Former Snap employees are launching Forge Platform for Ethereum devs

Chris Lorenz, Geoffrey Anderson, and James Borow may have spent their days over the past few years working at Snap, but on nights and weekends Anderson and Lorenz were laboring on a different project — improving Ethereum development tools.  Now the three men are finally ready to take the covers off of the labor of love […]

Chris Lorenz, Geoffrey Anderson, and James Borow may have spent their days over the past few years working at Snap, but on nights and weekends Anderson and Lorenz were laboring on a different project — improving Ethereum development tools. 

Now the three men are finally ready to take the covers off of the labor of love they’ve been working on and launch Forge Platform, a new toolkit for distributed applications.

Both Lorenz and Anderson were heavily involved in monetization at Snap, but over the past eight months the two had dabbled in building distributed apps — and realized that the toolkits that existed for Ethereum just weren’t on par with what’s available for traditional programming.

“I’ve been interested in Ethereum for about two years now and it was about six months ago that I started to really dig in,” says Lorenz. “We saw the opportunity to prop the ecosystem up and give better tools to developers and basically provide them with what they’re used to in analogous platforms.”  

Ultimately Forge will bring a suite of products to market for distributed application developers, but for now the company is focused on a service to provide insight into the performance of smart contracts over the Ethereum network.

The first tool is designed to give distributed application developers detailed analysis of how their apps are performing across a variety of smart contracts.

“We wanted to pick a platform where the majority of developers are,” says Lorenz of the decision to work with Ethereum. “The others are really interesting projects but they were also where Ethereum was a few years ago.”

The Ethereum protocol has the most support and is making advances in its quest to improve scalability, according to Lorenz.

The company’s SDK will launch in a few months, and Forge in the process of staffing up, thanks to a $1 million seed investment from Manta Ray Ventures and Upfront Ventures.

“Over the course of the past few months we’ve had 15 companies playing with the product and jumping in and providing feedback,” says Lorenz. “We were really working on scalability testing.”

In what are still early days for blockchain-based protocols and applications, Lorenz says its important for a robust set of tools to come onto the market and help ease developers into the new computing paradigm.

“It’s ideally to make it more successful for developers to come in and offer value to customers outside of gambling,” says Lorenz of his new toolkit. “This year we’ll see a lot of interesting projects get launched.”

 

WeWork could challenge Starbucks in China with new on-demand service

The rise of Starbucks in China, like that in the west, is closely linked to its function as a “third space” for people to hang out between home and work. In recent years, a bevy of coffee entrepreneurs are trying to topple the American giant’s dominance in China and lately, an unexpected contender — WeWork […]

The rise of Starbucks in China, like that in the west, is closely linked to its function as a “third space” for people to hang out between home and work. In recent years, a bevy of coffee entrepreneurs are trying to topple the American giant’s dominance in China and lately, an unexpected contender — WeWork — has joined their camp.

This month, the office tenant and workplace service provider launched WeWork Go, a new feature that allows China-based users to rent a desk by the minute so they are no longer tied to long-term leases. While Starbucks provides free accommodation and charges for coffee, WeWork flips the equation to offer free coffee and paid space. Starbucks is already being squeeze in China by emerging rival Luckin Coffee, a well-funded startup that explicitly pledges to take on the Seattle-based giant with a model that focuses on coffee delivery.

WeWork Go works a bit like other shared services, with an app that lets users check the occupancy of a list of offices in real time before they travel over. Upon arrival, users scan a QR code at the gate, pop the door open, get seated in the common area and the billing begins.

WeWork Go available through a WeChat mini program. Screenshot: TechCrunch

The firm says it monitors traffic flow closely so the common space isn’t flooded with fleeting users. Booking private rooms require additional fees. Go claims to have picked up 50,000 registered users so far after piloting for three months across an inventory of 18 locations in Shanghai, where WeWork nestles its China headquarters.

Made for China

Instead of building a native app, WeWork Go operates via a WeChat mini program, a form of a stripped-down app that works within China’s largest social network. Mini programs are an increasingly popular way for startups to trial ideas thanks to their relative ease to develop. “[Go] is a key development of our China localization,” a WeWork spokesperson told TechCrunch.

Go is tailoring to the so-called “part-time users.” “These people would not purchase the monthly membership. They would work at home or a coffee shop, restaurant, or library,” Dominic Penaloza, who heads innovation and technology at WeWork China, told TechCrunch. He first conceptualized the on-demand workplace service at Naked Hub, a smaller local rival WeWork China bought out for $400 million last year. After the merger, the executive alongside his tech team joined WeWork and continued with the project that would later become Go.

The pay-as-you-go feature is also getting rolled out stateside at a new Manhattan location last week.

Penaloza admits Go could be competing with coffee shops for it offers “an alternative type of the third space for freelancers, mobile workers, business travellers or those who want to briefly step aside from their offices for a mental break.” The obvious target is Starbucks, which commands a whopping 51 percent share of the country’s booming coffee market.

Made for WeWork

For WeWork, Go serves as a trial for those deciding whether to sign on monthly subscriptions. What they are weighing is the 1,830 yuan ($271) price tag for a hotdesk in downtown Shanghai. By comparison, Go starts at 15 yuan and goes up to 30 yuan an hour at more prime locations, offering the same perks as the full-time hotdesking plan, which includes access to common spaces, beverages and wifi.

Users can do their math. “If you started as a WeWork Go member, and if you use our service quite a lot, you will realize it’s much more economical to purchase monthly subscriptions. WeWork Go enables WeWork to reach an entirely new market segment,” suggests Penaloza.

The flexible pricing may help WeWork — which generates the bulk of its revenues from large corporations — reach a wider user base. The shared office industry in China has entered what real-estate researcher Jones Lang LaSalle calls the “second phase,” with big firms moving into premium workplaces like WeWork and local player Soho 3Q. Cash-strapped startups, on the other hand, increasingly turn to government-backed incubators for lower costs.

wework china

Photo: WeWork China

Several early users of Go told TechCrunch they found the service delivering a “quieter” and “more comfortable” vibe than most cafes, but distance is key when they are in a rush. WeWork currently has about 60 locations across a dozen major Chinese cities, whereas Starbucks reaches a dense network of 3,330 stores and is shooting for 6,000 by the end of 2022. WeWork China got a boost for locations with the Naked Hub acquisition last year and says it’s open to adding third-party spaces such as restaurants into its inventory, though it has not taken a solid step towards that vision.

“There is a very interesting opportunity in the really downtown area, where WeWork locations and Naked Hub locations are quite full starting from after lunch until 5 pm,” notes Penaloza. “What’s amazing is that restaurants around those locations are quite empty at exactly the same time, so there’s a fascinating opportunity there but we haven’t done anything about it yet.”

Google wants Go to become the go-to language for writing cloud apps

The Google -incubated Go language is one of the fastest growing programming languages today, with about one million active developers using it worldwide. But the company believes it can still accelerate its growth, especially when it comes to its role in writing cloud applications. And to do this, the company today announced Go Cloud, a […]

The Google -incubated Go language is one of the fastest growing programming languages today, with about one million active developers using it worldwide. But the company believes it can still accelerate its growth, especially when it comes to its role in writing cloud applications. And to do this, the company today announced Go Cloud, a new open-source library and set of tools that makes it easier to build cloud apps with Go .

While Go is highly popular among developers, Google argues that the language was missing a standard library for interfacing with cloud services. Today, developers often have to essentially write their own libraries to use the features of each cloud, but organizations today want to be able to easily move their workloads between clouds.

What Go Cloud then gives these developers is a set of open generic cloud APIs for accessing blog storage, MySQL databases and runtime configuration, as well as an HTTP server with built-in logging, tracing and health checking. Right now, the focus is on AWS and Google Cloud Platform. Over time, Google plans to add more features to Go Cloud and support for more cloud providers (and those cloud providers can, of course, build their own support, too).

This, Google argues, allows developer teams to build applications that can easily run on any supported cloud without having to re-architect large parts of their applications.

As Google VP of developer relations Adam Seligman told me, the company hopes this move will kick off an explosion of libraries around Go — and, of course, that it will accelerate Go’s growth as a language for the cloud.