Worried about a slowdown? It already happened in 2016, says one new venture study

In today’s market, it’s hard to make sense of what’s what. Deals have grown incestuous for the first time, with outfits like GV investing alongside Uber last week — just months after its parent company, Alphabet, was at Uber’s throat. A $10 million-plus round of seed funding is no longer a joke. Venture firms continue to raise record-breaking amounts of money, despite what feels like creeping uncertainty about how much longer this go-go market can continue.

Unsurprisingly, there’s been some talk lately about deal flow and the possibility that some of the most well-regarded early-stage investors in the industry have quietly applied the brakes. Yet new analysis out of Wing, the 7.5-year-old, Silicon Valley venture firm co-founded by veteran VCs Peter Wagner and Gaurav Garg, draws a conclusion that might surprise nervous industry watchers. After tracking the investment activity of what Wing considers to be the 21 leading venture firms, it discovered that a pullback already happened . . . in 2016. In fact, Wagner, who oversaw the analysis, tells us there’s been so sign of a slowdown since then.

We caught up with Wagner last week to learn more about Wing’s findings — and what might be causing some confusion in the industry right now.

TC: First, why do this kind of study right now?

PW: There’s been a lot of analysts and reporters and LPs and VCs asking us about our investment pace really, and I think it owes to talk of Benchmark and Union Square Ventures slowing down, so we thought we’d look at some parameters and see what’s going on.

TC: Why not just refer to industry-wide statistics? It seems like there are plenty of these.

PW: They’re kind of swamped with the data of less discriminating investors, though. You really want to focus on the signal, which is why we track what the 21 leading venture firms are doing, and in that analysis, we found no signs of a slowdown. We found instead that there was a peak of activity in 2013 and 2014, a pullback in 2016, and an uptick since.

And we cut it different ways. We removed international deals in China and India, because they have their own rhythm and can get frothy. We moved seed deals, given there’s been some major schizophrenia among venture firms who waded into seed deals, then pulled out. Even still, 2017 saw an increase in deals over 2016, which was the lowest year in terms of deal activity since 2010.

TC: These were first-time investments?

PW: Yes, and the reason is that follow-on rounds are dictated more by the operational needs of companies. Some could be running out of cash, for example, so it’s non-discretionary. If you want to look at sentiment, you have to look at first-time investments in isolation.

TC: Do you have 2018 data?

PW: We have partial data, of course, and we’ve annualized it to “predict” that 2018 numbers will be close to 2017. That is, if you buy the idea of projecting out, which I don’t really. Also, because you’re looking at a smaller batch of numbers, you’re on thin ice statistically. But for now, at least, we’re seeing a level of activity that was higher than 2016.

TC: You can see why things might be ticking along now: the tech IPO market, SoftBank’s massive Vision Fund, big tech companies getting bigger, which keeps the wheels turning. What happened in 2016? Uncertainly about the U.S. presidential election? Bill Gurley’s warnings that a reckoning was coming?

PW: I really don’t know that it was down so much versus that prior years were up. It was a more a reversion to the mean. The 2016 number still represents a pretty decent and sustainable pace for this industry.

TC: Based on your findings, would you guess a downturn is closer than further away? It seems inevitable, but I’ve thought this for the last three years.

PW: It’s a known unknown. We know there will be a change but we don’t know when or how deep it will be.

TC: Could things have possibly changed, given that everything is impacted by tech, that software is, in fact, eating the world? That’s obviously the bull case.

PW: It’s pretty darn mainstream, whether via digital transformation or just the massive disruption of massive industries buy digitally native competitors. I don’t know, is the answer. But it’s true. Tech isn’t a sideshow anymore.

Las Vegas Hotel Sues 2017 Mass Shooting Victims

The owners of the Las Vegas hotel that was the scene of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history is counter-suing victims who are suing the hotel for negligence.

Fifty-eight people were killed and hundreds wounded when Stephen Paddock fired on a concert from his room at the Mandalay Bay hotel in October. Paddock killed himself as police moved in.

Hundreds of victims have filed suit against MGM Resorts, which owns the Mandalay Bay, accusing the company of negligence for failing to monitor the hotel’s guests and for allowing Paddock to stockpile an arsenal of high-powered weapons and ammunition in his room in the days leading up to the massacre.

MGM Resorts, filed suit against the victims last week, alleging those wounded or whose relatives were killed cannot sue the hotel.

Madisen Silva, right, and Samantha Werner embrace at a makeshift memorial for victims of a mass shooting in Las Vegas, Oct. 6, 2017.

Madisen Silva, right, and Samantha Werner embrace at a makeshift memorial for victims of a mass shooting in Las Vegas, Oct. 6, 2017.

MGM cites a 2002 federal law that limits liabilities against businesses that take certain steps to “prevent and respond to mass violence.”

MGM says the security company it employed at the concert was certified by the Department of Homeland Security.

But Las Vegas lawyer Robert Eglet, who represents about 1000 of the victims, says the company providing security at the hotel, from where Paddock fired his shots, was not certified.

“MGM has done something that in over 30 years of practice is the most outrageous thing I have ever seen. They have sued the families of the victims while they’re still grieving over their loved ones,” Eglet said.

Boeing Gets $3.9B Contract for New Air Force One Jets

Boeing has received a $3.9 billion contract to build two 747-8 aircraft for use as Air Force One by the U.S. president, due to be delivered by December 2024 and painted red, white and blue, officials said on Tuesday.

The Pentagon announced the decision on Tuesday, saying Seattle-based Boeing’s previously awarded contract for development work had been expanded to include design, modification and fielding of two mission-ready presidential 747-8 aircraft.

The contract followed the outlines of the informal deal reached between Boeing and the White House in February. That agreement came after President Donald Trump objected to the $4 billion price tag of a previous Air Force One deal, complaining in a Twitter post that “costs are out of control” and adding “Cancel order!”

The White House said in February the new deal would save taxpayers more than $1.4 billion, but those savings could not be independently confirmed.

Air Force budget documents released in February for fiscal year 2019 disclosed a $3.9 billion cost for the two-aircraft program. The same 2018 budget document, not adjusted for inflation, showed the price at $3.6 billion.

FILE - Air Force One sits ready for boarding on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, Dec. 6, 2016.

FILE – Air Force One sits ready for boarding on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, Dec. 6, 2016.

The Boeing 747-8s are designed to be an airborne White House able to fly in worst-case security scenarios, such as nuclear war, and are modified with military avionics, advanced communications and a self-defense system.

A congressional official briefed on Tuesday about the deal indicated it was little changed from the informal agreement reached in February, calling for two 747-8 aircraft to be built for $3.9 billion and delivered by December 2024.

Trump told CBS in an interview that aired on Tuesday that the new model Air Force One would be updated on the inside and have a different exterior color scheme from the current white and two shades of blue dating back to President John F. Kennedy’s administration.

“Red, white and blue,” Trump said. “Air Force One is going to be incredible. It’s going to be the top of the line, the top in the world. And it’s going to be red, white and blue, which I think is appropriate.”

International Criminal Court Marks 20th Anniversary

The International Criminal Court marked the 20th anniversary this week of the treaty that created it, with expectations growing about its effectiveness as it moves toward maturity.

The so-called Rome Statute establishing The Hague-based court was adopted in the Italian capital on July 17,1998. Today, 123 states have signed up to the treaty.

“The court has established itself as the permanent address for trials of leaders who order or instigate crimes against humanity, war crimes on a massive scale, or even genocide,” said Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch’s international justice program. Dicker was present at the statute’s adoption.

Human Rights Watch director Richard Dicker speaks during an interview in Baghdad's Green Zone October 19, 2005.

Human Rights Watch director Richard Dicker speaks during an interview in Baghdad’s Green Zone October 19, 2005.

At the time, with the end of the Cold War and multilateralism on the rise, some questioned the need for such a tribunal. But the new millennium brought with it a wave of conflicts and atrocities, some of which have been referred to the ICC.

The court has investigated 11 situations, from Georgia to the Central African Republic, and is conducting preliminary examinations of 10 more, including Afghanistan, Colombia and Ukraine.

But it has only had a few high-profile convictions and some cases have been dismissed and two defendants acquitted.

The first 20

“My grade would be not bad, not great,” Johns Hopkins International Law professor Ruth Wedgwood told VOA. “I think a lot of what’s been difficult for the court is realizing that politics, including the politics of very powerful countries, would necessarily intercede and therefore they’d have to settle for smaller victories.”

One such instance has been the effort to refer the conflict in Syria to the ICC. Russia and China blocked a move in the Security Council in 2014, in a bid to protect the Assad regime from prosecution.

“When Russia and China veto referral of the Syria situation to the ICC, it’s almost an invitation to commit crimes,” New York University Law Professor Jennifer Trahan noted.

The Security Council has the power to refer cases to the court. The only other way prosecutors can exercise jurisdiction is if the alleged crimes were committed by a country that is part of the Rome Statute or is in the territory of a country that is, or in a state that has accepted the jurisdiction of the court.

Faced with the blockage on Syria which is not a party to the ICC — U.N. member states sought to go around the council, and in December 2016 adopted a resolution in the General Assembly establishing a mechanism to assist in the investigation of serious crimes committed in Syria since 2011. It will take place outside the ICC, but it opened up a potential route to justice and accountability.

The International Criminal Court's (ICC) chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda (C), holds a press conference during her visit to look into allegations of extreme violence on May 3, 2018 in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo..

The International Criminal Court’s (ICC) chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda (C), holds a press conference during her visit to look into allegations of extreme violence on May 3, 2018 in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo..

Growing pains

The court does not try defendants in absentia, so several cases have not progressed as alleged perpetrators avoid transfer to The Hague. There are currently 15 outstanding arrest warrants, including a 2009 one for President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir of Sudan, on charges of war crimes and genocide for atrocities committed in Darfur.

The wheels of justice also turn slowly.

“We know from experience that the road to justice is often long and takes patience, perseverance and prolonged support,” said the Netherlands Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Yoka Brandt, whose country hosts the court. “The path set out in Rome has not been an unwavering line toward success, but nor could we expect it to be.”

The ICC has weathered the discontent of some members, particularly in Africa where some leaders complain it disproportionately focuses on the continent. South Africa set in motion its withdrawal in 2016, but withdrew it five months later before it went into effect. The Gambia did the same, but after a change in government, it returned. The Philippines set its withdrawal in motion this year, while Burundi completed the process last October.

The court is lacking some powerful members, including the United States, which is not a state’s party to the treaty. President Bill Clinton initially signed the Rome Statute in 2000, but President George W. Bush withdrew the U.S.’s signature. Russia and China are not states parties either.

In addition, the ICC is plagued by financial shortfalls, inefficiency, trouble attracting and keeping the highest caliber lawyers and judges, and it needs more help carrying out arrest warrants.

“The court itself needs to improve its performance becoming more effective and more efficient — and the states that created it need to be more supportive diplomatically, politically and financially,” HRW’s Dicker said.

Successes and disappointments

Reflecting on the ICC’s accomplishments to-date, its impact may be more in how it has become a part of the international accountability architecture than on the outcome of individual cases.

“The idea of the court has been a productive and important one in a kind of metaphysical and ethical terms,” said Wedgwood, of Johns Hopkins. “It really doesn’t have in terms of actual output a particularly amazing frequency of conviction, but it certainly has made the law of armed conflict and humanitarian law — it has given it a way to have a stature that it otherwise might not be easy to maintain.”

Germain Katanga, a Congolese national, sits in the courtroom of the ICC during the closing statements in the trial against Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo in The Hague, Netherlands, May 15, 2012

Germain Katanga, a Congolese national, sits in the courtroom of the ICC during the closing statements in the trial against Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo in The Hague, Netherlands, May 15, 2012

The court has had only a handful of convictions, including its first in 2012 of the Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga, who was convicted of war crimes for the recruitment of child soldiers and sentenced to 14 years in jail. Two years later, the court convicted Congolese militia leader Germain Katanga on four counts of war crimes for a 2003 massacre of villagers in eastern Congo. He was sentenced to 12 years in jail and ordered to pay $1 million in reparations.

FILE - In this June 21, 2016 photo, former Congolese Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba enters the courtroom of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands.

FILE – In this June 21, 2016 photo, former Congolese Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba enters the courtroom of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands.

But there have also been disappointments. Most recently, an appeals chamber of the ICC voted to overturn the conviction of former Congolese Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for atrocities committed in the Central African Republic in 2002-2003.

“The Bemba decision is really a disappointing result for the court,” NYU professor Trahan said. “Other tribunals occasionally have had disappointing verdicts and they have survived as institutions. I think we want to learn the lessons from this and help the court move on in the best way it can.”

The next 20

Looking ahead, as the court passes from its formative years into maturity, its supporters hope to see it become stronger and more efficient.

“I want to see an effective court and I want to see situations where the court has found opportunities to have an impact in conflict zones and in places around the world where crimes are happening,” said Stephen Rapp, a former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues under President Barack Obama.

“The world — and that part of the world that believes in the rule of law — for that community the ICC is more important than ever,” HRW’s Dicker said. “Certainly more important and more relevant than it was 20 years ago when its treaty was finished in Rome at a point in time when people were legitimately asking would this court ever have any cases?”

President of the Assembly of State Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal court, Christian Wenaweser, speaks to journalists in Nairobi, Kenya, Jan. 28, 2011.

President of the Assembly of State Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal court, Christian Wenaweser, speaks to journalists in Nairobi, Kenya, Jan. 28, 2011.

“Ideally, 20 more states parties, regular proceedings before the ICC that are done efficiently and in a credible way and that advance international criminal justice,” said Lichtenstein’s U.N. Ambassador, Christian Wenaweser, who is a former President of the Assembly of States Parties of the court. “But I think more importantly, an understanding that the worst crimes under international law have to be investigated and prosecuted as part also of a country moving forward after a conflict.”

Hailing from Delhi Jasmin Bhasin aka Teni will surely win your heart with her pictures

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Hailing from Delhi Jasmin Bhasin aka Teni will surely win your heart with her pictures

Hailing from Delhi sweet and gorgeous Jasmin Bhasin made her acting debut in 2011. She is a model by profession at first but went on to acting in TV commercials and shows. She bagged herself many opportunities when she appeared in ZEE TV’s Tashan-E-Ishq and after that, she got fame as Teni in Dil Se Dil Tak show which is based on Chori-Chori Chupke Chupke movie.

She had already done a movie in the South Indian film industry with filmmaker Krish’s Vaanam. She did a few films in South Indian languages like Tamil, Kannada and Telugu in 2014. But television debut got lucky for her career.

Jasmin is now a contestant on Khatron Ke Khiladi Season 9 and for sure she is one hot girl in the show. Jasmin who is very much active on social media made her fans drool over her pictures from different photo shoots. It seems like she likes to be captured. She has got a good figure and her expressions are worth watching. Once you watch her Instagram you will start following her.

Let’s have a look at some of her Instagram picture recently from KKK9 and some photoshoots:


A post shared by Jasmin Bhasin (@jasminbhasin2806) on Jul 2, 2018 at 12:30am PDT

Ain’t she pretty?

She has got the looks of Diva with her innocence.

Earlier in an interview, “She also spoke about her marriage that she is not willing to marry an actor. “You get exhausted, there is no time to spend with family or friends and all this leads to mood swings. So, it would be really difficult for me to be with someone from the fraternity because he’ll have the same problems I have. We won’t be able to talk about anything besides the fraternity”.

Jasmin aka Teni’s fan following is increasing on social media day by day and she describes herself in the bio of her Instagram with a quote which reads, “She’s mad but she is magic, there’s no lie in her fire”.

Published by Soniya Kaur on 18 Jul 2018

Anil Kapoor reveals the title of ‘Fanney Khan’ next song in a quirky way!

Bollywood actor Anil Kapoor is all set to appear in bollywood film ‘Fanney Khan’. The film will also star Aishwarya Rai and Rajkummar Rao in a lead role.

Meanwhile, the actor took to social media to share the title of his next song from the film.

The actor shared a picture, where he is seen standing against a taxi wearing the taxi driver’s uniform, with a question ‘Mere achche din kab ayenge’.

Anil took to Twitter and shared a picture and captioned it as, “Agar aapke dil mein ye sawaal hai ki mere #AchcheDin kab aayenge, toh aap bhi #FanneyKhan hain! My favorite song will be out soon!”

Fanney Khan tells the story of a doting father and aspiring singer played by Anil Kapoor. It will see Aishwarya Rai in the role of a glamorous singing sensation.

The film will also star Rajkummar Rao as Aishwarya Rai’s love interest. The film also marks Aishwarya Rai and Anil Kapoor’s collaboration after 17 years. The two last shared screen space in Hamara Dil Aapke Paas Hai.

The film is the Hindi adaptation of 2000 Dutch release Everybody’s Famous directed by Dominique Deruddere, which was also nominated in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 73rd Academy Awards.

Directed by Atul Manjrekar and produced by Bhushan Kumar, Krishan Kumar, and nominees of ROMP, the film is slated to hit theatres on August 3.

Fortnite maker Epic Games beefs up its Unreal game engine in new update

After a wildly successful last few months thanks to Fortnite, Epic Games is delivering some substantial new updates to its Unreal game engine which supports a variety of cross-platform titles and experiences. Some features like smoother compatibility on mobile and better support for Switch come directly from the fact that they’ve had to iterate so quickly on building such a massively successful cross-platform title.

“Our engine is as good as it is because we ship games,” Epic Games CTO Kim Libreri told TechCrunch. “How many clicks an artist has to do to be able to change the color of something or adjust the look of something is all highly optimized because the artists scream at us day-in and day-out on the engine team if it’s not efficient.”

The engine enables indie developers to gain access to a system for environment building and rendering that is on-par with the major studios. A lot of the new features come from tools that Epic Games built because it needed them for its own titles. The latest 4.20 update is fairly notable for the engine, bringing some performance bumps but also a new visual effects engine and some other new stuff.

One of the bigger highlights of this update is a system for rendering objects at reduced polygonal complexity when need be. The engine’s Proxy Levels of Detail tech competes directly with some of the technology built by Simplygon, which Microsoft acquired last year. The tech basically allows objects to render in low-poly mesh versions rather than a soft of all-or-nothing scenario where as you traverse an environment objects will just appear out of nowhere on the horizon as they render.

The company says that this tech was essential for ensuring that Fortnite players on an even footing even when on lower-power devices. The feature was available in an experimental build since the most recent update, but it has been honed to be more reliable in this new release.

Another heavy hitter of the release is the early access release of Niagara, a long-awaited visual effects editor that the company talked about a lot at GDC. The tool allows developers a lot of control over particle physics for something like an explosion or fire and will eventually be replacing the engine’s existing Cascade system.

In additions to visual effects looking more realistic, Epic is looking to give cutscenes a shot in the arm with tech that allows developers to deliver some pretty top notch movie-quality shots via depth-of-focus bokeh-like enhancements that draw attention to what matters in a scene. On a similar note, Epic is releasing the tools they have been using in their work to create more realistic digital human characters.

There’s a lot of other new functionality in this release including updated AR support for Magic Leap One and ARKit 2, as well as some mixed reality capture functionality in early access.

All of these features are available to devs now in the 4.20 update.