Encrypted To The Last Drop

Everything is for sale in the dark web marketplaces. Anonymous buyers can procure everything from prescription painkillers to exotic designer drugs. You can hire sex workers and buy weapons in the same exchange. Danger lurks around every corner and Satoshis flow like water while whales make it rain on encrypted Tor gambling servers.

But not everything on the dark web can kill you or bring you down. One established drug vendor has recently branched out to sell old fashioned coffee, which they say they procure directly from farmers, roast themselves, and describe in loving language that wouldn’t be out of place in an organic grocery store.

Welcome to the nicer side of the dark web, where things look more like Whole Foods than Blade Runner.

“We are all long time coffee drinkers,” said an anonyous representative of Dark Net Roasters in an online interview. “Coffee has always been our favorite caffeinated drink.”

It may be lawful to sell caffeine, but the operation is still tied up in the sale of illegal drugs. The experiment started, in fact, as a promotion by an established seller of edible cannabis products: buy a brownie or a rice crispy treat laced with THC, get a complimentary six ounce bag of coffee. The reception was positive, the representative said, and they decided to spin Dark Net Roasters off as its own entity.

“Once we realized how much everyone was enjoying our coffee it was a natural progression to want to offer them to others,” said the representative, who told me that roasting coffee started out as a hobby that they shared with family and friends.

Why sell their coffee on the dark web, where Amazon-like marketplaces can only be accessed on the anonymizing service Tor? The Dark Net Roasters representative said it was an ideological decision to avoid what they see as unnecessary red tape and oversight—and also a bid to capitalize on a population that’s already making regular purchases on the online black market.

“The Internet is inherently a disruptive technology that fosters competition and innovation,” they said. “However, with the Internet sales tax looming, net neutrality, other noncompetitive legislation and the extent of which the government has been gathering information on its citizens, the dark net and digital currencies become the instinctive solution.”

Selling legal goods on darknet marketplaces isn’t unprecedented. On the Silk Road, an early marketplace that was shut down in a high-profile sting last year, one merchant sold caramel candies that earned positive reviews.
Dark Net Roasters-1
I needed to try this encrypted dark roast myself so I obtained four bags of Dark Net Roasters coffee, which are deep black and emblazoned with a pixelated logo, and were delivered by USPS in a nondescript parcel.

Dark Net Roasters describes their roasts in language normally associated with boutique retailers. Their Ethiopian Yirgacheffe features “deep flavors of cherry, stone fruit, violet and cocoa,” according to an official product listing, and their Zambian Terranova has “hints of apple, vanilla and citrus.” Some are advertised as Fair Trade, and others as cultivated sustainably.
JC_Dark Net Roasters_Photo1

Not all those claims are testable, but I wondered how an experienced coffee taster would feel about the product. I arranged to prepare and taste the samples with Peter Cannon, the technical director for artisanal Massachusetts roaster Barismo. In addition to his work with Barismo, Cannon has been involved for years with exacting barista competitions and, in layman’s terms, is obsessed with coffee.

A few things jumped out at Cannon, who emphasized that he spoke only for himself and not his employer, before he even opened the packaging. Two of the bags were leaking when they arrived, which he said can allow the flavor fade more quickly than it would from a sealed container. There was also no roast date on the bags, and the coffee arrived pre-ground, both rarities in high quality coffee—though Dark Net Roasters told me later that they plan to offer whole bean coffee in the future, and that roast dates were a possibility as well.

Cannon prepared and tasted all four roasts by pouring hot water over the grounds, brewing them for four minutes and then carefully smelling and sampling each with a deep spoon, a ritual known as “cupping” in roasting and barista circles. The bottom line, he said, is that all four samples are extremely, unusually dark—though he conceded there is a deep divide in the contemporary roasting world between light and dark coffees, and that he personally prefers light roasts.

As a professional operation, Cannon said, he would have expected better. The four roasts were “incredibly uniform,” he said, grimacing. “When I taste the cup, I just get dark and ash.”

Very dark roasts, Cannon said, are frequently seen as a tactic to overwhelm delicate flavors, covering up a lack of confidence in in the bean or the roasting technique.

“I’m going to guess this is some guy in his kitchen,” Cannon said. He paused. “Or his meth lab, or whatever.”

Cannon’s best guess is that the outfit is not yet large enough that they are looking seriously at consistency between batches, which makes quality control difficult at a commercial level.

He also pointed out that direct trade hinges on transparency. Dark Net Roasters can advertise that their coffee is sourced from a specific region or that they have sought out relationship with a particular grower, but with no paper trail, those claims can’t be verified. And in any case, many coffee aficionados today expect a roaster to provide information on the origin of beans down to the specific farm and elevation where they were grown, which would be a security risk for an anonymous seller.

Would Cannon buy Dark Net Roasters on his own dime?

“I think it’s safe to say ‘no,’” he said (Cannon later revised his opinion further, tweeting that it was “the grossest coffee I’ve had all year.”)

Of course, others might feel differently, and that’s not incompatible with Dark Net Roasters’ laissez-faire philosophy: ultimately, the market will decide.

“We are merely using a new choice of market to reach coffee consumers,” the Dark Net Roasters representative said. “We can only offer our coffees to people. We cannot make them buy it. Ultimately, it is the market that will decide if there is a place for us.”

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Tech Founders Talk About Why The New ‘Entrepreneur Barbie’ Matters

The impact of Barbie on young girls’ self-image and aspirations has been a controversial topic for decades. But this week, Mattel, the toy company that makes Barbie, took a small step in a positive direction with the official launch of Entrepreneur Barbie as its latest “career of the year” doll for 2014.

In a lot of ways, on the surface Entrepreneur Barbie looks a lot like, well, regular Barbie: She’s packaged in a pink box, with drastically unrealistic physical proportions, a glossy smile, and perpetually pointed toes. What sets her apart is that she comes with all the trappings of running a modern business, including a tiny toy smartphone, tablet, and briefcase. (With Barbie, the accessories are the message.)

Really, though, I suppose the most important thing is she’s got the backstory of being an entrepreneur. When young girls play with Barbie, they’re really just using their imaginations and telling stories — so this gives them a framework to play with Barbie as a business builder, not, say, a shopaholic.

While sales figures in recent years show that Barbie dolls are not as hot a toy as they used to be, they still have a real impact on what some young girls idolize. The launch of Entrepreneur Barbie is another role model of sorts that young girls can see in the business world. It’s a small move, but, as TechCrunch co-editor Alexia Tsotsis wrote back in February, every little bit helps.

So, why is this a TechCrunch story? For starters, the dearth of female entrepreneurs is a real issue in the technology industry. Also, Mattel enlisted a group of female founders, many of whom are in tech, to honor this week as a “Celebration of Women Entrepreneurs” alongside the launch of the new doll. So TechCrunch TV talked to a few of these women to find out why they got involved and what the new Barbie could mean to the next generation of female founders. Check that out in the video above.

Producing, script writing, and voiceover recording for this video was done by Felicia Williams. Shooting, editing, and interviews by Steve Long.

Read the rest here: Tech Founders Talk About Why The New ‘Entrepreneur Barbie’ Matters

The Bay Lights, The LED Art Project Backed By Big Tech Names, Kicks Off $1.2M Crowdfunding Campaign

Just over a year ago, a large scale art project called The Bay Lights turned the Bay Bridge, the San Francisco Bay Area structure that’s historically been the plainer sister to the famed Golden Gate Bridge, into a glittering destination in its own right.

But as iconic as the Bay Lights have quickly become, it turns out that they’re not set to be here to stay. The original erection of the Bay Lights, a roughly $10 million project that was supported by high profile (and high net worth) San Francisco techies including Marissa Mayer, Ron Conway, Matt Mullenweg, and others, has a two year duration that will make the lights go dark in March 2015.

In order to bring the lights back and keep them going for another ten years, from 2016 to 2026, they’re going to need $12 million more. So Illuminate the Arts, the nonprofit behind the project, has turned to crowdfunding startup Crowdtilt to help raise the needed funds from a larger pool of people. The crowdfunding effort, dubbed “Keep ‘Em Lit Through 2026,” launched last night with the aim of raising $1.2 million in 45 days, which is ten percent of the ultimate goal. As of this writing, about $185,000 has been contributed.

It makes sense that the Bay Lights would seek out more tech-centered ways of raising money than your typical art exhibit, since the Lights represent a unique blend of art and technology. The piece itself consists of 25,000 low power LED lights which are attached to the 1.8 mile western span of the Bay Bridge, and switched on from dusk til dawn. All the lights are individually programmed with software algorithms that create a generative sequence making it so that the patterns never occur twice. The piece was created by artist Leo Villareal, who worked as a programmer in Silicon Valley in the 1990s before shifting his attention to art full time.

In an interview at an event Wednesday evening in San Francisco kicking off the crowdfunding campaign, Illuminate The Arts chairman Ben Davis said that The Bay Lights has reached a uniquely large audience. “More people will see the Bay Lights in its two year tenure than will visit the top 15 museums in the United States,” Davis said. “It’s fine art that people can see, without ever buying a ticket.” Not bad for a project that costs $30 per day in energy costs to run (the bulk of the project’s cost is in the insurance and labor costs of erecting and maintaining it on the bridge, and keeping it in compliance with California transit authorities.)

To contribute to the Bay Lights project, go here. And below, you can see a bit of the Lights in action, and watch a short interview that I conducted with artist Leo Villareal when The Bay Lights were first lit back in March 2013.

Read the rest here: The Bay Lights, The LED Art Project Backed By Big Tech Names, Kicks Off $1.2M Crowdfunding Campaign

Light Chaser, The Animation Studio That Wants To Be “China’s Pixar,” Raises $20M From GGV Capital

Light Chaser, the animation studio that aspires to be China’s Pixar, announced today that it has raised $20 million in series B funding led by GGV Capital, with participation from Hillhouse Capital and returning investor IDG.

The company was launched in March 2013 by Tudou founder Gary Wang after Tudou merged with Youku, creating China’s biggest streaming video site and aspires to make high-quality computer animated films with a “Chinese cultural touch.”

Light Chaser, which has spent the past year and a half filling out its art, technology, and management rosters, also said that its first 3D animated feature, “Little Door Spirits,” will be completed by July 2015 with a budget of RMB 70 million (about $12 million).

While “Little Door Spirits” won’t be released for another year at least, Light Chaser has released a short film called “Little Yeyos” as a preview of what it can do.

In a statement, Jixun Foo, managing partner at GGV Capital, said “The movie market in China is booming, and certainly there is a very significant growth space for Chinese animated feature films. We are impressed by the vision and execution capability of Light Chaser. Within a very short period of time, they have built up an excellent team and a world-class animation production pipeline. It’s very exciting that Light Chaser’s animation and CG capabilities are already at a level close to Hollywood.”

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The Best Amazon Fire Phone Features You Won’t Get In Any Other Phone

Oh, Look! A New Phone!

Today, Amazon introduced the long-rumored Fire Phone. It has the killer 3D effects that everyone talked about. But it also has a few neat features that you won’t see in any other phone out there…


Firefly is something that only makes sense for an Amazon phone. It’s a sort of Shazam for everything, with a deep integration with

Point And Shoot And Buy

Point your camera at a phone number, a book cover or a bar code, and Firefly will automatically detect the phone number, the name of the book or the product.

It Works With Movies And Music Too

It doesn’t stop there. You can also point your phone at the TV to detect what TV show is playing. Just like Shazam, you can identify songs, as well.

And There Is A Dedicated Firefly Button

But the best part is that Amazon put a physical Firefly button on the side of the device. In other words, you can now buy stuff on your Amazon shopping machine in 2 or 3 seconds.

Unlimited Photo Storage

While the Fire Phone comes with 32GB or 64GB of storage, your photos will also be uploaded to Amazon’s Cloud Drive. It’s free and unlimited.

Mayday! Mayday!

Last year, Mayday was by far the killer feature of the Kindle Fire HDX introduction. In one tap, a customer support representative appears on your screen to guide you. The Fire Phone will come with Mayday, as well.

3D Dynamic Perspective

And then, there are the 3D effects. Throughout the phone, when you move your head, the app moves with you. For example, the building on the left moves with your head (it won’t technically work on your current display because you’re not using this new phone, sorry).

3D Everywhere

Enabled by four cameras on the front, a lot of the user interface takes advantage of the dynamic perspective feature. Your photos will move with your head — your lock screen, as well. It is visually impressive when you see it in person, but is it more than just a gimmick?

And There Is An SDK

Third-party developers can take advantage of the four cameras and develop their own apps and games. In particular, 3D games could be cool as there are different perspectives on the screen.

Welcome To The Prime Ecosystem

Finally, as you would expect from Amazon, the Fire Phone seamlessly works with Prime content. Prime Instant Video, Prime Music, Kindle e-books… All of this is baked into the phone. And one more thing, every Fire Phone comes with a year of Prime for free.

View original post here: The Best Amazon Fire Phone Features You Won’t Get In Any Other Phone

T-Mobile Will Give Potential Subscribers A Free One Week “Test Drive” On An iPhone 5S

This evening at Seattle’s Paramount Theater, T-Mobile announced another change in the way they’ll do things moving forward. Their latest move? Free trials, meant to convince potential subscribers that T-Mobile’s network is up to snuff.

In a new program that they call “Test Drive”, T-Mobile is offering free trials to potential customers, offering them an iPhone 5S and 7 days of unlimited service to give their network a spin.

Starting on June 23rd, anyone interested in giving T-Mo a spin can sign up for a test drive online. A few days later, an iPhone 5S is dropped off at your house, complete with a week’s worth of unlimited data/text/web service. And when your week is up? If you’re unconvinced that T-Mobile is for you, you just drop the iPhone off at any T-Mobile store and you’re done.

“But wait!” you say. “What keeps me from just running off with the iPhone?”

There is, of course, at least one small catch: they put a $700 hold on your credit card until the device is returned and, if you beat the thing up, they’ll charge you $100.

At the event, T-Mobile also announced that they’ve expanded their Wideband LTE Network to 16 markets, bumping the download speed in those areas up to a theoretical max of 150 Mbps on phones that play friendly with T-Mobile’s LTE network. Meanwhile, the Voice-over-LTE network that they started testing in Seattle back in May has been rolled out to 15 networks, with plans for it to go nationwide by the end of the year.

This is the fifth announcement in a string of changes that T-Mobile has dubbed their “Uncarrier” series.

The other “Uncarrier” changes so far? In March of 2013, T-Mobile kinda-sorta-but-not-really dropped their use of 2-year contracts. In July, they debuted a program that would let people upgrade their devices up to twice a year — then in October, they killed off the crazy fees associated with sending texts or using data while travelling internationally. Finally, back in January of this year, T-Mobile started covering the early termination fees of anyone willing to switch from another carrier.

Story developing…

See original here: T-Mobile Will Give Potential Subscribers A Free One Week “Test Drive” On An iPhone 5S

ThoughtSpot Grabs $30M In Series B Funding To Modernize Business Intelligence

ThoughtSpot, a startup that hopes to modernize the way companies do business intelligence, announced $30 million in Series B funding today led by Khosla Ventures with help from existing investor Lightspeed Venture Partners.

The funding brings its total to $40.7 million to date. As part of the deal, Keith Rabois, who is a partner at Khosla Ventures, will join the ThoughtSpot board of directors.

The product uses a consumer-like search front end to help find data.

While Thoughtspot is not generally available yet, they report having several early stage customers and want to use the investment to build out their customer support, marketing and sales before releasing their first official product later this year.

They have an impressive team that includes the former head of AdSense analytics at Google, the former head of search at Yahoo and the former lead for Oracle’s BI in the cloud effort, to name just a few.

When asked why they were attacking business intelligence, which has been around since the 1980s, co-founder and CEO Ajeet Singh told me he identified BI as an area that was ripe for change. The focus until now, he says, has been centered too much on the needs of IT and not enough on users getting at the data they need.

The product lets you search a structured database and find the answers to particular problems, then create custom dashboards on the fly. As an example, he searched CrunchBase for the most funded areas in 2014 and found that it was mobile apps. He isolated the data point in a graph and pinned it to a custom dashboard on Silicon Valley investment.

The whole focus of the product is on the user experience, he says, trying to make it as easy as possible to identify and display structured data.

When most people think of BI today, they probably think of companies that were popular in the 1980s and1990s like Business Objects and Cognos. These companies were scooped up by larger players when SAP bought Business Objects in 2007 and IBM snagged Cognos in 2008. Other big players include Microsoft and Oracle.

Smaller competitors include SAS, Pentaho, Qlikview, Tableau and Jaspersoft (which itself was purchased by Tibco earlier this year) to name a few.

But  Singh is unimpressed with the current state of the market. He likened it to how publishing has changed since it moved online. “Business intelligence is still using the [print] magazine or newspaper model. IT guys have to curate content and build applications for hundreds of business users.” He added that these solutions tend to be delivered in a cookie-cutter manner and there is a limited number of kinds of cookies.

R Ray Wang, co-founder at Constellation Research says that data search is one approach to BI, but it might not be the whole answer. “What we ultimately want to get to is the ability to surface up insights, recognize patterns, and then make the best decisions,” he told me.

He adds, “There will be many techniques required, but this will be a good entry point, which sets them apart.”

Singh says the company has plans to open offices in New York and Washington and hope to open a UK office by the end of the year.

PHOTO CREDIT: (c) Can Stock Photo

Here is the original post: ThoughtSpot Grabs $30M In Series B Funding To Modernize Business Intelligence

Wearable Maker Chrono Raises $32 Million So Smokers Can Kick The Habit

Smoking-related illnesses kill more than 400,000 Americans each year, including a relative of Guy DiPierro, the founder of Chrono Therapeutics, a startup that raised $32 million to develop a wearable drug delivery and treatment technology to help smokers quit.

The technology, based on research acquired out of laboratories in Geneva, has been in development for several years and has attracted the support of lead investors Canaan Partners and 5AM Ventures in addition to commitments from Fountain Healthcare Partners, the Mayo Clinic and GE Ventures.

“Smoking costs people their health and eventually their lives, but current technologies like nicotine gums and patches are not effective in enabling smokers to quit permanently, because they do not address the cyclical nature of nicotine cravings and offer little to no behavioral support,” said Dr. Alan Levy, a serial entrepreneur and the chief executive of Chrono. “We believe we have a very compelling technology that will solve many of the problems that make smoking cessation so difficult.”

Chrono has developed a two-pronged approach to treating smoking addiction. It includes a programmable nicotine replacement therapy that delivers targeted doses of nicotine ahead of an individual’s craving, instead of when they’re actually jonesing for a smoke, according to Dr. Levy.

Research shows that smokers have peak cravings during certain times, usually in the morning when smokers first wake up, around meal times, and then in the evening. The Chrono Therapeutics wearable technology can deliver nicotine at intervals throughout the day to suppress those cravings.

Additionally, the company offers real-time behavioral support that encourages smokers throughout the day. The device uses Bluetooth technology to link up with the SmartStop digital support program, an application providing real-time guidance to help smokers cope with cravings as well as a means for promoting compliance to the replacement therapy and with the overall (terrible, terrible) process of quitting. Chrono SmartStop

Although the company is launching with a device to treat addiction to smoking, Dr. Levy sees applications that range far beyond kicking the nicotine habit. He says that the company’s technology can be used to treat other diseases from addiction to prescription medication to Parkinson’s disease and several other illnesses.

Smoking is a good place to start, according to Levy, because the treatment regime is already well understood, and it will take far less time to go through the approval process with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It’s also responsible for one in five deaths in the U.S. and costs the U.S. healthcare system — and by extension the U.S. taxpayer — billions.

In fact, the Affordable Care Act has made smoking-cessation treatments reimbursable for the first time, meaning that the market for these treatments can only expand. And already nearly 23 million smokers try to quit each year.

With Dr. Levy at the helm, the company has a good chance of going the distance, according to Canaan Partners general partner, Wende Hutton. “I first backed Alan [Levy] 20 years ago as the CEO of HeartStream,” says Hutton. “I backed him again in his next startup called Northstar Neuroscience. Anything Alan is involved with is always something I take very seriously.”

Before the round had closed, Chrono had already received a tremendous vote of confidence in the form of a $2.25 million grant from the National Cancer Institute division of the U.S. National Institute of Health. It was the first time NIH has issued an initial Fast Track Phase I/Phase II grant for a programmable nicotine replacement therapy.

“We think the platform does have tremendous potential,” says Hutton. “The addition here which is quite unique is not only an optimized drug delivery vehicle, which we have seen in different formats, but the ability to send that information and turn that into some form of utility… Those are the pivots — where we can take a known efficacious drug, deliver it in a more convenient and efficacious way, and optimize that with the ability for patient feedback, behavior modification, and the ability for coaching.”

And while other wearable health technologies are trying to avoid regulatory oversight by the Food and Drug Administration, Hutton says there’s value in getting the regulatory seal of approval. “We’re working with a team that has no fear of the FDA. By navigating those waters, I count having a wearable with the FDA approval label a good thing.”

Image via Ken Hawkins

Here is the original post: Wearable Maker Chrono Raises $32 Million So Smokers Can Kick The Habit

Tile, The Lost-Item Tracker With Millions In Crowdfunding, Was Worth The Wait

The first thing you’ll notice about Tile, the crowdfunded lost-item finder that attaches to bags, keys, bikes and more, is that it’s big. I mean, I know the company provided the device’s specs beforehand, but it’s still a surprise to see this large white square — bigger than a Wheat Thin and slightly smaller than a matchbook – sitting there in the black foam padding.

The second thing you’ll notice, during setup, is that it’s musical.

Yes, Tile actually plays a little song for you when you’re connecting it with your phone, and later, when it confirms it was successfully activated.

What’s Tile? For those who need a reminder, Tile was a breakout, viral success story, demonstrating crowdfunding’s potential. The company raised $2.6 million via its Selfstarter campaign – far more than the $20,000 it was looking to initially raise, to top off the earlier $200,000 from Silicon Valley accelerator Tandem Capital.

Demand Caused Delays

But the buzz around Tile has been both a blessing and a curse. Instead of being able to scale slowly, the company had more orders than it was prepared to handle.

“It really changed the dynamics of manufacturing this in a really good way. However, one of the bad things it did add delays,” Tile CEO Nick Evans says. “We had to go and find a different manufacturer — our current manufacturer couldn’t produce enough.”

And, he adds, “we needed to make sure if we were shipping that many units, that they’re really, really going to work.”

Nearly a year after Tile achieved its multi-million-dollar crowdfunding raise, shipments finally began getting off the ground, and today the company is still working to get the device into the hands of those who’ve paid.

That means some Tile customers won’t just be asking themselves if Tile was worth the money (one Tile is $19.95 on preorder), they’ll be asking themselves if it was worth the wait.


Some percentage (a vocal minority, the company would say) are not happy, as you can tell by the company’s Facebook page. “WHERE’S MY ORDER?? WHEN WILL I GET MINE??” shouts one customer in the comments. Complains another: “From those I know who are ‘backers’ who ordered a year ago, THEY have NOT received any such emails about THEIR orders. I am not making this up.”

Some even want their money back: “You guys keep pushing the date out further.. Now it’s not until next year.. How do I get a refund?”

And so it continues.

Evans admits that there may have been some problems with people receiving the backer emails, but he chalks this up to them having bought Tile under a different email account than the one they currently use, in some cases. To make certain everyone knew what was going on, the company launched an official blog four months ago.

And last week, a shipment schedule was finally posted. From the looks of it, Tile will be working through its pre-orders until September 2014.


What that means for those buying from the website today is that their Tiles won’t ship until late September to early October, says Evans. After that point, Tiles will ship out more quickly, but how quickly may remain to be seen.

So how many Tiles has the company sold so far? On that point, the CEO declines to comment. However, he would say that there are 150,000 customers and most are ordering a four-pack as opposed to a single Tile.


Tile Features

In terms of the final product, which apparently I’m fortunate to have, it’s fair to say it was worth the $20, at least.

Whether it’s worth the wait may be a more subjective claim, but I’d have to say it was. The product itself, though larger than some others, is attractive and slim. The app is smartly designed and well-thought-out, with numerous subtle touches.

One of Tile’s more heavily touted features — “Community Find” — has fortunately made it into production. This feature lets you find your Tile by leveraging the network of Tile users running the app on their phone. For this to work, Tile users only have to download the app and launch it once. The app will take a bit of your battery, though — less than 10 percent, says Evans, and they’re working to bring that down.


Meanwhile, a sharing feature, which will let you explicitly share your Tile device with family and friends, is set to arrive in version 1.1 of the app, which will be arriving “soon,” we’re told. You’ll also “soon” be able to mark a Tile in the app as “lost,” allowing you to get a push notification when it’s found by another Tile community member.

No User-Replaceable Battery. But Maybe A Subscription-Based Replacement Service!

Tile is also unique in the space for not having a user-replaceable battery - something that was a very deliberate decision on the company’s part. “I grew up with four sisters, and when the remote control was out of batteries, the remote control was broken. There was no way they were going to replace those batteries,” he says. “If I wasn’t hanging around and wanted to replace them, that remote control was ‘end-of-life,’ it’s done.”

The overall point here is that replacing batteries is a hassle (not that girls can’t do it, let’s be clear). And that’s especially true for coin cell batteries, which aren’t just lying around the house.

What would be better is to buy a new Tile, the company believes – and by the time you’re ready to do so, it will be a newer, better, smaller and, yes, even more colorful Tile, if you choose. (Colored Tiles are coming next year.) The company is even considering turning Tile into a subscription-based service, where reordering is automatic.

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Getting Started With Tile

As for the Tile you can use today, it’s easy to get going. The app is well-designed with clear and simple steps that help you connect it to your iOS device, name it, assign the appropriate permissions in iOS, and more.

The app first has you register for a Tile account, and as an added precaution, it has you verify your email, which though a bit of hassle, is an important step in terms of account security. Then you add the Tile to your app by pressing on the lowercase “e” in “Tile” printed on the front of the device.

And this is when Tile sings.

The device offers up a little melody to let you know it’s ready. The company actually contracted an L.A.-based composer to write the song Tile plays, and it’s one of the many small, but delightful additions that improve the experience of using this app versus its now-numerous competitors, including DuetTrackRStickNFindLapa, XY, and others.


Next, you place the Tile directly on your iPhone’s screen (as you do with the Misfit Shine, for example) and it makes the connection.

You can then name your Tile (e.g. “Keys,” “Wallet,” “Purse,” “Luggage,” etc.) and assign a photo – which is helpful if you bought a pack of Tiles and want an easy way to identify it in a longer list. It also makes that list look nice, aesthetically speaking, as each tracked item now has a rounded photo thumbnail next to it.

When you’re done, you tap on “Activate” and when the process is complete, you’ll hear the Tile play a tune again.

You can then attach Tile to your keychain, bag, bike or anywhere else you want, thanks to the included sticker.



Using Tile

After your Tile or Tiles are set up, you can launch the app at any time to see them in a list view with their location noted underneath, or you can switch over to the map view to see them plotted there instead. If the Tile is within Bluetooth range, you’ll see a green circle around your item. And if it’s out of range, that circle is gray.

When it comes to actually finding a missing item with a Tile attached, it’s just a two-tap process. You tap the Tile in the list and then tap “Find.” The Tile will again play a tune, allowing you to find it if nearby. This is handy for finding keys under a sofa cushion, an iPad mini that slid under the car seat, or a misplaced wallet.


As an added bonus, a somewhat hidden proximity feature will actually show you how close you are to that missing item. In the Tile “Detail View” (the screen where you tap the “Find” button) you tap on the Tile image itself and it flips around, showing you a signal strength indicator instead of a solid, green ring.

Tile’s range is anywhere from 50 to 150 feet, the company says. My Tile got well over 50, but fell short of 150. Your mileage may vary, as they say.

IMG_9915If your item is out of Bluetooth range, Tile will offer its last known location thanks to the above-mentioned “Community Find” feature.

What happens next when a missing item is tracked down is sort of up to you. Like “Find My iPhone,” if you believed the item has been stolen, it may be better to get the police involved. But Tile’s size (and its attention) may lead to savvier criminals who know to rip these things off of snagged laptops, bikes or bags. You may want to be smart about how visibly the Tile is positioned, in that case.

More Funding?

As for Tile the company, they’re now an 11-person team based in San Mateo. And word has it that those millions in crowdfunding may be only the start. The company may have some additional funding news in the near future, we hear.

Excerpt from: Tile, The Lost-Item Tracker With Millions In Crowdfunding, Was Worth The Wait

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