Politiscope executives (from left): Brandon Williams, Jackson White, Walter Powell Jr., Israel Lopez. (Politiscope Photo) In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, dozens of apps have cropped up seeking to arm voters with better information about candidates. Today, two of those apps announced plans to pool their resources ahead of the 2020 election. Seattle startup is merging with Secaucus, N.J.-based to create a combined app with resources for voters and an option to donate to specific candidates. Terms of the merger were not disclosed. The new app will retain Politiscope’s name and brand, which launched in late 2018. Previously: Politiscope was by former NFL players Walter Powell Jr. and Brandon Williams. Its existing app helps voters track members of Congress, political candidates, and issues. Users can follow politicians and see info about their voting records in a similar format to sports player profiles. , founded in 2016, is a similar app with voting guides but it has another key feature: allowing users to donate directly to campaigns. Downticket makes money by retaining a percentage of the donations. “As a B2C mobile application with ad space and data revenue strategy, it’s important for us to figure out how we can generate revenue before we hit scale with our user base,” Powell Jr. said in a press release. “In merging with Downticket, it opens up the e-commerce play where we are taking a small percentage of all transactions through the application.” Both Downticket and the first iteration of Politiscope will remain live until the integrated app launches. The integration will combine the functions of both apps in one place. The companies plan to launch the new Politiscope app this fall. “Beyond the obvious ways that the Downticket and Politiscope products complement each other, I’m particularly excited about the power Politiscope can bring to communities that have traditionally been difficult to reach,” Downticket CEO Nim Desai said in a press release. The combined company is raising a new round of funding after the merger closes, according to the press release. An posted earlier this month revealed a $6.2 million investment for Downticket. The companies declined to comment on the filing. Entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk poses with Politiscope co-founder Walter Powell Jr. (Photo courtesy of Politiscope) Seattle-based Unlock Venture Partners in its portfolio. Serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, founder of VaynerX, will join Politiscope as an advisor and investor, according to the company. Politiscope is also pitching professional athletes to promote the new app on social media. Downticket’s advisors include , an account director on Google’s cloud and AI team, and Mon-Chaio Lo, Uber’s head of engineering for driver compliance, . Chatterjee co-founded Downticket but will not have a role beyond advisor following the merger. Other voting and politics-oriented apps developed in Seattle over the past few years include Vote With Me, which to nudge friends to get to the polls around the same time Downticket was founded. In 2016, Seattle-based Democracy Live called LiveBallot.
A development lab used by Samsung engineers was leaking highly sensitive source code, credentials and secret keys for several internal projects — including its platform, a security researcher found. The electronics giant left dozens of internal coding projects on a instance hosted on a Samsung-owned domain, Vandev Lab. The instance, used by staff to share and contribute code to various Samsung apps, services and projects, was spilling data because the projects were set to “public” and not properly protected with a password, allowing anyone to look inside at each project, access, and download the source code. , a security researcher at Dubai-based cybersecurity firm SpiderSilk who discovered the exposed files, said one project contained credentials that allowed access to the entire AWS account that was being used, including over a hundred S3 storage buckets that contained logs and analytics data. Many of the folders, he said, contained logs and analytics data for Samsung’s SmartThings and Bixby services, but also several employees’ exposed stored in plaintext, which allowed him to gain additional access from 42 public projects to 135 projects, including many private projects. Samsung told him some of the files were for testing but Hussein challenged the claim, saying source code found in the GitLab repository contained the same code as the app, published in Google Play on April 10. The app, which has since been updated, has to date. “I had the private token of a user who had full access to all 135 projects on that GitLab,” he said, which could have allowed him to make code changes using a staffer’s own account. Hussein shared several screenshots and a video of his findings for TechCrunch to examine and verify. The exposed GitLab instance also contained private certificates for Samsung’s SmartThings’ iOS and Android apps. Hussein also found several internal documents and slideshows among the exposed files. “The real threat lies in the possibility of someone acquiring this level of access to the application source code, and injecting it with malicious code without the company knowing,” he said. Through exposed private keys and tokens, Hussein documented a vast amount of access that if obtained by a malicious actor could have been “disastrous,” he said. A screenshot of the exposed AWS credentials, allowing access to buckets with GitLab private tokens. (Image: supplied). Hussein, a white-hat hacker and data breach discoverer, reported the findings to Samsung on April 10. In the days following, Samsung began revoking the AWS credentials but it’s not known if the remaining secret keys and certificates were revoked. Samsung still hasn’t closed the case on Hussein’s vulnerability report, close to a month after he first disclosed the issue. “Recently, an individual security researcher reported a vulnerability through our security rewards program regarding one of our testing platforms,” Samsung spokesperson Zach Dugan told TechCrunch when reached prior to publication. “We quickly revoked all keys and certificates for the reported testing platform and while we have yet to find evidence that any external access occurred, we are currently investigating this further.” Hussein said Samsung took until April 30 to revoke the GitLab private keys. Samsung also declined to answer specific questions we had and provided no evidence that the Samsung-owned development environment was for testing. Hussein is no stranger to reporting security vulnerabilities. He recently disclosed , an anonymous social networking site popular among Silicon Valley employees — and found a server for scientific journal giant Elsevier. Samsung’s data leak, he said, was his biggest find to date. “I haven’t seen a company this big handle their infrastructure using weird practices like that,” he said. Read more:
Praveen Seshadri, left, and Brian Sabino of AppSheet. (AppSheet Photo) Seattle startup has raised $15 million to fuel growth of its platform that helps businesses develop their own data-based apps without requiring a team of developers. Shasta Ventures led the round, with participation from existing investor New Enterprise Associates. Total funding to date is $19.3 million. Founded in 2014, AppSheet sells software that enables nearly 6,000 customers such as Husqvarna Group, Solvay, Tigo Guatemala, American Electric Power, M&O Partners, Boom Technology, and others to build “no-code” apps. More than 200,000 apps have been deployed using AppSheet and more than 18,000 “active app creators” build apps with AppSheet each month. Use cases include inventory management, CRM, and field service, and span across industries such as manufacturing, construction, scientific, and others. Examples of include those designed for requesting and tracking equipment maintenance; generating daily construction reports; or completing a pre-surgery checklist. AppSheet has been and natural language processing technology to further speed the creation of apps. AppSheet CEO launched AppSheet with , a former student in his database systems class at Cornell University. They had been exploring how mobile apps can make businesses more productive and discovered that businesses were hungry for modestly priced custom-built apps. AppSheet is among a number of platforms touting themselves as quick and easy app development platforms. The startup competes against products built by other Seattle-area companies such as Microsoft and K2 Software, as well as Siemens-owned Mendix, OutSystems, Betty Blocks. Asked about AppSheet’s secret sauce and differentiators, here’s what Seshadri shared with GeekWire: We disrupt traditional business software development across three dimensions: 1. Access: Our true no-code model allows every business user to create and innovate with apps without writing any code to build them. 2. Agility: Deployment of apps from the AppSheet intelligent no-code app platform is lightweight and instant. It is an order of magnitude more agile than a low-code solution, significantly more powerful, and comes at a fraction of the cost of using mainstream programming languages that convert a desired program into a sequence of low-level instructions computer hardware can execute. 3. Ambition: The expressive power of the AppSheet intelligent no-code platform is constantly improving. Our current generation of apps includes machine learning, rich integrations, micro-services, and are not limited to mobile/web apps. The fresh investment will be used to increase marketing spend and platform enhancements. AppSheet will also open a “center of machine learning excellence” in Portland, Ore. The company employs 20 people and expects headcount to grow to 50 over the next year. “We believe AppSheet’s demonstrated success with a broad horizontal customer base is a key indicator of its expected impact,” Ravi Mohan, managing director at Shasta Ventures, said in a statement. “There is no doubt that we are at the start of a technology revolution that will allow business users to create their own software solutions, and there is no doubt that AppSheet is the market-leading platform that will drive this transformation.” Other recent Shasta investments in Seattle-area companies include ; ; ; ; ; and . The firm is among a crop of Bay Area investors .
Gaia co-founders Mehtap Ozkan, David Vaskevitch and Hal Berenson. (Gaia Photo) As a former longtime Microsoft chief technology officer, has seen most of the major computer revolutions. He’s ready for the next wave, autonomous machines, and is building a platform to get in on the ground floor. Vaskevitch is one of three co-founders behind Gaia, a new Seattle-area startup aims to be a kind of app store for robots. “Autonomous apps are not going to be like any kind of preceding apps,” Vaskevitch said. “We’re going to build a platform that makes it easier and even practical to write them.” Gaia, which has raised $10 million, is looking for partners who are building autonomous machines. The startup does not yet have a website. Vaskevitch said that solving the autonomous software problem will spread the adoption of these independent robots. “Imagine if Steve Jobs had introduced iPhone but not Xcode or the App Store,” Vaskevitch said. “Apple would be a much smaller platform.” Gaia plans to build a kind of app store for autonomous machines, such as delivery drones and robotic chefs. Above, a test model from Amazon’s delivery drone program. (Amazon Photo) In recent years, Vaskevitch has been working on Mylio, which is known for a photo management app that . Two years ago, Mylio from Chinese investors to build a private cloud. The Gaia team has borrowed Mylio’s hybrid mesh network to make its vision possible. “Gaia is designed from the ground up for tomorrow’s yin and yang distributed world,” Gaia co-founder wrote in a in 2017. “Applications can be written just once and still run on a phone, a tablet, in a car or robotic surgeon, in a server or in the cloud.” Ozkan comes from a venture capital background as the founder of Istanbul-based Golden Horn Ventures. The third member of Gaia’s founding team, , first met Vaskevitch at Microsoft and also worked on relational databases at Amazon. One problem the team foresees is that today’s infrastructure — billions of devices connected through the cloud — won’t work with tomorrow’s autonomous machines. Instead, much of the computing power will have to be done locally. “Nobody’s really worked in that problem for the last 20 years,” Vaskevitch said. In his blog post, Ozkan added: “The good news is that hardware to create the new world is either here or clearly on the way. The challenge is that the software to enable a world like this is almost entirely missing in action.” At least for now, the startup isn’t diving into the rat race for self-driving cars, focusing instead on an application platform for everything else. Among your future companions: autonomous chefs, security robots and delivery drones. “Ten or 15 years from now, we’re going to see autonomous machines in our homes, at work, everywhere we go,” Vaskevitch said.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson gives a thumbs up at an event at Zillow Group in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) Russell Wilson won’t suit up on Super Bowl Sunday but he’s still staying busy off the field in Atlanta this weekend. The Seahawks star quarterback has been making the rounds all week, jumping from media interviews to sponsor events to high-profile parties before today’s big game. Top of mind for Wilson is , a new sports prediction app that he’s been touting to reporters this week. The free-to-play app debuted a few months ago and offers real cash prize payouts to users who can make the most accurate prediction on. For the Super Bowl, it is offering a $250,000 grand prize to anyone who correctly predicts all 16 questions on the line. They range from specific in-game predictions — which team will have the longest field goal? — to off-the-wall questions such as: What color shirt will Adam Levine be wearing when he takes the stage for his halftime performance? Tally mimics gamification and engagement concepts from HQTrivia, a live mobile game which went viral last year. The app last month expanded beyond sports and ran predictions games for The Golden Globes, The Bachelor, and even President Trump’s national address on immigration. Prizes go to users who rack up the most points, which are awarded on a probability scale — if you predict something with a low chance of happening, you win more points. There’s also a jackpot — $250,000 for the Super Bowl — that goes to people who ace all the predictions. Tally funds the prize payouts, which are issued to winners via PayPal within three days. The company’s CEO, Jason LeeKeenan, said the app is not related to sports betting, which has caught the attention of investors and technologists expecting more legalization across the U.S. after a key Supreme Court last year. “We see this as a really friendly version of fantasy,” he GeekWire in November. Tally is an evolution of TraceMe, a celebrity content app that was the original premise of the company . TraceMe shut down , laying off staff and closing its Los Angeles office as it shifted focus to Tally. TraceMe had aimed to connect celebrities with “superfans” through its app via , community features, and more. But according to LeeKeenan, who now heads up Tally, the company overestimated the addressable market for TraceMe, which a $9 million round last year from investors such as Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, YouTube founder Chad Hurley, Alibaba co-founder Joe Tsai, and Seattle-based Madrona Venture Group. Speaking of Bezos — the Amazon chief is also in Atlanta this weekend. He and Wilson were spotted making a friendly exchange at the NFL Honors awards ceremony Saturday night. Sports reporter Darren Rovell posited that Bezos could be a potential new owner of the Seahawks, whose previous owner Paul Allen . Is Russell Wilson talking with his future owner tonight in Atlanta? Jeff Bezos has made the trip (