Internet connectivity projects unite as Alphabet spinout Loon grabs $125M from SoftBank’s HAPSMobile

Two futuristic projects are coming together to help increase global internet access after Loon, the Google spinout that uses a collection of floating balloons to bring connectivity to remote areas, announced it has raised money from a SoftBank initiative.

HAPSMobile, a SoftBank project that is also focused on increasing global connectivity, is investing $125 million into Loon, according to an announcement from SoftBank made this morning. The agreement includes an option for Loon to make a reciprocal $125 million investment in HAPSMobile and it includes co-operation plans, details of which are below.

HAPSMobile is a one-year-old joint venture between SoftBank and U.S. company AeroVironment . The company has developed a solar-powered drone that’s designed to deliver 5G connectivity in the same way Facebook has tried in the past. The social network canceled its Aquila drone last year, although it is reported to have teamed up with Airbus for new trials in Australia.

Where Facebook has stumbled, HAPSMobile has made promising progress. The company said that its HAWK 30 drone — pictured below in an impression — has completed its initial development and the first trials are reportedly set to begin this year.

Loon, meanwhile, was one of the first projects to go after the idea of air-based connectivity with a launch in 2013. The business was spun out of X, the “moonshot” division of Alphabet, last year and, though it is still a work in progress, it has certainly developed from an initial crazy idea conceived within Google.

Loon played a role in connecting those affected by flooding in Peru in 2017 and it assisted those devastated by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year. Loon claims its balloons have flown more than 30 million kms and provided internet access for “hundreds of thousands” of people across the world.

In addition to the capital investment, the two companies have announced a set of initiatives that will help them leverage their collective work and technology.

For starters, they say they will make their crafts/balloons open to use for the other — so HAPSMobile can tap Loon balloons for connectivity and vice-versa — while, connected to that, they will jointly develop a communication payload across both services. They also plan to develop a common ground station that could work with each side’s tech and develop shared connectivity that their airborne hardware can tap.

Loon has already developed fleet management technology because of the nature of its service, which is delivered by a collection of balloons, and that will be optimized for HAPSMobile.

The premise of HAPSMobile is very much like Loon

Outside of tech, the duo said they will create an alliance “to promote the use of high altitude communications solution with regulators and officials worldwide.”

The investment is another signal that shows SoftBank’s appetite in tech investing is not limited to up-and-coming startups via its Vision Fund; more established ventures are indeed also in play. Just yesterday, the Vision Fund announced plans to invest $1 billion in German payment firm Wirecard and its past investments include ARM and Nvidia, although SoftBank has sold its stake in the latter.

How to source hard-to-fill programming positions

The competition is intense for great tech talent, and it’s even harder to find the most qualified people who are also the right fit for your company

This article shares some practical processes that you can add to your human resources function in order to accelerate the programmer pipeline, based on the years I have spent as a hiring focused software engineer at growing startups and now running my own recruiting firm.

Our recruiting strategy is surprisingly simple, and boils down to optimizing various segments of the sourcing funnel: awareness, pageviews, and application submits.

What ties these tactics together, though, is you, your company, what you’re offering, and how you approach the people you want to hire. If you want to build a strong, diverse team, you need to develop a thoughtful, empathetic and proactive approach before you can optimize.

Within the article we cover:

In the article’s appendix, I also provide our company’s 2019 checklist process — eighteen steps that we delegate to manage our sourcing process.

Slack to extend collaboration to folks who don’t want to give up email

As Slack gathered with its growing customer base this week at the Frontiers Conference in San Francisco, it announced several enhancements to the product, including extending collaboration to folks who want to stick with email instead of hanging with their co-workers in Slack .

Some habits are tough to break, and using email as your file-sharing and collaboration tool is one of them. Email is great for certain types of communications, but it was never really designed to be a full-fledged communications tool. While a tool like Slack might not ever fully replace email, it is going after it hard.

But Andy Pflaum, director of project management at Slack, says rather than fight those folks, Slack decided to make it easier to include them, with a new email and calendar bridge that enables team members who might not have made the leap to Slack to continue to be kept in the loop.

Instead of opening Slack and seeing the thread, the message will come to these stragglers in their trusty old email inbox, just the way they like it. Earlier this month the company announced tighter integration between Slack and Outlook calendar and email (building on a similar integration with Gmail and Google Calendar), where emails and calendar entries can be shared inside Slack. Pflaum says that the company is trying to take that email and calendar bridge idea one step further.

The non-Slack users would get an email instead with the Slack thread. It bundles together multiple responses to a thread in which the person has been engaging in an email, so the recipient isn’t getting an email for every response, according to Pflaum.

The person can respond by clicking a Slack button in the email and having Slack open, or they can simply reply to the email and the response will go to Slack automatically. If they choose the former, it might be a sneaky way to get them used to using Slack instead of email, but Pflaum says that it is not necessarily the intent.

Slack is simply responding to a request by customers to have this ability because apparently there are a percentage of people who would prefer to continue working inside email. The ability to open Slack to reply will be available soon. The ability to reply to Slack with the Reply button will be available later this year.