Roblox is big. Bigger than Minecraft big. The massively multiple online title has been around since 2006, but the game has been achieving a crazy amount of momentum of late. On Friday, it announced that it’s grown past 100 million monthly active users, pushing past Minecraft, which is currently in the (still impressive) low-90s. Here’s the service’s dizzying growth since February 2016, who it was hovering around 9 million players. That’s more than 10x growth in a three and a half year span. User-Generated content is a big part of that number, and the company notes that it has around 40 million user created experiences in the game at present. Sources: TechCrunch, VentureBeat, Roblox “We started Roblox over a decade ago with a vision to bring people from all over the world together through play,” founder and CEO David Baszucki said of the big new round number. “Roblox began with just 100 players and a handful of creators who inspired one another, unlocking this groundswell of creativity, collaboration, and imagination that continues to grow.” The company behind the game has also been pumping some big money into development. It paid $30 million in 2017 and $60 million in 2018. Next week, it will be hosting hundreds of attendees at its fifth Roblox Developer Conference. Per the new numbers, around 40 percent Roblox users are female, with players spread out across 200 countries.
is today announcing its series C financing that it hopes will allow the company to bring its at-home gym to even more homes. The funding round shows investors’ excitement around the new generation of personal exercise equipment that combines on-demand training with smart features. like Peloton, offer features previously unavailable outside of gyms and with this injection of capital, the company expects to build new personal features and invest in marketing and retail experiences. L Catterton’s Growth Fund led the $45 million series C round and included investments from Shasta Ventures, Mayfield, Sapphire Sport, and others also participated. This financing round brings the total amount raised to $90 million. Tonal is based out of San Francisco, CA and was founded by Aly Orady in 2015. The company . The wall-mounted Tonal uses electromagnetism to simulate and control weight, allowing the slender device to replicate (and replace) a lot of weight-lifting machines. The Tonal machine costs $2,995, and for $49 a month, Tonal offers members access to personal training sessions, recommended programs and workouts. Since launching, CEO Orady tells TechCrunch there have been virtually no returns. He says their customer care teams proactively work with members to ensure a good experience. Orady is excited to have L Catterton participating in this financing round, saying their deep network and unparalleled experience building premium fitness brands globally is an incredibly exciting new resource for the company. The Connecticut-based investment firm helped fund in ThirdLove, ClassPass, and The Honest Company. “As the fitness landscape continues to evolve, we have seen a clear shift toward personalized, content-driven, at-home workout experiences,” said Scott Dahnke, Global Co-CEO of L Catterton said in a released statement. “Tonal is the first connected fitness brand focused on strength training and represents an opportunity to invest behind an innovative concept with tremendous growth potential. We look forward to leveraging our deep knowledge of consumer behavior and significant experience in the connected fitness space to bring Tonal’s dynamic technology and content platform to more homes across the country.” Tonal shares a market with Peloton, and Orady says a significant amount of Tonal owners also own Peloton equipment. Yet, feature-by-feature, Peloton, and Tonal are different. While they’re both in-home devices that offer on-demand instructors, Peloton targets cardiovascular exercises while Tonal is a strength-training machine. Orady states his customers find the two companies offer complementary experiences. “The common thread with our members is that they understand the value of investing in their fitness and overall health,” said Aly Orady, “All of our members are looking to take their fitness to the next level with strength training. Tonal offers the ability to strength train at home by providing a comprehensive, challenging full body workout without having to sacrifice quality for convenience.” This is an enormous market he says the company can rely on for years to come. The majority of Tonal’s customers are between 30 and 55 years old and live in, or adjacent to, the top 10 major metro US markets. There’s an even split, he says, between male and female members. Tonal is similar to , another at-home, wall-mounted exercise device that costs $1,495. While Tonal focuses on strength training through resistance, Mirror offers yoga, boxing, Pilates and other exercises and activities with on-demand instruction and real-time stats. Mirror also launched in 2018 and the company has raised $40 million. Going forward Tonal expects to expand its software to provide new personalization features to its members. The hope is to build experiences that motivate users while serving up real-time feedback. This includes building new workout categories and additional fitness experiences even when users traveling and do not have access to their Tonal machine. The company sees it expanding its retail and marketing presence. Right now, just eight months after the product’s debut, customers have very limited access to try the Tonal machine. It’s only on display at Tonal’s flagship San Francisco store and is coming to a pop-up store in Newport Beach, California. Orady tells TechCrunch the company needs new talent to help the company achieve its mission. Tonal is hiring and looking to hire in hardware, software, design, video production, and marketing. At-home exercise equipment is a massive market and Tonal offers a unique set of features and advantages that should allow it to stand apart from competitors. This isn’t just another treadmill. Tonal is a strength-training super machine the size of a thick HDTV. Challenges abound but the company seemingly has a solid plan to utilize its latest round of financing that should allow it to reach more customers and show them why the Tonal machine is worth the cost.
3D printer manufacturer has raised another round of funding. Summit Partners is leading the $82 million Series D round with Matrix Partners, Microsoft’s Venture Arm, Next47 and Porsche SE also participating. When you think about 3D printers, chances are you’re thinking about microwave-sized, plastic-focused 3D printers for hobbyists. is basically at the other end of the spectrum, focused on expensive 3D printers for industrial use cases. In addition to increased precision, Markforged can manufacture parts in strong , such as carbon fiber, kevlar or stainless steel. And it can greatly impacts your manufacturing process. For instance, you can prototype your next products with a Markforged printer. Instead of getting sample parts from third-party companies, you can manufacture your parts in house. If you’re not going to sell hundreds of thousands of products, you could even consider using Markforged to produce parts for your commercial products. If you work in an industry that requires a ton of different parts but don’t need a lot of inventory, you could also consider using a 3D printer to manufacture parts whenever you need them. Markforged has a full-stack approach and controls everything from the 3D printer, software and materials. Once you’re done designing your CAD 3D model, you can send it to your fleet of printers. The company’s application also lets you manage different versions of the same part and collaborate with other people. According to the company’s , Markforged has attracted 4,000 customers, such as Canon, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, General Motors, Volkswagen and Adidas. The company has shipped 2,500 printers in 2018. With today’s funding round, the company plans to do more of the same — you can expect mass production printers and more materials in the future. Eventually, Markforged wants to make it cheaper to manufacture parts at scale instead of producing those parts through other means.
In a way, I have the equivalent of a supercomputer in my pocket. But in another, more important way, that pocket computer is a joke compared with real supercomputers — and and Cray are putting together one of the biggest ever with a half-billion-dollar contract from the Department of Energy. The “Aurora” program aims to put together an “exascale” computing system for Argonne National Laboratory by 2021. The “exa” is prefix indicating bigness, in this case 1 quintillion floating point operations, or FLOPs. They’re kind of the horsepower rating of supercomputers. For comparison, your average modern CPU does maybe a hundred or more gigaflops. A thousand gigaflops makes a teraflop, a thousand teraflops makes a petaflop, and a thousand petaflops makes an exaflop. So despite major advances in computing efficiency going into making super powerful smartphones and desktops, we’re talking several orders of magnitude difference. (Let’s not get into GPUs, it’s complicated.) And even when compared with the biggest supercomputers and clusters out there, you’re still looking at a (that would be IBM’s Summit, over at Oak Ridge National Lab) or thereabouts. Just what do you need that kind of computing power for? Petaflops wouldn’t do it? Well, no, actually. One very recent example of computing limitations in real-world research was this study of how climate change could affect cloud formation in certain regions, reinforcing the trend and leading to a vicious cycle. This kind of thing could only be estimated with much coarser models before; Computing resources were too tight to allow for the kind of extremely large number of variables involved here (). Imagine simulating a ball bouncing on the ground — easy — now imagine simulating every molecule in that ball, their relationships to each other, gravity, air pressure, other forces — hard. Now imagine simulating two stars colliding. The more computing resources we have, the more can be dedicated to, as the Intel press release offers as examples, “developing extreme-scale cosmological simulations, discovering new approaches for drug response prediction and discovering materials for the creation of more efficient organic solar cells.” Intel says that Aurora will be the first exaflop system in the U.S. — an important caveat, since China is aiming to accomplish the task a year earlier. There’s no reason to think they won’t achieve it, either, since Chinese supercomputers have reliably been among the fastest in the world. If you’re curious what ANL may be putting its soon-to-be-built computers to work for, feel free to . The short answer is “just about everything.”
Epic Games, maker of the ultra popular Battle Royale game Fortnite, is in prize cash for competitive tournaments in 2019. The company made waves in the esports world last year, announcing for the 2018 competitive year, dwarfing every other competitive title in one fell swoop. This year, a significant portion of the $100 million will be awarded to participants of the first-ever Fortnite World Cup. Each of the 200 players who qualify and compete will walk away with at least $50,000, with the winner taking home $3 million. The Fortnite World Cup will take place July 26 – 28 in New York City, offering $30 million total in prizes. One-hundred of the top solo players will be invited, along with the top 50 duos teams. So how do you get in on this? Fortnite is holding weekly open online qualifiers, each worth $1 million, from April 13th to June 16th. Eligible players who consistently place well will have a shot at being one of those top 200 players. This announcement comes at an interesting time for Fortnite. While the game still reigns supreme in terms of popularity, other Battle Royale games are picking up traction. Apex Legends (an EA and Respawn title), in particular, is growing in popularity. Several of the top streamers, including Ninja, Shroud, Timthetatman, High Distortion and Annemunition have started playing more Apex and participated in the first . Keeping the attention of these streamers is surely a priority for Fortnite, and for a game that pulls in some in in-game purchases, spending $100 million a year is a small price to pay.
China’s largest selfie app maker has been busy working to diversify itself beyond the beauty arena in China. On Wednesday, the Hong Kong-listed company announced in a that it has agreed to pay about HK$2.7 billion ($340 million) for a 31 percent stake in game publishing company Dreamscape Horizon. Dreamscape Horizon, a subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed games group Leyou, specializes in making video games for personal computers and consoles and owns 97 percent of Canada-based studio This global connection will potentially hasten Meitu’s overseas expansion and the foray into games, on the other hand, will help the Xiamen-based firm capture more male users. (Operating out of Xiamen might have also been convenient for Meitu to meet the coastal city’s booming hub of game developers.) Out of Meitu’s 110 million monthly active users overseas, only 30 million are male. “The collaboration with Leyou is not only focused on mainland China but also the global market,” says a Meitu spokesperson in a statement. “Mainland China currently accounts for the majority of Meitu’s earnings. The acquisition will broaden our business scope and diversify the geographic streams of our income.” The overseas move appears to be a tactful one as the domestic gaming market is crowded with established players like Tencent, and hundreds of smaller contenders. The local environment has also turned hostile to gaming companies as Beijing steps up scrutiny amid concerns of titles being violent and harmful to young players. The result was a months-long halt in game approvals that dragged down Tencent’s stock prices and in the giant. And before long Tencent announced it would to distribute games in Southeast Asia. The hiatus in December, but companies are still feeling the chill as China is reportedly mulling a this week. Meitu is most famous for its suite of photo-editing and beautifying apps, but hardware has been its major income source for years. For the first half of 2018, the company generated 72 percent of its revenues from selling smartphones optimized for taking selfies, a category proven popular in a country where touched-up photos have become the norm. But Meitu’s hardware business is shrinking as smartphone shipment slows in China and phones from mainstream brands like and Huawei now come equipped with filters. It has, however, found a new home for its barely mainstream smartphone brand after Xiaomi in November to lure more female users.
A new estimates that revenue-earning American Twitch streamers grew to nearly 9,800 in 2017 (a 59 percent increase from 2016) and made an estimated $87.1 million (representing a 30 percent YOY increase). is one of the fastest-growing platforms for American content creators. In terms of year over year growth in number of creators themselves, Twitch falls just behind Instagram and YouTube, and ranks second behind Instagram in YOY revenue growth for those creators. (Fun Fact: Instagram’s creator-based revenue growth grew nearly 50 percent from 2016 to 2017 to $460 million, according to the study.) Recreate Coalition says these numbers are very conservative based on the methodology of the study and the fact that it’s limited to the U.S. The growth of Twitch is predicated on a few obvious trends, as well as a very nuanced relationship between a streamer and his or her respective audience. In the case of the former, “live” digital experiences continue to be a fascination for startups and consumers alike. While Twitch and YouTube have offered live broadcasts for a while, social media companies have followed along with their own live-streaming products. In fact, Betaworks dedicated a season of its accelerator program to “live” startups, calling the program . With regards to the latter, things get more interesting. The relationship between a viewer and a streamer is similar to our relationships with other famous celebrities, artists and athletes, but puts the viewer far closer to the action. Streamers don’t just pop up briefly in articles, TV interviews or on Twitter or Instagram. They spend hours and hours each day just sitting there, doing whatever it is they do on stream and chatting with their viewers. You can get to know their personality, talk to them and they talk back to you! It’s a bizarre combination that has proven financially fruitful for these streamers, especially at a time when the gaming industry itself is growing by for the . A tier of elite, hyper-popular streamers such as Shroud, DrDisrespect, Dakotaz and of course Ninja are leading the way for others as they continue to gain followers. In fact, Ninja just with Wicked Cool Toys to introduce to the market a line of actual toys. Ninja himself in 2018. But as the gaming world explores new genres and esports grow, there seems to be plenty of room for streamers to make a name (and a pretty penny) for themselves. Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this post included a few too many zeroes, stating that U.S. Twitch streamers made $87 billion instead of $87 million. It has been corrected for accuracy with my apologies.
A new study estimates that revenue-earning American Twitch streamers grew to nearly 9,800 in 2017 (a 59 percent increase from 2016) and made an estimated $87.1 million (representing a 30 percent YOY increase). is one of the fastest growing platforms for American content creators. In terms of YOY growth in number of creators themselves, Twitch falls just behind Instagram and Youtube, and ranks second behind Instagram in YOY revenue growth for those creators. (Fun Fact: Instagram’s creator-based revenue growth grew nearly 50 percent from 2016 to 2017 to $460 million, according to the study.) Recreate Coalition says that these numbers are very conservative based on the methodology of the study and the fact that it’s limited to the U.S. The growth of Twitch is predicated on a few obvious trends, as well as a very nuanced relationship between a streamer and his or her respective audience. In the case of the former, ‘live’ digital experiences continue to be a fascination for startups and consumers alike. While Twitch and YouTube have offered live broadcasts for a while, social media companies have followed along with their own live streaming products. In fact, Betaworks dedicated a season of its accelerator program to ‘live’ startups, calling the program . With regards to the latter, things get more interesting. The relationship between a viewer and a streamer is similar to our relationships with other famous celebrities, artists and athletes, but puts the viewer far closer to the action. Streamers don’t just pop up briefly in articles, TV interviews, or on Twitter or Instagram. They spend hours and hours each day just sitting there, doing whatever it is they do on stream and chatting with their viewers. You can get to know their personality, talk to them, and they talk back to you! It’s a bizarre combination that has proven financially fruitful for these streamers, especially at a time where the gaming industry itself is growing by for the . A tier of elite, hyper-popular streamers such as Shroud, DrDisrespect, Dakotaz and of course Ninja are leading the way for others as they continue to gain followers. In fact, Ninja just with Wicked Cool Toys to introduce a line of actual toys to the market. Ninja himself in 2018. But as the gaming world explores new genres and esports grow, there seems to be plenty of room for streamers to make a name (and a pretty penny) for themselves. Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this post included a few too many zeroes, stating that U.S. Twitch streamers made $87 billion instead of $87 million. It has been corrected for accuracy with my apologies.