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Every startup is a bank — or wants to be

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Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This week we did something just a little bit new. Kate was in studio at TechCrunch’s SF HQ. Alex was in his dork cave in Providence. And we had a guest in the studio as well. We’ve done similar setups before, but never with video all around. So, welcome to a slightly new chapter in Equity’s production history (all praise to Chris for making it work, video will be out today on TechCrunch’s YouTube page).

Our guest this week was the excellent Sarah Smith from Bain Capital Ventures. Before she turned to writing checks, Smith worked for both Quora and Facebook. Her fun fact? She’s an avid and competitive player of board games.

First up we dug into one of Kate’s latest, a piece looking at the influencer space, venture investments into it and what’s next for the power of the Instagram-famous. She highlights startups like Influence, Cameo, Karat and more.

Next up, Deserve raised $50 million from Goldman Sachs, making the round something that was worth touching on. Later, Alex spoke with the company’s CEO and picked up more context, but what matters for today is that Deserve is doubling-down on its credit card fintech service, not doing what other companies that handle money are up to — namely, trying to become neobanks at high speed.

Speaking of which, why is every fintech or finservices startup becoming a bank? Partially because they can, partially because it can be lucrative and partially because, we found out, it’s a way to juice customers that they’ve already paid to acquire. Want to make your CAC expenses look more efficient? Stretch out that LTV!

And then we spent a minute on Uber’s results, which proved better than expected but wound up being poorly received.

Glad you guys came back for another episode, we’ll see you soon.

Equity drops every Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

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Facebook Could Be Messing With Your Phone. Here’s What We Know

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Facebook Could Be Messing With Your Phone. Here's What We Know

Battery life is one of the most important aspects of smartphone usage — without solid battery life, a phone becomes far less useful. Even worse are instances when a phone’s battery drains faster than expected for no apparent reason, which may result in the user being caught off guard with a dead battery while away from a charger.

That’s the issue that prompted Hayward’s complaint, according to The New York Post, which quotes the data scientist as saying, “I said to the manager, ‘This can harm somebody,’ and she said by harming a few we can help the greater masses.” Hayward was allegedly fired in November 2022 after refusing to engage in the negative testing practices, leading to the lawsuit soon after. The big question is whether this practice — assuming the allegations are accurate — is widespread at Meta. 

If so, what other kinds of negative testing may be taking place without a user’s knowledge, and how might those tests impact their experiences with the company’s products? Hayward claimed that during his time working for the company, Meta gave him a training document that allegedly described types of negative tests that may be conducted — the document was reportedly titled, “How to run thoughtful negative tests.” Unfortunately, specific examples of those tests weren’t provided, and Meta hasn’t commented on the allegations to clarify how its testing practices may impact users, if at all.

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Meta tilldelade forskaren en $27 200 buggpenning för glitch som kringgick Facebook 2FA

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Meta awarded researcher a $27,200 bug bounty for glitch that bypassed Facebook 2FA

Facepalm: Meta recently implemented a centralized login system to make it easier for Instagram, Facebook, and Meta (VR) users to manage their accounts. Unfortunately, in setting up the 2FA system, engineers overlooked a glaring failure regarding attempt limitation.

A freshman security researcher named Gtm Mänôz noticed the bug in July 2022. While looking for his first bug bounty to present at BountyCon 2022, Mänôz started playing around with the Meta Accounts Center interface, which manages all Meta accounts, adding similar functionality as Google’s one-stop login for its various services (YouTube, Gmail, Docs, etc).

He noted that the page allowed users to associate a phone number with their accounts when linking them. Users simply enter their phone number and then the six-digit 2FA code the system sends them. However, Mänôz discovered that if the wrong code is entered, the Account Center just asks the user to reinput it instead of sending a new code.

Furthermore, there was no limit on how many failed attempts one could enter into the verification box. This oversight allowed Mänôz to brute force the 2FA on his own account to associate his phone number with another Facebook profile. The only warning comes after the phone number is stolen in an email from Meta to the victim informing them that it has been linked to another user’s account.

While the harmfulness of this exploit is mainly limited to a bothersome re-establishing of the owner’s phone number, it effectively disables 2FA on the victim’s account, albeit temporarily. Until the target takes action, they are open to password phishing attacks.

“Basically, the highest impact here was revoking anyone’s SMS-based 2FA just knowing the phone number,” Mänôz told TechCrunch.

Mänôz notified Meta of the bug in September, and it patched the vulnerability immediately. A spokesperson said that when Mänôz found the problem, the Meta Accounts Center was still in beta and only available to a small number of users. The representative also noted that Meta’s investigation revealed no spikes in the usage of that feature, indicating that hackers hadn’t exploited it.

Despite the relatively low-treat of the glitch, Meta awarded Mänôz a $27,200 bug bounty. Not too shabby for his first bug hunt.

Meta has stumbled a few times in the last couple of years regarding the login features of its various accounts. In 2021, it caused a mild panic when it logged everyone out of Facebook when reconfiguring the website. Last year, it purposefully locked many users out of their accounts for not enabling “Facebook Protect” by a deadline set by an official Meta email that looked suspiciously like a phishing scam.

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Brandon Smiley, Son Of Rickey Smiley, Dies At 32

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ATLANTA, GA — Brandon Smiley, the son of famed comedian and actor Rickey Smiley, died Sunday morning. He was 32.

The comedian made the announcement on social media Sunday, which was followed by a series of tributes Monday.

The cause of death is unknown.

Brandon was featured on Smiley’s Atlanta-based reality show, “Rickey Smiley For Real,” which chronicled the work and family balance of the comedian. The show also featured Smiley’s three other children and his “Rickey Smiley Morning Show” co-hosts. The nationally-syndicated radio show is headquartered in Atlanta.

Smiley is a Birmingham, Alabama native.

“I lost my oldest son #BrandonSmiley this morning,” Smiley said in a Facebook post Sunday. “I’m okay, but please pray for my son’s mother, Brenda, his siblings and his daughter, Storm.”

In a nearly three-and-a-half-minute Facebook Live, Smiley shared the news.

“I hate to announce this, but I want to give it to you before you hear it in the streets,” Smiley said. ” … Life comes with a whole bunch of twists and turns.”

His announcement was followed up by a 2020 stand-up set Brandon performed at the StarDome Comedy Club in Hoover, Alabama and a photo of Smiley with Brandon’s daughter, Storm.

Smiley shared Monday a video of him and Brandon together with the caption, “‘When you a daddy, you a daddy for life.’ #BrandonSmiley #DaddysBoy #DaddyForLife

His latest Facebook Live came around 10 a.m., when an emotional Smiley shared words of gratitude to people who have offered support.

“Losing your child is a terrible nightmare,” Smiley said in the post. “Yesterday was the shock of losing my son, Brandon, but today reality is setting in. Thank you for your thoughts, prayers, kind words, text messages and calls. I really appreciate it.”

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin took to Twitter to share his condolences.

“I’m devastated to hear that my friend @RickeySmiley has lost his son, Brandon. Rickey has given so much to our city; this is the time when we need to give back to him. Join me in wrapping our arms around him and his family during this difficult time. We’re praying for you, Rickey,” Woodfin said in the tweet.



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