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Radical thinks the time has come for solar-powered, high-altitude autonomous aircraft | TechCrunch

Though many eyes are on space as orbit develops into a thriving business ecosystem, Radical is keeping things a little closer to the ground — but not too close. Its high-altitude, solar-powered aircraft aim to succeed where Facebook’s infamous Aquila failed by refining the tech and embracing more markets.

It’s hard to believe that Facebook’s ambitious plan to use solar-powered aircraft to provide internet access in far-flung locations got its start a decade ago. But though those dreams came crashing down when the project was scuttled, the concept remained intact.

Ultra-lightweight aircraft in the stratosphere can, in theory, stay aloft almost indefinitely by powering their propellers via solar panels. Load it up with sensors, telecommunications gear, or anything else and you’ve got a versatile, mobile asset that isn’t hindered by orbital mechanics or chaotic weather patterns.

Radical CEO James Thomas suggested that the tech just wasn’t ready before now.

“There’s been interest in these high alt high end aircraft for a long time,” he told TechCrunch in an interview. “It’s not a new idea, but in the past few years a lot of the supporting technologies have really matured — batteries, solar, even advanced compute. Look at where we’re at with battery tech now: we’re almost at 2x [of Aquila’s]. That puts us in a really strong position.”

The Seattle-based startup has raised a $4.5 million seed round to take it from a small-scale demonstrator aircraft, which it successfully flew for 24 hours straight recently, to a full-scale one. This full-size craft would have a wingspan around 100 feet, but weigh “as much as a person,” which I took to mean 100-200 pounds.

Radical’s founders hold the sub-scale demonstrator aircraft.

Putting the full-scale aircraft into the stratosphere is Radical’s primary goal, but that hasn’t stopped them from scouting out possible use cases.

“We think of what we’re developing as a platform for persistent airborne infrastructure,” he said, but for use cases where an orbital asset isn’t practical. For instance, orbital imagery of an area at risk of wildfires might come in once an hour — far too slow for a rapid response. But a high-altitude aircraft could provide 24/7 live monitoring for weeks straight, or even change its location to track new threats.

For telecommunications, although Starlink is rapidly emerging as the go-to solution for connectivity in remote areas, it has important limits, like the need for precision ground infrastructure. There are plenty of cases where a flying 5G station is a better bet (though you still need work out the backhaul).

Radical was one of my picks from Y Combinator’s early 2023 batch, and I wrote at the time:

I always thought the idea was compelling but had yet to find its business model. Connectivity anywhere may be a huge new differentiator for mobile networks, and I bet satellites will be useful but expensive and congested. Why not a giant glider? It’s equally weird, but I appreciate the ambition.

Apparently I was correct!

One nice advantage of working in the stratosphere, Thomas pointed out, is that you have a significantly reduced regulatory load. Up above the closely monitored urban and commercial airspaces, it’s much simpler to operate and faster to get approvals.

Radical isn’t the only company looking into this; the AALTO project at Airbus aims to fill a similar gap in telecoms coverage, and Skydweller’s much larger platform (600 kilograms of batteries alone) is looking to enter a surveillance and intelligence role with a Palantir partnership.

Thomas said their advantage comes from a close relationship with the companies they work with, who “really want to be hands on with the system.” Not a one-size-fits-all platform, then, but also not purely bespoke — it depends on the customer (though he called them customers, they aren’t the paying type yet; the company is pre-revenue).

For now the goal is to get into the air within the next 12 months, proving the full-size craft can fly and putting them in a position to, presumably, start accepting money.

The seed round was led by Scout Ventures, with additional funding from investors including Inflection Mercury Fund and Y Combinator.

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Robotic Automations

Startups Weekly: Let's see what those Y Combinator kids have been up to this time | TechCrunch

Welcome to Startups Weekly — your weekly recap of everything you can’t miss from the world of startups. Sign up here to receive the Startups Weekly newsletter in your inboxes.

It’s the most wonderful tiiiiiiime of the yeaaaaaaar … That’s right, we’re back with all the you-can’t-miss companies from the current batch of Y Combinator startups. AI was, not shockingly, the biggest theme, with 86 out of 247 companies calling themselves an AI startup, but we’re reaching bubble territory given that 187 mention AI in their pitches. We have a couple of roundups for you, including the 18 most interesting, and the TechCrunch staff favorites.

Meanwhile, I wrote up an in-depth interview with the founder of Ember, the hot-mug company, about (among other things) how he split his company in half to be able to woo MedTech and life sciences investors.

Most interesting startup stories from the week

Image Credits: PM Images (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Startups losing money is nothing new, but this week, Devin summarizes why Trump’s Truth Social is different in a few key ways. In a nutshell, the whole thing is playing out like a bad reality TV show, where the plot revolves around hemorrhaging money and the suspense is whether it’ll run out of cash before viewers change the channel. With a debut on Nasdaq as $DJT, thanks to a merger with the desperation darling of the finance world, a SPAC, Trump Media & Technology Group’s (TMTG) financial lifting of the veil reveals a $58 million loss on a meager $4 million in revenue. This isn’t your typical Silicon Valley “burn cash now, profit later” saga; it’s more of a “burn cash now, and that’s it” kind of story. Unlike startups that thrive on VC life support while disrupting industries, TMTG’s lifelines are fraying, with no explosive user growth, no VC sugar daddies, and the unenviable position of being publicly accountable while trying to juggle a business model that seems to repel advertisers like it’s made of antimatter. As the stock flops around lacklusterly, the reality sets in that TMTG’s story might be less about pioneering digital media and more about how to lose friends and alienate advertisers, all while the credits roll on what could be the most expensive episode of “The Apprentice” ever produced.

  • IPOs are gathering steam … maybe?: Cybersecurity darling Rubrik, which has been guzzling venture capital like it’s going out of style, has decided it’s time to brave the public markets and files for an IPO. With a history of bleeding money, Rubrik’s tale is one of modest revenue growth, eye-watering losses, and a pivot to subscription models that’s as groundbreaking as deciding to sell software as a service in the tech world.
  • Accel rethinks India: Accel, the venture capital firm that’s been collecting Indian unicorns like they’re going out of style, is having a bit of an existential crisis with its Atoms accelerator program, realizing that in the eyes of founders, all VC money eventually starts to look the same — just a pile of cash with strings attached.
  • Crypto is back?: If the 2023 crypto venture landscape was an ice-cold pot of water, the first quarter of 2024 is the part where the bubbles start to form right before water boils, Tom Schmidt, a partner at Dragonfly Capital, said to TechCrunch in Jacquelyn’s overview of the VC investment space for crypto.

Chaos in automotive startup land

Tesla’s cybertruck exists now. That’s about the best thing your friendly correspondent can say about this design monstrosity. Image Credits: Darrell Etherington / Getty

Stormy weather continues to be the theme for the movers and shakers of the startup world: Transportation.

Canoo’s 2023 earnings report reads like a tragicomedy. The star of the show? CEO Tony Aquila’s private jet, which cost the company double its entire revenue for the year. In a year where Canoo managed to rake in a meager $890,000 by delivering just 22 vehicles, it simultaneously shelled out $1.7 million to ensure Aquila could jet-set in style. I guess in the fast-paced world of electric vehicles, nothing says “fiscal responsibility” quite like a private jet tab that overshadows your sales, even as the company picks clean the bones of its failed competitors.

Meanwhile, in the land of Fisker, the company momentarily misplaced millions in customer payments amid a frantic scramble to restructure its business model. This financial game of hide-and-seek, which diverted crucial resources from sales to sleuthing, highlights the company’s rather casual approach to tracking transactions, including, in some instances, handing over vehicles on the honor system. Fisker’s attempt to play catch-up with paperwork not only strained its relationship with PwC during annual report preparations but also left the company clueless about its actual revenue, all while teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. So, if you’ve ever felt bad about losing your car keys, at least take solace knowing you didn’t misplace the equivalent of a whole SUV stuffed full of dollar bills, or get yourself into an investigation about why the doors on the cars you manufacture won’t open.

  • Self-driving … into the abyss: Ghost Autonomy, a startup that once dreamed of making highways safer with its autonomous driving software, has ghosted the automotive world, shutting down operations despite a nearly $220 million séance with investors.
  • Riveting reading from Rivian: Rivian’s latest report card reads more like a cry for help than a victory lap. The EV underdog kicked off 2024 by building a smaller number of cars and delivering even fewer. With each EV sold last quarter costing them the equivalent of a luxury sedan in losses, Rivian’s journey to profitability looks … interesting.
  • Tesla takes a dip: Tesla’s latest delivery figures are so-so, as the company blames everything from arsonists with a vendetta against German factories to maritime mayhem courtesy of the Houthi rebels for its first year-over-year sales dip in three years. As if transitioning to the new Model 3 wasn’t enough of a speed bump, Tesla’s also juggling production of the Cybertruck and a mysterious lower-cost EV, all while trying to invent a revolutionary manufacturing process on the fly.

Most interesting fundraises this week

Kidsy’s catalog drew investor interest. Image Credits: Kidsy

Kidsy is the latest brainchild to emerge from the startup nursery. The company is essentially the T.J. Maxx of baby gear, swooping in to save parents from the financial black hole that is raising children by offering discounted, overstocked, and gently used items that were once destined for the landfill. Founded by a former business journalist and a software engineer, Kidsy has quickly become the superhero of the circular economy for baby products, managing to charm investors into an “oversubscribed” pre-seed funding round faster than a toddler can throw a tantrum.

  • A sticky startup indeed: Stripe, the payments behemoth, has swooned over a four-person startup named Supaglue, formerly known as Supergrain, in a classic tale of acqui-hire romance. Supaglue somehow caught Stripe’s eye — perhaps through the tech equivalent of a love potion mixed with mutual acquaintances and serendipitous meetings.
  • Google blesses nonprofits with $20 million: is throwing $20 million at nonprofits to play fairy godmother to their AI dreams. Twenty-one lucky nonprofits get to be the guinea pigs in a six-month tech boot camp, complete with AI coaches and Google employee minions, all in the name of making the world a better place — one automated task at a time.
  • Bla bla bla something something cars: From its humble beginnings as an online hitchhiking platform to becoming a unicorn with a penchant for hoarding millions and dabbling in buses, BlaBlaCar has had quite the ride. Now armed with a $108 million credit line and a newfound taste for profitability, it’s on a shopping spree for smaller companies.

Other unmissable TechCrunch stories …

Every week, there’s always a few stories I want to share with you that somehow don’t fit into the categories above. It’d be a shame if you missed ’em, so here’s a random grab bag of goodies for ya:

  • No account required: OpenAI, in a move that screams “data is the new gold,” is now letting anyone chat with ChatGPT without an account, ensuring that even your grandma’s queries about knitting patterns can help train their AI, all while vaguely hinting at “more restrictive content policies” that are as clear as mud.
  • Just bumblin’ along: Bumble, once the belle of the IPO ball, now finds itself grappling with the modern dating dilemma of being ghosted by users for TikTok love stories. New CEO Lidiane Jones is on a mission to rekindle the flame by rethinking the women’s first-move mantra and flirting with AI, all while trying to make dating fun again without really changing the swipe-right culture.
  • Hey, that’s a good impression of me: OpenAI is basically saying “hold my beer” as it dives headfirst into the ethical quagmire of voice cloning with its new Voice Engine. The company insists it’s all about responsible innovation while simultaneously opening Pandora’s box to see how it can be used and abused. We can’t think of a single downside.… </sarcasm>
  • B nixes AI: Beyoncé’s “Cowboy Carter” has been out for only a few days. But in the middle of the press release for “Cowboy Carter,” the singer made an unexpected statement against the growing presence of AI in music.

Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations

MIT tool shows climate change could cost Texans a month and a half of outdoor time by 2080 | TechCrunch

There are a lot of ways to describe what’s happening to the Earth’s climate: Global warming. Climate change. Climate crisis. Global weirding. They all try to capture in different ways the phenomena caused by our world’s weather systems gone awry. Yet despite a thesaurus-entry’s worth of options, it’s still a remarkably difficult concept to make relatable.

Researchers at MIT might finally have an answer, though. Instead of predicting Category 5 hurricanes or record heat days, they’ve developed a tool that allows people to see how many “outdoor days” their region might experience from now through 2100 if carbon emissions growth remains unchecked.

The results might be alarming or comforting, depending on where you live.

For people in California or France or Germany, things don’t look so bad. The climate won’t be quite as hospitable in the summers, but it’ll grow a little bit more clement in the spring and fall, adding anywhere from a few days to nearly a month of outdoor weather compared with historical records. The U.K. will be even better off, gaining 40 outdoor days by the end of the century.

Not everyone will come out ahead, though. Some temperate places like New York, Massachusetts, China and Japan will lose a week or more of outdoor days. Elsewhere, the picture looks even more dire. Illinois will lose more than a month of outdoor days by the 2080s as the summers grow unbearably hot. Texas will lose a month and a half for the same reason.

Yet it’s the countries with some of the most vulnerable populations that’ll suffer the most (as scientists have been warning). Nigeria’s summers will grow even hotter and longer, lopping off nearly two months of outdoor days. India will lose almost two and a half months.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Even if the world fails to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050 — but still manages to by 2070 — the situation will improve dramatically. Both Nigeria and India would only lose one month of outdoor days, and more northerly regions would retain some of their added outdoor days.

Assessing risk

The MIT tool is a relatable application of a field of study known as climate scenario analysis, a branch of strategic planning that seeks to understand how climate change will impact various regions and demographics. It’s not a new field, but as advances in computational power have fostered more sophisticated climate models, it has become more broadly applicable than before.

A range of startups are using this relatively newfound predictive capability to help give shape to an uncertain future.

Many startups in the space are focused on tackling that uncertainty for investors, lenders and insurers. Jupiter Intelligence, Cervest and One Concern all focus on those markets, supplying customers with dashboards and data feeds that they can tailor to regions or even assets of interest. The startups also determine the risk of flood, wildfire and drought, and they’ll deliver reports detailing risk to assets and supply chains. They can also crank out regulatory disclosures, highlighting relevant climate risks.

Investors and insurers are sufficiently worried about how climate change will affect assets and supply chains that these startups have attracted some real cash. Jupiter intelligence has raised $97 million, according to PitchBook, while Cervest has raised $43 million and One Concern has brought in $152 million.

While major financial institutions are an obvious customer base for climate forecasting companies, other markets exposed to the outdoors are also in need of solutions.

ClimateAI is targeting agriculture, including agribusiness, lenders, and food and beverage companies, all of which have watched as droughts, floods and storms have decimated crops. As a result, water risk assessment is a key feature of ClimateAI’s forecasts, though it provides other weather and climate-related data, too. The startup has raised $37 million so far, per PitchBook.

Sensible Weather is working on markets that are a little closer to home for most of us. It provides insurance for people embarking on outdoor events and activities, from live concerts to camping and golfing. It works with campgrounds, golf courses, live event operators and more, allowing them to give customers an option to insure their outing against inclement weather. It’s an approach that’s landed the startup $22 million in funding, according to PitchBook.

As more businesses and consumers become aware of how climate change is affecting their lives, their demand for certainty will create a wealth of new markets that will offer these startups and their peers ample opportunity to expand. Climate scenario analysis, once a niche limited to academic labs and insurance companies, appears poised to enter the mainstream.

Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations

Y Combinator's Garry Tan chastises a San Francisco lawmaker again — this time about an email bill | TechCrunch

Y Combinator President Garry Tan took to the social platform X on Tuesday to again express his displeasure at elected officials representing San Francisco, where the storied accelerator is based.

This time he was lambasting California State Assembly member Matt Haney, who represents San Francisco, over a proposed late-night email bill he authored.

The tweet read, “Legalize hard work. Haney is spreading nonsense again, from the guy who killed algebra and spun up the fentanyl crisis in the Tenderloin.” He then posted a thread saying, “Is this a foreign op or what?”

Haney is what you might call Tan’s “favorite punching bag.” Back in 2016, Haney led the San Francisco Public Schools board when the district was discussing moving algebra out of middle school. The course was later reinstated in 2024. To say Tan was not a fan of that earlier move is evident in several tweets, including in April 2023, October 2022 and June 2021.

Meanwhile, in 2022, Haney was appointed to lead California’s opioid committee, to which Tan tweeted, “Politics as usual is putting the incompetent supe who presided over 1000s of fentanyl deaths in his SF district in charge of the CA opioid commission. Matt Haney has done nothing to support recovery and treatment…”

Haney defended his work combating the opioid crisis in a February LinkedIn post. In it, he referenced AB 1976, a bill that he described “would build on existing requirements for California employers to have ‘adequate first-aid materials’ for workers.” His goal is to make kits that include the life-saving medication naloxone available “as a fire extinguisher.”

What’s caught Tan’s ire this time is Haney’s proposed bill, AB 2751, that would enable employees “the right to disconnect” after agreed-upon working hours. Meaning they’d have the legal right to ignore calls, emails, texts or messages sent after that time, except in cases of emergency, and employers in violation could be subject to fines, the San Francisco Standard reported.

Haney told the publication, “If you’re working a 9-to-5 job, you shouldn’t be expected to be working 24/7. That should be available to everyone, regardless of the existence of smartphones.”

It’s worth pointing out that the bill isn’t as much to forbid people from working long hours if they choose to, as Tan implies, as to forbid companies from imposing an always-available expectation on workers. However, this idea does run contrary to the startup hustle culture, part of YC’s world, which reveres dedication to work, particularly in the early years.

Tan’s latest tweet finding fault with a California lawmaker is not unique. He went on a rant in January on X about seven San Francisco supervisors that took a violent tone. He later apologized, explained that the tweet was meant to be an obvious reference to a popular rap song and later deleted it.

It didn’t end there, though. In February, three San Francisco supervisors received threatening letters to their homes that included a photo of Tan and the phrase, “I wish a slow, painful death for you and your loved ones.”

TechCrunch spoke with San Francisco board supervisor Aaron Peskin about the letter at that time, and Peskin said he didn’t think Tan was directly responsible for someone sending the letter. However, with its threatening tone aimed at a person, not just discourse on a policy, Tan’s tweet nonetheless did “harm to democratic discourse,” Peskin said.

Attempts to reach both Tan and Haney for comment were not answered at the time of publication. Y Combinator declined to comment.

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The AI world needs more data transparency and web3 startup Space and Time says it can help | TechCrunch

As AI proliferates and things on the internet are easier to manipulate, there’s a need more than ever to make sure data and brands are verifiable, said Scott Dykstra, CTO and co-founder of Space and Time, on TechCrunch’s Chain Reaction podcast.

“Not to get too cryptographically religious here, but we saw that during the FTX collapse,” Dykstra said. “We had an organization that had some brand trust, like I had my personal life savings in FTX. I trusted them as a brand.”

But the now-defunct crypto exchange FTX was manipulating its books internally and misleading investors. Dykstra sees that as akin to making a query to a database for financial records, but manipulating it inside their own database.

And this transcends beyond FTX, into other industries, too. “There’s an incentive for financial institutions to want to manipulate their records … so we see it all the time and it becomes more problematic,” Dykstra said.

But what is the best solution to this? Dykstra thinks the answer is through verification of data and zero-knowledge proofs (ZK proofs), which are cryptographic actions used to prove something about a piece of information — without revealing the origin data itself.

“It has a lot to do with whether there’s an incentive for bad actors to want to manipulate things,” Dykstra said. Anytime there’s a higher incentive, where people would want to manipulate data, prices, the books, finances or more, ZK proofs can be used to verify and retrieve the data.

At a high level, ZK proofs work by having two parties, the prover and the verifier, that confirm a statement is true without conveying any information more than whether it’s correct. For example, if I wanted to know whether someone’s credit score was above 700, if there’s one in place, a ZK proof — prover — can confirm that to the verifier, without actually disclosing the exact number.

Space and Time aims to be that verifiable computing layer for web3 by indexing data both off-chain and on-chain, but Dykstra sees it expanding beyond the industry and into others. As it stands, the startup has indexed from major blockchains like Ethereum, Bitcoin, Polygon, Sui, Avalanche, Sei and Aptos and is adding support for more chains to power the future of AI and blockchain technology.

Dykstra’s most recent concern is that AI data isn’t really verifiable. “I’m pretty concerned that we’re not really efficiently ever going to be able to verify that an LLM was executed correctly.”

There are teams today that are working on solving that issue by building ZK proofs for machine learning or large language models (LLMs), but it can take years to try and create that, Dykstra said. This means that the model operator can tamper with the system or LLM to do things that are problematic.

There needs to be a “decentralized, but globally, always available database” that can be created through blockchains, Dykstra said. “Everyone needs to access it, it can’t be a monopoly.”

For example, in a hypothetical scenario, Dykstra said OpenAI itself can’t be the proprietor of a database of a journal, for which journalists are creating content. Instead, it has to be something that’s owned by the community and operated by the community in a way that’s readily available and uncensorable. “It has to be decentralized, it’s going to have to be on-chain, there’s no way around it,” Dykstra said.

This story was inspired by an episode of TechCrunch’s podcast Chain Reaction. Subscribe to Chain Reaction on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favorite pod platform to hear more stories and tips from the entrepreneurs building today’s most innovative companies.

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Terraform Industries converts electricity and air into synthetic natural gas for the first time | TechCrunch

The modern world is dependent on a vast network for extracting, processing, transporting and ultimately consuming hydrocarbons like crude oil and natural gas. But these resources come with a cost: they’re finite, difficult to extract and take carbon dioxide out of the ground and release it into the air.

Instead of reducing humanity’s dependence on hydrocarbons — which is impossible or undesirable or both, depending on who you ask — Terraform Industries’ solution is to produce this resource, using electricity and air, via a system it calls the Terraformer. Today, the startup is announcing that it has commissioned a demonstrator Terraformer and produced synthetic natural gas for the first time.

Roughly the size of two shipping containers, the Terraformer consists of three subsystems: an electrolyzer, which converts solar power into hydrogen; a direct air capture system that captures CO2; and a chemical reactor that ingests both these inputs to produce pipeline-grade synthetic natural gas. The entire machine is optimized for a one-megawatt solar array.

As CEO Casey Handmer admits, what the company has done is not “super original.” Electrolysis and Sabatier chemical reactors are well understood processes, for example. But the company has been able to innovate on the process, including building its proprietary direct air capture system, and adapting all of it to work with a variable energy source, solar power. So while any particular subsystem can trace its origins to, say, the nineteenth or twentieth century, the entire process is entirely new.

Image Credits: Terraform Industries

The result is some fairly staggering cost reductions: Terraform says its system converts clean electricity into hydrogen at less than $2.50 per kilogram of H2 (currently, green hydrogen ranges from $5-11 per kilogram, Handmer estimated). The direct air capture system also filters CO2 for less than $250 per ton, which the company said in a statement, is a world record.

The startup says that improvements are already in the works to bring these prices down even further to ensure that its synthetic natural gas hits cost parity with conventionally sourced liquified natural gas. Much of that is dependent on the build-out of lots (and lots and lots) of cheap solar power, and the requisite production of thousands of Terraformers per year.

Indeed, while Handmer is an extraordinarily ambitious thinker, it would be a mistake to think his head is stuck in the clouds. He’s keenly aware that Terraform’s plans will be dead in the water without a strong business case behind the company.

“There’s this idea that we’ve been driving towards, which is, a lot of these cool technologies to address the climate problem are fundamentally not within the realm of capitalism because they don’t make money,” he said. “They actually consume more money than they make. That makes it really, really hard to scale them. But if you can figure out some way to make more money than you use, then you are inside the tent of capitalism. That is just a system to which money naturally flows. That’s the critical thing to do.”

Burbank, California-based Terraform has agreements to sell the small amounts of natural gas it produced to two unnamed utilities, but even though the initial volume is low, “it’s a very key step,” Handmer said. “It shows that we have produced gas that meets their standards.”

The company has ongoing discussions regarding prototyping or selling standalone electrolyzers as separate products, and making liquid fuels other than methane. Terraform is also taking reservations for the first production Terraformers — with the ultimate aim of ramping up factories to support a buildout that could do nothing less than transform the world’s energy systems.

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Robotic Automations

Hey is feuding with Apple again — this time over a calendar app | TechCrunch

Basecamp founders’ email service Hey is fighting with Apple again — this time over the rejection of its new calendar app from the App Store. Apple’s reasoning is similar to when Cupertino-based tech giant rejected Hey’s email app four years ago — non-paying users can’t use the app after downloading it. Plus, new users can’t sign up through Hey’s calendar app.

Last week, Basecamp launched an integrated calendar service with Hey, along with a new standalone app for it. On Saturday, Hey’s co-founder David Heinemeier Hansson posted on X that Apple has rejected Hey’s standalone calendar app.

Apple requires apps to allow users to sign up for the service and possibly pay for the subscription if needed. If users pay through in-app purchases Apple gets a 30% (or less in some cases) cut. These rules allow some apps such as Netflix, Kindle, and Spotify to let users create accounts outside the app.

In 2020, Apple first rejected Hey’s email app because users couldn’t sign up for the service on the app. So both companies came to a compromise where users could download and start using Hey with a randomized email ID. To upgrade, they had to pay for the service through the browser.

In a blog post, Hansson argues that several apps like Google Calendar and Netflix are logins gated with people paying for the service outside Apple’s ecosystem. Additionally, he says that Apple uses one iCloud ID to provide a subscription to a suite of apps. So Hey’s calendar app should be allowed on the App Store.

“So what’s going to happen? I don’t know, but I do know that we’ll keep fighting. We’re never going to roll over and pay Apple 30% in protection money to be left alone. Last time we found a way, and we will again,” he said.

Apple didn’t immediately comment on the story.

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