Overwatch Imaging’s real-time fire perimeter mapping increases safety. (Overwatch Image) , an Oregon venture that specializes in airborne imaging systems, says it has won a multimillion-dollar investment from , which focuses on aviation solutions that are specialized to suit the needs of its clients in government and the commercial sector. The Series A funding deal, announced today, builds on an existing partnership between Overwatch and Tenax, a privately held company that’s based in Mississippi. It marks the first outside investment taken in by Overwatch, which was founded in 2016. Overwatch CEO and co-founder Greg Davis said the size of the investment amounts to millions of dollars, but he declined to be more precise. The money will go toward expanding Overwatch’s production operations into a larger facility in Hood River, Ore., and accelerating development of the company’s AI software for autonomous imagery collection and analysis. In a news release, Tenax Aerospace’s president, Taran Bakker, called Overwatch “an emerging leader in artificial intelligence and autonomy in airborne imaging.” “Overwatch Imaging has developed an exciting new technology that will be very valuable to customers with special missions involving surveillance, mapping or threat detection,” Bakker said. Tenax Aerospace provides special mission aircraft and related services to customers including the Federal Aviation Administration and the departments of Defense, Justice; Agriculture and Homeland Security. The company focuses on applications that are critical to national security and the public interest, including aerial fire suppression, aerial intelligence gathering and airborne data acquisition. Tenax and Overwatch are already working together on a U.S. Forest Service project related to monitoring and fighting forest fires. That project involves the use of Overwatch’s imaging system on Tenax’s aircraft. Future projects could focus on applications such as border surveillance and maritime traffic monitoring. Davis said Tenax Aerospace emerged as the ideal partner for Overwatch Imaging’s expansion campaign during a six-month process to assess potential investors. As a result of that process, Tenax will be contributing more than money: Bakker will be joining Davis and co-founder Nick Anderson on Overwatch’s board. “We immediately shared a common vision for the future,” said Davis, who’s a veteran of . “I am excited to have Taran’s expertise and enthusiasm on our board as we grow.”
Tesla CEO Elon Musk checks out the Model Y during its unveiling in March. (Tesla via YouTube) Tesla is aiming to raise up to $2.3 billion in newly announced offerings of stock and convertible notes, just a week after CEO Elon Musk told analysts that the . Musk himself will purchase an additional $10 million of common stock, Tesla said today in a . That would add to his status as the electric-car company’s largest shareholder, with roughly 20 percent of Tesla’s shares. The share price was more than 3.5 percent above the previous day’s close during midday trading today. Wedbush Securities analyst Dan Ives said in a note to investors that the offerings were a “clear net positive for Tesla” because they cleared up long-lingering uncertainty over whether Tesla would have enough cash on hand to meet upcoming debt payments. One of the offerings announced today will make $650 million in common stock available, while the second offering calls for the issuance of up to $1.35 billion in convertible senior notes due in 2024. There’s also a 30-day option for underwriters to purchase up to an additional 15% of each offering. If all the options are exercised, the gross proceeds would come to about $2.3 billion before discounts and expenses, Tesla said. Goldman Sachs and Citigroup are acting as joint lead managers for the offering, with involvement as well from BofA Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank Securities, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, Societe Generale and Wells Fargo Securities. The company said it would “use the net proceeds to further strengthen its balance sheet, as well as for general corporate purposes.” In last week’s financial report, Tesla for the first quarter of the year, after posting profits for the previous two quarters. Looking ahead, the company has ambitious plans to ramp up production of its Model 3 electric car and move ahead with projects ranging from its Semi truck, Model Y crossover SUV and all-electric pickup truck to electricity-generating solar roofs, a and car insurance. Some analysts worry about the effect of Tesla’s financial losses, the gradual fade-out of federal tax credits and rising competition in the electric-vehicle market. Such uncertainties, coupled with , have led to dramatic ups and downs in the share price over the past year. A year ago, for Tesla’s investors: “Do not buy if volatility is scary,” he said.
Dr. Atul Gawande, CEO of Amazon, JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway’s joint healthcare venture. (TED Conference Photo / James Duncan Davidson, via Flickr) Insurance benefits, primary care and pharmacy costs will be at the center of the healthcare joint venture between Amazon, JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway, according to based on testimony unsealed on Wednesday. In the testimony, the venture’s chief operating officer clarified the company’s ambitions. Stoddard was in court defending the hiring of David Smith, who is for stealing trade secrets. The venture, nicknamed “ABC” in the lawsuit, has mostly kept silent about its plans since . Led by , it initially aims to reduce costs and improve care for the more than 1.2 million workers employed by the three companies. The companies have said the venture won’t seek a profit. Here’s what we know based on Stoddard’s testimony. Health benefits: The venture is looking into whether it can “reinvent what insurance looks like in terms of benefit design,” Stoddard said, adding that coverage is often a point of confusion for employees. Primary care: Stoddard said a goal was to boost primary care and encourage physicians to spend “more time, not less time” with patients. Pharmacy costs: The venture wants to bring down drug spending, but said it wouldn’t compete with pharmacy-benefit managers. “But we will look and say, could we contract with one of them to get more transparency?” Stoddard said. Amazon’s last year raised a number of questions around what the joint venture might do in the pharmacy space. Stoddard said the company wouldn’t compete directly with Optum, which operates a large pharmacy benefit manager as well as many other health services. U.S. District Court Judge Mark Wolf unsealed the testimony after siding with a motion brought by Dow Jones, the Journal’s publisher, and the Boston Globe. Judge Wolf has not yet ruled on Optum’s request for a restraining order that would prevent David Smith from working for the joint venture. A spokesperson from the venture did not immediately respond to a request for comment. GeekWire will update this story if we hear more.
The GitHub Octocat on the floor of the company’s San Francisco headquarters. (, Creative Commons.) Bug bounties have transformed the way enterprise tech companies think about security, and now that it’s part of Microsoft, GitHub is upgrading its program. Security researchers who find bugs in GitHub’s code will now be eligible for bigger rewards and will no longer bump up against a maximum reward amount should they find a real showstopper, GitHub plans to announce Tuesday. The software-development portal will also expand the program to cover any “first-party services” under the Github umbrella, including GitHub Education and GitHub Enterprise Cloud. More and more big tech companies are embracing the concept of bug bounties, where companies pay hackers to find and detail security holes in their software. If they are properly identified and disclosed in a responsible manner, bug bounties can be quite lucrative; security researchers have been awarded $31 million in recent years as these programs have become more popular, , and GitHub paid $250,000 to responsible hackers in 2018. GitHub now plans to pay between $20,000 and $30,000 for bugs deemed “critical” security flaws, and will increase the rewards for identifying lower-level bugs as well. The company is also expanding legal protections for researchers that report security flaws and plans to make it easier to report bugs while reducing the length of time needed to respond to bug finders. will pay up to $250,000 for vulnerabilities in critical software products like Windows or Hyper-V. More information on GitHub’s program .
Artificial intelligence could open the door to applications in a variety of technological fields. (NIST Illustration / N. Hanacek) The White House is moving forward with the American AI Initiative, a set of policies aimed at focusing the full resources of the federal government on the frontiers of artificial intelligence. President Donald Trump is due to sign an executive order launching the initiative on Monday. Among its provisions is a call for federal agencies to prioritize AI in their research and development missions, and to prioritize fellowship and training programs to help American workers gain AI-relevant skills. The initiative also directs agencies to make federal data, models and computing resources more available to academic and industry researchers, “while maintaining the security and confidentiality protections we all expect.” “This action will drive our top-notch AI research toward new technological breakthroughs and promote scientific discovery, economic competitiveness and national security,” the White House said in a statement. As a trust-building measure, federal agencies are being asked to establish regulatory guidelines for AI development and use across different types of technology and industrial sectors. The National Institute of Standards and Technology is being given the lead role in the development of technical standards for reliable, trustworthy, secure and interoperable AI systems. The White House says an action plan will be developed “to preserve America’s advantage in collaboration with our international partners and allies.” “In , President Trump committed to investing in cutting-edge industries of the future,” Michael Kratsios, deputy assistant to the president for technology policy, said in a prepared statement. “The American AI Initiative follows up on that promise with decisive action to ensure AI is developed and applied for the benefit of the American people.” This week’s action comes amid rising concern about American competitiveness in artificial intelligence research and development. and the are both pushing ahead with multibillion-dollar AI research and development programs. In response, the White House has , and a with Amazon’s Andy Jassy and Microsoft’s Eric Horvitz among its members. and are among the hundreds of companies that are making AI a high priority in R&D, resulting in well-known products such as Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana AI voice assistants (as well as similar AI agents offered by Apple and Google). AI capabilities such as machine learning and computer vision are also key to the development of and . Stacey Dixon, director of the , or IARPA, said AI applications are also highly relevant to national security. “Understanding imagery is one of the most evident opportunities for us to use AI, due to the sheer quantity of data to be analyzed and AI’s demonstrated effectiveness at image categorization,” she said. “However, IARPA also develops AI to address other intelligence challenges, including human language transcription and translation, facial recognition in real-world environments, sifting through videos to find nefarious activities, and increasing AI’s resilience to many kinds of attacks by adversaries.” Those AI tools could be used for nefarious purposes as well, however. , a consortium including the and called on policymakers to collaborate closely with researchers to investigate, prevent and mitigate potentially malicious uses of AI.