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Friday, October 6, 2017

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The Big One

A breakdown on the day’s biggest Inno story.

Dylan: Dan Lyons is in the headlines again, and this time it’s definitely not to the benefit of the local journalist who wrote a takedown of startup culture in a 2016 book about his time working at HubSpot.

As reported by The Boston Globe, the author of “Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Startup-Up Bubble” appeared in a Buzzfeed report yesterday that detailed private emails Lyons had sent to alt-right media figure Milo Yiannopoulos. The main thrust of Buzzfeed’s story is that Yiannopoulos and his previous employer, right-wing news site, were smuggling “nazi and white nationalist ideas into the mainstream,” despite comments by Yiannopoulos and Steve Bannon, Breitbart co-founder and Trump’s former White House strategist, attempting to distance themselves from racist movements.

Buzzfeed reporter Joseph Bernstein pieced the story together using a large cache of emails provided to him that contained conversations between Yiannopoulos, Bannon and other Breitbart associates. It also included emails people sent to Yiannopoulos. One of those people who contacted Yiannopoulos multiple times was Lyons, who sent emails to him in 2015 questioning the birth sex of writer Zoë Quinn and another one suggesting a story looking into the “public treatment of the venture capitalist Joe Lonsdale, who had been accused of sexual assault in a lawsuit that the plaintiff eventually dropped.”

Since the publication of Buzzfeed’s report, Lyons has been on an apology tour, mostly on Twitter, and says he’s being unfairly portrayed as an ally of the alt-right while adding that he doesn’t know Yiannopoulos. “This is a McCarthyite tactic,” Lyons told the Globe. He said he has also apologized to Quinn and another person he questioned. In addition, he has pointed out that he has written multiple stories about “bro culture” and diversity issues within the tech industry.

In a short Twitter exchange I had with Lyons last night, Lyons told me that he used to trade emails with Yiannopoulos, “usually with one line and a link to one story,” and that the last one was sent in January 2016. “I’ve been sickened and puzzled by his political turn,” Lyons told me, adding, “At first I thought it was a kind of performance art, that he didn’t mean any of it. I still wonder if that’s the case because I can’t believe any sane person believes the things he does.”

Here are some things that Yiannopoulos wrote for Breitbart while he was receiving emails from Lyons: “Fat people are disgusting,” “the so-called ‘gender pay gap’ is a feminist myth that won’t die,” “it’s time to eject transgender people… out of the gay club,” “mass Muslim immigration terrifies me.”

Making Moves

Inside the people, companies and organizations making moves today.

Lucy: Mavrck, an influencer marketing platform, is expanding. The ad-tech company announced the opening of a second office in Denver. “We wanted to have a presence in a city that was closer to our clients in the Western United States, and gave us access to a wealth of talent,” Lyle Stevens, co-founder and CEO, said in a statement.

Dylan: New startup alert: ScholarJet, which went through this year’s MassChallenge program, recently launched its website for “action-based” scholarships, which give high school students an alternative to pay for college through skills and activities that don’t involve essays. Read more: ScholarJet Gives Students An Alternative to Essay-Based Scholarships

Lucy: Boston-based company Supplet has been acquired by Bump Boxes, a Peoria, Illinois-based pregnancy subscription service that sends moms and moms-to-be gift boxes with baby products. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Dylan: Circle, a Boston blockchain-powered mobile payments startup, just launched an open source project to let people send money like an email or text message. Forbes has all the details.

Lucy:  Another acquisition to report today. Sovos, a tax compliance and reporting software provider based in Wilmington, acquired U.K.-based FiscalReps. FiscalReps helps more than 400 businesses calculate and file insurance premium tax reports in 16 European countries.

In The Know

The Inno stories you need to read today.

Free beer isn’t enough anymore [Globe]

This company wants to stop floods before they happen [CNN]

California biotech to shutter Cambridge site, lay off 92 employees here [BBJ]

Meet the 145 Startups in the Harvard Innovation Labs Fall Cohort [BostInno]

Techstars Alum indico Names New CEO & Raises $1.5M to ‘Productize’ A.I. [BostInno]

New Money

Your daily funding roundup.

Dylan: AirFox, a blockchain-based mobile data platform, has completed its $15M token sale of its new cryptocurrency, AirToken. There were a little over 2,600 contributors in the token sale. The “official” Initial Coin Offering will occur on this coming Tuesday, when the token will be minted and listed on crypto exchanges.

In The Community

The events and happenings to know about tonight and this week.

Dylan: Time to get ready for next week’s events. They include HUBweek, which begins on Tuesday; the 5th Annual BUILD Entrepreneur Games, which happens on Wednesday; and Startup Weekend Boston, which begins next Friday. Find more details and more events happening next week in BostInno Approved.

Read This Right Now

Insight and analysis from the community and beyond.

Lucy: Rodney Brooks, co-founder of Rethink Robotics and iRobotwrote a fascinating piece that was published in the MIT Technology Review about what he calls “the seven deadly sins of Artificial Intelligence Predictions”: “I recently saw a story in ­MarketWatch that said robots will take half of today’s jobs in 10 to 20 years. It even had a graphic to prove the numbers. The claims are ludicrous. (I try to maintain professional language, but sometimes …) For instance, the story appears to say that we will go from one million grounds and maintenance workers in the U.S. to only 50,000 in 10 to 20 years, because robots will take over those jobs. How many robots are currently operational in those jobs? Zero.” 

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Meet The Authors

Dylan Martin

Lucia Maffei

Kyle Gross

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