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Google’s changing Android billing, search, and licensing in India

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Google will let Android users in India use third-party billing options starting next month as part of its compliance with a ruling from the country’s antitrust authority, the company announced in a blog post on Wednesday. The search giant will also give users the ability to choose their default search engine “via a choice screen” whenever they start setting up a new Android phone or tablet.

In compliance with these rules, Google says it will let smartphone makers “license individual Google apps” to preinstall on their devices as well as “introduce changes for partners to build non-compatible or forked variants.” However, the company says it will continue to “respectfully appeal certain aspects of the CCI’s decisions.”

“We take our commitment to comply with local laws and regulations in India seriously.”

“We take our commitment to comply with local laws and regulations in India seriously,” Google writes. “The Competition Commission of India (CCI)’s recent directives for Android and Play require us to make significant changes for India, and today we’ve informed the CCI of how we will be complying with their directives.”

As Google faces global scrutiny over its stringent in-app payment policies, the company brought its User Choice Billing pilot — a program that lets non-gaming app developers use third-party payment options — to India last year. While it rolled out the pilot to the European Economic Area (EEA), India, Japan, Indonesia, and Australia as well, it still hasn’t launched in the US, where it’s also contending with legal issues.

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Michroma wants to make food colorings, flavors more ‘fun’gi • TechCrunch

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Food colorings, like Red 40 and Yellow 5, often include synthetic, petroleum or animal-derived products, but in recent years, the $2.6 billion food colors market has trended toward using natural ingredients as more consumers want more clean labels for the foods they eat.

Startups have come in with their approaches to healthier food colors, ingredients and flavorings. For example, Vanilla Vida, Spero Renewables and Pigmentum are working on vanilla. Motif FoodWorks is developing a beef flavor substitute, while Brightseed and Equinom are creating compounds and proteins to make ingredients for healthier foods.

Similarly, Michroma is developing its novel technology for food colorings and flavorings that uses precision fermentation to scale fungal food colors.

The ingredient biotechnology startup was founded in 2019 by Ricky Cassini and Mauricio Braia, both from Argentina, who met at an accelerator program and moved to San Francisco to begin developing the technology for Michroma.

Braia’s background is developing technology for the food industry, focused on producing enzymes using filamentous fungi. However, rather than stick with enzymes, he wanted to do something different.

Braia, the company’s chief scientific officer, started cultivating fungal strains in soil media and saw it produce a red coloring. He leveraged that information into a new technology for creating fungal “biofactories” to produce small molecules, like colors, more efficiently.

“I thought that this could be a great opportunity to produce natural colorants with a technology that allowed for high efficiency and low costs,” he added. “We turned that idea into a project that evolved into Michroma.”

Michroma founders Ricky Cassini and Mauricio Braia Image Credits: Michroma

The company started with a red colorant replacement for Red 40. CEO Cassini said other methods for producing this color, like beet root or insects, don’t perform well when tested with temperature and food pH stability.

Its first product is called Red+, which is temperature-resistant and stable across the food pH spectrum, Cassini said. This means that the colors are able to maintain viability through the pasteurization, cooking and extrusion processes, which he explained were some of the most intensive processes for natural dyes. In addition to traditional food uses, Red+ can be used to give color to cultivated meat, he added.

The plan is to produce other colors, starting on the warm side, like orange and yellow, and will move to blue and white.

The company has prototyped Red+ with some large food companies and is currently in negotiations with suppliers for distribution and will submit its petition to both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Food Safety Authority to scale. In addition, Michroma will move into developing plant-based flavorings that will be sold in combination with the colorings, Cassini added.

To kick all of this off, the company secured $6.4 million in seed financing led by Supply Change Capital, the corporate venture capital arm of General Mills. This gives the company a total of $7.4 million in venture capital.

Joining Supply Change in the round are existing investors, SOSV’s IndieBio and GRIDX, and a group of new investors, including Be8 Ventures, CJ CheilJedang, Fen Ventures, Boro Capital, The Mills Fabrica, Portfolia’s Food & AgTech Fund, New Luna Ventures, Siddhi Capital, Groundswell Ventures and Hack Capital. There is also a group of angel investors, including Allen Miner, Jun Ueki and Steve Zurcher from the Keiretsu Japan Forum; Guillermo Rosenthal; Franco Goytia; Pablo Pla; and Mat Travizano.

The new funding will go into expanding R&D capabilities and growing the Michroma team from 15 to 35 people in the next two years.

Cassini expects the regulatory process to take at least two years and is exploring some ways to generate revenue prior to that. For example, Singapore has already approved the use of cultivated meat.

“Red+ is our MVP for the whole platform, but we want to provide complete solutions for companies that don’t want only red,” Cassini added.

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Netflix lists rules and exemptions to prevent account sharing outside household • TechCrunch

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Netflix is now detailing how it aims to maintain password sharing within a household while cracking down on outside usage. The company aims to curtail account sharing this year by asking people to pay extra money to use the streaming service outside the household for extended periods of time.

The streaming giant has shared terms detailing how it plans to control the experience within a household. It has updated its FAQ pages for countries where it is already testing extra membership fees for account sharing — Chile, Costa Rica and Peru

These new terms ask people to define a primary location through their TV. All the accounts and devices should be connected to the same Wi-Fi as the TV.

“A primary location is set by a TV that is signed into your account and is connected to your Wi-Fi network. All other devices signed into your account on that Wi-Fi network will be associated with your primary location and will be able to use Netflix,” it says.

If a user doesn’t set a primary location or doesn’t have a TV, Netflix will automatically set a primary location based on IP address, device IDs, and activity.

After that, people living in this home who want to use Netflix on their own device have to launch the app at home at least once every 31 days.

“To ensure that your devices are associated with your primary location, connect to the Wi-Fi at your primary location, open the Netflix app or website, and watch something at least once every 31 days,” the company says on its support page.

But what if you grabbed an iPad before leaving the house for a long train ride but you rarely use this iPad at home? Chances are the device won’t be associated with your household when you try to watch something on the go. In that case, you can ask the main account holder to verify the device for you. The account holder will receive a code that they can relay to the person who is traveling. If the verification is successful the traveling member can watch Netflix for seven more days without any additional prompt.

It’s unclear if you can request temporary codes several times in a row. For instance, some students would rather request a code from their parents every week instead of paying for Netflix. These conditions also prevent folks from using Netflix through VPN connections for a long period of time.

The streaming company has made a ton of efforts to get more paying users on its platform. In Novemeber, it launched a cheaper $6.99 ad-supported monthly plan in the U.S., the U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Australia, Japan, Korea and Brazil. Meanwhile, it has also launched tools to kick devices off a subscription and transfer a profile from one membership to another to stop account sharing.

All these efforts have brought in more subscribers to the service. During its recent Q4 2022 quarterly results, the company said it added 7.7 million subscribers — much higher than anticipated 4.5 million additions.

Netflix will go through a product overhaul under the new co-CEO Greg Peters (formerly COO) after founder Reed Hastings stepped down from the post last month. At the same time, the company said that it will crack down on password sharing “more broadly” in the coming months. Extra member fees will likely come to more countries soon.

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Tesla’s bitcoin holdings suffered a $140 million net loss last year

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Tesla has revealed that its bitcoin holdings lost $204 million of value last year In a new regulatory filing, which was partially offset by gains of $64 million from converting the digital currency into fiat. Overall, it suggests the company’s bitcoin investment resulted in a net loss of $140 million throughout the course of 2022, TechCrunch reports.

That’s a lot of money, but it’s small in comparison to Tesla’s initial bitcoin investment announced in February 2021, when it said it had bought $1.5 billion of the digital currency and planned to start accepting it as payment for its vehicles. But it didn’t hold on to the bulk of this investment for long. Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed in June 2021 that it had already sold 10 percent of its bitcoin holdings, apparently to confirm it “could be liquidated easily without moving [the] market,” and by July 2022 the company had sold three quarters of its bitcoin purchases

As of December 31st, 2022, Tesla says it held $191 million in bitcoin at fair market value. That’s compared to $1.99 billion on December 31st, 2021.

Screenshot of Elon Musk tweet saying tesla has sold 10 percent of its bitcoin.

Musk said Tesla had sold 10 percent of its bitcoin as of June 2021.
Screenshot: Twitter

The company’s experiment with accepting bitcoin as payment for its cars lasted an even shorter period of time. It went live in March 2021 but was pulled in May less than two months later, with the company citing the carbon emissions associated with mining the cryptocurrency. 

Overall, bitcoin has lost value between when Tesla announced its initial purchase and now. The cryptocurrency now trades at almost half the price as it did when Tesla announced its initial investment. It’s worth a little under $23,000 today, down from around $40,000 in early February 2021 when the purchase was announced. At its peak in November 2021, bitcoin hit a peak price of around $65,000. 

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