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    Apple has just bought up the talent it needs to make talking toys a part of Siri, HomePod, and its voice strategy. Apple has acquired PullString, also known as ToyTalk, according to Axios’ Dan Primack and Ina Fried. TechCrunch has received confirmation of the acquistion from sources with knowledge of the deal. The startup makes voice experience design tools, artificial intelligence to power those experiences, and toys like talking Barbie and Thomas The Tank Engine toys in partnership with Mattel. Founded in 2011 by former Pixar executives, PullString went on to raise $44 million.

    Apple’s Siri is seen as lagging far behind Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, not only in voice recognition and utility, but also in terms of developer ecosystem. Google and Amazon has built platforms to distribute Skills from tons of voice app makers, including storytelling, quizzes, and other games for kids. If Apple wants to take a real shot at becoming the center of your connected living room with Siri and HomePod, it will need to play nice with the children who spend their time there. Buying PullString could jumpstart Apple’s in-house catalog of speech-activated toys for kids as well as beef up its tools for voice developers.

    PullString did catch some flack for being a “child surveillance device” back in 2015, but countered by detailing the security built intoHello Barbie product and saying it’d never been hacked to steal childrens’ voice recordings or other sensitive info. Privacy norms have changed since with so many people readily buying always-listening Echos and Google Homes.

    In 2016 it rebranded as PullString with a focus on developers tools that allow for visually mapping out conversations and publishing finished products to the Google and Amazon platforms. Given SiriKit’s complexity and lack of features, PullString’s Converse platform could pave the way for a lot more developers to jump into building voice products for Apple’s devices.

    We’ve reached out to Apple and PullString for more details about whether PullString and ToyTalk’s products will remain available.

    The startup raised its cash from investors including Khosla Ventures, CRV, Greylock, First Round, and True Ventures, with a Series D in 2016 as its last raise that PitchBook says valued the startup at $160 million. While the voicetech space has since exploded, it can still be difficult for voice experience developers to earn money without accompanying physical products, and many enterprises still aren’t sure what to build with tools like those offered by PullString. That might have led the startup to see a brighter future with Apple, strengthening one of the most ubiquitous though also most detested voice assistants.

    Apple acquires talking Barbie voicetech startup PullString

    https://techcrunch.com/?p=1784434
    http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/techcrunch/startups/~3/wKLwXMceb-M/

    Apple has just bought up the talent it needs to make talking toys a part of Siri, HomePod, and its voice strategy. Apple has acquired PullString, also known as ToyTalk, according to Axios’ Dan Primack and Ina Fried. TechCrunch has received confirmation of the acquistion from sources with knowledge of the deal. The startup makes voice […]

    Fri, 15 Feb 2019 22:02:19 +0000

    Thanks to environmentally conscious young buyers, throwaway culture is dying not only in the U.S., but also in Latin America — and startups are poised to jump in with services to help people recycle used clothing.

    GoTrendier, a peer-to-peer fashion marketplace operative in Mexico and Colombia, has raised $3.5 million USD to do just that. And investors are eyeing the startup as the digital fashion marketplace growth leader in Spanish-speaking countries. 

    GoTrendier, founded by Belén Cabido, is a platform that lets users buy and sell secondhand clothing. Cabido tells me that the new capital will enable GoTrendier to expand deeper into Mexico and Colombia, and launch in a new country: Chile. 

    GoTrendier enables users to buy and sell used items through the GoTrendier site and app. The platform categorizes users as either salespeople or buyers. Salespeople create their own stores by uploading photos of garments along with a description and sale price. Buyers browse the platform for deals and once a buyer bites, the seller is given a prepaid shipping label. 

    Sound familiar? Businesses like Poshmark and GoTrendier have no actual inventory, which allows the companies to take on less of a risk by having smaller overhead costs. In turn, the company acts as more of a social community for fashion exchanges.

    In order to make money, Poshmark takes a flat commission of $2.95 for sales under $15. For anything more than that, the seller keeps 80 percent of their sale and Poshmark takes a 20 percent commission. Poshmark also owes its success to the socially connected shopping experience it created and the audience building features available to sellers — as detailed in this Harvard Business School study. GoTrendier has a similar commission pricing strategy, taking 20 percent off plus an additional nine pesos (about 48 cents in U.S. currency) for all purchases. The service also takes advantage of social media and sharing features to help connect and engage its fashion-loving community. 

    But these companies are also largely venture-backed. In the case of GoTrendier, the round gave shareholder entry to Ataria, a Peruvian fund that invests in early-stage tech companies with high earning potential. Existing investors Banco Sabadell and IGNIA reinforced their position, along with Barcelona-based investors Antai Venture Builder, Bonsai Venture Capital and Pedralbes Partners.

    GoTrendier amassed a user base of 1.3 million buyers and sellers throughout its four years of existence. The service operates in Mexico and Colombia, and will use its newest capital to launch in Chile — another market Cabido says is experiencing high demand for a secondhand fashion buying and selling service.

    Online marketplace companies are growing in Latin America as smartphone adoption and digital banking services multiply in the region. But international expansion has proven to be an issue. Enjoei, a similar fashion marketplace that owns the market share in Brazil, had a botched attempt at expanding to Argentina due to Portugese-Spanish language barriers and eventually determined that Brazil was a large enough market in which to build its business — thus carving out an opportunity for companies like GoTrendier that offer the same services to dominate the surrounding Spanish-speaking markets in Latin America.

    Many have remarked that Latin America’s tech scene is filled with copycats — or companies that emulate the business models of American or European startups and bring the same service to their home market. In order to secure bigger foreign investment checks, founders from growing tech regions like Latin America certainly must invent proprietary technologies. Yet there’s still value — and capital — in so-called copycat businesses. Why? Because the users are there and in some cases it’s just easier to start up.

    According to investor Sergio Pérez of Sabadell Venture Capital, “The volume of the market for buying and selling second-hand clothes in the world was 360 million transactions in 2017 and is expected to reach 400 million in 2022.” A 2018 report from ThredUp also claimed that the size of the global secondhand market is set to hit $41 billion by 2022. The “throwaway” culture is disappearing thanks to environmentally conscious millennial buyers. As designer Stella McCartney famously said, “The future of fashion is circular – it will be restorative and regenerative by design and the clothes we love never end up as waste.” By buying on GoTrendier, the company claims its users have been able to save USD $12 million and have avoided more than 1,000 tons of CO2 emissions.

    Founders building companies in Latin America aren’t necessarily as capital-hungry as Silicon Valley-based founders, (where a Series A can now equate to $68 million, apparently). Cabido tells me her company is able to fulfill operations and marketing needs with a lean staff of 30, noting that there’s a lot of natural demand for buying and selling used clothing in these regions, thus creating organic growth for her business. She wasn’t looking to raise capital, but investors had their eye on her. “[Investors] saw the tension of the marketplace, and we demonstrated that GoTrendier’s user base could be bigger and bigger,” she says. With sights set on new markets like Chile and Peru, Cabido decided to move forward and close the round.  

    Poshmark, which benefits from indirect and same-side network effects, has raised $153 million to date from investors like Temasek Holdings, GGV and Menlo Ventures. Just like GoTrendier, Poshmark’s Series A was also a $3.5 million round.

    Who’s to say that that amount of capital can’t boost a network effects growth model in Latin America too? The users are certainly waiting. 

    GoTrendier raises $3.5 million to take on Spanish-language fashion marketplaces

    https://techcrunch.com/?p=1783322
    http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/techcrunch/startups/~3/IbZTbZIXPEk/

    Thanks to environmentally conscious young buyers, throwaway culture is dying not only in the U.S., but also in Latin America — and startups are poised to jump in with services to help people recycle used clothing. GoTrendier, a peer-to-peer fashion marketplace operative in Mexico and Colombia, has raised $3.5 million USD to do just that. […]

    Fri, 15 Feb 2019 20:04:57 +0000

    3DEN is building spaces for what it calls the “in-between moments” of your day.

    The name (pronounced “Eden”) comes from the idea of the “third place” — a space that’s neither home nor work. Founder and CEO Ben Silver told me the goal is to create a space that people can use if, say, they’ve got 45 minutes to fill between meetings, or if they’ve just gotten off a red-eye flight and need somewhere to freshen up.

    Coffee shops, co-working spaces, gyms or hotels might serve some of those functions, but Silver said 3DEN is “aggregating many different services” and bringing them together into “a very reliable space.” He suggested that the closest analogue might be a members-only clubhouse — except that instead of charging a steep membership fee, 3DEN requires no commitment, with pricing starting at $6 for each 30 minutes of your visit.

    Earlier this week, I dropped by the site of the first 3DEN, located in the shopping area of New York City’s Hudson Yards development. The space is still being built, but I saw booths for phone calls, private showers and even swings for relaxing.

    Silver said there will be a meditation space and Casper nap pods, too. He emphasized the nature-inspired design, with plenty of trees and plants, as well as the space’s “acoustic zoning,” with some areas designated for socializing and others designed to be quieter and more restful.

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

    So if you want to catch up on some work, make some calls or even host a meeting (you can invite and pay for up to two guests), you can do that. If you just want to chill out and relax, you can do that, too.

    Silver said that while the space will be staffed with a few hosts, technology will be key to the experience, with most transactions being handled via smartphone app. If you’re interested in visiting an 3DEN space, you check-in via the app (which will tell you the current crowd level, and put you on the waiting list if the space is at capacity); you can also reserve a shower and make purchases.

    3DEN’s core services will be included in that $6-per-half-hour price, but Silver said there will be a retail element as well, with visitors able to buy products in categories like food and health/beauty. He also said he’s exploring additional pricing models (such as corporate memberships) for regular guests, but he emphasized the importance of “no commitments” pricing that makes the space accessible to a wide swath of visitors.

    The seed round was led by b8ta and Graphene Ventures, with participation from Colle Capital Partners, The Stable, JTRE, InVision CEO Clark Valberg, Target’s former Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer Casey Carl and Firebase founder Andrew Lee.

    The first 3DEN location has a planned opening of March 15, and Silver said the company is also negotiating for four additional locations across New York City.

    3DEN raises $2M to create pay-as-you-go urban spaces

    https://techcrunch.com/?p=1784211
    http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/techcrunch/startups/~3/-jobP_BGFb0/

    3DEN is building spaces for what it calls the “in-between moments” of your day. The name (pronounced “Eden”) comes from the idea of the “third place” — a space that’s neither home nor work. Founder and CEO Ben Silver told me the goal is to create a space that people can use if, say, they’ve […]

    Fri, 15 Feb 2019 14:14:42 +0000

    ChargedUp, a U.K. startup that offers a mobile charging network that takes inspiration from bike sharing, has closed £1.2 million in seed investment. Leading the round is Sir John Hegarty’s fund The Garage, and the ex-Innocent Smoothie founders fund JamJar. The funding will be used to grow the offering across the U.K. and for international expansion.

    Founded by Hugo Tilmouth, Charlie Baron, Hakeem Buge and Forrest Skerman Stevenson, ChargedUp has set out to solve the dead mobile phone battery problem with a charging network. However, rather than offer fixed charging points, the team has developed a solution that lets you rent a mobile charging pack from one destination and return it at a different location if needed. That way, mobile phone use remains mobile.

    “It’s annoying and inconvenient to be out and about with a dying phone battery,” says CEO Hugo Tilmouth. We’ve all been there and I was inspired to do something about it through my own experiences. I was at a cricket match at London’s Lord’s Cricket Ground and waiting for a call for a last round interview with a large tech firm, and was running very low on charge! I ended up having to leave the cricket ground, buy a power bank and then rode a Boris Bike home and the light bulb went off in my head! Why not combine the flexibility of the sharing economy with the need of a ‘ChargedUp’ phone!”

    The solution was to create multiple distribution points across a city, located in the venues where people spend most of their time. This includes cafes, bars and restaurants. “Our solution uses an app to enable users to find the nearest stations, unlock a sharable power bank and then return it to any station in the network and only pay for the time they use. Our goal is to be never five minutes from a charge,” adds Tilmouth.

    In the next six months, ChargedUp says it will expand its network of over 250 vending stations in London’s bars, cafes and restaurants across to other large metropolitan areas in the U.K. Last month, the young startup partnered with Marks & Spencer to trial the platform in its central London stores. If the trial is successful, ChargedUp says it could lead to providing its phone-charging solution to all M&S customers by the end of 2019.

    “Since launch we have delivered over 1 million minutes of charge across the network, and our customers love the service,” says Tilmouth. “Like the sharing scooter and bike companies, we operate a time-based model. We simply charge our users a simple price of 50p per 30 mins to charge their phones. We also make revenue from the advertising space both on our batteries and within our app.”

    With regards to competition, Tilmouth says ChargedUp’s most direct competitor is the charging lockers found in some public spaces, such as ChargeBox. “We do not see this as a viable alternative to ChargedUp as users are forced to lock their phones away preventing them from using them while it charges. They are also prone to theft and damage. We are also differentiated by our use of green energy offsetting throughout the network,” he says.

    Meanwhile, in a statement, investor Sir John Hegarty talks up the revenue opportunities beyond rentals, which includes advertising, rewards and loyalty. “At its simplest, ChargedUp addresses a massive need in the market, mobile devices running out of power. But more than that, ChargedUp provides advertisers with a powerful medium that connects directly with their audience at point of purchase,” he says.

    Prior to today’s seed round, ChargedUp received investment from Telefonica via the Wayra accelerator and Brent Hoberman’s Founders Factory.

    ChargedUp picks up £1.2M seed to grow its mobile charging network across UK

    https://techcrunch.com/?p=1783610
    http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/techcrunch/startups/~3/NZry6629_sU/

    ChargedUp, a U.K. startup that offers a mobile charging network that takes inspiration from bike sharing, has closed £1.2 million in seed investment. Leading the round is Sir John Hegarty’s fund The Garage, and the ex-Innocent Smoothie founders fund JamJar. The funding will be used to grow the offering across the U.K. and for international […]

    Fri, 15 Feb 2019 09:00:41 +0000

    If you’re a video creator in 2019, you’re probably thinking about a long list of publishing destinations: YouTube, of course, but also Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and more.

    StayTuned Digital is a new startup trying to help video creators and publishers push their content to multiple platforms. The company, which bills itself as “content’s best friend,” is officially unveiling its product today and announcing that it’s raised $2.5 million in funding.

    StayTuned was founded by CEO Serge Kassardjian (previously the global head of media app business development for Google Play) and Randy Jimenez (previously CTO at SinglePlatform). Kassardjian told me he saw the need for a product like this during his time at Google, when he would talk to content creators becoming “overwhelmed” by the fragmentation across all the different devices and platforms available to them.

    “What’s happened is every single one of the platforms is releasing new formats, new ways to optimize, it’s constantly changing every couple of months,” Kassardjian said.

    So with StayTuned, publishers shouldn’t have to worry about all that. Kassardjian said the product does three big things: optimizes the video so it looks good and can perform well on each platform, pushes the video to each platform and then measures the results, which feeds back into the optimization.

    BuzzFeed will cut its staff by 15% in major round of layoffs

    Kassardjian acknowledged that getting into the media business, even as a technology provider, might seem like a bad idea right now, but he said, “There’s a misconception that what’s happening in the world is that media and content is dead, but there’s more media and content than ever before.”

    Nor does Kassardjian believe that publishers can stop relying on Facebook and other platforms. Sure, they may want to drive more traffic to their own properties or launch their own subscription services, but unless they’re Netflix-sized, they can’t ignore the big platforms entirely.

    “We provide ubiquity to where the audience is,” he said.

    And when he talks about video publishers, he isn’t just thinking about traditional media companies (although he’s looking to work with them too). He also said StayTuned could work with newer digital companies, e-commerce retailers and other brands that are creating content — and eventually, small businesses.

    As for the funding, it was led by Bowery Capital, with participation from CourtsideVC, Quaker Health, Social Leverage, Liquid 2 Ventures, The Fund, Hive Ventures, Grape Arbor and a number of angel investors. StayTuned is also part of the current GCT Startup-in-Residence program.

    StayTuned Digital helps video creators publish and measure everywhere

    https://techcrunch.com/?p=1783979
    http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/techcrunch/startups/~3/Wtd3R70fqlI/

    If you’re a video creator in 2019, you’re probably thinking about a long list of publishing destinations: YouTube, of course, but also Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and more. StayTuned Digital is a new startup trying to help video creators and publishers push their content to multiple platforms. The company, which bills itself as “content’s best […]

    Thu, 14 Feb 2019 23:27:53 +0000

    One of the very first things we ask Israeli entrepreneurs who are hoping to break into the U.S. market is to tell us how their product or service is being received by their target market. What is the feedback? Are potential customers hungry for what the team is selling?

    Validation, both of the broader vision and the early product itself, has to be a key focus for any aspiring entrepreneur. Testing your product and getting specific feedback is the only way to know if the company is on the right track or wasting its time chasing down the wrong path. However, even for seasoned founders who understand how vital market validation is to the success of their company, it can be all too easy to get distracted chasing the wrong kind of validation.

    Not all validation is created equal. It is crucial that founders differentiate between meaningful validation and vanity “wins” that do little more than make you feel good. Fake validation is everywhere. Here are some common traps founders need to beware of.

    Not all customers are born equal

    Founders need to be careful about soliciting customers that are either too small or too big for their entry point into the market, or not even in the actual market segment they are targeting. If your early customers are different from those you eventually hope to acquire, then the things they ask for and feedback they provide will skew your short-term goals and put your business on the wrong path.

    The best companies and founders are the ones that aren’t afraid to go out and get real, tangible feedback from potential customers.

    This is especially common when targeting companies outside the U.S., where startups build long lists of customers in their home market that may or may not have the same set of needs as U.S.-based customers. But by the time these startups are “ready” to expand beyond their home country, they have a hard time selling investors and foreign customers on a product that has only been validated by unfamiliar brands in a small domestic market. Many times, these early customers do not have exposure to competing products in the larger U.S. market, or they have a different set of problems they are aiming to solve altogether, which sends misleading signals to the startup.

    Securing customers is obviously crucial to any startup’s success, and can be helpful in shaping how a startup markets itself in the early days. Yet founders must be able to properly contextualize the pedigree of those customers, and always keep the long-term vision front and center. The product isn’t truly validated until you have the right type of customers validating your product.

    Corporate guidance?

    Large corporations are constantly looking for the next cutting-edge technology that will propel their next phase of growth. This is why countries like Israel, with its deep talent pool in AI, IoT, cybersecurity, etc., have become hotbeds for corporate innovation labs.

    At first glance, this is a great thing for Israeli entrepreneurs because it gives them exposure and access to the biggest companies in the world. But proximity and feedback from these groups isn’t everything. Many of these innovation labs accept local startups into their program, which can obviously be exciting for those founders, especially at the early stage. The corporate will then aim to work on a pilot program with the startup to test their product, which could be beneficial for the startup. However, gaining just this one customer doesn’t always guarantee future success, nor does it truly validate the product.

    Getting a pilot with a larger corporate can be a great opportunity, but diligent founders must also continue to pursue other pilots. First, pilot programs do not always translate to becoming real customers and founders need to avoid placing all their eggs in one basket. Second, the feedback founders receive from just one large customer may not be representative of the entire customer segment. Simply being in the innovation hub is often not enough by itself to signal long-term success.

    All your startup friends say your product is cool

    This one may seem obvious, but it remains just as pervasive as ever. It’s easy for first-time founders to drink their own Kool-Aid and get overly hung up on any positive feedback that’s heaped upon them or their product. An overwhelming number of new startups are created in heavily concentrated markets like Silicon Valley, which can make it difficult to find unbiased feedback outside the echo chamber.

    It’s not only nice to be told your product is awesome, but it can become downright addicting.

    This is especially true for startups that are just beginning to validate their product offering, or a specific piece of their technology. Afraid of approaching someone who “won’t get it,” we see founders chasing the feedback they want to hear, often from peer entrepreneurs, who will be excited by a piece of technology but obviously won’t be the ones who end up buying and using it as real customers.

    By self-soliciting feedback from the wrong people, founders make the mistake of focusing on the wrong aspects of the product instead of taking it directly to potential customers in the market who will specifically tell you what they do and don’t like.

    You just raised $10 million. That has to mean something, right?

    Even raising a sizable round from VCs can be a form of fake momentum. Much has been written on the topic, but it’s easier than ever for some entrepreneurs in specific domains to raise significant capital these days. There are more seed funds out there than ever before. Valuations and deal sizes at the seed and Series A stages continue to climb. What this truly means is that bets on the success or failure of a startup are being made earlier in the life cycle of the company.

    Just because a VC chooses to invest in a company does not mean that startup has reached the promised land. VCs are not your customers, and while capital they provide is a critical means to further the development of the business, it does not replace getting real validation from and selling to the target market.

    Winning!

    Founders often misunderstand or overestimate the tangible impact that awards and PR recognition will have on their businesses. We see this all the time when entrepreneurs come bragging about some competition they won, or a top 10 list they were included in. Don’t get me wrong, awards are nice to have and they can help with attracting talent and hiring into your startup. However, founders need to realize that the value is capped, does not serve as real validation and is typically meaningless to investors and potential customers alike in their evaluation of the startup.

    There are several potential traps on the journey to validation, and it can be easy to fall victim if entrepreneurs take their eyes off the prize. It’s not only nice to be told your product is awesome, but it can become downright addicting. The best companies and founders are the ones that aren’t afraid to go out to market and get real, tangible feedback from potential customers. If you’re not doing that, you’re simply making yourself more susceptible to fake validation that can derail your vision.

    Why your startup may not be as great as everyone says

    https://techcrunch.com/?p=1777958
    http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/techcrunch/startups/~3/Q-JFlZwPJpI/

    Not all validation is created equal. It is crucial that founders differentiate between meaningful validation and vanity “wins” that do little more than make you feel good.

    Thu, 14 Feb 2019 21:00:29 +0000

    Peltarion, a Swedish startup founded by former execs from companies like Spotify, Skype, King, TrueCaller and Google, today announced that it has raised a $20 million Series A funding round led by Euclidean Capital, the family office for hedge fund billionaire James Simons. Previous investors FAM and EQT Ventures also participated, and this round brings the company’s total funding to $35 million.

    There is obviously no dearth of AI platforms these days. Peltarion focus on what it calls “operational AI.” The service offers an end-to-end platform that lets you do everything from pre-processing your data to building models and putting them into production. All of this runs in the cloud and developers get access to a graphical user interface for building and testing their models. All of this, the company stresses, ensures that Peltarion’s users don’t have to deal with any of the low-level hardware or software and can instead focus on building their models.

    “The speed at which AI systems can be built and deployed on the operational platform is orders of magnitude faster compared to the industry standard tools such as TensorFlow and require far fewer people and decreases the level of technical expertise needed,” Luka Crnkovic-Friis, of Peltarion’s CEO and co-founder, tells me. “All this results in more organizations being able to operationalize AI and focusing on solving problems and creating change.”

    In a world where businesses have a plethora of choices, though, why use Peltarion over more established players? “Almost all of our clients are worried about lock-in to any single cloud provider,” Crnkovic-Friis said. “They tend to be fine using storage and compute as they are relatively similar across all the providers and moving to another cloud provider is possible. Equally, they are very wary of the higher-level services that AWS, GCP, Azure, and others provide as it means a complete lock-in.”

    Peltarion, of course, argues that its platform doesn’t lock in its users and that other platforms take far more AI expertise to produce commercially viable AI services. The company rightly notes that, outside of the tech giants, most companies still struggle with how to use AI at scale. “They are stuck on the starting blocks, held back by two primary barriers to progress: immature patchwork technology and skills shortage,” said Crnkovic-Friis.

    The company will use the new funding to expand its development team and its teams working with its community and partners. It’ll also use the new funding for growth initiatives in the U.S. and other markets.

    Peltarion raises $20M for its AI platform

    https://techcrunch.com/?p=1783767
    http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/techcrunch/startups/~3/AdECDk6aTOg/

    Peltarion, a Swedish startup founded by former execs from companies like Spotify, Skype, King, TrueCaller and Google, today announced that it has raised a $20 million Series A funding round led by Euclidean Capital, the family office for hedge fund billionaire James Simons. Previous investors FAM and EQT Ventures also participated, and this round brings […]

    Thu, 14 Feb 2019 19:46:30 +0000

    With more industries and organizations recognizing design as a pillar of business, a battle is brewing among makers of design tools. And with a fresh $40 million in Series C funding, Figma is ready to fight.

    Co-founder and CEO Dylan Field explains that when he and co-founder Evan Wallace started the company, in 2012, IBM employed one designer for every 72 engineers. Today, IBM has eight engineers to every designer, and that ratio goes to 3:1 on mobile.

    This shift, which is reflected more broadly across various industries, has led more people within their organizations to want to be involved in the design process. Which means that tools that once “got the job done” for small design teams and individual freelancers working in a silo stopped being useful.

    Field saw the need for real-time collaborative design tools, and dropped out of Brown to join the Thiel fellowship to build Figma . Since launch, the company has grown to 1 million sign-ups, with a total of $82.9 million raised on a $440 million post-money valuation.

    Figma offers a freemium model, with the product remaining free up to three editors. From there you bump into the Pro tier, which offers unlimited version history and the ability to create a Design System for $15/month/editor. The org tier bundles in an extra layer of security and content control for $45/month/editor.

    A big part of what sets Figma apart is its home on the web. Figma allows designers and collaborators to take care of every part of the process — from initial design to collaboration to storage to prototyping — right within a web app.

    “We set out to make a cloud version of these traditional design tools,” said Field. “And what we realized is that once you put it all in the cloud, and make it so that the entire workflow across design and storage and prototyping and developer hand-off and version control… once you connect all that, you’re not actually creating all those different products. You’re creating one integrated system.”

    Because of this, common design problems like file versioning and real-time collaboration aren’t really an issue for Figma. Designers can work together, or make changes on their own, and those changes are reflected across the file in real time with a complete revision history. To share something new, they can simply send over a link.

    Adobe and InVision, the two other big players in the ring, have both built native apps to handle the same full-stack problem of bundling design tools, collaborative prototyping and file versioning. Adobe has addressed its growing competition through its collaborative design tool Adobe XD. InVision, which started as a collaborative prototyping platform in 2011, has either built or bought its products that expand up and downstream in the workflow.

    And it seems that, for some big design teams, Figma’s web app has prevailed — which explains why Sequoia partner Andrew Reed changed his mind. Figma actually went to Sequoia when raising their Series B in 2018, and the VC firm passed up the opportunity.

    “At the time, the product was interesting but the people we talk to about these products weren’t pointing to Figma as transforming their companies,” said Reed. “Over the past 12 months, things changed. We called people to ask their opinions and people were calling us proactively and telling us how impactful it was in their companies.”

    After looking at the data, Reed said he discovered there were Figma users at half of Sequoia’s portfolio companies. He reached out to Field, sent over a term sheet in Figma and within a week Figma closed on what could be seen as an opportunistic round, considering how recently Figma picked up its Series B.

    But one perk of the deal is Reed’s experience from investing in GitHub, which is a great exemplar for design tool companies looking to bring some level of cohesiveness to a fragmented landscape.

    “Collaboration is going to be embedded in the future of software,” said Reed.

    Figma gets $40 million Series C to put design tools in the cloud

    https://techcrunch.com/?p=1783577
    http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/techcrunch/startups/~3/9TkN_GzI2zM/

    With more industries and organizations recognizing design as a pillar of business, a battle is brewing among makers of design tools. And with a fresh $40 million in Series C funding, Figma is ready to fight. Co-founder and CEO Dylan Field explains that when he and co-founder Evan Wallace started the company, in 2012, IBM […]

    Thu, 14 Feb 2019 17:30:30 +0000

    Sight Diagnostics, an Israeli medical devices startup that’s using AI technology to speed up blood testing, has closed a  $27.8 million Series C funding round.

    The company has built a desktop machine, called OLO, that analyzes cartridges manually loaded with drops of the patient’s blood — performing blood counts in situ.

    The new funding is led by VC firm Longliv Ventures, also based in Israel, and a member of the multinational conglomerate CK Hutchison Group.

    Sight Diagnostics said it was after strategic investment for the Series C — specifically investors that could contribute to its technological and commercial expansion. And on that front CK Hutchison Group’s portfolio includes more than 14,500 health and beauty stores across Europe and Asia, providing a clear go-to-market route for the company’s OLO blood testing device.

    Other strategic investors in the round include Jack Nicklaus II, a healthcare philanthropist and board member of the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation; Steven Esrick, a healthcare impact investor; and a “major medical equipment manufacturer” — which they’re not naming.

    Sight Diagnostics also notes that it’s seeking additional strategic partners who can help it get its device to “major markets throughout the world”.

    Commenting in a statement, Yossi Pollak, co-founder and CEO, said: “We sought out groups and individuals who genuinely believe in our mission to improve health for everyone with next-generation diagnostics, and most importantly, who can add significant value beyond financial support. We are already seeing positive traction across Europe and seeking additional strategic partners who can help us deploy OLO to major markets throughout the world.”

    The company says it expects that customers across “multiple countries in Europe” will have deployed OLO in actual use this year.

    Existing investors OurCrowd, Go Capital, and New Alliance Capital also participated in the Series C. The medtech startup, which was founded back in 2011, has raised more than $50M to date, only disclosing its Series A and B raises last year.

    The new funding will be used to further efforts to sell what it bills as its “lab-grade” point-of-care blood diagnostics system, OLO, around the world. Although its initial go-to-market push has focused on Europe — where it has obtained CE Mark registration for OLO (necessary for commercial sale within certain European countries) following a 287-person clinical trial, and went on to launch the device last summer. It’s since signed a distribution agreement for OLO in Italy.

    “We have pursued several pilots with potential customers in Europe, specifically in the UK and Italy,” co-founder Danny Levner tells TechCrunch. “In Europe, it is typical for market adoption to begin with pilot studies: Small clinical evaluations that each major customers run at their own facilities, under real-world conditions. This allows users to experience the specific benefits of the technology in their own context. In typical progress, pilot studies are then followed by modest initial orders, and then by broad deployment.”

    The funding will also support ongoing regulatory efforts in the U.S., where it’s been conducting a series of trials as part of FDA testing in the hopes of gaining regulatory clearance for OLO. Levner tells us it has now submitted data to the regulator and is waiting for it to be reviewed.

    “In December 2018, we completed US clinical trials at three US clinical sites and we are submitting them later this month to the FDA. We are seeking 510(k) FDA clearance for use in US CLIA compliant laboratories, to be followed by a CLIA waiver application that will allow for use at any doctor’s office. We are very pleased with the results of our US trial and we hope to obtain the FDA’s 510(k) clearance within a year’s time,” he says.

    “With the current funding, we’re focusing on commercialization in the European market, starting in the UK, Italy and the Nordics,” he adds. “In the US, we’re working to identify new opportunities in oncology and pediatrics.”

    Funds will also go on R&D to expand the menu of diagnostic tests the company is able to offer via OLO.

    The startup previously told us it envisages developing the device into a platform capable of running a portfolio of blood tests, saying each additional test would be added individually and only after “independent clinical validation”.

    The initial test OLO offers is a complete blood count (CBC), with Sight Diagnostics applying machine learning and computer vision technology to digitize and analyze a high resolution photograph of a finger prick’s worth of the patient’s blood on device.

    The idea is to offer an alternative to having venous blood drawn and sent away to a lab for analysis — with an OLO-based CBC billed as taking “minutes” to perform, with the startup also claiming it’s simple enough for non-professional to carry out, whereas it says a lab-based blood count can take several days to process and return a result.

    On the R&D front, Levner says it sees “enormous potential” for OLO to be used to diagnose blood diseases such as leukemia and sickle cell anemia.

    “Also, given the small amount of blood required and the minimally-invasive nature of the test when using finger-prick blood samples, there is an opportunity to use OLO in neonatal screening,” he says. “Accordingly, one of the most important immediate next steps is to tailor the test procedures and algorithms for neonate screening.”

    Levner also told us that some of its pilot studies have looked at evaluating “improvements in operator and patient satisfaction”. “Clearly standing out in these studies is the preference for finger-prick-based testing, which OLO provides,” he claims. 

    One key point to note: Sight Diagnostics has still yet to publish peer reviewed results of its clinical trials for OLO. Last July it told us it has a publication pending in a peer-reviewed journal.

    “With regards to the peer-reviewed publication, we’ve decided to combine the results from the Israel clinical trials with those that we just completed in the US for a more robust publication,” the company says now. “We expect to focus on that publication after we receive FDA approval in the US.”

    Biotech AI startup Sight Diagnostics gets $27.8M to speed up blood tests

    https://techcrunch.com/?p=1781761
    http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/techcrunch/startups/~3/ZM5HpXtr0ek/

    Sight Diagnostics, an Israeli medical devices startup that’s using AI technology to speed up blood testing, has closed a  $27.8 million Series C funding round. The company has built a desktop machine, called OLO, that analyzes cartridges manually loaded with drops of the patient’s blood — performing blood counts in situ. The new funding is […]

    Thu, 14 Feb 2019 17:00:43 +0000

    Grover, the Berlin-based startup that offers “pay-as-you-go” subscriptions to the latest consumer tech as an alternative to owning products outright, is going all-in on e-scooters or so-called micro-mobility. The latest to jump in on the e-scooter craze, the company is launching an e-scooter monthly subscription service in Germany.

    Dubbed GroverGo, customers can rent the Xiaomi e-scooter Mijia M365 for €49.90 per month and have access to a rental scooter of their own for a fraction of the cost of buying.

    The idea — and thinking behind Grover as a whole — is that instead of purchasing an e-scooter outright (or in this instance, relying on using the sprawling number of pay-per-ride services), GroverGo customers can enjoy unlimited e-scooter rides without the upfront costs or commitment of owning an e-scooter. A GroverGo rolling monthly subscription can be canceled at any time and includes Grover Care damage coverage.

    The Xiaomi scooter goes up to 25 km/h, and can ride up to 30 km without recharging. It is also foldable and fairly lightweight, which Grover says makes it easy to travel with. The company also reckons that GroverGo makes sense for anyone who would ride 10 or more times per week.

    “The biggest advantage of GroverGo versus pay-per-ride e-scooter services is the guaranteed availability and efficient use, as each scooter stays with its renter rather than hundreds of them clogging the sidewalks waiting to be picked up and recharged,” says Grover, taking a dig at the likes of Lime and Bird. “GroverGo customers make their scooter their own for the time of their subscription and know that it’s always charged and at their disposal. Even in the most remote neighbourhoods, the scooter can be folded and taken to the office or a bar and will be there for the ride home.”

    The tech subscription service is also confident e-scooters will become more useful, as German authorities make changes to how the devices are regulated. “Thanks to a recently issued ordinance by the federal government, it is expected that Germany will change its regulations and allow e-scooters on public streets soon,” says Grover.

    Meanwhile, Michael Cassau, CEO and founder of Grover, tells me he believes micro-mobility services are the “future of cities” and that the Product-as-a-Service model that Grover is based on is particularly suited to the space. “I am confident that our approach with GroverGo is smart and efficient, and will convince many to switch to e-mobility without the barriers and commitment of buying and financing, and without the hassle of shared e-scooter services,” he adds.

    Grover launches e-scooter subscription service

    https://techcrunch.com/?p=1783539
    http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/techcrunch/startups/~3/CKGieJDGpi8/

    Grover, the Berlin-based startup that offers “pay-as-you-go” subscriptions to the latest consumer tech as an alternative to owning products outright, is going all-in on e-scooters or so-called micro-mobility. The latest to jump in on the e-scooter craze, the company is launching an e-scooter monthly subscription service in Germany. Dubbed GroverGo, customers can rent the Xiaomi […]

    Thu, 14 Feb 2019 12:18:40 +0000

    Teckro, a software platform that claims to make the conduct of clinical trials more efficient and collaborative, has closed $25 million in Series C funding. The round, which brings the total raised by the Irish company to $43 million, was led by Northpond Ventures, with participation from Founders Fund, Sands Capital Ventures, Bill Maris’ Section 32 venture fund and Borealis Ventures.

    Founded by brothers Gary and Nigel Hughes and Jacek Skrzypiec in 2015, Teckro’s technology is designed to improve the conduct of clinical trials, including by employing machine learning to improve the speed and accuracy of clinical trials. Through digitisation, it also attempts to make clinical trials more transparent across stakeholders and those responsible for conducting the trial, including doctors, research nurses and patients.

    “The industry still relies heavily on paper, on working off retrospective data, and there is still an over-reliance on sending CRAs to busy research sites,” says Teckro co-founder and CEO Gary Hughes. “This approach, together with the plethora of point solutions that get ‘bolted on,’ only adds to the complexity and disjointed experience of research sites and patients.”

    To that end, Teckro says it has users in more than 80 countries, up from 30 countries at the time of the Series B in August 2017. It employs more than 100 staff across its global headquarters in Limerick, Ireland, an engineering hub in Dublin, Ireland and a U.S. base in Nashville, Tennessee.

    “Our mission is to engage more physicians in clinical research,” Hughes tells me. “We believe increased participation by physicians (currently less than 3 percent globally) will provide greater access to patients, effectively making clinical research a treatment option for millions of patients with unmet medical needs. That requires a complete rethink of clinical trial operations, particularly the experience of research sites. It’s very much a ‘fix one thing’ approach, establishing new digital touch points that remove friction and provide busy research staff with instant access to critical trial information when it is needed most.”

    The broader Teckro vision is to be “at the centre of all site and patient interactions in a clinical trial,” says Hughes. “We are building a new digital infrastructure and toolset for clinical research that makes the conduct of trials simpler, more transparent and more inclusive.”

    The resulting aim, of course, is to ensure that effective drugs are efficiently moved from the lab to the patient “so that [more] lives can be saved.”

    Teckro scores $25M Series C round to speed up clinical trials

    https://techcrunch.com/?p=1783509
    http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/techcrunch/startups/~3/FWxeVYzO77g/

    Teckro, a software platform that claims to make the conduct of clinical trials more efficient and collaborative, has closed $25 million in Series C funding. The round, which brings the total raised by the Irish company to $43 million, was led by Northpond Ventures, with participation from Founders Fund, Sands Capital Ventures, Bill Maris’ Section […]

    Thu, 14 Feb 2019 10:55:23 +0000

    French startup Malt is raising a $28.6 million funding round (€25 million) with Idinvest Partners leading the round and existing investors ISAI and Serena also participating. Overall, the company has raised $36.6 million since its creation (€32 million).

    Malt has created a marketplace for companies and engineers working as freelancers. There are currently 100,000 freelancers on the platform and 15,000 companies using Malt regularly.

    With today’s funding round, the company wants to grow its platform in other European countries. There are 10,000 freelancers on the platform in Spain, and the company plans to open new markets, starting with Germany and the Netherlands.

    The startup thinks that hiring freelancers can be a great alternative to big IT consulting companies. Every time a freelancer accepts a job, clients rate the freelancer. This way, clients can know for sure that somebody is a capable developer.

    On the other side, freelancers don’t necessarily have all the connections to find freelancing jobs on their own. Malt can help you work with more companies. The startup also acts as a sort of broker. You no longer have to send emails weeks or even months after completing a job to get your money. Malt takes care of all the pesky admin tasks. Freelancers also get a few deals on benefits, health coverage, etc.

    Big French companies, such as Accorhotels, Société Générale and BlaBlaCar use Malt. Seventy-five percent of France’s top 40 public companies in the CAC40 have worked with a Malt freelancer at some point. And if your big company doesn’t know much about data science, DevOps and other jobs, Malt can help you find freelancers for you.

    Malt raises $28.6 million for its freelancer platform

    https://techcrunch.com/?p=1783169
    http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/techcrunch/startups/~3/Rf07_Q_ImFs/

    French startup Malt is raising a $28.6 million funding round (€25 million) with Idinvest Partners leading the round and existing investors ISAI and Serena also participating. Overall, the company has raised $36.6 million since its creation (€32 million). Malt has created a marketplace for companies and engineers working as freelancers. There are currently 100,000 freelancers […]

    Thu, 14 Feb 2019 08:10:48 +0000

    Eastnine, a new fitness startup and app co-founded by London entrepreneur and investor Jason Goodman, is de-cloaking today, including disclosing that it has raised £2 million in seed funding.

    Leading the round is London-based LocalGlobe and Berlin-based Cherry Ventures, which are joined by a list of prominent angel investors that includes Niklas Zennström, co-founder of Skype and London venture capital firm Atomico.

    Also participating is former Spotify CMO and now Atomico partner Sophia Bendz, Supercell founder Ilkka Paananen, Moo co-founder Richard Moross, Wonga founder Errol Damelin and Climate Corp. co-founder and Atomico partner Siraj Khaliq, amongst others.

    The links to current Atomico personnel, who have all invested in a personal capacity, shouldn’t come as a total surprise. Before co-founding Eastnine, Goodman spent a year as an Atomico Executive-in-Residence (XiR), where he mentored founders within the venture capital firm’s portfolio. Prior to Atomico, he was founder and CEO of product design agency Albion, which was acquired by KBS.

    Launching in beta for iOS, the Eastnine app is initially focusing on running, blending professional coaching sessions delivered via audio with more innovative social features. The latter includes the ability to “race” against other Eastnine runners who have previously taken the same coaching session. The feature uses asynchronous session data, but is presented on a map in real time, something akin to racing against an action replay.

    The social element, explained Goodman in a call yesterday, is important to help motivate people to engage with and improve their fitness. That’s because running can often feel incredibly isolated and it is difficult to see an improvement because it can be slow to manifest.

    “A daily run is hard to make a habit and can be inherently solitary,” says Goodman. “Doing it with others makes it enjoyable, purposeful and addictive. We’ve tried all sorts of apps, but they are linear and lonely and miss the extra push you get from doing it with others, on your terms. Our training experience combines the fun and sport of being surrounded by other Eastnine runners on a real-time leaderboard with [a] genuinely knowledgeable coaching approach that inspires people to run more and run better.”

    (“Hate running but now actually doing it,” is how one London millennial founder described the Eastnine app, having taken part in the startup’s closed beta.)

    More broadly, Goodman says he wants to disrupt the “con” in fitness and the way people approach fitness everyday. “We want to do this by helping to create the right habits, making it accessible, social and enjoyable,” he tells me, whilst bemoaning the number of charlatans that currently exist in the fitness space. He also believes the industry is crying out for a more British and quietly European approach, instead of the “shouty” coaching style often imported from North America.

    The Eastnine coaching team is made up of qualified coaches from the world of professional sport. They include Team GB athletes JJ Jegede and Lewis Richardson; former professional rugby player Leo Savage; osteopath to elite sports professionals Alice Monger-Godfrey; and nutritionist to competitive cyclists and Ironman athletes Will Girling.

    “The fitness industry on so many levels is a con,” says Goodman. “Too many products and services are sold to us in a way that suggests an immediate fix — but human nature means that when we don’t see results, or create the right habits, we don’t push on and make tangible progress. The real challenge is to learn the right habits that help us make real progress. The cons are well-documented: gyms make profit on the users that don’t show up or cancel their membership and social media is full of pseudo celebrities selling the latest appetite suppressant lollipop that they have never used but are happy to endorse. The category is full of people saying one thing and trying to sell you something else.”

    While in beta, the Eastnine app remains entirely free. However, the startup plans to eventually switch to a freemium model, with an optional monthly subscription similar to Calm or Headspace that can be canceled at any time. “We want as many people using it as possible so we can develop the service with our members’ feedback,” adds Goodman. “We’ll use a freemium approach so a portion of content will always be free.”

    Meanwhile, it would be remiss not to mention Eastnine’s other co-founders. They are David McCreary, previously VP Engineering of Boiler Room and senior software engineer at NextVR; Cat Forrest, former international GB high jumper, Rapha cycling ambassador and marketeer at Virgin Group; and Matt Harrison, previously Strategy Director at innovation agency Seymourpowell.

    Fitness startup Eastnine picks up £2M from LocalGlobe, Cherry Ventures, Niklas Zennström and others

    https://techcrunch.com/?p=1783026
    http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/techcrunch/startups/~3/b0E8kLmz0FU/

    Eastnine, a new fitness startup and app co-founded by London entrepreneur and investor Jason Goodman, is de-cloaking today, including disclosing that it has raised £2 million in seed funding. Leading the round is London-based LocalGlobe and Berlin-based Cherry Ventures, which are joined by a list of prominent angel investors that includes Niklas Zennström, co-founder of […]

    Thu, 14 Feb 2019 08:00:42 +0000

    Qloo announced this morning that it has acquired TasteDive.

    The two companies sound pretty similar — according to the announcement, Qloo is “the leading artificial intelligence platform for culture and taste,” while TasteDive is “a cultural recommendation engine and social community.”

    What’s the difference? Well TasteDive is a website where you can create a profile, connect with other users and, as you like and dislike things, it will recommend music, movies, TV shows, books and more. Qloo, meanwhile, is trying to understand patterns in consumer taste and then sell that data to marketers.

    Or, as Qloo CEO Alex Elias (pictured above) put it in a statement, “TasteDive does for millions of individuals what Qloo has been doing for brands for years – using AI to make better decisions about culture and taste.”

    Elton John invests in Qloo, a startup that analyzes your taste

    Apparently TasteDive has 4.5 million active users, and it will continue to operate as a separate team and product, with founder Andrei Oghina remaining on-board as CEO. (Elias will become chairman.)

    At the same time, the companies say the addition of Qloo technology will allow TasteDive to get smarter and to expand into different categories, while Qloo benefits from TasteDive’s global customer base and its API ecosystem.

    The financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

    Qloo acquires cultural recommendation service TasteDive

    https://techcrunch.com/?p=1783312
    http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/techcrunch/startups/~3/dZb0MCx5iw4/

    Qloo announced this morning that it has acquired TasteDive. The two companies sound pretty similar — according to the announcement, Qloo is “the leading artificial intelligence platform for culture and taste,” while TasteDive is “a cultural recommendation engine and social community.” What’s the difference? Well TasteDive is a website where you can create a profile, […]

    Wed, 13 Feb 2019 22:46:26 +0000

    After two years of development, Medivis, a New York-based company developing augmented reality data integration and visualization tools for surgeons, is bringing its first product to market.

    The company was founded by Osamah Choudhry and Christopher Morley who met as senior residents at NYU Medical Center.

    Initially a side-project, the two residents roped in some engineers to help develop their first prototypes and after a stint in NYU’s Summer Launchpad program the two decided to launch the company.

    Now, with $2.3 million in financing led by Initialized Capital and partnerships with Dell and Microsoft to supply hardware, the company is launching its first product, called SurgicalAR.

    In fact, it was the launch of the HoloLens that really gave Medivis its boost, according to Morley. That technology pointed a way toward what Morley said was one of the dreams for technology in the medical industry.

    “The Holy Grail is to be able to holographically render a patient,” he said.

    For now, Medivis is able to access patient data and represent it visually in a three-dimensional model for doctors to refer to as they plan surgeries. That model is mapped back to the patient to give surgeons a plan for how best to approach an operation.

    “The interface between medical imaging and surgical utility from it is really where we see a lot of innovation being possible,” says Morley.

    So far, Medivis has worked with the University of Pennsylvania and New York University to bring their prototypes into a surgical setting.

    The company is integrating some machine learning capabilities to be able to identify the most relevant information from patients’ medical records and diagnostics as they begin to plan the surgical process.

    “What we’ve been working on over this time is developing this really disruptive 3D pipeline,” says Morley. “What we have seen is that there is a distinct lack of 3D pipelines to allow people to directly interface… very quickly try to automate the entire rendering process.”

    For now, Medivis is selling a touchscreen monitor, display and a headset. The device plugs into a hospital network and extracts medical imaging to display from their servers in about 30 seconds, according to Choudhry.

    “That’s where we see this immediately being useful in that pre-surgical planning stage,” Choudhry says. “The use in surgical planning and being able to extend this through surgical navigation… Streamline the process that requires a large amount of pieces and components and setups so you only need an AR headset to localize pathology and make decisions off of that.”

    Already the company has performed 15 surgeries in consultation with the company’s technology.

    “When we first met Osamah and Chris, we immediately understood the magnitude of the problem they were out to solve. Medical imaging as it relates to surgical procedures has largely been neglected, leaving patients open to all sorts of complications and general safety issues,” said Eric Woersching, general partner, Initialized Capital, in a statement. “We took one look at the Medivis platform and knew they were poised to transform the operating room. Not only was their hands-free approach to visualization meeting a real need for greater surgical accuracy, but the team has the passion and expertise in the medical field to bring it all to fruition. We couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome Medivis to the Initialized family.”

    Medivis has launched its augmented reality platform for surgical planning

    https://techcrunch.com/?p=1783251
    http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/techcrunch/startups/~3/qyaBbCDDmR8/

    After two years of development, Medivis, a New York-based company developing augmented reality data integration and visualization tools for surgeons, is bringing its first product to market. The company was founded by Osamah Choudhry and Christopher Morley who met as senior residents at NYU Medical Center. Initially a side-project, the two residents roped in some […]

    Wed, 13 Feb 2019 22:04:11 +0000

    Lime, similar to its competitors Spin and JUMP, just got word that while its appeal to operate electric scooters in phase one of San Francisco’s pilot program was denied, it may be able to deploy scooters during phase two. This comes following San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Neutral Hearing Officer James Doyle’s decision regarding Ford’s Spin, Uber’s JUMP and now Lime’s appeals of the permitting process.

    Currently, Skip and Scoot are the only two companies permitted to operate shared electric scooter services in the city. After the first six months of the program, in April, the SFMTA can potentially increase the number of scooters from the current max of 625 to 2,500. This juncture, Doyle said, should be able to accommodate the addition of other operators.

    “As a well-experienced and well-qualified vendor, I would expect that Lime’s entry into the city’s Pilot Program should result not only in increased services on our streets, but allowing additional capable operators in the Pilot Program can only enhance the probability of an eventual success of the powered scooter share program in San Francisco,” Doyle wrote in his decision.

    Moving forward, it’s unclear if the SFMTA will take the recommendation, but SFMTA Communications Manager Ben Jose previously told TechCrunch, “The SFMTA will be consulting with the City Attorney’s Office to determine next steps as we near the second half of the pilot.”

    In a statement to TechCrunch, Lime said it appreciates the hearing officer’s recommendation that Lime be considered to operate its shared electric scooters during phase two of the program. A Lime spokesperson also said they appreciate Doyle’s note that Lime has the expertise and operational capacity to meet the SFMTA’s requirements.

    “We couldn’t agree more,” the Lime spokesperson said. “Lime looks forward to continuing our work with the SFMTA, and to expanding consumer choice and the quality of the scooter share program in Lime’s hometown.”

    Lime has been one of the more outspoken companies following the SFMTA’s electric scooter decision. When, in October, the SFMTA selected Skip and Scoot as the only two electric scooter companies permitted to operate in the city, competitor Lime took legal steps to attempt to prevent Skip and Scoot from deploying. A San Francisco judge, however, promptly denied Lime’s request for a temporary restraining order. Then, in December, Lime held a protest on the steps of SF City Hall to challenge the decision.

    In its appeal, Lime argued the SFMTA was biased against it, as well as Spin and Bird, for deploying its scooters without explicit permission back in March. In Doyle’s decision, he said, while the “instances that Lime highlights may establish possible bias on the part of the SFMTA,” there was not a preponderance of evidence to show the SFMTA was biased against Lime.

    “My review of Lime’s application proposals, when compared side-by-side with those of Scoot and Skip, confirms my opinion that an even-handed evaluation of Lime’s written descriptions in its application of its planned scooter rollout was conducted by the SFMTA scorers,” he said.

    Lime loses appeal to operate electric scooters in SF

    https://techcrunch.com/?p=1783226
    http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/techcrunch/startups/~3/Ffd3PasH4VI/

    Lime, similar to its competitors Spin and JUMP, just got word that while its appeal to operate electric scooters in phase one of San Francisco’s pilot program was denied, it may be able to deploy scooters during phase two. This comes following San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Neutral Hearing Officer James Doyle’s decision regarding Ford’s […]

    Wed, 13 Feb 2019 20:22:16 +0000

    When we interact with computers today we move the mouse, we scroll the trackpad, we tap the screen, but there is so much that the machines don’t pick up on — what about where we’re looking, the subtle gestures we make and what we’re thinking?

    Asteroid is looking to get developers comfortable with the idea that future interfaces are going to take in much more biosensory data. The team has built a node-based human-machine interface engine for macOS and iOS that allows developers to build interactions that can be imported into Swift applications.

    “What’s interesting about emerging human-machine interface tech is the hope that the user may be able to ‘upload’ as much as they can ‘download’ today,”Asteroid founder Saku Panditharatne wrote in a Medium post.

    To bring attention to their development environment, they’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign that gives a decent snapshot of the depth of experiences that can be enabled by today’s commercially available biosensors. Asteroid definitely doesn’t want to be a hardware startup, but their campaign is largely serving as a way to expose developers to what tools could be in their interaction design arsenal.

    There are dev kits and then there are dev kits, and this is a dev kit. Developers jumping on board for the total package get a bunch of open hardware, i.e. a bunch of gear and cases to build out hacked-together interface solutions. The $450 kit brings capabilities like eye-tracking, brain-computer interface electrodes and some gear to piece together a motion controller. Backers can also just buy the $200 eye-tracking kit alone. It’s all very utility minded and clearly not designed to make Asteroid those big hardware bucks.

    “The long-term goal is to support as much AR hardware as we can, we just made our own kit because I don’t think there is that much good stuff out there outside of labs,” Panditharatne told TechCrunch.

    The crazy hardware seems to be a bit of a labor of love for the time being, while a couple of AR/VR devices have eye-tracking baked-in, it’s still a generation away from most consumer VR devices, and you’re certainly not going to find too much hardware with brain-computer interface systems built-in. The startup says their engine will do plenty with just a smartphone camera and a microphone, but the broader sell with the dev kit is that you’re not building for a specific piece of hardware, you’re experimenting on the bet that interfaces are going to grow more closely intertwined with how we process the world as humans.

    Panditharatne founded the company after stints at Oculus and Andreessen Horowitz where she spent a lot of time focusing on the future of AR and VR. Panditharatne tells us that Asteroid has raised more than $2 million in funding, but that they’re not detailing the source of that cash quite yet.

    The company is looking to raise $20,000 from their Indiegogo campaign, but the platform is the clear sell here, exposing people to their human-machine interaction engine. Asteroid is taking sign-ups to join the waiting list for the product on their site.

    Asteroid is building a human-machine interaction engine for AR developers

    https://techcrunch.com/?p=1782214
    http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/techcrunch/startups/~3/vWOseOUSA9I/

    When we interact with computers today we move the mouse, we scroll the trackpad, we tap the screen, but there is so much that the machines don’t pick up on — what about where we’re looking, the subtle gestures we make and what we’re thinking? Asteroid is looking to get developers comfortable with the idea […]

    Wed, 13 Feb 2019 19:48:16 +0000

    It’s well understood that many network breaches begin with phishing emails designed to trick users into giving hackers their credentials. They don’t even have to work to find a vulnerability, they can just waltz in the front door. Elevate Security, a San Francisco startup, wants to change that by helping employees understand phishing attacks better using behavioral techniques. Today, the company announced an $8 million Series A round to build on this idea.

    The investment was led by Defy Partners. Existing investor Costanoa Ventures also participated. Today’s round brings the total raised to $10 million, according to the company.

    What has the company created to warrant this investment? “We have a solution that motivates, measures and rewards employees to change their security habits, while at the same time giving security teams unprecedented visibility into the security habits and actions of their employees,” co-founder Masha Sedova told TechCrunch.

    Specifically, the company has built a Security Behavior platform. “Our platform pulls in data sets that allow employees or security teams to see where the strengths and weaknesses of their organization lie, and then apply a suite of solutions that are rooted in behavioral science that helps them change behavior,” she explained.

    Sedova and co-founder Robert Fly started working on this problem when both were part of the Salesforce security team. They began working with the idea of gamifying security to teach employees and customers how to be more security aware.

    Elevate Security dashboard

    When Fly’s team at Salesforce dug into the root of security problems, it found that it was often simply human error. He said it wasn’t malicious on the employee’s part, but they had jobs to do, and expected the security team to handle these issues. He realized that shifting employees to become more security aware was as much a behavioral psychology problem as a technology one and the roots of Elevate began to take shape.

    The first product they built on top of the platform is called Hacker’s Mind, a tool designed to help employees understand how hackers think and operate.

    The company launched in 2017 and currently has 15 employees, half of which are women. It also boasts an entirely female board of directors, and the startup plans to continue this trend as it staffs up with the new funding. Its headquarters are in San Francisco, but it just opened an engineering office in Montreal. Current customers include AutoDesk, Exxon and Illumio.

    Elevate Security announces $8M Series A to alter employee security behavior

    https://techcrunch.com/?p=1782983
    http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/techcrunch/startups/~3/UXCGYAshBM8/

    It’s well understood that many network breaches begin with phishing emails designed to trick users into giving hackers their credentials. They don’t even have to work to find a vulnerability, they can just waltz in the front door. Elevate Security, a San Francisco startup, wants to change that by helping employees understand phishing attacks better […]

    Wed, 13 Feb 2019 14:00:58 +0000

    Fiverr is acquiring ClearVoice, a company that helps customers like Intuit and Carfax find professionals to write promotional content.

    The two companies seem like a natural fit, as they both operate marketplaces for freelancers. Fiverr covers a much broader swath of freelance work, but CEO Micha Kaufman (pictured above) said the marketplace’s professional writing category grew 220 percent between the fourth quarters of 2017 and 2018, and he predicted that the need for content marketing will only increase.

    “The types of channels that brands and companies need to be involved in and engaging in conversation with their audience are just growing,” Kaufman said. “I think any brand today that wants to be relevant needs to create a lot of engaging, interesting, creative content in their space, and I think that that creates a high demand for good content writers.”

    Kaufman also noted that this is Fiverr’s third acquisition in two years, and he said he’s a “big believer … in the consolidation of vertical businesses into horizontal businesses such as ours — the fact that we cover over 200 categories gives us a tremendous amount of power to serve customers across many different types of needs.”

    So what does the acquisition bring to the table that Fiverr wasn’t offering already? Kaufman said the ClearVoice team has “a lot of know how, both in technology side and the actual content side,” which will allow Fiverr to “cater to customers of all sizes and all needs.”

    ClearVoice editorial calendar

    ClearVoice editorial calendar

    More specifically, he said most of Fiverr’s content marketing customers are small businesses, while ClearVoice is able to work with large enterprises, especially with its collaboration and workflow tools that allow those enterprises to create content at “high velocity.”

    Founded in 2014 by Jay Swansson and Joe Griffin (who still serve as co-CEOs), ClearVoice has raised a total of $3.1 million in funding from investors, including PC Ventures, Desert Angels, Peak Ventures and Service Provider Capital, according to Crunchbase.

    Fiverr is not disclosing the financial terms of the acquisition. The company says ClearVoice will continue to operate as an independent subsidiary.

    “We are thrilled to be joining a company that is changing how people and companies work together in the modern era,” Swansson said in a statement. “This new chapter is a chance for us to use Fiverr’s depth and knowledge to globally scale our business and advance our mission of creating a platform that allows for worldwide creative collaboration.”

    Fiverr acquires And Co, maker of software for freelancers

    Fiverr acquires ClearVoice to double down on content marketing

    https://techcrunch.com/?p=1782250
    http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/techcrunch/startups/~3/1okEy21xTI4/

    Fiverr is acquiring ClearVoice, a company that helps customers like Intuit and Carfax find professionals to write promotional content. The two companies seem like a natural fit, as they both operate marketplaces for freelancers. Fiverr covers a much broader swath of freelance work, but CEO Micha Kaufman (pictured above) said the marketplace’s professional writing category […]

    Wed, 13 Feb 2019 13:00:50 +0000

    Starling Bank, founded by banking veteran Anne Boden, has raised £75 million (~$97 million) in further funding. The new capital breaks down as £60 million in a Series C round led by Merian Global Investors, including Merian Chrysalis, with £15 million in follow-on funding from Starling’s existing backer and major shareholder Harald McPike. It brings total funding to date for the London-based challenger bank to £133 million.

    Starling says the new funding will support increased investment in the bank’s financial products in retail and SME banking as well as banking services. This will include ramping up international expansion, starting with Europe. The bank is thought to be applying for an additional banking license in Ireland to ensure those expansion plans aren’t interrupted post-Brexit.

    Meanwhile, breaking with tradition, Starling is formally disclosing its latest customer numbers, presumably now that it has hit a respectable number: the challenger bank now has 460,000 personal current accounts and 30,000 SME accounts, and says it expects to hit one million customers by the end of 2019.

    To put this into some context, long-term rival Monzo claims around 1.5 million customers and neobank Revolut claims 3.5 million users. Of course, for any current account offering, perhaps a better metric is accounts where a regular salary is paid in. Starling is likely to be punching above its weight here, having launched with a fully fledged current account from the get-go and targeting a slightly broader demographic.

    On the SME banking front, a good point of reference is SME banking app Tide, which has been around for significantly longer than Starling’s much more recently launched business account. Last month Tide, which has had growing pains of its own and recruited a new CEO in August, disclosed that it has 60,000 SME customers.

    However, the less well-told story of Starling is really its “Banking Services” division, which arguably makes it less reliant on core bank accounts. Along with consumer and small business banking, Starling makes its modern banking and payments infrastructure available to third parties. The banking-as-a-service has 20 institutional clients, including the U.K. government, while its payments volume is said to be “doubling month on month.”

    The third aspect of Starling’s business is its marketplace of third-party financial products, which resides inside the Starling banking app and is supported by its open API. It now has 11 partners, with many more in the pipeline. Notably, however, Boden has previously said the Starling Marketplace aimed to establish 25 marketplace partners by the end of 2018, while the bank’s chief platform officer departed for Barclays in December.

    In a statement related to today’s new funding, which TechCrunch reported was in motion last May, Boden talks up Starling Bank’s European expansion: “Building our platform and launching in the U.K. to provide genuine choice to retail, SME and Banking-as-a-Service customers was just the first step. Our ambition is to use our technology to build a next-generation global, digital banking platform, starting with our launch across Europe this year.”

    Adds Nick Williamson, Merian Chrysalis co-portfolio manager: “Financial services is a market undergoing considerable change, driven by technology and users’ desire for better and more convenient offerings. The Starling team has developed a highly impressive and efficient platform, which we believe positions it well to continue to take share in core banking markets, as well as the ability to offer innovative new services in the future.”

    Starling Bank, now with 460K consumer accounts, raises £75M more for European expansion

    https://techcrunch.com/?p=1782379
    http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/techcrunch/startups/~3/aVjys3qZ8ds/

    Starling Bank, founded by banking veteran Anne Boden, has raised £75 million (~$97 million) in further funding. The new capital breaks down as £60 million in a Series C round led by Merian Global Investors, including Merian Chrysalis, with £15 million in follow-on funding from Starling’s existing backer and major shareholder Harald McPike. It brings […]

    Wed, 13 Feb 2019 12:05:31 +0000