posted 4 days ago on techcrunch
Buildings under construction are a maze of half-completed structures, gantries, stacked materials, and busy workers — tracking what’s going on can be a nightmare. Scaled Robotics has designed a robot that can navigate this chaos and produce 3D progress maps in minutes, precise enough to detect that a beam is just a centimeter or two off. Bottlenecks in construction aren’t limited to manpower and materials. Understanding exactly what’s been done and what needs doing is a critical part of completing a project in good time, but it’s the kind of painstaking work that requires special training and equipment. Or, as Scaled Robotics showed today at TC Disrupt Berlin 2019, specially trained equipment. The team has created a robot that trundles autonomously around construction sites, using a 360-degree camera and custom lidar system to systematically document its surroundings. An object recognition system allows it to tell the difference between a constructed wall and a piece of sheet rock leaned against it, between a staircase and temporary stairs for electric work, and so on. By comparing this to a source CAD model of the building, it can paint a very precise picture of the progress being made. They’ve built a special computer vision model that’s suited to the task of sorting obstructions from the constructions and identifying everything in between. All this information goes into a software backend where the supervisors can check things like which pieces are in place on which floor, whether they have been placed within the required tolerances, or if there are safety issues like too much detritus on the ground in work areas. But it’s not all about making the suits happy. “It’s not just about getting management to buy in, you need the guy who’s going to use it every day to buy in. So we’ve made a conscious effort to fit seamlessly into what they do, and they love that aspect of it,” explained co-founder Bharath Sankaran. “You don’t need a computer scientist in the room. Issues get flagged in the morning, and that’s a coffee conversation – here’s the problem, bam, let’s go take a look at it.” The robot can make its rounds faster than a couple humans with measuring tapes and clipboards, certainly, but also someone equipped with a stationary laser ranging device that they carry from room to room. An advantage of simultaneous location and ranging (SLAM) tech is that it measures from multiple points of view over time, building a highly accurate and rich model of the environment. The data is assembled automatically but the robot can be either autonomous or manually controlled — in developing it, they’ve brought the weight down from about 70 kilograms to 20, meaning it can be carried easily from floor to floor if necessary (or take the elevator); and simple joystick controls mean anyone can drive it. A trio of pilot projects concluded this year and have resulted in paid pilots next year, which is of course a promising development. Interestingly, the team found that construction companies were using outdated information and often more or less assumed they had done everything in the meantime correctly. “Right now decisions are being made on data that’s maybe a month old,” said co-founder Stuart Maggs. “We can probably cover 2000 square meters in 40 minutes. One of the first times we took data on a site, they were completely convinced everything they’d done was perfect. We put the data in front of them and they found out there was a structural wall just missing, and it had been missing for 4 weeks.” The company uses a service-based business model, providing the robot and software on a monthly basis, with prices rising with square footage. That saves the construction company the trouble of actually buying, certifying, and maintaining an unfamiliar new robotic system. But the founders emphasized that tracking progress is only the first hint of what can be done with this kind of accurate, timely data. “The big picture version of where this is going is that this is the visual wiki for everything related to your construction site. You just click and you see everything that’s relevant,” said Sankaran. “Then you can provide other ancillary products, like health and safety stuff, where is storage space on site, predicting whether the project is on schedule.” “At the moment, what you’re seeing is about looking at one moment in time and diagnosing it as quickly as possible,” said Maggs. “But it will also be about tracking that over time: We can find patterns within that construction process. That data feeds that back into their processes, so it goes from a reactive workflow to a proactive one.” “As the product evolves you start unwrapping, like an onion, the different layers of functionality,” said Sankaran. The company has come this far on $1 million of seed funding, but is hot on the track of more. Perhaps more importantly, its partnerships with construction giant PERI and Autodesk, which has helped push digital construction tools, may make it a familiar presence at building sites around the world soon.

Read More...
posted 4 days ago on techcrunch
Nathan Damtew, the founder of new Ethiopian education technology and gaming company BeBlocky, has always been interested in games. An avid Call of Duty player, the young entrepreneur, who founded BeBlocky in his senior year of college, was always struck by the disconnection between how adept his generation was at playing games and how little they knew about how those games were built. The problem, Damtew thought, was especially acute across Africa, where most students are introduced to programming in high school — if they’re able to get those classes at all. BeBlocky is his attempt to change that. The company’s initial product is a programming learning platform for kids. It uses animated programming lessons as a traditional app and through augmented reality to teach children the basics of computer programming using a modified curriculum based off of lessons from Code.org. BeBlocky launched a mere five months ago and already has 6,000 users on its app. In Ethiopia, it has grown through its partnership with the local Addis Ababa-based organization Yenetta Code, which teaches Ethiopian students in the nation’s capital coding skills. The company has also scored early partnerships with national celebrities to attract kids to the platform. BeBlocky uses avatars from pop culture icons like Rophnan, a popular Ethiopian musician, and Jember and Hawi, two characters from a popular Ethiopian comic book. It’s an indicator of how BeBlocky expects to make money. Damtew says that sponsorship opportunities will exist for companies that want to advertise in the app. And, there’s an opportunity for in-app purchases, he says. “These characters… kids love them… we want to have the characters as toys that can have a bar code so kids can take a picture and then engage with the game characters in the app,” says Damtew. The merchandising component also informs the company’s move to develop an augmented reality application as well, which the company developed after seeing the success of Pokemon Go.  “We thought it would be a very cool thing to integrate the education system with the Augmented Reality,” says Damtew. Gameplay in the app is designed to encourage users to roam free in the environment once they complete lessons peppered through five different levels of the game, so they can build out their own worlds. Going forward, Damtew envisions a fully realized merchandising and storytelling platform that includes tech-enabled toys and games and user generated content built with BeBlocky’s assets. “One of the things that makes us different is that education and coding in Africa has been overlooked and we’re making characters that are relevant to African people around the world,” says Damtew. To date, the company has raised a small, pre-seed investment from the Baobab Network, after participating in the impact investor’s two-year technology accelerator program and is currently in the process of raising its seed round, with an eye toward expanding the marketing and development of the app across theAfrican continent.

Read More...
posted 4 days ago on techcrunch
From a Southwest England farmer’s son comes a risk-management platform, Stable, a solution as simple as car insurance designed to protect farmers around the world from pricing volatility. Using Stable, food buyers ranging from owners of a small smoothie shop to Coca-Cola employees can insure thousands of agricultural commodities, packaging and energy products. Led by founder and CEO Richard Counsell, London-based Stable has raised a $6 million seed round from Anthemis Group, agricultural company Sygenta and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. “I knew instinctively what a huge problem and how much damage volatile pricing does,” Counsell, who comes from a long line of farmers in Somerset, England, tells TechCrunch. “You could say it was in my blood. It’s not often you get the chance to bring two sides of your world together.” After four years of research and development, Stable is launching on stage today at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin. For the former currency trader and farmer-turned-CEO, building the data-rich risk management platform was no easy task. To adequately protect farmers, Stable’s team of data scientists, analysts and developers collected 3,000 niche and un-traded indexes from 40 countries, allowing customers to match their risk to a local index. “We make it simple and precise for businesses of every size and every sector to protect their business from volatile prices,” Counsell said. “Everything from fish to timber to food and then the packaging as well energy, whether that be fuel or electricity.” Counsell said the business plans to set up shop in Chicago, the global epicenter for commodities risk management, and Sydney, a massive commodity producer, as soon as next year. For the foreseeable future, Stable will focus solely on the agri-food industry, worth more than $4 trillion, according to Stable’s statistics. Eventually, Counsell says Stable will expand to include other sectors like metals or construction. “Almost every business on the planet is exposed to one commodity,” Counsell said, alluding to the company’s grand ambitions.

Read More...
posted 4 days ago on techcrunch
Clideo says it can help marketers reach consumers in a smarter way, by making videos shoppable via an “interactive overlay.” CEO Michele Mazzaro (who previously worked as an executive at Ki Group and in mergers and acquisitions at KPMG Italy) said these videos are meant to address a larger issue: “Businesses are failing in communicating on digital media. I don’t remember the last time I clicked on a banner, pre-roll or mid-roll ad. I hate it as a consumer.” To address this, Mazzaro and his co-founders Nitzan Mayer-Wolf and Andrea Iriondo have created what Mazzaro described as a way to “turn any video into a discovery experience.” They’re presenting the product today at Disrupt Berlin as part of our Startup Battlefield. Although the videos are described as interactive, the Clideo team isn’t trying to power the kind of branching narratives popularized by startups like Eko (not to mention Netflix’s “Black Mirror” special “Bandersnatch”), but rather taking a standard video and adding new capabilities around the products featured — the ability to buy something, save it to a wishlist or share it on social media. Mazzaro argued that these features give marketers crucial data about which audiences are engaging with which products. “Stop throwing your video budgets into the garbage and undersatnad why your consumers are engaging with you,” he said. Clideo videos require their own video player, so they can’t be played directly on YouTube or social media. However, Mazzaro noted that they can be promoted on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere via links. And despite this limitation, Madrid-based Clideo has already been tested by e-commerce websites, including Spain’s Modalia.com, with conversion rates as high as 33%. Interactive and/or shoppable video isn’t a new idea, but Mazzaro said most existing solutions either come from creative agencies working with a limited number of luxury brands, or video marketing platforms that include very limited interactive capabilities. Mazzaro contrasted this with Clideo, which he said is creating “the do-it-yourself solution without compromising creativity.” In fact, he said an interactive video can be created in as little as five minutes. He also argued that Clideo is differentiated by its business model — where, in addition to a monthly subscription, customers pay an additional fee tied directly to Clideo’s results driving viewers to checkout pages. “We’re the only ones to align our goals to our customers,” Mazzaro said. Clideo has been bootstrapped thus far. Mazzaro said that the product is available globally, though early customers are likely to be based in Spain, Italy and Israel.

Read More...
posted 4 days ago on techcrunch
Nodle, which is competing in the TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin Startup Battlefield this week, is based on a simple premise: What if you could crowdsource the connectivity of smart sensors by offloading it to smartphones? For most sensors, built-in cell connectivity is simply not a realistic option, given how much power it would take. A few years of battery life is quite realistic for a sensor that uses Bluetooth Low Energy. Overall, that’s a pretty straightforward idea, but the trick is to convince smartphone users to install Nodle’s app. To solve this, the company, which was co-founded by Micha Benoliel (CEO) and Garrett Kinsman, is looking to cryptocurrency. With Nodle Cash, users automatically earn currency whenever their phones transmit a package to the network. That connection, it’s worth noting, is always encrypted, using Nodle’s Rendevouz protocol. The company has already raised $3.5 million in seed funding, mostly from investors in the blockchain space: Blockchange, Work Play Ventures (Marc Pincus), Blockchain Ventures (Blockchain.com), Olymp Capital, Bootstraplabs and Blockhead. It’s worth noting that this isn’t Benoliel’s first rodeo in this space. He also co-founded the mesh networking startup Open Garden, which used a somewhat similar approach a few years ago to crowdsource connectivity (and which made a bit of a splash with its FireChat offline chat app back in 2014). Open Garden, too, competed in our Startup Battlefield in 2012 and won our award for most innovative startup. Benoliel left his CEO position there in early 2016, but Nodle definitely feels like an iteration on the original idea of Open Garden. “We define the category as crowd connectivity,” Benoliel told me. “We leverage crowdsourced connectivity for connecting things to the internet. We believe there are a lot of benefits to doing that.” He argues that there are a number of innovations converging right now that will allow the company to succeed: Chipsets are getting smaller, and an increasing number of sensors now uses Bluetooth Low Energy, all while batteries are getting smaller and more efficient and blockchain technology is maturing. Given the fact that these sensors depend on somebody with a phone coming by, this is obviously not a solution for companies that need to get real-time data. There’s simply no way for Nodle to guarantee that, after all. But the company argues it is a great solution for smart cities that want to get regular readouts of road usage or companies that want to do asset tracking. “We do not address real-time connectivity, which is what you can do with more traditional solutions,” Benoliel said. “But we believe IoT is so broad and there is so much utility in being able to collect data from time to time, that with out solution, we can connect almost anything to the internet.” While some users may want to simply install the Nodle Cash app to, well, make some Nodle cash, the team is also betting on working with app developers who may want to use the platform to make some extra money from their apps by adding it to the Nodle network. For users, that obviously means they’ll burn some extra data, so developers have to clearly state that they are opting their users into this service. [gallery ids="1922759,1922749,1922756"] The team expects a normal user to see an extra 20 to 30 MB of traffic with Nodle installed, which isn’t really all that much (users of the standalone Nodle app also have the option to cache the data and postpone the transfer when they connect to Wi-Fi). Some app developers may use Nodle as an alternative to in-app payments, the team hopes. The company is also already working with HTC and Cisco Meraki, and has a number of pilot projects in the works. If you want to give it a try, you can install the Nodle Cash app for Android now.

Read More...
posted 4 days ago on techcrunch
Now that Larry Page has stepped down as CEO of Google’s parent company Alphabet, he could be following in Bill Gates’s footsteps and tackling global health challenges. Google CEO Sundar Pichai is taking over as CEO of Alphabet According to charity and business documents obtained by TechCrunch, the billionaire co-founder of Google has been quietly waging a war on the flu. Thousands of children and teachers in San Francisco’s Bay Area will receive free flu shots at their schools this year from Shoo The Flu, which describes itself as a “community-based initiative.” In fact, it is wholly funded by a for-profit company controlled by Page. Another of his companies, Flu Lab, is supporting multi-million dollar efforts to develop a universal flu vaccine. Neither effort makes public Page’s role in them.

Read More...
posted 4 days ago on techcrunch
If you’ve ever traveled to Europe and purchased something, you’re either likely aware that you can get the Value-Added Tax (VAT) reimbursed once you depart since it’s actually only intended for taxpaying residents of the country wherein its charged. Whether or not you actually bother to get your VAT reimbursement might depend on how convenient it is to do so, and generally speaking, the process is paper-based and pretty annoying. Inovat is a startup that aims to simplify and digitize the process so that it’s not such a pain, opening the door for people to get more of the money they’re rightly owed. Inovat accomplishes this with an app, available on mobile or on desktop, which employs optical character recognition (OCR) and machine learning to interpret receipts you upload or photograph, determine how much VAT you should be owed for your purchase, and prepare the requisite forms for submission to a customs officer or via an online customs filing form like those found at some airports. Innovat co-founders Ilya Melkumov and Sonya Baranova came up with the idea because they themselves had encountered the problem of VAT remittance many times, as Russian and Ukranian nationals respectively, traveling within Europe and making purchases on their trips. Melkumov, a former professional e-sports player, met Inovat’s CTO Igor Titov while playing games online, after the two struck up a conversation about getting VAT returns. Melkumov and Baranova both believed the outdated process, which included high fees and often required paper forms or a lot of manual work to track receipts, could benefit from technologies that are helping improve and modernize other areas related to economics, like the finance industry. They mapped out the currently available solutions, figured out what the industry didn’t yet have and where they could offer solutions. They then quickly got to work building the actual product. “In July we got together, and by September we had the first version of the product and we started testing it ourselves,” Melkumov told me in an interview. “From there, we started automating parts of it – we had to solve the scalability, we had to understand how we could scan and extract the information from the recipes in a scalable manner.” That’s where Titov came in, bringing experience from work done for banks and other clients to help make it technically feasible. The resulting app is easy to use, and takes what was a painful and complicated process and makes it as easy as remembering to snap a photo when you make a purchase. They also say they can return up to 50 percent greater refunds to customers versus traditional methods. “You go to a store, you get the receipt, you take a picture of the receipt,” Melkumov explained. “Then we analyze the receipt and create a unique digital form, which has all your receipts compiled in one digital form linked to a QR code and then you scan that with the customs officer (or automated scanning) and get that processed right away.” Inovat is focused entirely on the U.K. right now, and its product is designed specifically for that reimbursement flow. That market alone represents $4.3 billion, Melkumov estimates, so it’s large enough for them to focus on it narrowly for now. But, he adds that they definitely have their eye on potential expansion down the road. “The European market is around $20 billion, and we’ve been contacted by multiple European governments towards creating a more digital tax refund solution,” he said. “Next steps for us is definitely expansion into other European countries.”

Read More...
posted 4 days ago on techcrunch
Audi Business Innovation is testing out a ride sharing service in Southern Germany called BITS that uses both gasoline and electric vehicles in its fleet. To manage the service, Audi has turned to Fleetonomy, a fleet management service that offers white labeled ride hailing app services and fleet management technology. The company develops technology to handle fleet utilization and improve efficiency by bringing visibility to maintenance constraints, real-time demand and supply availability. The service provides long-distance drives across Southern Germany with a mix of electric and internal combustion powered vehicles. “The need for flexible mobility among customers is growing and is set to become an additional focus area for the automotive industry said Nico Gropper, Audi Business Innovation GmbH, in a statement. “We always aspire to be at the forefront of these developments. Services that include both electric and ICE vehicles have to deal with additional levels of complexity in order to run smoothly and solving these complexities with the right technology partner is crucial to the operational and financial success of the entire service.” After a successful initial test in October, the company is planning on doing more with the service. The new partnership with Fleetonomy gives Audi both an app-based bespoke ride hailing service and a way to manage a fleet of both electric and combustion vehicles. The tech can be used to address range anxiety issues by supplying specific vehicles for trips that are scheduled for certain distances so that battery capacity isn’t as much of an issue and so that routes can be managed by optimizing for charging time and locations. Using Fleetonomy, Audi has dispatch and scheduling management dashboards, and presents a mobile  app for both passengers and drivers (it’s an Uber-like experience that automakers can control themselves). “Automotive manufacturers worldwide are expanding their role as service providers of on-demand mobility services and are looking for efficient ways to manage their fleets in order to create services that are both profitable as well as provide a great traveling experience,” said Fleetnomy Co-Founder & CEO Israel Duanis, in a statement. “Fleetonomy’s advanced mobility platforms are up for the task in Audi Business Innovation’s new mobility project, BITS, and we are immensely honored to be the technology partner chosen to power this first-of-its-kind service. We are looking forward to continuing to support Audi Business Innovation in their New Mobility journey.”

Read More...
posted 4 days ago on techcrunch
The success stories of failed gaming startups that went onto strip elements of their infrastructure and pivot into wider markets like Slack has led plenty of game developers to “platformize” their tech to varying degrees of success. Teeoh is looking to create an avatar-based events platform centered around startup culture. The startup is launching its product into private beta today at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin’s Startup Battlefield. Co-founders Don Stein and Jon Hibbins leverage connections with startup ecosystems to create a platform structured around entrepreneurial content. They’ve tested meetups with organizations like Startup Grind alongside events like AMAs with venture capitalists like Tim Draper. Hibbins previously founded Psytec, a game development studio that built VR titles like the Windlands series. Stein spent the past several years in Silicon Valley investing in AR/VR companies and sourcing deals for larger venture firms.   Teeoh won’t be available in VR, instead focusing on mobile and desktop platforms, hoping to pitch an alternative to teleconferencing software like Zoom that is more bespoke for meetups where participants can single out and chat with individual users in a virtual environment. The U.K. team is admittedly entering a difficult space. Few areas have seemed to earn more entrepreneurial attention and less traction to date than avatar startups. Most of these startups have been VR-based which hasn’t exactly widened their addressable user base, but Teeoh is hoping that its focus on more accessible platforms can minimize the friction of users adopting a more cartoonish approach to interacting online.

Read More...
posted 4 days ago on techcrunch
Few areas of health tech appear as untapped as the technology around how we sleep. Far too many people spend much of their waking hours obsessed with how to maximize their hours in bed. Nyxo is building an app-based sleep-coaching program to help users track and improve their quality of sleep in a four-week program. Consumer health tech apps have always had a bit of an uphill battle when it comes to bringing complete experiences to customers. Data collection is a pain and you’re left building products for the lowest common denominator. Nyxo is trying to make it easier on themselves by taking input from most sleep trackers out there, or you can simply use the startup’s app to gather information about your sleep quality.   Most sleep-tracking apps out there will give you some tips about when to stop drinking coffee, but the quality of sleep coaching generally ends there. Nyxo’s founding team is looking to leverage university research from the University of Helsinki to deliver more specific insights about their sleep rhythm and why their sleep is suffering. The lesson plan focuses on topics like strategies for developing sleep routines, the relationship between sleep and exercise, how sleep can affect your weight and plenty of other quick reads that can help you be more mindful and develop better habits. You’ll also have quick access to statistics on the available sleep data that you’re feeding the app. The startup is heavily banking on the interest of companies to have well-rested employees, partnering with them to provide their services to employees. Nyxo is also pitching the service directly to consumers with a dedicated app and a $7.99 per month cost.

Read More...
posted 4 days ago on techcrunch
  If city governments had a block-by-block understanding of their city’s own ever changing air quality, how might it impact the decisions they make? Thats the concept behind Hawa Dawa, the first company pitching today in the TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin Startup Battlefield. Hawa Dawa combines data sources like satellites and dedicated air monitoring stations to build a granular heat map of air pollutants, selling this map to cities and companies as a subscription API. While the company notes it’s hardware agnostic, it does build its own IoT sensors for companies and cities that might not have existing air quality sensors in place. (Curious about the name? Co-founder Karim Tarraf tells me it’s roughly based on the words for “air purity” or “air medicine” in a number of languages, including Swahili, Turkish, and Persian.) With this data, a city could, for example, opt to change how it routes traffic to minimize vehicle exhausts in particularly polluted streets and monitor how changes are actually impacting the air. A real estate company might help customers with pulmonary issues like asthma find potential homes in neighborhoods that tend to have the cleanest air. Shipping companies could potentially use the data to better plan their sea routes to minimize the impact of emissions. Hawa Dawa’s data currently covers over 20 cities across Germany, Switzerland, and the UK. They’ve raised over €1.2m to date, with plans to close another “pre-series A” round shortly.

Read More...
posted 4 days ago on techcrunch
A fleet of Mercedes-Benz S Class vehicles are now plying the roads of San Jose, California as part of a robotaxi pilot project that Daimler and Bosch have been developing for two and a half years, but the launch itself could be chalked up as a mere blip on the autonomous vehicle scene. At last count, 65 companies have permits to test autonomous vehicles in California. And a handful of companies, including Waymo and Zoox, have the additional permit from the California Public Utilities Commission to transport passengers in their robotaxis through the state’s Autonomous Vehicle Passenger Service pilot. It’s a milestone for German automaker Daimler and Bosch, one of the world’s largest automotive tech and hardware suppliers, but the most noteworthy aspect is how the pilot has been structured. The companies’ approach provides a marker of sorts for exactly where the “race” to develop and deploy commercial autonomous vehicle stands. In short: this is no sprint. Adventure or expedition racing — a contest that requires strategy, partnerships, expertise in multiple areas, endurance and a head for navigating risk— might be a more apt analogy. Much of the media coverage has focused on the launch of the pilot or that it will use self-driving Mercedes-Benz S-Class vehicles, the Sonderklasse (special class) of the automaker’s portfolio. What might have been missed is that this is really two projects in one.

Read More...
posted 5 days ago on techcrunch
Good morning, and welcome to another Disrupt! Today, we come to you from beautiful (and cold) Berlin, Germany, for Day 1 of Disrupt Berlin. On the Main Stage, we’ll hear from European tech leaders like Hiroki Takeuchi (GoCardless), Sebastian Siemiatkowski (Klarna) and the senior partners at Atomico, including Sophia Bendz, Siraj Khaliq, Hiro Tamura and Niall Wass. Bob van Djik, CEO of Naspers and Disrupt SF speaker, returns to the stage today alongside Brainly CEO Michal Borkowski. On the Extra Crunch stage, thought leaders across the industry will provide insights on how to better build a startup. For instance, we’ll have a panel on How To Raise Your Series A, with Jessica Holzbach (Penta), Louise Dahlborn Samet (Blossom Capital) and Hannah Seal (Index Ventures). We’ll also hear from Sophie Alcorn (Alcorn Immigration Law), Karoli Hindriks (Jobbatical), Holger Seim (Blinkist) on How to Scale Your Startup Globally. And, of course, throughout the day, we’ll collectively enjoy pitches from the Startup Battlefield. Fourteen startups will launch their products live on stage in front of a panel of expert VC judges. The winner will take home the Disrupt Cup, $50,000, and eternal glory. It’s going to be an amazing day. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the show!

Read More...
posted 5 days ago on techcrunch
It was just a couple of months ago that Tines, the cybersecurity automation startup, raised $4.1 million in Series A funding led by Blossom Capital, and now the Dublin-based company is disclosing an $11 million extension to the round. This additional Series A funding is led by venture capital firm Accel, with participation from Index Ventures and previous backer Blossom Capital. The extra cash will be used to continue developing its cybersecurity automation platform and for further expansion into the U.S. and Europe. Founded in February 2018 by ex-eBay, PayPal and DocuSign security engineer Eoin Hinchy, and subsequently joined by former eBay and DocuSign colleague Thomas Kinsella, Tines automates many of the repetitive manual tasks faced by security analysts so they can focus on other high-priority work. The pair had bootstrapped the company as recently as October. “It was while I was at DocuSign that I felt there was a need for a platform like Tines,” explained Hinchy at the time of the initial Series A. “We had a team of really talented engineers in charge of incident response and forensics but they weren’t developers. I found they were doing the same tasks over and over again so I began looking for a platform to automate these repetitive tasks and didn’t find anything. Certainly nothing that did what we needed it to, so I came up with the idea to plug this gap in the market.” To remedy this, Tines lets companies automate parts of their manual security processes with the help of six software “agents,” with each acting as a multipurpose building block. The idea is that, regardless of the process being automated, it only requires combinations of these six agent types configured in different ways to replicate a particular workflow. In addition, the platform doesn’t rely on pre-built integrations to interact with external systems. Instead, Tines is able to plug in to any system that has an API. “This means integration with commercial, off-the-shelf products, or existing in-house tools is quick and simple, with most security teams automating stories (workflows) within the first 24 hours,” says the startup. Its software is also starting to find utility beyond cybersecurity processes, with several Tines customers using it in IT, DevOps, and HR. “We heard that Eoin, a senior member of the security team at DocuSign (another Accel portfolio company), had recently left to start Tines, so we got in touch,” Accel’s Seth Pierrepont tells TechCrunch. “They were in the final stages of closing their Series A. However, we were so convinced by the founders, their product approach, and the market timing, that we asked them to extend the round”. Pierrepont also points out that a unique aspect of the Dublin ecosystem is that many of the world’s largest tech companies have their European headquarters in the country (often attracted by relatively low corporation tax), “so it’s an incredibly rich talent pool despite being a relatively small city”. Asked whether Accel views Tines as a cybersecurity automation company or a more general automation play that puts automation in the hands of non-technical employees for a multitude of possible use cases, Pierrepont says, given Hinchy and Kinsella’s backgrounds, the cybersecurity automation sector should be the primary focus for the company in the short term. However, longer term it is likely that Tines will be adopted across other functions as well. “From our investment in Demisto (which was acquired by Palo Alto Networks earlier this year), we know the security automation or SOAR category (as Gartner defines it) very well,” he says. “Demisto pioneered the category and was definitively the market leader when it was acquired. However, we think the category is just getting started and that there is still a ton of whitespace for Tines to go after”. Meanwhile, in less than a year, Tines says it has on-boarded 10 enterprise customers across a variety of industries, including Box, Auth0 and McKesson, with companies automating on average 100 thousand actions per day.

Read More...
posted 5 days ago on techcrunch
Twitter is changing the way it processes uploaded images, and the new way of doing things will be much-appreciated by any photographers sharing their work on the platform. Twitter engineer Nolan O’Brien shared that the platform will now preserve JPEG encoding when they’re uploaded via Twitter on the web, instead of transcoding them, which results in a degradation in quality that can be frustrating for photo pros and enthusiasts. There are some limitations to keep in mind – Twitter will still be transcoding and compressing the thumbnails for the images, which is what you see in your Twitter feed. But once users click through, they will get the full, uncompressed (at least, not additionally compressed) image you originally uploaded, provided it’s a JPEG. Starting today, Twitter will preserve JPEGs as they are encoded for upload on Twitter for Web. (Caveat, cannot have EXIF orientation) For example: the attached photo is actually a guetzli encoded JPEG at 97% quality with no chroma subsampling.https://t.co/1u37vTopkY pic.twitter.com/Eyq67nfM0E — Nolan O'Brien (@NolanOBrien) December 11, 2019 Twitter will also still be stripping EXIF data (data that provides more information about the picture, including when, how, and potentially where it was taken or edited) which is readable by some applications. The platform has previously done this, and it’s good that it does, because while sometime photographers like to peek at this info to check things like aperture or ISO setting on a photo they admire, or to transmit copyright info, it can also potentially be used by people with bad intentions to spy on things like location. The example above posted by O’Brien is actually a really illustrative one when it comes to showing what kind of detail and quality can be preserved when Twitter doesn’t further compress or transcode your JPEG photos. This is a small, but great feature tweak for the platform, and hopefully it continues to make Twitter more photo-friendly in future.

Read More...
posted 5 days ago on techcrunch
Every year, TechCrunch dives deep into the international startup scene to find innovative startups to compete in Startup Battlefield – TechCrunch’s famous global startup competition. Today, at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin 2019, 14 companies will face off for the infamous Disrupt Cup, $50,000 USD equity free prize money and the attention of investors and press from around the globe. How does it work? Founders apply for the program through an extensive application process. The TechCrunch editorial team combs through hundreds of applications to select the top teams. Selected companies go through training to perfect their stage pitch, refine their demos and sharpen their business models. On day one of the event, founders will pitch for 6 minutes, including a live demo on the Main Stage at TC Disrupt Berlin, in front of a live audience and live streamed to the world. After the pitch, teams will face an intense Q&A with our panel of expert judges from industry and VC. The top companies you see pitch today will go on to pitch again in the final round of Startup Battlefield tomorrow – same pitch, but a new panel of expert judges. This year’s Finals judges include Matthew Panzarino (TechCrunch), Andrew Reed (Sequoia), Andrei Brasoveanu (Accel), Lila Preston (Generation Investment) and Carolina Brochado (Softbank Vision Fund). This year’s Startup Battlefield batch is particularly diverse hailing from Ethiopia to Finland, United States, to right here in Berlin, companies represent all corners of the globe. Founders are breaking the mold in music AI, drug development, online-offline gamified learning, and citizen networks. You’ll hear from commodities insurance innovators to customized sleep coaching, and more companies changing the face of tech in their industries. Startup Battlefield begins at 11:15am with Startup Battlefield moderator and Senior Writer Anthony Ha.To learn more about Startup Battlefield, click here. You can watch the TechCrunch Disrupt live stream here. 11:15am-12:15pm – Startup Battlefield Session 1 Teams Presenting: Hawa Dawa, Nyxo, Teooh, Gmelius, Inovat  1:15pm-2:15pm – Startup Battlefield Session 2 Teams Presenting: Nodle, Clideo, Stable, BeBlocky, Scaled Robotics  4:25pm-5:25pm – Startup Battlefield Session 3 Teams Presenting: Wotch, Genesis Therapeutics, Arcona AI, WildCard

Read More...
posted 5 days ago on techcrunch
Wayv is taking a big step towards mainstreaming the cannabis industry. Wayv Payments, launching today, is said to be the first digital, compliant payment solution for the cannabis supply chain. From growers to distributors to consumers, this solution should reduce the entire industry’s reliance on stacks of cash by providing a credit-card like transaction to all. More so, Wayv Payments is compliant with California’s stringent laws, allowing companies to redirect capital from compliance management. This is the latest project from Wayv, which launched its distribution product a few months back. With both systems in place, Wayv is set to be a major force in the cannabis market — a familiar position with founder Keith McCarty who also founded Eaze. Wayv is working with Hypur on this project. Wayv Payments gives cannabis companies a line of credit that will allow the businesses to have predictability around payments without paying any payment fees. The solution provides customers with complete transparency around payments. The dashboard enables customers to see incoming and outgoing payments as well as computing taxes and fees. “Businesses will no longer be beholden to inefficient and unpredictable payments with WAYV as the industry’s facilitator and partner,” said WAYV CEO and Founder Keith McCarty said in a released statement. “We provide a turnkey solution that is the most efficient, least costly way to exchange capital and products throughout California.” McCarty says this solution is compliant with all the regulations in the cannabis industry, including generating manifests for transportation. “It’s required by state law that manifests are generated and submitted to the state,” McCarty said to TechCrunch. “At any given time, you can be pulled over, and there can be an audit on it. And if those things are not being done you’re in jeopardy to lose your license that can cost millions of dollars.” The system’s API is designed to track a product from feed to sell — meaning, from the moment it’s planted to hitting a retailer’s shelf. McCarty says this process is often currently done by teams of people and can now be done automatically while eliminating mistakes. This solution is needed to help ease the burden on legal cannabis operators. Without something like this, he says, illegal operators will continue to thrive in the heavily regulated industry. With Wayv, it helps reduce lost payments and products while abiding by the changing regulations. Right now, this product is only available in California, though the company built it in a way to easily scale it to other markets. I spoke to McCarty in length about funding a cannabis company and he feels the company needs to dominate a particular market before expanding, and that seems to be his strategy here as well.

Read More...
posted 5 days ago on techcrunch
Wefox Group, the Berlin-based insurtech startup behind the consumer-facing insurance app and carrier One and the insurance platform Wefox, is disclosing $110 million in a second tranche of Series B funding. Sources tell TechCrunch that this gives the company a pre-money valuation of $1.65 billion. WeFox Group declined to comment on the financials. The Series B extension is led by Omers Ventures, the venture capital arm of Canadian pension fund Omers. Merian Chrysalis and Samsung Catalyst Fund, also participated, along with existing investors. It follows an earlier Series B of $125 million in March, led by Abu Dhabi government-owned Mubadala Ventures, with participation from Chinese investor Creditease. Wefox’s other existing investors include Target Global, Salesforce Ventures, Seedcamp, Idinvest and Hollywood actor Ashton Kutcher’s investment vehicle Sound Ventures. In a call, Wefox co-founder and CEO Julian Teicke told me the Wefox Group has grown revenues to over $100 million, and now services more than 500,000 customers, claiming that this makes it Europe’s “leading insurtech”. He also revealed that the company has grown to 400 employees, which, he says means he can no longer remember every employee’s name. “That sucks,” he tells me, revealing that it was only this summer when the company was smaller that he won a company-wide bet for being able to do just that. Breaking WeFox Group’s revenue down further, the company’s direct to consumer insurance brand, One Insurance, has increased annual revenues by nearly tenfold this year to $30 million. It also claims to be Germany’s fastest growing provider for household and private liability insurance. Perhaps more significantly, Teicke says One’s loss ratio (what percentage of premiums earned is subsequently paid out in claims) is below 40%, which is much better than the industry as a whole. He pinned that on WeFox’s use of data, which, he says, enables One to understand risk in a much more technology-driven and granular way. Meanwhile, Teicke says the new funding will be used to continue ramping up international expansion in 2020. Wefox is active in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Spain, and I understand has quietly launched in Italy. Adds Henry Gladwyn, principal at OMERS Ventures, in a statement: “We are thrilled to continue our support of Julian and the incredibly ambitious Wefox Group team as they continue to disrupt and re-invent the insurance industry. We believe wefox Group’s approach to revolutionizing insurance – empowering the consumer and prioritizing solutions for secured data-driven experiences – will deliver significant value for the entire trade”.

Read More...
posted 5 days ago on techcrunch
Sophie Alcorn Contributor Share on Twitter Sophie Alcorn is the founder of Alcorn Immigration Law in Silicon Valley and 2019 Global Law Experts Awards’ “Law Firm of the Year in California for Entrepreneur Immigration Services.” She connects people with the businesses and opportunities that expand their lives. More posts by this contributor Immigrants from China and India can accelerate the green card process Minimum investment for EB-5 investor green card expected to more than double Extra Crunch is excited to announce the launch of “Dear Sophie,” an advice column with answers for all your questions on attracting, hiring and retaining immigrant employees — and more. Dear Sophie is a collaborative forum hosted by ExtraCrunch and curated by Sophie Alcorn, certified as a Specialist Attorney in Immigration and Nationality Law by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization. Sophie is the founder of Alcorn Immigration Law, the fastest-growing immigration law firm in Silicon Valley and 2019 Global Law Experts Awards’ “Law Firm of the Year in California for Entrepreneur Immigration Services.” Dear Reader, As I pack my bags to speak at TechCrunch Disrupt in Berlin this week, I’m happy to announce the first edition of my new column, Dear Sophie. I’m excited to answer your questions about U.S. immigration! And, If you’re in the area, I invite you to join me at Disrupt Berlin 2019. You can use promo code ALCORN for discounted admission and meet me in person for a free consultation with CrunchMatch, or attend one of my two sessions:  The Top 3 Immigration Mistakes Startups Make Wednesday, Dec. 11 – 11:25 – 11:35  How to Scale Your Startup Globally Wednesday, Dec. 11 — 2:25 – 3:05 Hope to see you there, Sophie Dear Sophie: I’m scared: I feel like I should really be in Silicon Valley to grow my company, but everything I read about immigration makes it sound so hard. Is my dream possible? — Dreaming in Dresden Dear Dreaming: Yes, coming to the U.S. to build a startup is absolutely possible. In fact, I see founders like you do it all the time. Your dream is valid and definitely worth pursuing. The first piece of advice I’d give you is to be careful about which news sources you trust! You might not be getting the whole story. While dramatic changes are taking place in the United States, we still have a functioning immigration system that allows people to come live and work here — people just like you.  The second piece of advice I have is to research the many visa and green card options that can allow you to come to the United States and grow your company (you can read about them on my blog). You’ll find that some visas grant you the ability to work for the short-term or the long-term (potentially), and some allow you to visit and see what things are like here.  With these visas, you can find a co-founder and build the early stage of your company, establish a U.S. branch of your existing business, seek venture capital and so much more.  The third piece of advice I have is to really clarify why you want to come to America — that way, you can be strategic about achieving your goals. You might require a little guidance here, which is one example of where immigration lawyers like myself can be helpful.  When I meet people in your situation, I reassure them that, not only are they safe to dream with me, but I’ve also helped hundreds of people just like them realize their dreams, even when they didn’t believe it was possible. Almost everybody who comes here once asked the same questions you’re asking. My last piece of advice is simply to follow your heart. The world needs your ideas and contributions. There are lots of resources and ways to get informed and educated, which is the first step on this journey. Once you have a clear vision, you can work to make your dream a reality — It’s not always easy, but where there’s a will, there’s a way. You’ve already asked for help, which is a great way to get started. I wish you the best! Dear Sophie: I have a startup that has been quite successful in Germany. What’s the best way for me to spend some time in the United States exploring product-market fit, gauging business development, and talking to venture capitalists? — Founder in Frankfurt Dear Founder: Congratulations on your startup! And bravo for considering taking steps toward strengthening the U.S. marketplace.  The first thing I suggest you decide is how long it will likely take for you to accomplish your goals.  If you think you can get the answers you need in less than 90 days, the answer is pretty simple: apply for ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization), which is available to citizens of about 40 countries (including Germany). You’re allowed to visit for business or pleasure with ESTA, but you’re not allowed to work — and you must definitely depart the United States before the end of the authorized period.  ESTA could be great for a short business trip or a brief accelerator program in Silicon Valley. Be careful with programs that run longer than 90 days. I’ve seen founders in these longer programs leave on day 88 to go back home for a week and then return to the U.S. to complete the program, hoping that this is a safe workaround of the time limit. Remember that ESTA is a non-immigrant status, and if Customs and Border Protection suspects that you are trying to live here or work here, they have the authority to deny your entry to the United States.  On the other hand, if you know you’ll need to spend 4-6 months in the U.S. without interruption, I suggest you talk to an attorney about the possibility of applying for a B-1/B-2 visitor visa (even if you have ESTA). A visitor visa allows you to stay in the U.S. for up to six months on a single visit.  People often ask me how long they can stay in the U.S. during a calendar year or how long they need to be outside of the United States after a six-month visit. While there is no fixed answer to these questions, I remind them that ESTA, B-1, and B-2 are non-immigrant statuses, Customs and Border Protection has the authority to deny you entry if you appear to be living or working in the U.S. In my experience, reentry seems OK when people are spending less than 50% of the time in the country as visitors. Still, it’s always best to talk with an attorney about your particular situation. For example, sometimes our clients request that we provide them with letters of support explaining why their trip is temporary, which they can show to the officers at the airport if they get questioned. I encourage people in your situation to at least come for 90 days. It’s a great opportunity to network, have some great conversations, and clarify your long-term goals in the U.S. Take some time to think about it, reach out online, so you have things set up before you arrive, and plan out your finances so you can make the most of your trip. I’m wishing you every success! Dear Sophie: I am a venture capitalist, and my fund recently had great success. We’re now raising a second round and building out the infrastructure of our organization. I have a brilliant contractor working for me who scouts new startups. She was born in India, just got her Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from an Ivy League university, and was also recently accepted back into a Master’s program there. I want to help her plan for her future. Can she keep working for me after OPT, or should she go back to school? How do these choices affect her prospects for short-term and long-term chances for immigration? — Venture in Venice Beach

Read More...
posted 5 days ago on techcrunch
Electric vehicle startup Nio is laying off 141 people at its North American headquarters. According to a filing from Employment Development Department of California, the employees at its San Jose office received notice on December 6. Nio, whose global headquarters are in Shanghai, announced last month that it is partnering with Intel’s Mobileye to develop autonomous vehicles for consumers. Under the agreement, Nio will engineer and produce a self-driving system designed by Mobileye. The Intel partnership was a spot of bright news after a difficult year for Nio. Nio’s third quarter saw an uptick in sales, thanks in part to competitive pricing, but its share prices have fallen about 78% since the end of February. The company reported losses in the first and second quarters of the year and in June, voluntarily recalled 5,000 of its ES8 electric SUVs after battery fires in China, impacting its production and delivery. CEO William Li said during the company’s earnings report in September that it would implement cost-cutting measures, including reducing its workforce from 9,900 people down to 7,800 by the end of the third quarter. Nio has offices in 11 cities, including Beijing, London and Munich.

Read More...
posted 5 days ago on techcrunch
Carsome, a Malaysia-based marketplace for trading users cars, has closed a new $50 million financing round to fend off its rivals and grow its business in Southeast Asian markets. The new financing round, dubbed Series C, was funded by MUFG Innovation Partners (MUIP), the corporate venture capital arm and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG), Daiwa PI Partners, the private equity arm of Japan’s securities group Daiwa Securities, Endeavor Catalyst, and Ondine Capital. Existing investors including Gobi Partners and Convergence Ventures also participated in the round, which pushes four-year-old startups’s total raise to date to $85 million. Carsome operates one of the largest car trading platforms in Southeast Asia, connecting individuals who wish to sell cars with dealers. The startup is today operational in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand and claims its platform sees more than 40,000 cars worth more than $300 million trade on the platform. The startup, which employs about 700 people and has been used by more than 6,000 dealers, also offers dealers and sellers with financing options. Carsome uses an online auction model to conduct sales, with prospective cars typically listed the day after they are submitted by consumers following a check-up conducted by the startup’s staff. That approach allows dealers to check in at a set time each day to look over the cars on offer, while the focus on vetting autos quickly — Carsome can dispatch vehicle checkers directly to a prospective seller’s home — means that consumers can quickly get a sale. The auction model adds competition and the potential for a seller to make more money than they originally anticipated. That’s a dynamic, as my former colleague explained, that is tricky to replicate in other static sale models. Eric Cheng, co-founder and chief executive of Carsome, told TechCrunch that the startup is attempting to challenge “opaque and inefficient” middle parties that “exploit the misinformation in the market.” He added, “we want to establish a brand and a standard that advocates trust, transparency, consistency of service and quality assurance across the region that people and businesses can rely on to make their purchasing decisions.” The startup, which competes with a number of players including Carro in Singapore, BeliMobilGue in Indonesia, and Carmudi, plans to use the fresh capital to expand to more markets in Southeast Asia such as the Philippines. Cheng said Carsome aspires to become “the Visa/Master network of auto transactions, and build a collaborative ecosystem of partners to provide the best experience to consumers in Southeast Asia.”

Read More...
posted 5 days ago on techcrunch
According to Atomico’s recent “State of European Tech, 2019” – widely considered by the European tech industry to be a reliable annual study – at present, 92 in every 100 dollars invested in Europe goes to all-male teams, 83% founders are white, 82% are university educated, in the UK, a quarter of investment committees saw no female founders in 2017 (British Business Bank) and 72% of VC funding is invested in London alone (London & Partners and Pitchbook, 2018). As you can see, that is a massive problem for the future of diversity in the European tech industry. At the same time, there are now multiple studies showing that not only is diversity a key component of success for any start-up, but that diverse founders are underrepresented, and yet afford a huge investment opportunity. If confirmation bias among people who all went to the same school and have the same background slowly kills new takes on innovation, where then will the new solutions to the world’s problems come from? London-based Ada Ventures (named after Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer) which launched quietly earlier this year, has now announced that it aims to address this problem with a new $34m (£27m) fund, designed as a “first-cheque” seed fund. The firm says it’s “on a mission to make venture capital truly accessible to the best talent in the UK & Europe, regardless of race, gender or background.” At TechCrunch Disrupt in Berlin today, founding partners Francesca Warner and Matt Penneycard will be discussing with me live on stage how they raised the fund and how they will put this into practice. The background to the fund is interesting both in its aims and in the context of Brexit. Many VC firms in the UK have been previously part-funded by the European Investment Fund. Effectively, in this context, the UK’s ‘sovereign fund’ – the British Business Bank – will cornerstone the fund through its Enterprise Capital Funds (ECF) program, which supports new and emerging VC fund managers who target the early stage equity gap. Other investors include global funds such as US-based Blue Sky Capital and Dubai-based Rasmala alongside individuals from across the global tech ecosystem, plus a roster of star-power in terms of European players. It includes TransferWise co-founder Taavet Henrikus, Supercell’s co-founders, Backstage Capital’s Arlan Hamilton. The fund is also backed by leading figures from industry such as Dame Cilla Snowball,  Silicon Valley law firm Wilson Sonsini and later stage funds Atomico and Inovia Capital.   So what’s the deal? Well, as they put it, it’s the fund’s aim to have the most diverse pipeline, and portfolio, of any fund in Europe. Ada says that they will look to invest a £500,000 first cheque – which comes post-initial product but pre-larger seed round – and reserve roughly half the fund for follow-on investments.   The aim is to make around 30 investments in companies targeting what they call “globally significant problems”, but here’s the rub: particularly for groups that are normally overlooked by VC. That includes ageing populations, women, and young people under 20. Key sectors they are after include healthcare, consumer and the future of work.   Another aspect of this launch is that the founding partners, Francesca Warner and Matt Penneycard have in fact worked around each other together for four years, at various places, including Downing Ventures, Seraphim Capital and Techstars. And there’s a deep hinterland in this subject. Warner is the co-founder of non-profit Diversity VC, which was among one of the first initiatives in Europe to directly address the diversity gap between VC and normally overlooked founding teams. Commenting on the launch, Warner said: “Having worked in Venture for the last four years, and through co-founding Diversity VC, I’ve seen how structurally narrowly-focused the industry is, investing in the same founders building products and services for the same customers. This is a huge missed opportunity. Ada Ventures is here to change that. We’ve redesigned our funnel of opportunities… Fundamentally, Ada Ventures is about true inclusion, and we will invest in anyone, no matter what they look like and where they come from.”  The investment strategy is reflected in the fact that Ada has invested in what it claims is the world’s first flushable sanitary pads. Polipop co-founder and CEO Olivia Ahn said: “We approached many investors to support Polipop. As a FemTech company with a strong sustainability mission, we found investors were hesitant in an unfamiliar market. From the first meeting with Ada, it was clear that Check and Matt were different. They were not only fantastic advocates for the FemTech space but also for female and minority founders.” The British Business Bank’s research into VC and Female Founders found that for every £1 of VC investment in the UK, all-female founder teams get less than 1p, all-male founder teams get 89p, and mixed-gender teams 10p. Ken Cooper, managing director of Venture Solutions at the BBB said: “Ada Ventures is an important step in the right direction for the UK Venture Capital ecosystem, with a fund focused on democratizing VC investment regardless of gender, race, background, or location.”   Commenting on the launch of Ada’s first fund, Niklas Zennström, founder of Atomico, said: “Entrepreneurs are like athletes and artists; they are randomly distributed all over the world. Ada Ventures has an opportunity to be the fund in Europe for outlier talent, and we are delighted to support them.” The execution of Ada will also call on a widely distributed network of people feeding the fund’s pipeline. “Ada Scouts” will be a network of ‘scouts’ which has largely already been built, who will be bringing in opportunities in line with the firm’s investment strategy. They will, says Ada, be incentivized by a finder’s fee and, longer-term, aligned incentive to become investors themselves. Ada says it has in fact already agreed terms on two investments through this network. Ada’s Scout network will not only reward scouts for surfacing deals, with both an immediate and longer-term incentive but will attempt to make its investments into investors, equipping them with capital, support and resources.   Ada launches with 45 scouts already in place, which includes the leaders of Hustle Crew, a for-profit working to make the tech industry more inclusive, Muslamic Makers, a community of Muslims in tech, Yena, the Young Entrepreneurs Networking Association, and YSYS a thriving community of entrepreneurs from a diverse range of backgrounds.   It’s a bold vision, but if Ada pulls it off, then it could be a game-changer in the European tech scene.

Read More...
posted 5 days ago on techcrunch
D-Wave Systems announced a partnership with Japanese industrial giant NEC today to build what they call “hybrid apps and services” that work on a combination of NEC high-performance computers and D-Wave’s quantum systems. The two companies also announced that NEC will be investing $10 million in D-Wave, which has raised $204 million prior to this, according to Crunchbase data. D-Wave’s chief product officer and EVP of R&D, Alan Baratz, whom the company announced this week will be taking over as CEO effective January 1st, says the company has been able to do a lot of business in Japan, and the size of this deal could help push the technology further. “Our collaboration with global pioneer NEC is a major milestone in the pursuit of fully commercial quantum applications,” he said in a statement. The company says it is one of the earliest deals between a quantum vendor and a multinational IT company with the size and scale of NEC. The deal involves three key elements. First of all, NEC and D-Wave will come together to develop hybrid services that combine NEC’s supercomputers and other classical systems with D-Wave’s quantum technology. The hope is that by combining the classical and quantum systems, they can create better performance for lower cost than you could get if you tried to do similar computing on a strictly classical system. The two companies will also work together with NEC customers to build applications that will take advantage of this hybrid approach. Also, NEC will be an authorized reseller of D-Wave cloud services. For NEC, which claims to have demonstrated the world’s first quantum bit device way back in 1999, it is about finding ways to keep advancing commercial quantum computing. “Quantum computing development is critical for the future of every industry tasked with solving today’s most complex problems. Hybrid applications and greater access to quantum systems is what will allow us to achieve truly commercial-grade quantum solutions,” Motoo Nishihara, executive vice president and CTO at NEC Corporation, said in a statement. This deal should help move the companies toward that goal. D-Wave sticks with its approach to quantum computing

Read More...
posted 5 days ago on techcrunch
Hello and welcome to a lightweight series I’m writing while I recapture my footing at TechCrunch. It’s lovely to be back, and I’m excited to chat about what’s going on with private companies, public markets and the space between the two. I wonder what the average revenue (trailing, say) of a unicorn is today, and if that figure is higher or lower than it was a year ago, or three years ago. There’s a lot of wiggle room in the question; on one hand, the average age of a unicorn has likely gone up as there are far more born over time than exist in the cohort. At the same time, I’d guess that as unicorn creation accelerates, it leads to companies with less revenue than before making the cut. How does it shake out? I have an email address now ([email protected]), so let me know what you think. Best answer gets a free Diet Coke. Now, to work. Today we’re chatting about a revenue threshold that’s a pretty good demarcator for what a unicorn should be; rare, valuable, and fundamentally desirable. $100 Million Back when the unicorn phrase was coined (here at TechCruch.com, recall) six years ago, it excluded a collection of startups that were special in their own right. Private companies worth $1 billion were rare enough then to deserve their own moniker, an aspirational label that quickly became uncomfortably normal as companies held off on launching IPOs and venture capitalists raised ever-larger funds. In recent years, as troubled augmented-reality shop Magic Leap showed with its high valuation and vanishingly small revenues, some startups have earned the unicorn tag without having a business at all. Firms with valuations that their revenues can’t back are in similar straits. In the post WeWork era, some unicorns are starting to look a bit long in the tooth. I suspect that the companies in most danger are those with slim revenues (compared to their valuation), poor revenue quality (compared to software startups), or both. That said, there is a club of private companies that are really something, namely private companies that have managed to reach the $100 million annual recurring revenue (ARR) threshold. It’s not a large group, as startups that tend to cross the $100 million ARR mark are well on the path to going public. For example, Bill.com is going public this week (the B2B payments company prices Wednesday and trades Thursday; we’ll cover it as it gets out). According to its own amended S-1 filing, Bill.com (backed by Emergence, MasterCard, TTV Capital, and others) reached the $100 million ARR mark in Q2 2019. In the third quarter of this year, its subscription revenue grew from $25.2 million to $28.5 million. Not bad. Asana announced that it had crossed the threshold back in February on the back of “a period of eight consecutive quarters of revenue growth acceleration, measured on a percentage basis.” It’s still private, though considering a direct listing next year. But not every $100 million ARR startup is going public. Yet, at least. WalkMe crossed $100 million ARR in Q2 2019 as well, though its IPO plans are opaque. And just last week, Druva announced that it crossed the $100 million ARR mark. Reaching nine-figure annual recurring revenue matters; try to stop a modern software company at that scale and you’ll struggle. 100 > 1,000 Given that startups which generate high-margin, recurring revenue — which is to say, software startups — are richly valued, aren’t all $100 million ARR companies already worth $1 billion, defeating our point? After all, if the two categories are synonymous, why bother to tease them apart?

Read More...
posted 5 days ago on techcrunch
An update to Apple’s iOS operating system, out today, will give parents a new set of tools to fight back against kids’ iPhone addiction. With the release of iOS 13.3, parents will for the first time be able to set limits over who kids can talk to and text with during certain hours of the day. These limits will apply across phone calls, Messages, and FaceTime. Parents can also apply a different set of limitations on calls and messaging during the child’s permitted screen time and their downtime hours. In a new Communication Limits section of Apple’s Screen Time in Settings, iPhone users can set limits based on their contacts. During allowed screen time, users can be contacted by everyone or only by people in their contacts, to prevent unknown contacts from reaching them. And during Downtime, they can opt to either be contacted by everyone or only by designated contacts. And if this is set up under Screen Time’s Parental Controls, parents get to choose who can contact their children and when and vice versa. During Downtime, parents can also designate which particular contacts the child can message and call — like only mom or dad, for example. In practice, this means parents could stop the child from texting friends late at night or during the school day, by scheduling Downtime to run. (To clarify, Downtime doesn’t necessarily mean “night time” — it’s just any time you only want designated apps to be available, and only calls to get through.) The feature also allows parents to manage the child’s iCloud contacts remotely, which makes it easier for parents to share important numbers with their child. But it also puts parents in full control of the contact list, so only they can edit it. These new Communication Limits are a part of Apple’s larger Screen Time system, which was introduced with iOS 12 last year. The system allows iPhone owners to schedule time away from their screen, set time limits on apps, view usage and activity reports, and more. Many parents have already leveraged these controls to more strictly limit how their children used their devices, including by setting limits on individual apps they wanted to block, like games, as well as by configuring “Downtime” hours. In addition, parents could set times when the child’s device could not be used at all. Apple isn’t the only tech company that’s been rethinking how to address consumers’ often dysfunctional relationship with technology. Google also introduced its own set of “digital wellbeing” controls and tools for Android, and even Facebook and Instagram have rewritten parts their software and algorithms with a focus on new metrics like “time well spent,” for example. While Apple’s Screen Time may have worked well for younger kids, teens quickly found and shared loopholes and workarounds much to parents’ chagrin. Time will tell if teens come up with a hack to get their iMessages sent under the new parental control system, too.

Read More...