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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Apple has agreed to buy Pullstring, a San Francisco-based startup that enables the design and publishing of voice apps, Axios has learned from multiple sources.

Why it matters: This could help Siri better compete with Alexa.

Background: Pullstring was founded in 2011 by a group of former Pixar executives, and originally was used to power interactive voice apps for toys (including Hello Barbie in 2015). It later broadened its approach with the introduction of such IoT products as Amazon Echo and Google Assistant.

  • It raised around $44 million in venture capital, from firms like CRV, Greylock, True Ventures, Khosla Ventures and First Round Capital. According to PitchBook, its most recent post-money valuation was just north of $160 million.
  • The upfront deal value is said to be around $30 million, plus around $10 million in potential earn-outs for management. That would include CEO Oren Jacob, who once served as Pixar's CTO.

Voice is seen as one of the next big things and Apple has been way behind both Google and Amazon in terms of adoption and being open to developers. Making it easier to write voice apps combined with a more open Siri could help close the gap, even though both Google and Amazon continue to invest heavily in voice.

Apple was not immediately available for comment.

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Why it matters: By trying to persuade a skeptical and targeted audience, Yellen is signaling the president’s commitment to raising corporate taxes to pay for his plan. Republican senators, critical to a potential bipartisan deal, oppose any corporate tax increase.

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Why it matters: This is the toughest political position the New York Democrat has been in since becoming majority leader. The fighting in the Middle East is dividing his party — and creating a clear rift among its different wings.

DOJ signals scrutiny of popular fundraising gimmick

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

A little-noticed line in a recent criminal filing suggests federal prosecutors consider a popular political fundraising tactic to be legally questionable.

Why it matters: Fundraisers often boast of "5x" or other contribution matches to coax small-dollar donations. The Justice Department indicated in a court filing Monday this could amount to "material misrepresentations" if, as critics often contend, there's no evidence the match ever occurs.