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3Novices:Russia may annul election results at two polling stations: officials

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia could annul results at two polling stations where Reuters reporters witnessed people voting more than once during Sunday’s presidential election, election officials said on Thursday.

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3Novices:Mexican journalist gunned down in violent state of Veracruz

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – A Mexican journalist was killed in the southeastern Mexican state of Veracruz, the government said on Thursday, that latest victim in a wave of violence in one of the world’s most dangerous countries for reporters.

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3Novices:Bird adds a former Lyft VP of Goverment Relations as Chief Legal Officer

Bird has made another key hire as it looks to spread its electric scooter rental business across the nation.

The company has brought on former Lyft vice president of government relations, David Estrada,to be its chief legal officer.

He’s going to take over the company’s compliance and government relations efforts just as Bird seems poised for a big, nationwide rollout following its huge $100 million raise.

Estrada will be facing similar challenges to the ones he had to deal with at Lyft as he helped grow the nation’s second largest ride-hailing service.

Bird has some unique hurdles to overcome — including pushback from local businesses who find the scooters to be more nuisance than last-mile transportation savior; local governments worried about both the traffic and safety risks that scooters may pose on streets and sidewalks; and competition from other services like Limebike, which has rolled out a scooter service of its own.

Estrada most recently served as the chief legal officer and head of public policy for the electric aircraft company, Kitty Hawk. He served as the CLO at Lyft from 2014 to 2015 and had also worked as the legal director for Google X, working with states on legislation around autonomous vehicles, Google Glass and drone delivery.

David Estrada

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3Novices:Ben is a chatbot that lets you learn about and buy Bitcoin

It’s generally a given that whenever a new technology takes off people rush into the space to build everything under the sun, and eventually natural selection kicks in and only the truly useful remain. For example, chatbots became trendy last year and we quickly began seeing chatbots for weather, movie recommendations, personal finance, etc. Some of these are useful, but until natural language processing improves you’re probably better just doing the task yourself.

But there are a few exceptions, with one in particular being chatbots designed for the purpose of making a very complex topic or task approachable to the average person.

Like cryptocurrencies.

Ben is a chatbot that lets anyone become familiar with cryptocurrencies via a recognizable chat interface. By talking with “Ben”, users can do things like take lessons and learn about cryptocurrency, read the latest industry news, and of course buy and sell Bitcoin.

By focusing on an underserved market (i.e people who have no idea what Bitcoin is or how to buy it) Ben has the unique advantage of not having to go head to head with established crypto titans like Coinbase or Circle.

The startup is part of Y Combinator’s Winter ’18 batch, and previously raised a $580K pre-seed from Third Kind Venture Capital and various angel investors.

After completing a KYC check (which is also done via chat) users in 21 states can buy and sell Bitcoin, with other states and support for Ethereum, Ripple, and Bitcoin Cash rolling out in the coming months. The startup charges 1% for buys and sells, which is in line or lower than most major exchanges.

The app also has a social feature where you can link with friends to see their returns (only on a percentage basis) to see who is a better investor.

User’s cryptocurrency is stored in the cloud but their private keys live only on their own personal device, which isn’t as secure as complete cold storage but does ensure that your bitcoin can’t be spent without someone having access to your phone. Ben also gives new users a backup seed to write down in case they lose their phone.

But Ben isn’t necessarily meant to support an experienced crypto user who has a high-value portfolio and needs advanced features and security.

Instead, the startup’s goal is to make buying and learning about cryptocurrency accessible to anyone, especially those without the technical knowledge or desire to spend the time learning how an exchange world. And as natural language technology evolves Ben will be able to answer more and more questions over time, making it a perfect on-ramp for people who need a little more hand holding before they open their wallet and trade their (actual) benjamins for a string of ones and zeros.

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3Novices:Meet the startups that pitched at EF’s 9th Demo Day in London

Entrepreneur First (EF), the company builder and “talent first” investor, Entrepreneur First (EF), the leading company builder, held its ninth London Demo Day this afternoon. Once again, the pitches took place in front a packed crowd at King’s Place in London’s King Cross area, seeing 19 startups pitch their wares to investors, press and other actors in the European tech scene.

EF stands out from the plethora of demo days that the U.K. capital city hosts because of the way the investor backs individuals “pre-team, pre-idea” — meaning that the companies pitching only came into existence over the last 6 months and perhaps may never have done so without the founders entering the programme.

As is now a tradition, prior to the pitches, EF co-founder Matt Clifford took the chance to announce some EF news of its own. Already operating in London, Singapore and Berlin, the company builder — which last year picked up backing in a $12.4 million round led by Silicon Valley’s Greylock Partners — is expanding to Hong Kong to double down on its Asia ambitions, kicking off with a local programme in July. Heading up EF’s Hong Kong office is former Airbnb and Google exec Lavina Tien — you can read my full report here.

The themes for EF’s ninth London Demo Day continued to reflect the company builder’s focus on recruiting the best technical and domain expert talent — both recent graduates and also people already working at tech companies — where they are encouraged to try their hand at entrepreneurship. The pitches spanned AI/machine learning, automation, healthtech, legal tech, financial services, new interfaces and input devices. And, being that this is 2018, the blockchain and cryptocurrency, although, thankfully, there wasn’t an ICO in sight.

Low on sleep and therefore particularly prone to pitch-lash, my picks this time around were Limbic, which wants to bring emotional intelligence to software (and therefore hardware) by measuring changes to a part of your brain called the ‘limbic system’ via your heartbeat; nPlan, which wants to use machine learning to enable major construction work schedules to be more accurate and run on or ahead of time; and Inoviv, which is developing technology based on unique insights into proteomics to help match patients with the right drugs.

The full list of presenting teams (in their own words)

Papercup translates the voice track on videos so every creator can expand their reach to seven billion people.
CreditMint is decentralising corporate lending.
nPlan accelerates the global construction industry.
Nivoda aggregates the world’s diamonds.
Headlight AI provides intelligent sensing and mapping software for harsh environments.
Octeract solves today’s unsolvable optimization problems.
Beneficiary maps the impact of the world’s philanthropic efforts and helps charities identify the most effective ways to improve lives.
Ginie AI turns term sheets into contracts.
Prime Factor Capital is a crypto asset manager.
Panopy is a performance management platform that removes workplace bias.
Mimica builds self-learning automations for digital work.
Inoviv matches patients with the right drugs.
PolyAI is democratising conversational AI to give machines a voice.
Plural AI is building a new kind of search engine: a knowledge engine.
ArrayStream Technologies helps fund providers launch next generation AI-powered mutual funds.
Limbic provides computers with vital emotional input.
Plumerai is making small machines intelligent.
TokenAnalyst is bringing transparency to the decentralized economy.
Massless is the future of three dimensional immersive design.

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