Labster scores $21M Series B to bring VR to STEM education

Labster, the Denmark headquartered startup building virtual laboratory simulations for STEM students, has raised $21 million in Series B funding.

Leading the round is Owl Ventures, with participation from Balderton Capital, Northzone and Swisscom Ventures. Previous backers Nordic Makers, David Helgason, EduCapital and Entangled Group also followed on, bringing the total raised by the company to date to $35 million.

Launched back in 2013, Labster provides interactive laboratory simulations powered by VR for students that wish to explore lab experiments in biology, chemistry, physics, engineering and general sciences. It offers 70 virtual labs with the aim of increasing participation in STEM curricula, while also improving learning outcomes and retention rates.

“STEM-related careers are increasingly becoming both more in demand and also more important than ever before,” says Labster co-founder Michael Bodekaer. “However, most students will never have access to expensive, high-tech labs, or have enough time in the lab to learn critical skills they’ll need”

Specifically, Labster’s fully interactive virtual lab simulations are designed to engage and stimulate a student’s natural curiosity as they learn. The idea is to provide an environment where can experiment with and explore different lab scenarios — and at less cost than brick ‘n’ mortar labs.

“We aim to provide modern science learning that is cost and time-effective,” says Bodekaer.

More than 150 universities and high schools around the world used Labster’s virtual labs in 2018, a quadrupling of annual growth that put the software in the hands of more than 200,000 students worldwide. Those educational institutions include Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Exeter University and ETH Zurich. Labster has also developed partnerships with industry leaders in technology and education, such as Google and Arizona State University, Lenovo, Pearson and Springer.

Meanwhile, this latest round will be used to accelerate the expansion of Labster’s STEM content catalog and development of new lab simulations. The funding will also enable the company to continue to scale its U.S. operations, including customer support and sales.

“Our main competitor is the status quo i.e. institutions hesitant to adopt new technology even though it’s been proven that virtual labs increase student engagement and achievement,” adds Bodekaer. “There can be several reasons why they are hesitant but the most common one we see is educators not feeling like they have the time or knowledge to implement virtual labs into their teaching. That’s why we are continuously working on our training and on-boarding to help educators get started with virtual labs. Our goal is for educators to feel like we are holding their hand every step of the way and fortunately the feedback we are getting indicates that we are doing a pretty good job of that”.

To that end, Labster is sold as a subscription service to universities and high schools. The edtech company offers two subscription price models: institution accounts and individual student accounts.

First teaser for new Swamp Thing TV series brings on the straight-up horror

Swamp Thing teaser trailer.

DC Universe has dropped the first teaser for its forthcoming TV adaption of Swamp Thing, and tonally it feels more like a horror film than your standard comic superhero fare. And that makes sense, given that one of the executive producers is Aquaman director James Wan, who brought us The Conjuring and Insidious franchises and (just last week) The Curse of La Llorana.

(Spoilers for the DC character below.)

The original Swamp Thing character was created in 1971 by comics writer Len Wein as he was riding the subway in Queens. (“I didn’t have a title for it, so I kept referring to it as ‘that swamp thing I’m working on.’ And that’s how it got its name,” he told Wizard Entertainment in 2004.) Swamp Thing has had several human incarnations over the ensuing decades, but the best-known is Alec Holland, a scientist who invents a formula to solve the world’s food-shortage problem. A criminal organization sets fire to his secret facility in Louisiana and he runs burning into the swamp, drenched in his own bioreactive formula and presumed dead.

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Tesla reports big first quarter loss

Elon Musk.

After two back-to-back quarters of profits, Tesla lost $702 million in the first quarter of 2019, the company announced on Wednesday.

Tesla has been expected to post a loss for the quarter ever since the company admitted earlier his month that it had suffered a big drop in Model S and Model X deliveries. But the quarter’s losses were larger than many Wall Street analysts expected.

Markets weren’t fazed by the negative earnings news. After initially falling about 2 percent, Tesla’s stock price bounced back and is now about where it was when the earnings numbers were released.

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Microsoft 3Q19 revenue up 14% on the back of strong cloud and, uh, Windows?

Microsoft 3Q19 revenue up 14% on the back of strong cloud and, uh, Windows?

In the third quarter of its 2019 financial year, which ran up until March 31, 2019, Microsoft’s revenue was $30.6 billion, up 14 percent year on year. Operating income was up 25 percent to $10.3 billion, net income up 19 percent to $8.8 billion, and earnings per share up 20 percent to $1.14.

Microsoft has three reporting segments: Productivity and Business Processes (covering Office, Exchange, SharePoint, Skype, Dynamics, and LinkedIn), Intelligent Cloud (including Azure, Windows Server, SQL Server, Visual Studio, and Enterprise Services), and More Personal Computing (covering Windows, hardware, and Xbox, as well as search and advertising).

Productivity group revenue was up 14 percent to $10.2 billion, with operating income rising 28 percent to $4.0 billion. There’s no one standout in the division but, rather, strong growth across the entire division; commercial Office products and service revenue was up 12 percent, consumer revenue up 8 percent, Dynamics revenue up 13 percent, with Dynamics 365 revenue growing by 43 percent, and LinkedIn revenue was up 27 percent. The number of commercial Office 365 seats is up 27 percent with more than 180 million monthly active users, and consumer Office 365 subscribers were up 12 percent to 34.2 million. The transition to the cloud continues to shift where Microsoft makes its money: while commercial Office 365 revenue was up 30 percent, perpetually licensed Office revenue fell by 19 percent.

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Massachusetts offshore wind project gets green light at roughly 8.9 cents/kWh

Wind turbines at sea.

Last May, Massachusetts chose companies representing a project called Vineyard Wind to negotiate long-term contracts for an 800 megawatt (MW) offshore wind project that would serve some 400,000 homes. This month, the state approved the negotiated contracts, clearing the way for Vineyard Wind to become the second (and the biggest) offshore wind farm in the United States.

The approval also included a promise from Vineyard Wind to invest $15 million to a fund that will “promote the use of battery storage in low-income communities” and “further the development of energy storage systems across the state.”

There’s a lot of untapped potential for offshore wind in the US. Currently, the nation only has one offshore wind farm: a 30MW site off of Rhode Island. But in places like Europe, offshore wind makes a significant contribution to energy generation, and the technology is maturing quickly there, with costs falling in tandem.

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Apply to participate in the Hackathon at Disrupt San Francisco 2019

Great news for all you coders, hackers, developers and creative tech makers — our onsite Hackathon returns to Disrupt San Francisco 2019 on October 2-4. Applications to hack are open now and if you’re selected, you get to flex your mighty coding skills and go head-to-head against some of the world’s best developers to build something amazing. Even better, participating in the Hackathon doesn’t cost a thing, so hop to it and apply right here.

The Hackathon is a grueling, exhilarating, sleep-deprived experience — and a ton of fun. It puts your skills to the test, tries your endurance and fosters community. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered in terms of food and drink. Pizza, beer and plenty of coffee will help keep you fueled and focused.

Here’s how the Disrupt SF 2019 Hackathon works. It takes place during the Disrupt conference in a dedicated section of Moscone Convention Center. Only 800 hackers will be accepted to have a day and a half to build projects with sponsored APIs, data sets and other tools.

There will be plenty of sponsors offering prizes (often a nice chunk of cash) to the teams that best address their specific challenges. On top of that, TechCrunch will award a $10,000 grand prize to the best overall hack project.

What kind of sponsored contests can you expect? We’ll announce this year’s sponsors and contests over the next few weeks, but you can get an idea of what’s coming from the sponsored contests, prizes and winners from last year’s Disrupt SF 2018 Hackathon.

Judging begins on the afternoon of day two. Our experts will review all completed projects in a science fair- style format and select 10 finalists. On day three, the 10 finalists each have two minutes to pitch their project on the Extra Crunch Stage. Check out the entire agenda on the Hackathon website.

After the judges confer, sponsor partners will announce the winner of their specific contests and, finally, TechCrunch will announce one overall Hackathon champion and winner of the $10,000 grand prize.

Need more reasons to apply? This is a great opportunity to meet and network with your peers, potential partners or employers. Plus, Hackathon participants receive free Innovator passes to Disrupt for that third day. Sweet.

Remember, it won’t cost you anything to apply to participate in the Hackathon, which takes place at Disrupt San Francisco 2019 on October 2-4 at Moscone North. Don’t miss out on this chance to display your prowess to a global developer community. Apply to the Hackathon today. We can’t wait to see what you create!

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt SF? Click here.

AT&T says 5G will be priced like home Internet—pay more for faster speeds

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson standing with arms crossed in front of a backdrop with AT&T logos.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson today said that 5G will likely be priced similarly to wireline Internet, with customers paying more for faster speeds.

With 5G, “I will be very surprised if… the pricing regime in wireless doesn’t look something like the pricing regime you see in fixed line,” Stephenson said during an earnings call today. (See transcript.)

Some customers “are willing to pay a premium for 500Mbps to 1Gbps speed and so forth,” Stephenson continued. “And so I expect that to be the case. We’re two or three years away from seeing that play out.”

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Tesla reports $702 million loss in first quarter

Tesla reported Wednesday wider-than-expected loss of $702 million, or $4.10 a share, in the first quarter after disappointing delivery numbers and other setbacks and costs threw the automaker off of its profitability track.

The loss included $188 million of non-recurring charges. When adjusted for one-time losses, Tesla lost $494 million, or $2.90 a share, compared with a loss of $3.35 a share a year ago. Tesla reported that it also incurred $67 million due to a combination of restructuring and other non-recurring charges.

While analysts had anticipated a loss — an adjusted loss of $1.15 a share on sales of $5.4 billion for the quarter, according to Factset — actual losses stretched far beyond those expectations.

Tesla and CEO Elon Musk warned earlier this month that it expected first-quarter profits to be negatively impacted by lower than expected delivery volumes and several pricing adjustments. This was the first earnings report since losing a federal tax credit (more specifically half of it) for its buyers on Jan. 1.

Tesla reported April 9 that it delivered 63,000 electric vehicles in the first quarter of the year, nearly a one-third drop from the previous quarter. Deliveries included about 50,900 Model 3 vehicles and 12,100 Model S and X SUVs.

Musk reiterated the delivery problems due to unforeseen challenges in the earnings call Wednesday, noting that a large number of vehicle deliveries has shifted to the second quarter.

The results reported Wednesday follow two consecutive quarters of profitability that were fueled by sales of the Model 3. Tesla reported a $139 million profit in the fourth quarter and in October posted its first profit after seven consecutive quarters of losses.

Tesla reported that its cash position decreased by $1.5 billion from the end of 2018 to $2.2 billion mainly due to the repayment of convertible notes, of which $188 million negatively impacted operating cash flow. Tesla paid off its $920 million convertible bond obligation in cash in March.

Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Tesla’s Q4 revenues were $4.5 billion, compared to $7.2 billion in the fourth quarter
  • Tesla’s Q4 operating cash flow less capital expenditures dropped to a loss to $920 million, compared to a positive $910 million in the fourth quarter

Tesla first-quarter earnings follows a series of announcements by the company, including changes to the drivetrain design on the Model S and X that will increase the range of the vehicles about about 10 percent. The newly equipped Model S will now have an EPA estimated range of 370 miles, while the Model X long range variant will be able to travel 325 miles on a single charge. The cars have the same 100 kwH battery packs.

Tesla also held an event centered on its efforts to develop autonomous vehicle technology and included insight and news around its custom-built computer chip, Musk’s plans to launch a robotaxi business in 2020 and a demo ride.