed to achieve." 

Outlining the firm's approach to rooting out financial crime, he said: "You wouldn't agree to buy a house if you'd only seen it through the letterbox. You would look around, check out the bathroom, the living room, and so on. And then you'd look at external information: Where are the schools? What's the crime rate like in the area? 

"You'd make a decision after gathering a lot more internal and external information...that's effectively what we help our clients do." 

For Marria, offering businesses a single overview of their financial risks is "imperative to modern decision-making". He said: "By using a platform that supports multiple use cases across from a single platform, you effectively allow companies to lower their overall costs." 

In 2018, Marria won the prestigious Developing Entrepreneur prize at the Enterprise Awards, in London, locally considered "the Oscars of the technology industry."

Speaking from his home in London, Marria told Business Insider how Brexit, which could see Britain crashing out of the EU without a trade deal at the end of the year, could bring increased risk in the new year. 

"Organizations need to make sure they can keep up with the ever-changing and complex illicit activities carried out by criminals," he said. "As the UK also faces Brexit alongside the pandemic, there will huge changes to the way we work and conduct business. 

"That means organizations must be extra vigilant - and prepared with efficient monitoring systems to spot and detect suspicious activity."

He added: "It's now even more paramount for businesses to focus on trade sustainability, and making sure they know who their customers are to avoid criminal exploitation, while also uncovering hidden opportunities."

The shift to cloud computing brings fresh risks for business

Going into 2021, Marria predicts businesses' increasing shift to cloud web services will bring its own fresh set of challenges. 

Experts say the cloud storage market could triple in value to over $100 billion annually by 2024, and financial firms are facing a major fork in the road due to a nexus of factors, including adjusting to a work-from-home environment in 2020.

For firms who may not have the need, expertise, or the budget for on-site infrastructure, servers, or data storage, there's a growing interest in cloud-based market data solutions. In the words of Amazon Web Services managing director Scott Mullins, the pandemic meant "urgency replaced perfectionism" for financial services firms doubling down on cloud inegration in 2020.

Business Insider recently revealed how much leading tech giants like Netflix, Snap, and Pinterest were spending with cloud providers, after Airbnb committed $1 billion to making the shift

"As the world moves to more cloud-based programs, we're focusing on making our platform more frictionless to deploy," he said. "In addition, our customers are focusing on the integration of software into existing ecosystems and integrating out-of-the-box APIs, especially where users interact directly with the intelligence, as they do in marketing or case management." 

He continued: "Digital resilience is fundamental to being able to adapt in a virtual way, from delivering customer success to R&D, through to sales and marketing. We've been able to adapt to a new way of working due to our agile nature."

Looking ahead to 2021, Marria says Quantexa is "focusing on more frictionless deployments" across its client base, and working to ensure customers stay well protected.

"We'll continue to support our clients with their digital transformation and increased cloud adoption." 

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10 things in tech you need to know today

Airbnb IPO
The Airbnb logo is displayed on the Nasdaq digital billboard in Times Square in New York on December 10, 2020.

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  1. Airbnb's stock popped on its debut. The firm's share price closed at $144.71, giving it a valuation of $86.5 billion.

  2. The Chinese government retweeted Donald Trump. Officials insisted the embassy account was hacked after resharing a tweet raising doubts about the recent presidential race.  

  3. Jeff Bezos issued a rare compliment to Elon Musk. On Wednesday, the Amazon tycoon complimented SpaceX on its first high-altitude test of its prototype Starship spacecraft, which ended with the rocket exploding.

  4. Facebook tried and failed to acquire a mystery competitor. But it wasn't Twitter or Snapchat, according to the FTC's new lawsuit.

  5. Influencers are using ghostwriters on OnlyFans. Industry insiders think fans would be furious if they found out.

  6. 'Cyberpunk 2077' amassed $480 million in sales before launch. The game's developer, CD Projekt Red, said 8 million people pre-ordered the game ahead of launch.

  7. Wall Street isn't convinced Facebook will get broken up. Analysts rubbished suggestions Instagram posed an 'existential threat' to Facebook when it was acquired in 2012.

  8. Jeff Bezos is set to net millions from the Airbnb IPO. The Amazon CEO was an early Airbnb investor, participating in Airbnb's Series B round in 2011.

  9. Denmark is home to Europe's happiest tech employees. Copenhagen is home to some of the continent's biggest startup success stories, including Just Eat, Trust Pilot, and Too Good To Go.

  10. We spoke to Airbnb's cofounder Nate Blecharczyk. He told us how the pandemic threw IPO plans off course, its winning strategy in China, and about the decision to take on loans to get through.
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