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Florida fight over ‘baby boxes’ part of bigger culture war

Safe Haven Baby Boxes and A Safe Haven for Newborns are two charities with similar names and the same goal: providing distressed mothers with a safe place to surrender their unwanted newborns instead of dumping them in trash cans or along roadsides.

But a fight between the two is brewing in the Florida Senate. An existing state law, supported and promoted by the Miami-based A Safe Haven, allows parents to surrender newborns to firefighters and hospital workers without giving their names. A new bill, supported by the Indiana-based Safe Haven Baby Boxes, would give fire stations and hospitals the option to install the group’s ventilated and climate-controlled boxes, where parents could drop off their babies without interacting with fire or hospital employees.

The bill recently passed the Florida House unanimously, but there is a long-shot effort to block it in the Senate, where it might be considered this week. Opponents call the boxes costly, unnecessary and potentially dangerous for the babies, mothers, firefighters and hospital workers. Each side accuses the other of being financially driven.

The fight is getting extra attention because Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida’s GOP-dominated Legislature are expected to soon ban abortions performed more than six weeks after conception, lowering the state’s current limit of 15 weeks.

Similar baby-box bills have been approved recently by lawmakers in Kansas, Montana and Mississippi and sent to those states’ governors for approval. West Virginia’s legislature is also considering such a bill. The boxes are already allowed in nine states, mostly in the Midwest and South, with the largest numbers in Indiana, Arkansas, and Kentucky, respectively. About 145 boxes have been installed since the first in 2016, with 25 newborns surrendered through one, Safe Haven Baby Boxes says.

Just one baby has been left in Florida’s only box, installed two years ago at a central Florida firehouse without state authorization. The boxes open from outside the building, allowing the parent to place the baby in a bassinet as a bag containing instructions and maternal medical advice drops out. The door locks when it is reclosed and the agency is notified electronically. Safe Haven Baby Boxes says the average response time is two minutes.

“Giving women an option of (total) anonymity is just that, an option. Why would (opponents) want to take that away from women?” said the group’s founder, firefighter Monica Kelsey, who was abandoned as a newborn and is an outspoken abortion opponent. She accused A Safe Haven for Newborns of fearing a loss of grants if the boxes are installed, something the group denies.

Republican Rep. Jennifer Canady, the bill’s lead sponsor, declined an interview request. She said in a statement that her proposed law would be “an important next step to provide options to save lives and protect life at every stage.”

Joel Gordon, a spokesman for A Safe Haven for Newborns and deputy chief at a suburban Fort Lauderdale fire department, suggested that Kelsey possibly profits from the boxes. She denies that. Her group gets mixed reviews from organizations that monitor charities.

Gordon also contended that the bill’s proponents have opposed all amendments that he says would make the boxes safer and the program more workable. A Safe Haven trains fire departments and hospitals on how to implement the current law.

 

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Amid the AI hype, don’t forget about no-code

No-code startup Softr, which allows its customers to build apps from their existing data, announced Tuesday that it has added Google Sheets to its integration list.

Previously, Softr focused on Airtable databases. Its move to support data from Google’s spreadsheet product likely expands its potential customer pool. Even before that expansion, CEO Mariam Hakobyan told TechCrunch+ that her company grew its annual recurring revenue 3x from December 2021 to December 2022.

 

Softr’s quick revenue expansion is a good reminder that while the tech world seems completely consumed by all things AI, there’s quite a lot of work going on in other areas that are worth keeping an eye on.

That said, there is an interesting connection between AI and no-code worth writing down: Both are potentially great expanders of human capability. AI tooling could operate as a second brain of sorts for the digitally busy, and no-code services may allow nondevelopers to build the tools they need to complete their work. In both cases, the genres of new tech development have a shot at helping regular folks do a lot more, more quickly and often at a low cost.

Something else that modern AI tooling and no-code share is accessibility. Softr, for example, grew its base of signed-up users from 35,000 to 150,000 in 2022. That’s really quite a lot for a service that was, until recently, Airtable-specific. On the AI side, I don’t need to reiterate just how much market demand there is for modern LLM tooling.

Let’s dig into Softr’s progress since we last covered the company and chat about what we can learn about no-code progress as a method of building more accessible software.

Softr, no-code and empowering the regulars
Ask anyone who works at a company that builds software and isn’t part of the engineering or product orgs how long it will take them to get something built for their own needs. Without even making Jira ticket jokes, we all know what the answer will be. And to a degree, the standard situation makes sense: What nondeveloper employees need is often pretty basic software, and expensive engineers need to focus on the company’s core offering not internal tooling.

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Twitter’s legacy blue checkmark era is officially over

Twitter appears to have officially killed off its legacy blue checkmarks, one of the last remaining vestiges of the pre-Elon Musk owner era.

The legacy blue checks, which Twitter doled out to journalists, celebrities and other public officials for free to help curb impersonations and spam, were supposed to end April 1.

Musk took to Twitter on April 11 — days after the legacy checkmarks should have disappeared — to shift the end date to April 20 or 4/20. Yes, that’s the day when folks honor weed because Twitter is now owned by a middle schooler.

With the legacy checkmarks gone, Twitter will have verification marks only for paid users and businesses as well as government entities and officials. Now, if a user sees a blue checkmark and clicks on it, the label reads: “This account is verified because they are subscribed to Twitter Blue and verified their phone number.”

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Autotech Ventures’ new $230M mobility fund adds fintech, circular economy to its investment strategy

Autotech Ventures will use its newly closed $230 million fund to expand beyond its foundation of early-stage ground transportation startups and invest in what the firm believes are the next big opportunities in automotive and mobility.

Fintech, logistics, supply chain and the circular economy are at the top of the list.

The $230 million fund, its third since launching in 2017, will be used to invest in seed through Series C mobility-related startups, according to the company. A mixture of financial and corporate LPs, including Allison Transmission, American Axle, Iochpe-Maxion and Shell participated in the fund.

“We’re still a ground transportation-focused firm and we have a very similar strategy [with this fund],” Alexei Andreev, Autotech Ventures managing director told TechCrunch. “On a high-level, it’s same as Fund 1 and Fund 2. However, one of the fastest areas of growth is SaaS-enabled fintech. Auto commerce is inefficient and there are large pockets of profit to capture.”

The firm is particularly interested in transportation-related fintech ventures that are poised to grow during a recession.

“We made a prediction that sooner or later there will be a recession and we identified areas that benefit when the economy softens, Andreev said, noting that this latest fund invested in Yendo, a Dallas-based startup (formerly known as Otto) that lets customers borrow against their vehicles at the same interest rate as standard credit cards.

Autotech Ventures’ previous fintech investments include U.K.-based buy now, pay later startup Bumper and Carpay, a buy here, pay here loan servicing SaaS platform for car dealers.

Andreev said the firm is also investigating investment opportunities in the circular economy, a nascent industry focused on finding ways to reuse materials and products. Circular economy startups have garnered an increasing amount of attention and investment as automakers transition away from gas-powered vehicles and towards EVs.

Autotech Ventures is also cautiously wading into generative AI, although Andreev was quick to note that the company has not made any investments in that area.

Autotech has more than $500 million under management and has invested in more than 40 companies.

Some of the firm’s investments include computer vision startup DeepScale (which was acquired by Tesla), Lyft, used vehicle marketplace operator Frontier Car Group, Drover, Outdoorsy, Swvl, parking app SpotHero and Xnor.ai, which Apple acquired in January 2020. Five of those startups have gone public, including indie Semiconductor and Volta Charging.

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