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Eden raises $10 million Series A to build out its office management marketplace

Eden raises $10 million Series A to build out its office management marketplace

Eden, the office management and tech support platform, has today closed $10 million in Series A funding led by Spectrum 28, with participation from Fifth Wall Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, Y Combinator Continuity Fund, Canvas Ventures, Comcast Ventures, Eniac Ventures and other existing investors.

Eden started out as a tech support service for both businesses and consumers. The original vision centered around helping out your mom or grandpa with their tech support needs in person by sending an on-demand support specialist.

Over time, Eden pivoted into a B2B platform, where businesses could get IT support (as well as cleaning, task management work, handy work, etc.) from a W2 employee. Eden called them Wizards.

Eden has now expanded their business to focus on their own software, building out a marketplace for other third-party vendors to connect with businesses for various services like cleaning, handy work, and more.

Founder and CEO Joe Du Bey says that revenue from their own W2 workers represents around 25 percent of their business, compared to before the introduction of third-party vendors, when it was around 75 percent of revenue.

Eden will be using the funding to expand beyond its current markets, which include San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and Austin, as well as hiring more engineers and professionals.

Eden’s current model isn’t all that different from that of Managed By Q. Both companies provide marketplaces for businesses to handle their office management through digital portals that give them access to a host of third-party service providers.

As part of the funding deal, Spectrum 28’s Kent Ho will be joining the board.

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Published at Wed, 27 Sep 2017 14:36:52 +0000

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Surreal wants to be the one-stop shop for 3D virtual objects

Surreal wants to be the one-stop shop for 3D virtual objects

Don’t expect the ARKit app rush to end any time soon.

MojiLala, the betaworks-backed marketplace for emojis and emoticons, is today launching their second app.

Meet Surreal, a marketplace that lets users buy virtual objects. The app opens up to an outward-facing camera and lets users choose animated virtual objects, which they can place in a photo or video.

Right now, Surreal only offers about 50 items, but founder and CEO Dana Loberg says that there are around 100,000 objects waiting to be added to the platform.

Eventually, the app will understand the context of the situation — if you’re out by the pool, in your house, or outside in your backyard — and serve up objects that make sense in that situation. For example, Surreal has a variety of sea-based animals like jellyfish and octopi and will serve those up to you when it recognizes a body of water.

Once a user has taken a photo or video, they can save that photo and share it across other social networks. Surreal also has its own feed that lets users share to the platform for other Surreal users to see. In fact, if you see a post on Surreal that you like, you can use the Mirror feature to copy the objects used in that photo or video to use yourself.

This is an expansion of MojiLala’s existing offering, which is an expansive library of emojis. Artists submit their sticker packs and split the revenue with MojiLala, or receive more visibility by participating in the MojiLala Unlimited subscription (which gives users access to a broader library of stickers for a monthly fee).

Loberg hopes that Surreal will be able to offer the same deal for artists, selling their virtual objects and splitting revenue with the artist (80 percent would go to artists, and 20 percent would go in MojiLala’s pocket).

Despite the fact that brands and developers are diving headlong into ARKit, it’s unclear if your average consumer cares that much about it. This may very well be a race to the bottom, the same way that Google Glass apps ended up being a big waste of time and resources.

Will the wonder of creating AR photos and videos have a lasting affect with users?

MojiLala and Surreal are set to find out.

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Published at Wed, 27 Sep 2017 13:55:55 +0000

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XO Group, owner of The Knot, acquires wedding photo app Veri

XO Group, owner of The Knot, acquires wedding photo app Veri

XO Group has acquired Veri, a startup that allows users to automatically share photos of weddings and other important events.

XO Group’s flagship property is The Knot, which has been used by 25 million couples to plan their weddings. So Veri seems like a pretty natural fit — the digital media company says it paid $3.5 million in cash for the startup.

Both CEO Michael Steib and Executive Vice President of Product Brent Tworetzky praised the Veri app, with Tworetzky describing it as “a magical product … for both couples and the guests.”

Steib said the acquisition allows The Knot to reach the “last mile” of wedding planning, so that it’s not just helping couples get ready for the ceremony but also preserving their memories at the event itself.

“We can take this terrific app and make it available to a much broader audience,” he said.

Veri doesn’t replace the pictures taken by a professional wedding photographer, but using it can mean that the couple and their guests all get access to a much wider array of photos without having to do much extra. Once users have downloaded the app and given it permission, Veri will automatically share the photos and videos taken by their smartphone cameras.

In fact, according to XO Group’s internal research, couples using Veri receive between 800 and 1,000 photos of their wedding, while a wedding hashtag on Instagram only gets 22.

Veri will “live by itself in the short term,” Tworetzky said — but over time, there are plans to integrate it with XO Group properties, particularly The Knot. Co-founders Lee Hoffman and Angela Kim, as well as engineers and designers from their team, have joined XO Group and are working out of its New York City office.

Featured Image: arvitalyaa/Shutterstock

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Published at Wed, 27 Sep 2017 12:00:57 +0000

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Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Fintech startup Revolut is trying so many things at once that it’s hard to keep track of everything. This time, the company is partnering with Simplesurance to launch a new insurance product. You can now insure your cell phone for £1 per week/£42 per year, which represents $1.35 per week/$56.50 per year.

Most telecom companies already provide cell phone insurance options. But they tend to be more expensive than Revolut’s offering in the U.K. Revolut already talked about launching phone insurance, but today marks the launch of this new product.

Revolut’s insurance covers accidental, water and operational damage everywhere around the world. It covers cracked screen and you can start insuring your device as long as your phone is less than six months old. You can usually get it repaired or replaced in less than 48 hours.

Revolut asks you the device you’re using. So it sounds like it could get a bit more expensive than this price tag with super premium phones.

Revolut is going to take advantage of its app to sign up new users to this new product. You can sign up directly from the company’s app and Revolut Premium users will get a 20 percent discount. Unfortunately, you have to contact Simplesurance directly if you want to find a claim.

Under the hood, Simplesurance and Revolut work with Allianz Worldwide Partners. Simplesurance usually works with other companies to provide B2B insurance products.

But you can also sign up to a similar phone insurance product on Simplesurance’s consumer website. Simplesurance operates in dozens of countries. So Revolut users in other countries can expect to see today’s new insurance product in the future.

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Published at Wed, 27 Sep 2017 07:01:37 +0000

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Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Fintech startup Revolut is trying so many things at once that it’s hard to keep track of everything. This time, the company is partnering with Simplesurance to launch a new insurance product. You can now insure your cell phone for £1 per week/£42 per year, which represents $1.35 per week/$56.50 per year.

Most telecom companies already provide cell phone insurance options. But they tend to be more expensive than Revolut’s offering in the U.K. Revolut already talked about launching phone insurance, but today marks the launch of this new product.

Revolut’s insurance covers accidental, water and operational damage everywhere around the world. It covers cracked screen and you can start insuring your device as long as your phone is less than six months old. You can usually get it repaired or replaced in less than 48 hours.

Revolut asks you the device you’re using. So it sounds like it could get a bit more expensive than this price tag with super premium phones.

Revolut is going to take advantage of its app to sign up new users to this new product. You can sign up directly from the company’s app and Revolut Premium users will get a 20 percent discount. Unfortunately, you have to contact Simplesurance directly if you want to find a claim.

Under the hood, Simplesurance and Revolut work with Allianz Worldwide Partners. Simplesurance usually works with other companies to provide B2B insurance products.

But you can also sign up to a similar phone insurance product on Simplesurance’s consumer website. Simplesurance operates in dozens of countries. So Revolut users in other countries can expect to see today’s new insurance product in the future.

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Published at Wed, 27 Sep 2017 07:01:37 +0000

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Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Fintech startup Revolut is trying so many things at once that it’s hard to keep track of everything. This time, the company is partnering with Simplesurance to launch a new insurance product. You can now insure your cell phone for £1 per week/£42 per year, which represents $1.35 per week/$56.50 per year.

Most telecom companies already provide cell phone insurance options. But they tend to be more expensive than Revolut’s offering in the U.K. Revolut already talked about launching phone insurance, but today marks the launch of this new product.

Revolut’s insurance covers accidental, water and operational damage everywhere around the world. It covers cracked screen and you can start insuring your device as long as your phone is less than six months old. You can usually get it repaired or replaced in less than 48 hours.

Revolut asks you the device you’re using. So it sounds like it could get a bit more expensive than this price tag with super premium phones.

Revolut is going to take advantage of its app to sign up new users to this new product. You can sign up directly from the company’s app and Revolut Premium users will get a 20 percent discount. Unfortunately, you have to contact Simplesurance directly if you want to find a claim.

Under the hood, Simplesurance and Revolut work with Allianz Worldwide Partners. Simplesurance usually works with other companies to provide B2B insurance products.

But you can also sign up to a similar phone insurance product on Simplesurance’s consumer website. Simplesurance operates in dozens of countries. So Revolut users in other countries can expect to see today’s new insurance product in the future.

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Published at Wed, 27 Sep 2017 07:01:37 +0000

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Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Fintech startup Revolut is trying so many things at once that it’s hard to keep track of everything. This time, the company is partnering with Simplesurance to launch a new insurance product. You can now insure your cell phone for £1 per week/£42 per year, which represents $1.35 per week/$56.50 per year.

Most telecom companies already provide cell phone insurance options. But they tend to be more expensive than Revolut’s offering in the U.K. Revolut already talked about launching phone insurance, but today marks the launch of this new product.

Revolut’s insurance covers accidental, water and operational damage everywhere around the world. It covers cracked screen and you can start insuring your device as long as your phone is less than six months old. You can usually get it repaired or replaced in less than 48 hours.

Revolut asks you the device you’re using. So it sounds like it could get a bit more expensive than this price tag with super premium phones.

Revolut is going to take advantage of its app to sign up new users to this new product. You can sign up directly from the company’s app and Revolut Premium users will get a 20 percent discount. Unfortunately, you have to contact Simplesurance directly if you want to find a claim.

Under the hood, Simplesurance and Revolut work with Allianz Worldwide Partners. Simplesurance usually works with other companies to provide B2B insurance products.

But you can also sign up to a similar phone insurance product on Simplesurance’s consumer website. Simplesurance operates in dozens of countries. So Revolut users in other countries can expect to see today’s new insurance product in the future.

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Published at Wed, 27 Sep 2017 07:01:37 +0000

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Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Fintech startup Revolut is trying so many things at once that it’s hard to keep track of everything. This time, the company is partnering with Simplesurance to launch a new insurance product. You can now insure your cell phone for £1 per week/£42 per year, which represents $1.35 per week/$56.50 per year.

Most telecom companies already provide cell phone insurance options. But they tend to be more expensive than Revolut’s offering in the U.K. Revolut already talked about launching phone insurance, but today marks the launch of this new product.

Revolut’s insurance covers accidental, water and operational damage everywhere around the world. It covers cracked screen and you can start insuring your device as long as your phone is less than six months old. You can usually get it repaired or replaced in less than 48 hours.

Revolut asks you the device you’re using. So it sounds like it could get a bit more expensive than this price tag with super premium phones.

Revolut is going to take advantage of its app to sign up new users to this new product. You can sign up directly from the company’s app and Revolut Premium users will get a 20 percent discount. Unfortunately, you have to contact Simplesurance directly if you want to find a claim.

Under the hood, Simplesurance and Revolut work with Allianz Worldwide Partners. Simplesurance usually works with other companies to provide B2B insurance products.

But you can also sign up to a similar phone insurance product on Simplesurance’s consumer website. Simplesurance operates in dozens of countries. So Revolut users in other countries can expect to see today’s new insurance product in the future.

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Published at Wed, 27 Sep 2017 07:01:37 +0000

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Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Fintech startup Revolut is trying so many things at once that it’s hard to keep track of everything. This time, the company is partnering with Simplesurance to launch a new insurance product. You can now insure your cell phone for £1 per week/£42 per year, which represents $1.35 per week/$56.50 per year.

Most telecom companies already provide cell phone insurance options. But they tend to be more expensive than Revolut’s offering in the U.K. Revolut already talked about launching phone insurance, but today marks the launch of this new product.

Revolut’s insurance covers accidental, water and operational damage everywhere around the world. It covers cracked screen and you can start insuring your device as long as your phone is less than six months old. You can usually get it repaired or replaced in less than 48 hours.

Revolut asks you the device you’re using. So it sounds like it could get a bit more expensive than this price tag with super premium phones.

Revolut is going to take advantage of its app to sign up new users to this new product. You can sign up directly from the company’s app and Revolut Premium users will get a 20 percent discount. Unfortunately, you have to contact Simplesurance directly if you want to find a claim.

Under the hood, Simplesurance and Revolut work with Allianz Worldwide Partners. Simplesurance usually works with other companies to provide B2B insurance products.

But you can also sign up to a similar phone insurance product on Simplesurance’s consumer website. Simplesurance operates in dozens of countries. So Revolut users in other countries can expect to see today’s new insurance product in the future.

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Published at Wed, 27 Sep 2017 07:01:37 +0000

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Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Fintech startup Revolut is trying so many things at once that it’s hard to keep track of everything. This time, the company is partnering with Simplesurance to launch a new insurance product. You can now insure your cell phone for £1 per week/£42 per year, which represents $1.35 per week/$56.50 per year.

Most telecom companies already provide cell phone insurance options. But they tend to be more expensive than Revolut’s offering in the U.K. Revolut already talked about launching phone insurance, but today marks the launch of this new product.

Revolut’s insurance covers accidental, water and operational damage everywhere around the world. It covers cracked screen and you can start insuring your device as long as your phone is less than six months old. You can usually get it repaired or replaced in less than 48 hours.

Revolut asks you the device you’re using. So it sounds like it could get a bit more expensive than this price tag with super premium phones.

Revolut is going to take advantage of its app to sign up new users to this new product. You can sign up directly from the company’s app and Revolut Premium users will get a 20 percent discount. Unfortunately, you have to contact Simplesurance directly if you want to find a claim.

Under the hood, Simplesurance and Revolut work with Allianz Worldwide Partners. Simplesurance usually works with other companies to provide B2B insurance products.

But you can also sign up to a similar phone insurance product on Simplesurance’s consumer website. Simplesurance operates in dozens of countries. So Revolut users in other countries can expect to see today’s new insurance product in the future.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Published at Wed, 27 Sep 2017 07:01:37 +0000

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Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Fintech startup Revolut is trying so many things at once that it’s hard to keep track of everything. This time, the company is partnering with Simplesurance to launch a new insurance product. You can now insure your cell phone for £1 per week/£42 per year, which represents $1.35 per week/$56.50 per year.

Most telecom companies already provide cell phone insurance options. But they tend to be more expensive than Revolut’s offering in the U.K. Revolut already talked about launching phone insurance, but today marks the launch of this new product.

Revolut’s insurance covers accidental, water and operational damage everywhere around the world. It covers cracked screen and you can start insuring your device as long as your phone is less than six months old. You can usually get it repaired or replaced in less than 48 hours.

Revolut asks you the device you’re using. So it sounds like it could get a bit more expensive than this price tag with super premium phones.

Revolut is going to take advantage of its app to sign up new users to this new product. You can sign up directly from the company’s app and Revolut Premium users will get a 20 percent discount. Unfortunately, you have to contact Simplesurance directly if you want to find a claim.

Under the hood, Simplesurance and Revolut work with Allianz Worldwide Partners. Simplesurance usually works with other companies to provide B2B insurance products.

But you can also sign up to a similar phone insurance product on Simplesurance’s consumer website. Simplesurance operates in dozens of countries. So Revolut users in other countries can expect to see today’s new insurance product in the future.

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Published at Wed, 27 Sep 2017 07:01:37 +0000

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Legion raises $10.5M to roll out an automated employee scheduling tool

Legion raises $10.5M to roll out an automated employee scheduling tool

There’s a lot of talk about employees wanting much more flexible work schedules, and a lot of that is thanks to the emergence of companies like Lyft and Uber that allow people to work on their own schedules. But that ability still doesn’t exist for the rest of the world, especially when it comes to hourly jobs with rigid schedules.

But that doesn’t mean that employees don’t want those kinds of schedules — or that they vary a lot — and that’s the reason why Sanish Mondkar started Legion. The startup uses large amounts of data, all the way down to the weather near a store, to try to predict how busy it will be and how to intelligently staff that store and prepare for the foot traffic. It also works to sort out the best possible schedule for each employee, whether they want to work a regular shift at the same hours or vary from week to week and trade shifts a lot. The company is rolling out with Philz, one of Silicon Valley’s favorite coffee projects, to try to prove out such a concept.

“You can recognize the fact that there are some employees on your roster that are looking for predictable, 40 hours a week, with full benefits,” Mondkar said. “Others, today especially, are on the opposite side of the spectrum and want gig-like jobs, owning their schedule. Legion lets you provide that full spectrum of options. Employees choose where they want to be on that spectrum. It leads to better retention, an empowered culture, that to me is very important going forward for any business that employs a large hourly workforce.”

To continue to roll this out, Legion has raised a $10.5 million series A led by Norwest Venture Partners, with Norwest’s Sean Jacobsohn joining the board. Earlier investors First Round Capital, XYZ Ventures, and Webb Investment Network also participated in the financing round, which has helped flush the enterprise startup with the kinds of capital it needs to expand beyond just a business like Philz and into the larger hourly retail field.

Legion’s goal at the end of the day is to try to accurately predict traffic and labor forecasts, helping each employee find the slot that fits them best for the schedule and lifestyle they want. By starting there, Mondkar wants to try to help employees feel better about their jobs and their lives — which, in the end, helps them be happier at their jobs and deliver a better experience to customers. While there may have been some stabs at intelligent scheduling, it’s largely been on the managers to spend the nearly dozen hours to ensure that everyone gets what they want.

“The solution you would design today, versus three or even five years ago, would be very different because the kinds of enablers that are uniquely available today,” Mondkar said. “Machine learning and AI is at a point that’s at least accessible in a form that can be applied to solve these problems. Both need a lot of data, and data now — especially in retail thanks to the adoption of cloud point of sale devices and traffic counters — is available that just wasn’t available three or five years ago that would drive these algorithms.”

For starters, the company has begun deploying in Philz as a proof-of-concept to show that it ends up having a positive impact on the workforce. Philz CEO Jacob Jaber wasn’t able to articulate exactly why it took up until recently for a product like Legion to exist, but said it was an issue for the company — and any retail company — that was dying for some kind help. The other part of the equation, he said, was that it had to be constructed with all sides in mind: the business, the manager, and the employee.

“You need to think more holistically and you have to have empathy for multiple parties,” Jaber said. “I’d say there hasn’t been a lot of progress in the workforce as a whole and I think they’ve been left behind to some extent and working class. I think [businesses] are now getting to scratch the surface in thinking about them more and how we can make sure as a company and as people we’re respecting them and giving them a very good environment to work and grow in. Scheduling is a really big part of that.”

There will, of course, be challenges for Legion. Over time, employee priorities may change and the service will have to keep up with that. It makes sense for Legion to plug into other HR dashboards like Zenefits for now, but they may see the opportunity to go after the problem with a robust set of data on employees. There are also a lot of startups trying to create a simple employee scheduling application, such as When I Work, that may see an opportunity in the low-hanging fruit that large public data sets and more accessible machine learning tools have to offer. Mondkar’s hope is that starting with Philz as a launching point and eventually gunning for a schedule that fits everyone’s needs automatically will be the one that wins in the end.

“This is basically a very large problem that impacts a lot of lives and a lot of people,” Mondkar said. “The core of that problem, scheduling and matching people optimally and in a consistent manner, is a very fundamental step toward solving that problem. Today, as I was saying before, approaching that problem in a whole new way makes a lot of sense.”

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Published at Wed, 27 Sep 2017 11:00:50 +0000

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Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Fintech startup Revolut is trying so many things at once that it’s hard to keep track of everything. This time, the company is partnering with Simplesurance to launch a new insurance product. You can now insure your cell phone for £1 per week/£42 per year, which represents $1.35 per week/$56.50 per year.

Most telecom companies already provide cell phone insurance options. But they tend to be more expensive than Revolut’s offering in the U.K. Revolut already talked about launching phone insurance, but today marks the launch of this new product.

Revolut’s insurance covers accidental, water and operational damage everywhere around the world. It covers cracked screen and you can start insuring your device as long as your phone is less than six months old. You can usually get it repaired or replaced in less than 48 hours.

Revolut asks you the device you’re using. So it sounds like it could get a bit more expensive than this price tag with super premium phones.

Revolut is going to take advantage of its app to sign up new users to this new product. You can sign up directly from the company’s app and Revolut Premium users will get a 20 percent discount. Unfortunately, you have to contact Simplesurance directly if you want to find a claim.

Under the hood, Simplesurance and Revolut work with Allianz Worldwide Partners. Simplesurance usually works with other companies to provide B2B insurance products.

But you can also sign up to a similar phone insurance product on Simplesurance’s consumer website. Simplesurance operates in dozens of countries. So Revolut users in other countries can expect to see today’s new insurance product in the future.

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Published at Wed, 27 Sep 2017 07:01:37 +0000

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EBY, the undies subscription service from Sofia Vergara, goes live today

EBY, the undies subscription service from Sofia Vergara, goes live today

Today, yet another subscription service joins the pack.

Sofia Vergara and Renata Black’s EBY underwear enterprise has just gone live, letting users sign up to receive three pairs of new underwear each three months.

But EBY is much more than your average subscription service. Just as Warby Parker and Lemonade built a layer of social good right into their businesses, EBY is also using tech for good. The company will give ten percent of its net sales to the Seven Bar Foundation.

Through Seven Bar Foundation, Eby will be offering micro-loans to underpriveleged women across the globe to help start or grow a business. This can range anywhere from $80 to up to $2,600. “As each woman becomes self-sufficient, her loan is repaid and passed to another woman, creating a multiplier effect and breaking the cycle of poverty,” according to the release.

As far as the product is concerned, EBY lets users choose between just thongs, cheekies and briefs, or a mix. Customers can also choose neutrals, colors and patterns, or a combination of the two.

“It’s creating the perfect combination,” said Sofia Vergara in a TC interview in August. “There’s nothing to be ashamed of when you’re being seductive, but women can do it all now. We can have it all. And this is the perfect example of spending money to treat yourself while helping other women.”

Three pairs of underwear every three months will cost $48, which equals out to $16 per pair. For reference, you can get bikini panties at the Gap for $9/pair, whereas Calvin Klein underwear costs $22/pair. The company says that its product is closer to the high-end when it comes to quality, and products are available in sizes from XS to 4X.

Eventually, according to the press release, EBY will sell different subscriptions, letting you get more than one pair a month.

“Everything is being done on the phone or the computer,” Vergara said. “You don’t need to leave the house to shop anymore.”

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Published at Wed, 27 Sep 2017 11:00:01 +0000

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Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Fintech startup Revolut is trying so many things at once that it’s hard to keep track of everything. This time, the company is partnering with Simplesurance to launch a new insurance product. You can now insure your cell phone for £1 per week/£42 per year, which represents $1.35 per week/$56.50 per year.

Most telecom companies already provide cell phone insurance options. But they tend to be more expensive than Revolut’s offering in the U.K. Revolut already talked about launching phone insurance, but today marks the launch of this new product.

Revolut’s insurance covers accidental, water and operational damage everywhere around the world. It covers cracked screen and you can start insuring your device as long as your phone is less than six months old. You can usually get it repaired or replaced in less than 48 hours.

Revolut asks you the device you’re using. So it sounds like it could get a bit more expensive than this price tag with super premium phones.

Revolut is going to take advantage of its app to sign up new users to this new product. You can sign up directly from the company’s app and Revolut Premium users will get a 20 percent discount. Unfortunately, you have to contact Simplesurance directly if you want to find a claim.

Under the hood, Simplesurance and Revolut work with Allianz Worldwide Partners. Simplesurance usually works with other companies to provide B2B insurance products.

But you can also sign up to a similar phone insurance product on Simplesurance’s consumer website. Simplesurance operates in dozens of countries. So Revolut users in other countries can expect to see today’s new insurance product in the future.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Published at Wed, 27 Sep 2017 07:01:37 +0000

Company:

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Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Fintech startup Revolut is trying so many things at once that it’s hard to keep track of everything. This time, the company is partnering with Simplesurance to launch a new insurance product. You can now insure your cell phone for £1 per week/£42 per year, which represents $1.35 per week/$56.50 per year.

Most telecom companies already provide cell phone insurance options. But they tend to be more expensive than Revolut’s offering in the U.K. Revolut already talked about launching phone insurance, but today marks the launch of this new product.

Revolut’s insurance covers accidental, water and operational damage everywhere around the world. It covers cracked screen and you can start insuring your device as long as your phone is less than six months old. You can usually get it repaired or replaced in less than 48 hours.

Revolut asks you the device you’re using. So it sounds like it could get a bit more expensive than this price tag with super premium phones.

Revolut is going to take advantage of its app to sign up new users to this new product. You can sign up directly from the company’s app and Revolut Premium users will get a 20 percent discount. Unfortunately, you have to contact Simplesurance directly if you want to find a claim.

Under the hood, Simplesurance and Revolut work with Allianz Worldwide Partners. Simplesurance usually works with other companies to provide B2B insurance products.

But you can also sign up to a similar phone insurance product on Simplesurance’s consumer website. Simplesurance operates in dozens of countries. So Revolut users in other countries can expect to see today’s new insurance product in the future.

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Published at Wed, 27 Sep 2017 07:01:37 +0000

Company:

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Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Fintech startup Revolut is trying so many things at once that it’s hard to keep track of everything. This time, the company is partnering with Simplesurance to launch a new insurance product. You can now insure your cell phone for £1 per week/£42 per year, which represents $1.35 per week/$56.50 per year.

Most telecom companies already provide cell phone insurance options. But they tend to be more expensive than Revolut’s offering in the U.K. Revolut already talked about launching phone insurance, but today marks the launch of this new product.

Revolut’s insurance covers accidental, water and operational damage everywhere around the world. It covers cracked screen and you can start insuring your device as long as your phone is less than six months old. You can usually get it repaired or replaced in less than 48 hours.

Revolut asks you the device you’re using. So it sounds like it could get a bit more expensive than this price tag with super premium phones.

Revolut is going to take advantage of its app to sign up new users to this new product. You can sign up directly from the company’s app and Revolut Premium users will get a 20 percent discount. Unfortunately, you have to contact Simplesurance directly if you want to find a claim.

Under the hood, Simplesurance and Revolut work with Allianz Worldwide Partners. Simplesurance usually works with other companies to provide B2B insurance products.

But you can also sign up to a similar phone insurance product on Simplesurance’s consumer website. Simplesurance operates in dozens of countries. So Revolut users in other countries can expect to see today’s new insurance product in the future.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Published at Wed, 27 Sep 2017 07:01:37 +0000

Company:

Phone:

Website:

Email:

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Fintech startup Revolut is trying so many things at once that it’s hard to keep track of everything. This time, the company is partnering with Simplesurance to launch a new insurance product. You can now insure your cell phone for £1 per week/£42 per year, which represents $1.35 per week/$56.50 per year.

Most telecom companies already provide cell phone insurance options. But they tend to be more expensive than Revolut’s offering in the U.K. Revolut already talked about launching phone insurance, but today marks the launch of this new product.

Revolut’s insurance covers accidental, water and operational damage everywhere around the world. It covers cracked screen and you can start insuring your device as long as your phone is less than six months old. You can usually get it repaired or replaced in less than 48 hours.

Revolut asks you the device you’re using. So it sounds like it could get a bit more expensive than this price tag with super premium phones.

Revolut is going to take advantage of its app to sign up new users to this new product. You can sign up directly from the company’s app and Revolut Premium users will get a 20 percent discount. Unfortunately, you have to contact Simplesurance directly if you want to find a claim.

Under the hood, Simplesurance and Revolut work with Allianz Worldwide Partners. Simplesurance usually works with other companies to provide B2B insurance products.

But you can also sign up to a similar phone insurance product on Simplesurance’s consumer website. Simplesurance operates in dozens of countries. So Revolut users in other countries can expect to see today’s new insurance product in the future.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Published at Wed, 27 Sep 2017 07:01:37 +0000

Company:

Phone:

Website:

Email:

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Fintech startup Revolut is trying so many things at once that it’s hard to keep track of everything. This time, the company is partnering with Simplesurance to launch a new insurance product. You can now insure your cell phone for £1 per week/£42 per year, which represents $1.35 per week/$56.50 per year.

Most telecom companies already provide cell phone insurance options. But they tend to be more expensive than Revolut’s offering in the U.K. Revolut already talked about launching phone insurance, but today marks the launch of this new product.

Revolut’s insurance covers accidental, water and operational damage everywhere around the world. It covers cracked screen and you can start insuring your device as long as your phone is less than six months old. You can usually get it repaired or replaced in less than 48 hours.

Revolut asks you the device you’re using. So it sounds like it could get a bit more expensive than this price tag with super premium phones.

Revolut is going to take advantage of its app to sign up new users to this new product. You can sign up directly from the company’s app and Revolut Premium users will get a 20 percent discount. Unfortunately, you have to contact Simplesurance directly if you want to find a claim.

Under the hood, Simplesurance and Revolut work with Allianz Worldwide Partners. Simplesurance usually works with other companies to provide B2B insurance products.

But you can also sign up to a similar phone insurance product on Simplesurance’s consumer website. Simplesurance operates in dozens of countries. So Revolut users in other countries can expect to see today’s new insurance product in the future.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Published at Wed, 27 Sep 2017 07:01:37 +0000

Company:

Phone:

Website:

Email:

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Fintech startup Revolut is trying so many things at once that it’s hard to keep track of everything. This time, the company is partnering with Simplesurance to launch a new insurance product. You can now insure your cell phone for £1 per week/£42 per year, which represents $1.35 per week/$56.50 per year.

Most telecom companies already provide cell phone insurance options. But they tend to be more expensive than Revolut’s offering in the U.K. Revolut already talked about launching phone insurance, but today marks the launch of this new product.

Revolut’s insurance covers accidental, water and operational damage everywhere around the world. It covers cracked screen and you can start insuring your device as long as your phone is less than six months old. You can usually get it repaired or replaced in less than 48 hours.

Revolut asks you the device you’re using. So it sounds like it could get a bit more expensive than this price tag with super premium phones.

Revolut is going to take advantage of its app to sign up new users to this new product. You can sign up directly from the company’s app and Revolut Premium users will get a 20 percent discount. Unfortunately, you have to contact Simplesurance directly if you want to find a claim.

Under the hood, Simplesurance and Revolut work with Allianz Worldwide Partners. Simplesurance usually works with other companies to provide B2B insurance products.

But you can also sign up to a similar phone insurance product on Simplesurance’s consumer website. Simplesurance operates in dozens of countries. So Revolut users in other countries can expect to see today’s new insurance product in the future.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Published at Wed, 27 Sep 2017 07:01:37 +0000

Company:

Phone:

Website:

Email:

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Fintech startup Revolut is trying so many things at once that it’s hard to keep track of everything. This time, the company is partnering with Simplesurance to launch a new insurance product. You can now insure your cell phone for £1 per week/£42 per year, which represents $1.35 per week/$56.50 per year.

Most telecom companies already provide cell phone insurance options. But they tend to be more expensive than Revolut’s offering in the U.K. Revolut already talked about launching phone insurance, but today marks the launch of this new product.

Revolut’s insurance covers accidental, water and operational damage everywhere around the world. It covers cracked screen and you can start insuring your device as long as your phone is less than six months old. You can usually get it repaired or replaced in less than 48 hours.

Revolut asks you the device you’re using. So it sounds like it could get a bit more expensive than this price tag with super premium phones.

Revolut is going to take advantage of its app to sign up new users to this new product. You can sign up directly from the company’s app and Revolut Premium users will get a 20 percent discount. Unfortunately, you have to contact Simplesurance directly if you want to find a claim.

Under the hood, Simplesurance and Revolut work with Allianz Worldwide Partners. Simplesurance usually works with other companies to provide B2B insurance products.

But you can also sign up to a similar phone insurance product on Simplesurance’s consumer website. Simplesurance operates in dozens of countries. So Revolut users in other countries can expect to see today’s new insurance product in the future.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Published at Wed, 27 Sep 2017 07:01:37 +0000

Company:

Phone:

Website:

Email:

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Fintech startup Revolut is trying so many things at once that it’s hard to keep track of everything. This time, the company is partnering with Simplesurance to launch a new insurance product. You can now insure your cell phone for £1 per week/£42 per year, which represents $1.35 per week/$56.50 per year.

Most telecom companies already provide cell phone insurance options. But they tend to be more expensive than Revolut’s offering in the U.K. Revolut already talked about launching phone insurance, but today marks the launch of this new product.

Revolut’s insurance covers accidental, water and operational damage everywhere around the world. It covers cracked screen and you can start insuring your device as long as your phone is less than six months old. You can usually get it repaired or replaced in less than 48 hours.

Revolut asks you the device you’re using. So it sounds like it could get a bit more expensive than this price tag with super premium phones.

Revolut is going to take advantage of its app to sign up new users to this new product. You can sign up directly from the company’s app and Revolut Premium users will get a 20 percent discount. Unfortunately, you have to contact Simplesurance directly if you want to find a claim.

Under the hood, Simplesurance and Revolut work with Allianz Worldwide Partners. Simplesurance usually works with other companies to provide B2B insurance products.

But you can also sign up to a similar phone insurance product on Simplesurance’s consumer website. Simplesurance operates in dozens of countries. So Revolut users in other countries can expect to see today’s new insurance product in the future.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Published at Wed, 27 Sep 2017 07:01:37 +0000

Company:

Phone:

Website:

Email:

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Fintech startup Revolut is trying so many things at once that it’s hard to keep track of everything. This time, the company is partnering with Simplesurance to launch a new insurance product. You can now insure your cell phone for £1 per week/£42 per year, which represents $1.35 per week/$56.50 per year.

Most telecom companies already provide cell phone insurance options. But they tend to be more expensive than Revolut’s offering in the U.K. Revolut already talked about launching phone insurance, but today marks the launch of this new product.

Revolut’s insurance covers accidental, water and operational damage everywhere around the world. It covers cracked screen and you can start insuring your device as long as your phone is less than six months old. You can usually get it repaired or replaced in less than 48 hours.

Revolut asks you the device you’re using. So it sounds like it could get a bit more expensive than this price tag with super premium phones.

Revolut is going to take advantage of its app to sign up new users to this new product. You can sign up directly from the company’s app and Revolut Premium users will get a 20 percent discount. Unfortunately, you have to contact Simplesurance directly if you want to find a claim.

Under the hood, Simplesurance and Revolut work with Allianz Worldwide Partners. Simplesurance usually works with other companies to provide B2B insurance products.

But you can also sign up to a similar phone insurance product on Simplesurance’s consumer website. Simplesurance operates in dozens of countries. So Revolut users in other countries can expect to see today’s new insurance product in the future.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Published at Wed, 27 Sep 2017 07:01:37 +0000

Company:

Phone:

Website:

Email:

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Fintech startup Revolut is trying so many things at once that it’s hard to keep track of everything. This time, the company is partnering with Simplesurance to launch a new insurance product. You can now insure your cell phone for £1 per week/£42 per year, which represents $1.35 per week/$56.50 per year.

Most telecom companies already provide cell phone insurance options. But they tend to be more expensive than Revolut’s offering in the U.K. Revolut already talked about launching phone insurance, but today marks the launch of this new product.

Revolut’s insurance covers accidental, water and operational damage everywhere around the world. It covers cracked screen and you can start insuring your device as long as your phone is less than six months old. You can usually get it repaired or replaced in less than 48 hours.

Revolut asks you the device you’re using. So it sounds like it could get a bit more expensive than this price tag with super premium phones.

Revolut is going to take advantage of its app to sign up new users to this new product. You can sign up directly from the company’s app and Revolut Premium users will get a 20 percent discount. Unfortunately, you have to contact Simplesurance directly if you want to find a claim.

Under the hood, Simplesurance and Revolut work with Allianz Worldwide Partners. Simplesurance usually works with other companies to provide B2B insurance products.

But you can also sign up to a similar phone insurance product on Simplesurance’s consumer website. Simplesurance operates in dozens of countries. So Revolut users in other countries can expect to see today’s new insurance product in the future.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Published at Wed, 27 Sep 2017 07:01:37 +0000

Company:

Phone:

Website:

Email:

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Fintech startup Revolut is trying so many things at once that it’s hard to keep track of everything. This time, the company is partnering with Simplesurance to launch a new insurance product. You can now insure your cell phone for £1 per week/£42 per year, which represents $1.35 per week/$56.50 per year.

Most telecom companies already provide cell phone insurance options. But they tend to be more expensive than Revolut’s offering in the U.K. Revolut already talked about launching phone insurance, but today marks the launch of this new product.

Revolut’s insurance covers accidental, water and operational damage everywhere around the world. It covers cracked screen and you can start insuring your device as long as your phone is less than six months old. You can usually get it repaired or replaced in less than 48 hours.

Revolut asks you the device you’re using. So it sounds like it could get a bit more expensive than this price tag with super premium phones.

Revolut is going to take advantage of its app to sign up new users to this new product. You can sign up directly from the company’s app and Revolut Premium users will get a 20 percent discount. Unfortunately, you have to contact Simplesurance directly if you want to find a claim.

Under the hood, Simplesurance and Revolut work with Allianz Worldwide Partners. Simplesurance usually works with other companies to provide B2B insurance products.

But you can also sign up to a similar phone insurance product on Simplesurance’s consumer website. Simplesurance operates in dozens of countries. So Revolut users in other countries can expect to see today’s new insurance product in the future.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Published at Wed, 27 Sep 2017 07:01:37 +0000

Company:

Phone:

Website:

Email:

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Fintech startup Revolut is trying so many things at once that it’s hard to keep track of everything. This time, the company is partnering with Simplesurance to launch a new insurance product. You can now insure your cell phone for £1 per week/£42 per year, which represents $1.35 per week/$56.50 per year.

Most telecom companies already provide cell phone insurance options. But they tend to be more expensive than Revolut’s offering in the U.K. Revolut already talked about launching phone insurance, but today marks the launch of this new product.

Revolut’s insurance covers accidental, water and operational damage everywhere around the world. It covers cracked screen and you can start insuring your device as long as your phone is less than six months old. You can usually get it repaired or replaced in less than 48 hours.

Revolut asks you the device you’re using. So it sounds like it could get a bit more expensive than this price tag with super premium phones.

Revolut is going to take advantage of its app to sign up new users to this new product. You can sign up directly from the company’s app and Revolut Premium users will get a 20 percent discount. Unfortunately, you have to contact Simplesurance directly if you want to find a claim.

Under the hood, Simplesurance and Revolut work with Allianz Worldwide Partners. Simplesurance usually works with other companies to provide B2B insurance products.

But you can also sign up to a similar phone insurance product on Simplesurance’s consumer website. Simplesurance operates in dozens of countries. So Revolut users in other countries can expect to see today’s new insurance product in the future.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Published at Wed, 27 Sep 2017 07:01:37 +0000

Company:

Phone:

Website:

Email:

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Fintech startup Revolut is trying so many things at once that it’s hard to keep track of everything. This time, the company is partnering with Simplesurance to launch a new insurance product. You can now insure your cell phone for £1 per week/£42 per year, which represents $1.35 per week/$56.50 per year.

Most telecom companies already provide cell phone insurance options. But they tend to be more expensive than Revolut’s offering in the U.K. Revolut already talked about launching phone insurance, but today marks the launch of this new product.

Revolut’s insurance covers accidental, water and operational damage everywhere around the world. It covers cracked screen and you can start insuring your device as long as your phone is less than six months old. You can usually get it repaired or replaced in less than 48 hours.

Revolut asks you the device you’re using. So it sounds like it could get a bit more expensive than this price tag with super premium phones.

Revolut is going to take advantage of its app to sign up new users to this new product. You can sign up directly from the company’s app and Revolut Premium users will get a 20 percent discount. Unfortunately, you have to contact Simplesurance directly if you want to find a claim.

Under the hood, Simplesurance and Revolut work with Allianz Worldwide Partners. Simplesurance usually works with other companies to provide B2B insurance products.

But you can also sign up to a similar phone insurance product on Simplesurance’s consumer website. Simplesurance operates in dozens of countries. So Revolut users in other countries can expect to see today’s new insurance product in the future.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Published at Wed, 27 Sep 2017 07:01:37 +0000

Company:

Phone:

Website:

Email:

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Fintech startup Revolut is trying so many things at once that it’s hard to keep track of everything. This time, the company is partnering with Simplesurance to launch a new insurance product. You can now insure your cell phone for £1 per week/£42 per year, which represents $1.35 per week/$56.50 per year.

Most telecom companies already provide cell phone insurance options. But they tend to be more expensive than Revolut’s offering in the U.K. Revolut already talked about launching phone insurance, but today marks the launch of this new product.

Revolut’s insurance covers accidental, water and operational damage everywhere around the world. It covers cracked screen and you can start insuring your device as long as your phone is less than six months old. You can usually get it repaired or replaced in less than 48 hours.

Revolut asks you the device you’re using. So it sounds like it could get a bit more expensive than this price tag with super premium phones.

Revolut is going to take advantage of its app to sign up new users to this new product. You can sign up directly from the company’s app and Revolut Premium users will get a 20 percent discount. Unfortunately, you have to contact Simplesurance directly if you want to find a claim.

Under the hood, Simplesurance and Revolut work with Allianz Worldwide Partners. Simplesurance usually works with other companies to provide B2B insurance products.

But you can also sign up to a similar phone insurance product on Simplesurance’s consumer website. Simplesurance operates in dozens of countries. So Revolut users in other countries can expect to see today’s new insurance product in the future.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Published at Wed, 27 Sep 2017 07:01:37 +0000

Company:

Phone:

Website:

Email:

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Fintech startup Revolut is trying so many things at once that it’s hard to keep track of everything. This time, the company is partnering with Simplesurance to launch a new insurance product. You can now insure your cell phone for £1 per week/£42 per year, which represents $1.35 per week/$56.50 per year.

Most telecom companies already provide cell phone insurance options. But they tend to be more expensive than Revolut’s offering in the U.K. Revolut already talked about launching phone insurance, but today marks the launch of this new product.

Revolut’s insurance covers accidental, water and operational damage everywhere around the world. It covers cracked screen and you can start insuring your device as long as your phone is less than six months old. You can usually get it repaired or replaced in less than 48 hours.

Revolut asks you the device you’re using. So it sounds like it could get a bit more expensive than this price tag with super premium phones.

Revolut is going to take advantage of its app to sign up new users to this new product. You can sign up directly from the company’s app and Revolut Premium users will get a 20 percent discount. Unfortunately, you have to contact Simplesurance directly if you want to find a claim.

Under the hood, Simplesurance and Revolut work with Allianz Worldwide Partners. Simplesurance usually works with other companies to provide B2B insurance products.

But you can also sign up to a similar phone insurance product on Simplesurance’s consumer website. Simplesurance operates in dozens of countries. So Revolut users in other countries can expect to see today’s new insurance product in the future.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Published at Wed, 27 Sep 2017 07:01:37 +0000

Company:

Phone:

Website:

Email:

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Fintech startup Revolut is trying so many things at once that it’s hard to keep track of everything. This time, the company is partnering with Simplesurance to launch a new insurance product. You can now insure your cell phone for £1 per week/£42 per year, which represents $1.35 per week/$56.50 per year.

Most telecom companies already provide cell phone insurance options. But they tend to be more expensive than Revolut’s offering in the U.K. Revolut already talked about launching phone insurance, but today marks the launch of this new product.

Revolut’s insurance covers accidental, water and operational damage everywhere around the world. It covers cracked screen and you can start insuring your device as long as your phone is less than six months old. You can usually get it repaired or replaced in less than 48 hours.

Revolut asks you the device you’re using. So it sounds like it could get a bit more expensive than this price tag with super premium phones.

Revolut is going to take advantage of its app to sign up new users to this new product. You can sign up directly from the company’s app and Revolut Premium users will get a 20 percent discount. Unfortunately, you have to contact Simplesurance directly if you want to find a claim.

Under the hood, Simplesurance and Revolut work with Allianz Worldwide Partners. Simplesurance usually works with other companies to provide B2B insurance products.

But you can also sign up to a similar phone insurance product on Simplesurance’s consumer website. Simplesurance operates in dozens of countries. So Revolut users in other countries can expect to see today’s new insurance product in the future.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Published at Wed, 27 Sep 2017 07:01:37 +0000

Company:

Phone:

Website:

Email:

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Fintech startup Revolut is trying so many things at once that it’s hard to keep track of everything. This time, the company is partnering with Simplesurance to launch a new insurance product. You can now insure your cell phone for £1 per week/£42 per year, which represents $1.35 per week/$56.50 per year.

Most telecom companies already provide cell phone insurance options. But they tend to be more expensive than Revolut’s offering in the U.K. Revolut already talked about launching phone insurance, but today marks the launch of this new product.

Revolut’s insurance covers accidental, water and operational damage everywhere around the world. It covers cracked screen and you can start insuring your device as long as your phone is less than six months old. You can usually get it repaired or replaced in less than 48 hours.

Revolut asks you the device you’re using. So it sounds like it could get a bit more expensive than this price tag with super premium phones.

Revolut is going to take advantage of its app to sign up new users to this new product. You can sign up directly from the company’s app and Revolut Premium users will get a 20 percent discount. Unfortunately, you have to contact Simplesurance directly if you want to find a claim.

Under the hood, Simplesurance and Revolut work with Allianz Worldwide Partners. Simplesurance usually works with other companies to provide B2B insurance products.

But you can also sign up to a similar phone insurance product on Simplesurance’s consumer website. Simplesurance operates in dozens of countries. So Revolut users in other countries can expect to see today’s new insurance product in the future.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Published at Wed, 27 Sep 2017 07:01:37 +0000

Company:

Phone:

Website:

Email:

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Fintech startup Revolut is trying so many things at once that it’s hard to keep track of everything. This time, the company is partnering with Simplesurance to launch a new insurance product. You can now insure your cell phone for £1 per week/£42 per year, which represents $1.35 per week/$56.50 per year.

Most telecom companies already provide cell phone insurance options. But they tend to be more expensive than Revolut’s offering in the U.K. Revolut already talked about launching phone insurance, but today marks the launch of this new product.

Revolut’s insurance covers accidental, water and operational damage everywhere around the world. It covers cracked screen and you can start insuring your device as long as your phone is less than six months old. You can usually get it repaired or replaced in less than 48 hours.

Revolut asks you the device you’re using. So it sounds like it could get a bit more expensive than this price tag with super premium phones.

Revolut is going to take advantage of its app to sign up new users to this new product. You can sign up directly from the company’s app and Revolut Premium users will get a 20 percent discount. Unfortunately, you have to contact Simplesurance directly if you want to find a claim.

Under the hood, Simplesurance and Revolut work with Allianz Worldwide Partners. Simplesurance usually works with other companies to provide B2B insurance products.

But you can also sign up to a similar phone insurance product on Simplesurance’s consumer website. Simplesurance operates in dozens of countries. So Revolut users in other countries can expect to see today’s new insurance product in the future.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Published at Wed, 27 Sep 2017 07:01:37 +0000

Company:

Phone:

Website:

Email:

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Fintech startup Revolut is trying so many things at once that it’s hard to keep track of everything. This time, the company is partnering with Simplesurance to launch a new insurance product. You can now insure your cell phone for £1 per week/£42 per year, which represents $1.35 per week/$56.50 per year.

Most telecom companies already provide cell phone insurance options. But they tend to be more expensive than Revolut’s offering in the U.K. Revolut already talked about launching phone insurance, but today marks the launch of this new product.

Revolut’s insurance covers accidental, water and operational damage everywhere around the world. It covers cracked screen and you can start insuring your device as long as your phone is less than six months old. You can usually get it repaired or replaced in less than 48 hours.

Revolut asks you the device you’re using. So it sounds like it could get a bit more expensive than this price tag with super premium phones.

Revolut is going to take advantage of its app to sign up new users to this new product. You can sign up directly from the company’s app and Revolut Premium users will get a 20 percent discount. Unfortunately, you have to contact Simplesurance directly if you want to find a claim.

Under the hood, Simplesurance and Revolut work with Allianz Worldwide Partners. Simplesurance usually works with other companies to provide B2B insurance products.

But you can also sign up to a similar phone insurance product on Simplesurance’s consumer website. Simplesurance operates in dozens of countries. So Revolut users in other countries can expect to see today’s new insurance product in the future.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Published at Wed, 27 Sep 2017 07:01:37 +0000

Company:

Phone:

Website:

Email:

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Fintech startup Revolut is trying so many things at once that it’s hard to keep track of everything. This time, the company is partnering with Simplesurance to launch a new insurance product. You can now insure your cell phone for £1 per week/£42 per year, which represents $1.35 per week/$56.50 per year.

Most telecom companies already provide cell phone insurance options. But they tend to be more expensive than Revolut’s offering in the U.K. Revolut already talked about launching phone insurance, but today marks the launch of this new product.

Revolut’s insurance covers accidental, water and operational damage everywhere around the world. It covers cracked screen and you can start insuring your device as long as your phone is less than six months old. You can usually get it repaired or replaced in less than 48 hours.

Revolut asks you the device you’re using. So it sounds like it could get a bit more expensive than this price tag with super premium phones.

Revolut is going to take advantage of its app to sign up new users to this new product. You can sign up directly from the company’s app and Revolut Premium users will get a 20 percent discount. Unfortunately, you have to contact Simplesurance directly if you want to find a claim.

Under the hood, Simplesurance and Revolut work with Allianz Worldwide Partners. Simplesurance usually works with other companies to provide B2B insurance products.

But you can also sign up to a similar phone insurance product on Simplesurance’s consumer website. Simplesurance operates in dozens of countries. So Revolut users in other countries can expect to see today’s new insurance product in the future.

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Published at Wed, 27 Sep 2017 07:01:37 +0000

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Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Fintech startup Revolut is trying so many things at once that it’s hard to keep track of everything. This time, the company is partnering with Simplesurance to launch a new insurance product. You can now insure your cell phone for £1 per week/£42 per year, which represents $1.35 per week/$56.50 per year.

Most telecom companies already provide cell phone insurance options. But they tend to be more expensive than Revolut’s offering in the U.K. Revolut already talked about launching phone insurance, but today marks the launch of this new product.

Revolut’s insurance covers accidental, water and operational damage everywhere around the world. It covers cracked screen and you can start insuring your device as long as your phone is less than six months old. You can usually get it repaired or replaced in less than 48 hours.

Revolut asks you the device you’re using. So it sounds like it could get a bit more expensive than this price tag with super premium phones.

Revolut is going to take advantage of its app to sign up new users to this new product. You can sign up directly from the company’s app and Revolut Premium users will get a 20 percent discount. Unfortunately, you have to contact Simplesurance directly if you want to find a claim.

Under the hood, Simplesurance and Revolut work with Allianz Worldwide Partners. Simplesurance usually works with other companies to provide B2B insurance products.

But you can also sign up to a similar phone insurance product on Simplesurance’s consumer website. Simplesurance operates in dozens of countries. So Revolut users in other countries can expect to see today’s new insurance product in the future.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Published at Wed, 27 Sep 2017 07:01:37 +0000

Company:

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Website:

Email:

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Fintech startup Revolut is trying so many things at once that it’s hard to keep track of everything. This time, the company is partnering with Simplesurance to launch a new insurance product. You can now insure your cell phone for £1 per week/£42 per year, which represents $1.35 per week/$56.50 per year.

Most telecom companies already provide cell phone insurance options. But they tend to be more expensive than Revolut’s offering in the U.K. Revolut already talked about launching phone insurance, but today marks the launch of this new product.

Revolut’s insurance covers accidental, water and operational damage everywhere around the world. It covers cracked screen and you can start insuring your device as long as your phone is less than six months old. You can usually get it repaired or replaced in less than 48 hours.

Revolut asks you the device you’re using. So it sounds like it could get a bit more expensive than this price tag with super premium phones.

Revolut is going to take advantage of its app to sign up new users to this new product. You can sign up directly from the company’s app and Revolut Premium users will get a 20 percent discount. Unfortunately, you have to contact Simplesurance directly if you want to find a claim.

Under the hood, Simplesurance and Revolut work with Allianz Worldwide Partners. Simplesurance usually works with other companies to provide B2B insurance products.

But you can also sign up to a similar phone insurance product on Simplesurance’s consumer website. Simplesurance operates in dozens of countries. So Revolut users in other countries can expect to see today’s new insurance product in the future.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Published at Wed, 27 Sep 2017 07:01:37 +0000

Company:

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Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Fintech startup Revolut is trying so many things at once that it’s hard to keep track of everything. This time, the company is partnering with Simplesurance to launch a new insurance product. You can now insure your cell phone for £1 per week/£42 per year, which represents $1.35 per week/$56.50 per year.

Most telecom companies already provide cell phone insurance options. But they tend to be more expensive than Revolut’s offering in the U.K. Revolut already talked about launching phone insurance, but today marks the launch of this new product.

Revolut’s insurance covers accidental, water and operational damage everywhere around the world. It covers cracked screen and you can start insuring your device as long as your phone is less than six months old. You can usually get it repaired or replaced in less than 48 hours.

Revolut asks you the device you’re using. So it sounds like it could get a bit more expensive than this price tag with super premium phones.

Revolut is going to take advantage of its app to sign up new users to this new product. You can sign up directly from the company’s app and Revolut Premium users will get a 20 percent discount. Unfortunately, you have to contact Simplesurance directly if you want to find a claim.

Under the hood, Simplesurance and Revolut work with Allianz Worldwide Partners. Simplesurance usually works with other companies to provide B2B insurance products.

But you can also sign up to a similar phone insurance product on Simplesurance’s consumer website. Simplesurance operates in dozens of countries. So Revolut users in other countries can expect to see today’s new insurance product in the future.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Published at Wed, 27 Sep 2017 07:01:37 +0000

Company:

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Email:

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Fintech startup Revolut is trying so many things at once that it’s hard to keep track of everything. This time, the company is partnering with Simplesurance to launch a new insurance product. You can now insure your cell phone for £1 per week/£42 per year, which represents $1.35 per week/$56.50 per year.

Most telecom companies already provide cell phone insurance options. But they tend to be more expensive than Revolut’s offering in the U.K. Revolut already talked about launching phone insurance, but today marks the launch of this new product.

Revolut’s insurance covers accidental, water and operational damage everywhere around the world. It covers cracked screen and you can start insuring your device as long as your phone is less than six months old. You can usually get it repaired or replaced in less than 48 hours.

Revolut asks you the device you’re using. So it sounds like it could get a bit more expensive than this price tag with super premium phones.

Revolut is going to take advantage of its app to sign up new users to this new product. You can sign up directly from the company’s app and Revolut Premium users will get a 20 percent discount. Unfortunately, you have to contact Simplesurance directly if you want to find a claim.

Under the hood, Simplesurance and Revolut work with Allianz Worldwide Partners. Simplesurance usually works with other companies to provide B2B insurance products.

But you can also sign up to a similar phone insurance product on Simplesurance’s consumer website. Simplesurance operates in dozens of countries. So Revolut users in other countries can expect to see today’s new insurance product in the future.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Published at Wed, 27 Sep 2017 07:01:37 +0000

Company:

Phone:

Website:

Email:

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Fintech startup Revolut is trying so many things at once that it’s hard to keep track of everything. This time, the company is partnering with Simplesurance to launch a new insurance product. You can now insure your cell phone for £1 per week/£42 per year, which represents $1.35 per week/$56.50 per year.

Most telecom companies already provide cell phone insurance options. But they tend to be more expensive than Revolut’s offering in the U.K. Revolut already talked about launching phone insurance, but today marks the launch of this new product.

Revolut’s insurance covers accidental, water and operational damage everywhere around the world. It covers cracked screen and you can start insuring your device as long as your phone is less than six months old. You can usually get it repaired or replaced in less than 48 hours.

Revolut asks you the device you’re using. So it sounds like it could get a bit more expensive than this price tag with super premium phones.

Revolut is going to take advantage of its app to sign up new users to this new product. You can sign up directly from the company’s app and Revolut Premium users will get a 20 percent discount. Unfortunately, you have to contact Simplesurance directly if you want to find a claim.

Under the hood, Simplesurance and Revolut work with Allianz Worldwide Partners. Simplesurance usually works with other companies to provide B2B insurance products.

But you can also sign up to a similar phone insurance product on Simplesurance’s consumer website. Simplesurance operates in dozens of countries. So Revolut users in other countries can expect to see today’s new insurance product in the future.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Published at Wed, 27 Sep 2017 07:01:37 +0000

Company:

Phone:

Website:

Email:

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Revolut launches cell phone insurance in the U.K.

Fintech startup Revolut is trying so many things at once that it’s hard to keep track of everything. This time, the company is partnering with Simplesurance to launch a new insurance product. You can now insure your cell phone for £1 per week/£42 per year, which represents $1.35 per week/$56.50 per year.

Most telecom companies already provide cell phone insurance options. But they tend to be more expensive than Revolut’s offering in the U.K. Revolut already talked about launching phone insurance, but today marks the launch of this new product.

Revolut’s insurance covers accidental, water and operational damage everywhere around the world. It covers cracked screen and you can start insuring your device as long as your phone is less than six months old. You can usually get it repaired or replaced in less than 48 hours.

Revolut asks you the device you’re using. So it sounds like it could get a bit more expensive than this price tag with super premium phones.

Revolut is going to take advantage of its app to sign up new users to this new product. You can sign up directly from the company’s app and Revolut Premium users will get a 20 percent discount. Unfortunately, you have to contact Simplesurance directly if you want to find a claim.

Under the hood, Simplesurance and Revolut work with Allianz Worldwide Partners. Simplesurance usually works with other companies to provide B2B insurance products.

But you can also sign up to a similar phone insurance product on Simplesurance’s consumer website. Simplesurance operates in dozens of countries. So Revolut users in other countries can expect to see today’s new insurance product in the future.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Published at Wed, 27 Sep 2017 07:01:37 +0000

Company:

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Antidilution: the other way VCs take more of your startup’s equity

Antidilution: the other way VCs take more of your startup’s equity

Startup funding may seem like a cut-and-dry affair. Money goes into a startup in exchange for shares in the startup. Easy enough, right?

Not so much.

There are plenty of complex terms, clauses, provisions and other conditions written into investment agreements. So in this series, “A Startup Takes Flight,” we’re exploring how some of the most common funding terms affect the fundraising process. To do so, we made up a company called the Internet of Wings, Inc. (abbreviated “IoW”) and followed its path.

We’ve previously worked through the basics of startup share structures. and common financial instruments used in seed deals, pre- and post-money valuations. In our second installment, we learned how pro rata clauses work and how to calculate the minimum investment required to maintain the same proportional stake in a company.

So far it’s been a pretty good run for our made-up company. It has raised money on decent terms. Here’s the capitalization table after Series B:

And here’s how the share structure broke down by stage after Series B:

However, on the suggestion of the board, it was decided that the company should undertake a strategic pivot; we’ll see how that turns out. In the process, we will learn about down rounds, share conversions and ratchet-based antidilution protections.

State of the Wing

It’s been a couple of years since Jill and Jack raised their Series B. However, executing such a pivot would prove to be expensive.

Their shift in strategy involved an expansion of their business away from simple drone-based delivery of chicken sandwiches. In order to be the drone-based logistics layer for all restaurants, they set up outposts in far-flung cities like Los Angeles, Boston and Austin, TX.

Inspired by gourds used to serve $14 artisanal yerba maté at a Mission District cantina they often frequented, Jack designed and began manufacturing a line of modular packaging that could contain everything from ramen to breakfast tacos. Remarking on the slightly oblong shape and white color of his containers, Jill joked: “I think we can finally answer the question. Chicken definitely came before the egg.”

It was not all smooth sailing, though. Minor hardware malfunctions resulted in dropped payloads. Most memorably, a class of slightly passive-aggressive elementary school students sent a copy of Judi Barrett’s classic Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs to HQ after a drone accidentally dropped a party-sized egg of baked ziti as it flew over their playground at recess.

There were some bugs in the routing software, too. Skirting a little too close to LAX, a drone was taken out by one of the trained falcons otherwise tasked with dispatching birds before they get sucked into passing jet engines. A press photo showed the raptor nibbling steak tartare out of the drone’s payload. A long and drawn out investigation by the FAA ensued.

More seriously, the company found it surprisingly difficult to acquire customers. Takeout restaurants were hesitant to allow the drones with their hissing, squealing buzz fly near their businesses. Without the special bays and “Drone Zones” integrated into the Internet of Wings’s production facilities, more traditional restaurants found it difficult to integrate drones into their delivery workflows.

Tensions were also rising among the co-founders.

“I knew from the beginning that this ‘pivot and become a platform’ advice wasn’t good,” said Jack to Jill after everyone else went home. “You know they just wanted us to scale up so they can get a 10x exit on their investment, right?”

“There’s something definitely wrong here,” agreed Jill. “But there has to be a technical solution to customer concerns. Maybe we could put something around the rotors to reduce noise? Something soft, like feathers or some bio-mimicked material perhaps?”

Jack tried to remain calm. “Your proposed solution to our customer acquisition problem is to cover our drones, which no longer exclusively carry chicken, with feathers? Sounds like we’re running around with our heads cut off.”

We’ll check in on them in a bit.

IoW’s Series C dynamics

The Internet of Wings has not been living up to investor expectations. Raising, much less keeping, the $50 million Series B valuation was an order that got taller by the day.

In VC parlance, a “down” round is a financing round with a lower share price than the previous round. And in venture capital investing agreements, there are often a series of provisions included to protect investors from being diluted during down rounds.

As the name suggests, antidilution provisions protect previous investors from dilution in down rounds.

Like we discussed in the case of pro rata provisions, antidilution protections help investors maintain their proportional influence in a company. Things like board seats and votes are often allocated as a function of how much equity a given shareholder (in this case, an investor) controls. A shareholder doesn’t want that kind of influence snatched away from them by some other investor swooping in to buy up lots of cheap shares in a down round. This is one of the primary reasons for an investor to build in a price adjustment mechanism into their agreement with the company.

Back to our founders…

“Jack, stop it with the poultry puns. It’s getting really annoying and people are going to stop listening to you,” said an increasingly exasperated Jill. “But back to business, if we raised just a bit more money, maybe we could make this work? With another iteration on the drone technology, and a better on-site deployment strategy for our customers, we could be in the clear here.”

“IoW’s no spring chicken though,” said Jack, stifling a smile as he dropped another pun. “Given the slow growth of business, and the FAA breathing down our necks after the LAX incident, we’re not going to keep — much less grow — our $50 million valuation from our previous round, and that’s going to really, really suck for us. We’re going to be diluted down to nothing.”

“Not nothing,” said Jill. “But it’s still going to be tough. Look, we’ve got nine months of runway. After that, we’ve got nothing besides some drones, a few leases on some buildings, desks, laptops and a couple dozen employees who are going to be out of a job.” Jill, now appealing to the hungrier side of her co-founder’s psyche, offered, “If we stick this through, we can at least save this boondoggle and get something out of the years we’ve spent on this. It’s a slog, but it’s our slog.”

“You have no idea how much I want to fly the coop, Jill. But birds of a feather flock together, so we’re in this to the end, whether I like it or not. Guess we’ve got to call the board.”

The round

Jill, Jack and the rest of the board collectively agree that Internet of Wings will need to raise another $10 million in a Series C round. This would be just enough money to sustain the company for another four to five quarters as it retrofitted its drones, worked with customers to regain momentum lost in the pivot and begin seeking exit options if the company failed to grow as expected.

Jack and Jill’s concerns came home to roost. Investors valued their company significantly below their previous $50 million valuation. Because of the regulatory pressure, sluggish growth and rumors that a major corporation is considering an entrance into drone-based delivery, IoW’s investors valued the company at $30 million pre-money. With roughly 27.5 million shares outstanding prior to the Series C financing, the company’s shares are now priced at roughly $1.091 per share (calculated by dividing the pre-money valuation by the number of shares outstanding prior to new financing), a change of negative 40 percent from the share price at Series B.

Before continuing, let’s digest some of the numbers related to this offering, because knowing how many shares are being created will be important for our antidilution calculations. To find the number of shares being issued, we simply divide the total amount of money being raised ($10 million) by the price at which shares are being offered ($1.091). The result of that simple arithmetic: we calculated that 9,165,902 Series C shares will be issued.

With that figured out, here’s the breakdown of what’s being invested in the round:

  • Cormorant Ventures is investing $6 million for 5,499,541 Series C shares, 15 percent of the company, undiluted.
  • BlackBox Capital is investing $4 million for 3,666,361 Series C shares, 10 percent of the company, undiluted.
  • Provident Capital is not participating in the round.

But this is just the investment for this Series C round. Prior investors had antidilution clauses written into their investment agreements with the Internet of Wings. So let’s see how those terms affect the conversion price of extant Series B shares. Not sure what conversion price means? Fret not, because we’ll explain.

Antidilution terms from IoW’s Series B

IoW had three investors in its $15 million Series B round. The antidilution provisions worked out by each investor are as follows:

  • Cormorant Ventures invested $10 million, and Provident Capital invested $1.5 million. Both negotiated a typical weighted average antidilution clause.
  • BlackBox capital invested $3.5 million and negotiated a full ratchet clause.

There are two primary approaches to fulfilling antidilution clauses. The first, and perhaps most obvious one, is to issue new shares according to the type of agreement reached during the prior financing event. However, according to a highly referenced blog post by Brad Feld from 2005 on the subject, “it’s a silly and unnecessarily complicated approach that merely increases the amount the lawyers can bill the company for the financing.”

Rather, Feld and others suggest merely adjusting the price at which preferred shares can convert to common shares. In most startup shareholder agreements, preferred stock carries the option, but not the obligation, to convert to common stock. Typically, the ratio at which this occurs is one to one at the start, but it can vary.

However, in the event of a down round that triggers antidilution protections, this conversion ratio changes. How it changes depends on the type of antidilution clause written into an investor agreement, which we’ll discuss next.

In the case of Internet of Wings, the company will adjust the conversion price of its shares in the event of a down round. IoW negotiated “Pay to Play” provisions with each investor as a defensive measure. If previous investors don’t participate in the next round, Series C, they cede their antidilution protections.

How antidilution shakes out

In startup finance, ratchet-based antidilution provisions come in three main flavors, according to the NVCA’s model term sheet:

  • Proportional / weighted-average antidilution protection
  • Full ratchet antidilution protection
  • No antidilution protection at all

Although these terms are presented from most common to least common, here we’ll approach them in reverse order because it’s easier to explain that way.

No price-based antidilution protection

It’s sometimes the case that the easiest way to explain how something works is to show what happens when it isn’t there. In our case, without any antidilution provisions in place, an investor bears the full risk of having their proportional stake in a company reduced, on an unconverted basis, in the event of a down round.

If the investor holds preferred shares without an antidilution provision, their shares will be diluted at the same rate as common shareholders, like pro rata but in the wrong direction. On one hand, this may feel fair and equitable to the founders, employees and other common stockholders — because during a down round their investor is feeling the same dilutionary pain they are. However, to the investor a loss of relative influence within a company can, ahem, throw a wrench in their strategy.

For various reasons, Provident Capital didn’t participate in this round. Due to the Pay to Play provision, it’s not eligible to receive antidilution protection for its Series B investment. Its Series B shares will convert to common stock at a price of $1.818, the same price paid at the Series B round.

Full ratchet

Math-wise, this is the simplest version of antidilution provision to understand.

According to the NVCA’s model term sheet, full ratchet antidilution means that during a down round, “the conversion price [of preferred shares from the previous round] will be reduced to the price at which the new shares are issued.”

Although BlackBox Capital’s Series B shares were originally issued at $1.818, and would have converted to common stock at that same price had IoW’s valuation not declined, BlackBox Capital’s Series B shares will now convert at the same price as the company’s Series C shares: $1.091. This allows BlackBox to receive 66 percent more common shares during the conversion of its Series B preferred shares. This 1.666x conversion ratio is derived by dividing the original issuing price of the stock ($1.818) by its adjusted price ($1.091) given to it because of the antidilution provisions.

Typical broad-based antidilution

Weighted average antidilution, unlike full ratchet protections, take into account a number of different factors to produce a more “fair” or reasonable dilution regime. It strikes a balance between the amount of money previously raised (and at what price) and the amount of money being raised in a down round (as well as the new, lower share price).

The NVCA’s sample term sheet includes a formula for the most common type of weighted average antidilution, a so-called broad-based weighted average.

Here’s the formula:

CP2 = CP1 * (A+B) / (A+C)

Now, for Cormorant Ventures, in order to find the conversion price of its Series B shares, we have to solve this formula for CP2, the new conversion price.

It’s not that scary. We already know these numbers, but they’re hiding behind some difficult legal language. Here’s how it translates in simpler terms catered to this specific case:

  • CP2 = the Conversion Price in effect for Series B shares after Series C round is done. We have to solve for this.
  • CP1 = the original Conversion Price for Series B shares. Series B shares were issued at $1.818 and would have converted to common stock on a one-to-one basis.
  • A = the number of shares outstanding at Series B. There were exactly 27,499,998 shares outstanding prior to Series B.
  • B = “The aggregate consideration received by the corporation” (i.e. the total amount of money invested in the Internet of Wings at Series C) divided by the original conversion price for Series B shares. Cormorant ventures is investing $6 million at Series C, and the original Series B conversion price was $1.818. B here equals $3,300,330.
  • C = The number of shares being issued at Series C. As we discussed, there are a total of 9,165,902 shares being issued.

If we plug all those numbers into the equation and solve for CP2, we find that Cormorant Ventures’ Series B shares will now convert at $1.527. This is a 16 percent decrease from the original conversion price.

We can see here how the weighted average approach can seem fairer to both common shareholders (founders and employees, mostly) and other investors. Had Cormorant Ventures insisted on full ratchet protection, the firm would have been entitled to purchase shares at a much lower price, which would have resulted in a higher conversion ratio for them. Like we saw above, BlackBox’s conversion ratio was 1.666x. However, the conversion ratio for Cormorant Ventures is 1.191x. This weighted average method leaves more value on the table for both founders and other investors.

Share breakdown after Series C

In the Series C deal, $10 million was invested at a pre-money valuation of $30 million. With a share price of $1.091, the company is now valued at just a smidge over $40 million, with 36,665,900 shares outstanding.

In the past, we haven’t included a conversion price in our capitalization tables because preferred shares would convert to common shares on a one-to-one basis. But because IoW has now experienced a down round, this parity is now broken and we’ll have to include the conversion price. This also gives us the opportunity to calculate Internet of Wings’s ownership on an as-converted basis.

Here’s how it all breaks down now. Here is the capitalization table of the company presented as-is, without any conversions:

And here’s that same capitalization table, this time with ownership presented on a fully diluted basis:

Note how Cormorant Ventures’ stake in IoW’s Series B round went from 15 percent to 16.8 percent because of the weighted average antidilution provision. But we can really see the power of a full ratchet clause when we compare the unconverted Series B investment by BlackBox Capital to its fully diluted value. BlackBox’s stake 5.25 percent Series B preferred stake jumped to an 8.22 percent stake due to its full ratchet antidilution protection.

Here’s how the ownership of the company is divided by shareholder. Again, to show the difference between undiluted and fully diluted stakes, we’ve presented both here:

And here’s the company’s share structure — presented on an as-converted basis — after the Series C round is complete:

What we learned

In this installment of A Startup Takes Flight, we followed our co-founders through the trials and tribulations of raising a down round. Throughout this part of the funding process, we learned about the two main forms of antidilution protections: broad-based weighted average and full ratchet clauses. We also saw how Pay to Play provisions can protect founders from antidilution protections by exempting investors who don’t participate in down rounds.

Now, as we approach the final chapter, we ask ourselves how this is all going to turn out for Jill and Jack. Will their company rally and become a booming success and go public? Or will the looming threat of a corporate giant entering the ring force an early exit from the company? If the past three installments have been about investment, next week we’ll get to see what happens in the divestment process.

Featured Image: Li-Anne Dias

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Published at Tue, 26 Sep 2017 23:09:34 +0000

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Sketchfab’s app might be the best way to try ARKit

Sketchfab’s app might be the best way to try ARKit

One of the big promises with iOS 11 is ARKit. This new framework makes it much easier to look at virtual objects in the real world using augmented reality. Sketchfab has been building the biggest 3D model sharing platform, a sort of YouTube for 3D models. That’s why today’s iOS update turns Sketchfab into a thorough augmented reality app.

This implementation isn’t perfect just yet as the company is using a web view on top of the real world. That’s why there might be some lag. You’ll need to install iOS 11 first.

But the fact that you can pick any object in Sketchfab’s extensive library turns the app into a wow generator. The company now offers 2 million 3D objects, so there are plenty of options.

When you’re browsing a model in the app, there’s now an AR button at the top of the screen. This button activates your camera. You then need to point your iPhone or iPad at a flat surface and tap on the screen. The 3D model appears in the middle of the real world.

You can make this object bigger or smaller by pinching with your fingers. In future versions, content creators will be able to define a default scale so that you don’t end up with a giant scary crab in your living room. You can also rotate the object with your fingers.

Once you’re done positioning the model, you can move around the object, get closer and look at details. It will feel like the model is right here in the room with the rest of the real world.

Google also announced ARCore, the company’s answer to ARKit. Sketchfab says that it plans to support ARCore in its Android app as well.

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Published at Tue, 26 Sep 2017 14:40:34 +0000

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Managed By Q, the office management system, acquires Hivy

Managed By Q, the office management system, acquires Hivy

Managed by Q, the platform that helps office managers handle day-to-day operations, has made its first acquisition, picking up Y Combinator graduates Hivy for an undisclosed amount.

Managed By Q lets office managers book cleanings, handy work, IT help, and order office supplies thanks to a partnership with Staples. MBQ has raised upwards of $72 million and now serves New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The system began with Q installing a specialized tablet in the office that lets office managers book services or order supplies like bathroom soap, paper, pens, and other office staples (don’t mind the pun). The company has since evolved to offer the same services (and many others, including cleaning, maintenance and IT) through a web platform. While some of these services are handled by W2 Q Operators, others are provided by third-party vendors listed on the Managed By Q website.

Hivy, on the other hand, focuses on internal communication between office employees and office managers, letting employees make requests and note out-of-stock supplies without making a trip over to the office manager’s desk. Hivy also integrates third-party vendors so that office managers can check out what they need internally and order externally all on the same platform.

Q CEO Dan Teran explained to TechCrunch that the Hivy service fits in really well with Q’s existing platform.

“We have a lot of customers in common, and realized just how complimentary the services were,” said Teran. “This acquisition will make it easier to run and office and make an office more productive, which is what we’re all about.”

The acquisition will bring over Hivy’s core team, which, according to Teran, was limited to a relatively lean core team of founders. In fact, Teran said that he found it easiest to contact Hivy CEO Pauline Tordeur via Hivy’s customer support channel, as she handled all customer support communication.

For now, Managed By Q and Hivy will continue to run separate businesses, says Teran. Eventually, however, the companies will integrate services.

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Yelp is betting on home services, which accounts for 20 percent of revenue

Yelp is betting on home services, which accounts for 20 percent of revenue

While many folks think of Yelp as a place to find a great place to eat, the company has been quietly infiltrating other categories. Home Services — stuff like plumbing, movers, mechanics, etc. — seem to be a booming business for Yelp, now representing 20 percent of the company’s overall revenue.

So it only makes sense that Yelp has been tailoring features specifically for the use case of Home Services with Request A Quote (RAQ).

RAQ lets users search for a plumber and send out the same project info to up to 10 service providers, receiving a quote in return. Years ago I used Yelp to find a mover and it wasn’t nearly as easy as this.

In the last quarter, the company has seen an average of 40,000 quote requests per day. And service providers seem to be into it — more than 80 percent of all requests receive a response within 24 hours.

This puts Yelp in more direct competition with services like Angie’s List and Home Advisor.

“The big difference between us and other players in this space is that on other platforms, a business needs to pay to play,” said Alon Shiran. “With Yelp, service providers can access these features for free, and have one on one conversations with potential customers within minutes or hours.”

After seeing the growth of RAQ, the company is now adding even more refinement to the process in the form of a few new features.

For one, users can now send photos of the project for which they’re requesting a quote, whether it’s a picture of a leaky sink or multiple photos of their apartment to prep for a move. Yelp is also introducing real-time chat, including those little “typing” bubbles, so that users have more of an IM experience with their service provider instead of an email experience.

And, of course, Yelp is jumping on the machine learning train. The company is taking all the data it has from reviews, photos, business page details, etc to understand the best possible service providers for your particular request. In fact, Yelp’s machine learning will read what you’re typing as you request a quote to narrow down service providers to those who will certainly fill your request.

  1. photos in quote request

  2. service editor for auto repair

  3. service editor for movers

  4. real-time messaging

For example, if you’re moving across state lines, some movers who only do local moves will automatically be removed from the search results so that no one is wasting any time.

Yelp product manager Alon Shiran explained that this machine learning algorithm is not currently using your typed data for any other reason than to serve you the right businesses, but that the company hasn’t ruled out using that data for other business purposes.

Of course, the only way to successfully build a marketplace like this is to let the businesses and service providers participate, which is why Yelp has launched a Service Editor. Service Editor lets businesses within a certain category (like movers, or auto repair) specify their specialties and mark what they do and don’t provide.

“The greatest challenge for us right now is that people only think of Yelp as a place to find restaurants,” said Alon Shiran. “That’s starting to be really untrue. We’re not just about restaurants and the biggest challenge is simply spreading the word about all that we have going on in these other categories.”

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Plume Labs’ air quality tracker is now available for pre-orders

Plume Labs’ air quality tracker is now available for pre-orders

Plume Labs wants to be the definitive startup when it comes to air pollution. The company has built an app, an API and now an air quality tracker. The Flow is a tiny Bluetooth device you pair with your smartphone to learn more about the air you’re currently breathing.

It works both inside and outside and could be particularly useful if you live in a polluted city. It tracks particulate matter (PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide, ozone, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), temperature and humidity. You can clip it to your bag, bike or stroller. It has a tiny leather strap and looks nice.

There are 12 colored LEDs so that you can get a basic reading of your exposure to pollution over the past twelve hours. If you get multiple red LEDs, it means that you’ve been walking around polluted areas. Your phone will give your more information about your day and your city.

  1. PRESS Flow Product Shot – Hands

  2. PRESS Flow Product Shot – Indoors

  3. PRESS Flow Product Shot – Light Background

  4. PRESS Flow Product Shot – space

  5. PRESS Flow Use Case – Indoor Pollution

  6. PRESS Flow Use Case – Urban Active

  7. PRESS Flow Use Case – Urban Explorer

  8. PRESS Flow Use Case_Concerned parent

  9. PRESS Holding Flow Colourful BG

  10. PRESS Flow app

  11. PRESS Flow Product Shot – Bag

  12. PRESS Flow Product Shot – Dark Background

I already covered the Flow back at CES in January 2017. But the company didn’t say much about price and availability. The device is now available for pre-orders. It costs $139 for now and it’s going to end up costing $199 after the release. The company plans to ship the device in June 2018.

And it’s a volume play. In many ways, the Flow reminds me of Netatmo weather stations. Those devices have been a huge success because the company sold a huge number of weather stations. This way, Netatmo has built a dense map of weather stations with a ton of data points. It’s a great way to crowdsource weather maps.

I hope many people living in polluted cities will end up using the Flow. It could be a great way to figure out trends, polluted areas and possible changes to improve air quality.

Beta testers have been using the Flow in London already. With just a hundred users, the company was able to sample 500,000 data points across 1,300 miles of sidewalks.

Even without this big data aspect, the Flow can help you change your daily routine. Maybe you can avoid going for a run when it’s so polluted outside and wait until tomorrow morning.

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Eligo Bioscience raises $20 million to target the microbiome more precisely

Eligo Bioscience raises $20 million to target the microbiome more precisely

French startup Eligo Bioscience just raised $20 million to develop next-gen biotherapeutics. Khosla Ventures is leading the round. This is also Khosla Ventures’ first investment in a French startup. Existing investor Seventure Partners is also participating, and the startup received a $2 million grant from the Worldwide Innovation Challenge.

Eligo Bioscience has been working on a new way to target bacteria-based diseases since 2014. Many doctors still rely on old-fashioned antibiotics to kill bacteria or prevent further disease development. But most antibiotics are very broad and target all kinds of bacteria.

It means that some antibiotics aren’t necessarily effective when it comes to fighting specific kinds of bacteria. And bacteria also evolve over time, meaning that bacteria become less and less receptive to usual antibiotics. This could be a global health challenge in the coming years.

Eligo Bioscience thinks that there’s a better way to target the microbiome. The company is designing biological nanobots made out of DNA and proteins to identify and infiltrate specific types of bacteria. Those biotherapeutics called eligobiotics can then deliver a payload.

Eligobiotics are a delivery system. There are like trucks looking for specific bacteria in your body. The company says that you can combine eligobiotics with CRISPR-Cas payloads to kill pathogenic bacteria. But there are also more use cases. Eligobiotics could create transient drug production within your body.

Developing and mass-producing something like this is obviously a huge challenge. It’s going to take years before your doctor prescribes you an eligobiotics treatment.

And there are many challenges to overcome. If Eligo Bioscience has enough funding for its biological research, gets FDA approval and mass-produces eligobiotics in house or with a pharmaceutical partner, it could become a massive product. So it’s going to be a wild ride. But there’s one thing for sure. It’s an interesting startup so let’s keep an eye on Eligo Bioscience.

Featured Image: Kateryna Kon/Shutterstock

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ProsperWorks raises $53M for its G Suite-centric CRM service

ProsperWorks raises $53M for its G Suite-centric CRM service

ProsperWorks, a service that offers a set of Google-centric CRM tools, today announced that it has raised a $53 million Series C round led by Norwest Venture Partners, with participation from GV (the fund you probably still remember as Google Ventures). This new round brings the company’s total funding to $87 million, which, in ProsperWorks’ own words, makes t the “#1 funded CRM company in the last decade.”

Exactly a year ago, ProsperWorks announced its $24 million Series B round, so investors are clearly very excited about the service. Asthe company’s CEO Jon Lee told me, he wants ProsperWorks to be the #1 challenger to Salesforce. “We’re solving a huge problem that has massive implications for global productivity,” he told me in an email. “CRM is a $40 billion market that drives over $1 trillion in sales or 5.5 precent of the US GDP.  However, according to Forrester, 47 percent of CRMs fail because people don’t want to use it.”

ProsperWorks has long seen it as its mission to make CRM systems easy to use and to help the companies that adopt its system to get value out of its service. The general idea here is to integrate deeply with Google’s G Suite and to make the service look and feel like a Google product. This also means that its users don’t feel like they are constantly switching context as they move between their different productivity applications.

ProsperWorks plans to use the new funding to double its engineering team to accelerate its product development and to enhance its service with new solutions for specific verticals. In addition, the team is also looking at expanding internationally.

What’s maybe most important for current users, though, is that the company plans a full redesign. “We want to do for CRM what Apple did for mobility, reinventing user interface to be so intuitive that you realize value right away,” Lee writes in today’s announcement and also notes that the company plans to automate more of the standard CRM workflow by using the data it’s gathering from its users to power its machine learning algorithms to make life easier for its users.

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Lively raises $4.2M as it adds investment capabilities for health savings accounts

Lively raises $4.2M as it adds investment capabilities for health savings accounts

Lively co-founder Shobin Uralil likes to describe the health savings account as the “401(k) for healthcare” — but that it’s woefully underused as an investment vehicle like a 401(k).

So instead of just relying on it as a way to pay for healthcare, Uralil and his co-founder Alex Cyriac set out to build a way to not only help people start up health savings accounts, but also help them consider them in the same vein as other kinds of investments. Today, Lively said it is adding investment capabilities with an integration with TD Ameritrade, which will be available to all Lively HSA holders. The hope is that Lively will introduce a kind of investment that’s been available to the traditional finance community, but in a more seamless way in order to continue growing into a one-stop shop for HSA.

“The beauty of the HSA, with an HSA you can access the money at any time if you’re using it for qualified medical expenses,” Uralil said. “The 401(k), if you access your money before retirement, you get dinged.  If you think about it, I would argue that if you are eligible to open an HSA you would want to max out your contribution before your 401k. It grows through investments tax-free just like a 401(k), but unlike that, you can access your HSA money at any time.”

To get all this done, Lively also said it has raised $4.2 million in financing from investors that include Transmedia Capital, Streamlined Ventures, Y Combinator, SV Angel, Kevin Durant and Rich Kleinman’s The Durant Company and a laundry list of others. (We’ll include said laundry list at the bottom of the post.)

“More and more people just can’t afford your traditional low-deductible HMO and PPO plans,” co-founder Shobin Uralil said. “As that happens, the increase and the rise in popularity of the HSA has also seen that trend. We talked to people and they kept saying, I feel like I’m getting nickel-and-dimed, I can’t get my money out when I need it most. [They would say] nobody seems to want to help me save for the future. That, coupled with our personal experiences, made us decide.”

Lively aims to give users the ability to open up a health savings account with a high deductible health plan, and make it easier to get that money in and out of the account to pay for deductibles. Lively boils down to two products: a tool for employers to give their employees health savings accounts and manage contributions and payroll; and an account for end-users that’s free to set up and get an HSA up and running. The most important part of the latter half, though, was ensuring that it was easy to get money out to pay for health care without any hassle, Cyriac said.

The most important part of the latter half, though, was ensuring that it was easy to get money out to pay for health care without any hassle, Cyriac said. The company offers a Lively-issued debit card — something not new to the market, he said — but also looks to ensure that users see refunds when they pay without using an explicit method required by a bank or even Lively. The aim is to help individuals feel like they are the account holder, and not their employer, even if they end up leaving their jobs or switching to new ones.

There are also some competitors in the area, such as HealthEquity, and other products owned by health insurers like United Healthcare. As health insurance costs become an increasingly big question going forward, optimizing a health savings account is going to be a big focus for some of these bigger players, Uralil said. But the hope is that the company will be able to outmaneuver them by creating a tool not only for the end user, but also employers and other organizations.

I think we’re looking at this as an end-to-end type of solution and experience,” Cyriac said. “If you look at the current industry, it’s kind of concentrated. It’s a space dominated by banks and other financial institutions. You have thousands of banks, credit unions, third-party admins. That represents the long-fragmented tail of providers in the space. Our goal is not only to transform the experience on the front-end, but it’s the streamline in ways that most providers aren’t thinking, but on the operational back-end.”

For those that got all the way to the bottom here, this is the full list of investors in Lively: Streamlined Ventures, Transmedia Capital, Y Combinator, SV Angel, PJC, The Durant Company, Liquid 2 Ventures, Haystack Partners, Paul Buchheit, Isaac Oates, Frederic Kerrest,  Jeff Epstein, and “others.”

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Transit raises another $5M from Accel to become a hub for public transportation

Transit raises another $5M from Accel to become a hub for public transportation

Transit started off as a slick app that helped you get in a complex metro area with public transportation, but now CEO Jake Sion has higher ambitions than that: being the go-to spot for getting from point A to point B, regardless of method.

WIth bike-sharing, ridesharing, carsharing, and plenty of other methods of transportation that you can plant “sharing-” at the front, Sion says Transit now has “millions” of users after starting off from the hope of having a better public transit app in Montreal. Today, the company said it has raised $5 million in new venture financing in a round led by Accel Partners in order to fuel that growth.

“So the big thing for Transit is to help people live in cities without cars,” Sion said. “Building an awesome experience for public transit was the obvious first step. But public transit isn’t the best option for every trip. Adding deep integrations for complementary modes, like bike sharing, helps users more easily compare and combine different transport services. Plus, since so many people already have our app on their phone, our integration makes it simple for them to take that first, magical bike-share trip without downloading a new app or using a clunky kiosk.”

Transit — and other apps like it — emerged from the need of having the ability to just pop open an app and see the fastest way to get from point A to point B without a whole lot of tapping and typing. The natural start was with public transportation, where Transit would pull data from various data sources and crowdsourced information to just give you a simple screen with nearby busses and subways. You’d get the name, number, arrival time, and other information you might need right when you open the app.

Plenty of apps gunned for the opportunity like Moovit and Transit, the former of which has raised tens of millions of dollars in venture financing (and makes it kind of difficult to get rid of that notification badge on your home screen). Instead of opening up Google Maps, typing in a destination and then demanding a route before you can get to the nearby times for your preferred route, Transit looked to streamline that process as much as possible. After that, Sion wanted to broaden the efforts to just be the home base for how to get from A to B regardless of transport medium.

The question for Transit — from both investors and from a logical standpoint — is how big it gets outside of urban areas where the need for public transportation is obvious. People, to be sure, are using alternative methods of transportation like scooter rental in the form of Scoot or bike-sharing within cities, but if Transit wants to get beyond just major metropolitan areas, it’ll have to offer some kind of value proposition beyond that.

“I think the most fundamental question or debate is what emerges as people in cities move away from car ownership,” Sion said. “Will there be continued fracturing or consolidation?… In the past year or so, I’d argue that we’ve seen continued fracturing.”

Sion said that the company is trying to internally build a system that allows the company to quickly integrate new forms of transportation, like bike-sharing, at a technical and product level. The tools are designed to set up sign-up methods, payment, and booking without needing to update the app, Sion said, looking to capitalize on its existing user base that might want to broaden to new forms of transportation. Though to be sure, that, too, represents a potential risk.

“We’re investing a disproportionate amount of resources into transport verticals that represent orders of magnitude fewer trips than public transit today,” Sion said. “We believe that nobody has been able to build a product that stitches together various modes in a compelling way, and given our existing footprint among commuters in North America, we think we’re well positioned to pull it off.”

Transit will, of course, face a lot of competition. Its other investors in the round include Real Ventures, Accomplice, and BDC, and Accel’s Ryan Sweeney is joining the board of directs. But it will have to go up against the thoroughly-funded Moovit and other apps like Citymapper (which actually justpartnered with Gett to launch a shared taxi commuter route in London) as it tries to win the hearts — and habits — of users.

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AI startup Appier hires Sean Chu from Microsoft to head its Asia growth strategy

AI startup Appier hires Sean Chu from Microsoft to head its Asia growth strategy

Appier, the artificial intelligence startup that recently raised a $33 million Series C from three of Asia’s biggest Internet companies, has hired former Microsoft Japan marketing senior director Sean Chu to oversee its growth strategy. As Appier’s new chief strategy officer, Chu will be based in Tokyo and helm Appier’s operations in Japan and Korea.

Last month Appier announced its Series C, which brought its total funding so far to $82 million, from SoftBank Group, Line Corp., Naver Corp., EDBI (the Singapore Economic Development Board’s corporate investment arm) and AMTD Group. Appier’s goal is to strengthen in presence in the markets its new investors represent, which include Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, before expanding into other regions. The company’s main products, the CrossX Programmatic Platform and Aixon, help brands use artificial intelligence to predict consumer behavior and make marketing decisions.

Appier’s new chief strategy officer Sean Chu

Prior to joining Appier, Chu served as senior director of Microsoft Japan’s central marketing group. Before that, he held executive positions at Sony Pictures Entertainment. He told TechCrunch in an email that in the short- to mid-term, Appier’s goal is to make sure that it sustains its current momentum in Japan and Korea.

“In the long-term, we plan to identify areas where our AI platforms can help busin

esses. For example, we’re currently working with a real estate company to identify ways in which they can use AI to optimize occupancy in their properties,” he said.

Right now, Appier’s clients come from three main categories: consumer brands, e-commerce companies and mobile game developers. Chu says Appier’s goal is to attract more sectors. CrossX, which helps companies plan their digital marketing campaigns, will target growth in the industries it already serves, while its data intelligence platform, Aixon, will expand into more verticals.

“We’re really excited about Aixon as it opens our business up to potentially any sector that is looking at AI,” Chu said. “If you speak to the industry analysts, they will tell you that AI, along with IoT, is at the top of the to-do list for most enterprises, particularly those in financial services, healthcare and manufacturing, but every company is definitely looking hard at AI.”

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Package delivery startup Doorman is shutting down

Package delivery startup Doorman is shutting down

Doorman, a startup delivering packages when you schedule them will be no more after October 6th, 2017.

The startup sent a letter over the weekend letting customers know it would no longer be in business in two weeks, saying it was “joining forces with a larger team.”

We’re not sure if this joining of forces means Doorman has been acquired or if it’s some other structure. We’ve reached out to Doorman for more details but have so far not heard back.

The startup popped up in 2015 and even enjoyed an appearance on ABC’s “Shark Tank” to tout its plan to drop off your online shopping items when you wanted them, not when the delivery person decided to drop them off. It was a model that resonated with those who couldn’t wait around all day for a package delivery, myself included.

But, Doorman admitted nearly one year ago the model was so popular it was losing money and had to change tack.

“We didn’t expect that Doorman would completely change peoples’ shopping behavior,” the company’s founder and CEO, Zander Adell, told TechCrunch at the time. “We now know that Doorman customers shop online twice as much within 6 months of signing up. Unfortunately, that means our original $19 and $29 per month plans stopped making sense, and we’re in effect losing a lot of money on some of our customers.”

The monthly delivery price jumped to a whopping $89 for the premium subscription, with an additional fee per package.

We don’t know if the price jump caused a mass cancellation but anecdotally I’ve heard from a handful of people who stopped using the service after that.

Unfortunately, it seems the price jump also wasn’t enough to save the company. Doorman says it will no longer accept incoming shipments after September 29th and that those who use their Doorman address for online shipments should update their information.

“We deeply apologize for all the inconvenience this causes you,” the letter says. “It has been an honor to work with you in helping us build and improve the Doorman experience and it has been a privilege to serve you.”

Featured Image: Doorman

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Zuck and Bezos back seed stage scout fund Village Global

Zuck and Bezos back seed stage scout fund Village Global

Product Hunt’s first employee Erik Torenberg is ready to fund fresh new startups, not just reveal them to the world. Today is the soft launch of Village Global, a seed and pre-seed early stage venture capital fund looking to connect entrepreneurs to cash as well as all-star mentors. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman, Google’s Eric Schmidt, Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer, and Microsoft’s Bill Gates are amongst the LPs putting money and advisorship into Village Global.

Village Global partner Erik Torenberg

Torenberg declined to comment on this article citing that Village Global is still amidst fundraising. While the firm doesn’t list how big its fund plans to be, TechCrunch has discovered an SEC regulatory filing from June showing Village Global was targeting a $50 million fundraise. It’s unclear how much exactly it will raise, though.

So why are luminaries like former NYC mayor Mike Bloomberg, VMWare founder Diane Greene, or Disney CEO Bob Iger willing to get involved, especially when most are already outrageously wealthy? “These innovators haven’t lost their love of the startup game” Village Global wrote in its launch post. “In fact, they have a lot of wisdom to share about their entrepreneurial journeys, and insight to gain from interacting with the next generation of innovators.”

These tech titans may trust Village Global because of Torenberg’s grass-roots affiliation with that next generation through his work at Product Hunt. He could help CEOs far-removed from the startup trenches glean learnings about budding tech trends and business practices from Village Global’s portfolio founders.

The Village Global team also includes Ben Casnocha, who co-authored entrepreneurship strategy book The Startup Of You with Hoffman before becoming his chief of staff at LinkedIn. Other partners at Village Global include former IAC biz dev exec, 500 Startups head of investor relations, and Queensbridge partner Adam Corey; Chegg chief business officer and Harvard Business School entrepreneur-in-residence Anne Dwane; and SuccessFactors VP and Canaan partner Ross Fubini.

Focusing on very early stage startups could allow Village Global to make an impact without raising an exceptionally huge fund, or offering expansive service arms like Andreessen Horowitz or GV (formerly Google Ventures) do in recruiting, design, and other areas. Instead, Village Global could dangle access to its network of famous advisors, roping in founders with its star power.

“Networks are known for speed and adaptability. These are good attributes for founders” Village Global writes. The firm says it’s geography and vertical agnostic, and will do follow-on rounds, giving it plenty of flexibility to find who’s building the future.

Village Global’s opportunity lies in keeping its ear to the street and sniffing out high potential founders and startups before more established funds and angel investors do. At this moment, a small investment can equal a substantial equity stake.

“One of the unique ways we operate is that we entrust successful angel investors and inspirational founders with capital to invest on behalf of Village” the firm explains. “Village network leaders — representing different backgrounds, ethnicities, genders, geographies, and sectors — have proximity to founders, including those who might go underestimated.”

Rather than having all deal flow and decision making go through its small core team, Village Global will develop a wider scouting network of the kind of people founders already look to for advice and first checks. These “network leaders” include YouTube’s VR lead Erin Teague, Quora vice president Sarah Smith, Dropbox’s first employee Aston Motes, and board director for Target, Hilton and [TechCrunch parent company] Verizon Mel Healey.

It’s a model that acknowledges that startup returns are binary — they either become failures or huge successes with little in between that’s meaningful to investors. By being generous with how it distributes rights to the returns on its investments to scouts, Village Global could gain access to these breakout deals that can pay back an entire fund.

With so many post-exit founders and wealthy individuals flooding into the early-stage investment field, competition is fierce. But if Village Global can cast a wide net, and reel in future unicorns with the promise of being mentored by tech heroes, it could see a strong community of startups cluster around it.

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Researchers find that Twitter bots can be used for good

Researchers find that Twitter bots can be used for good

According to Emilio Ferrara, a USC Information Sciences Institute researcher, not all Twitter bots are born bad. He should know. Ferrara created a “large-scale experiment designed to analyze the spread of information on social networks” and found that “good” Tweets spread just as quickly as bad Tweets. Further, they confirmed something the we already know: that information goes viral when we see it “multiple times through multiple sources.”

In other words, if you don’t want to spread the news don’t interact with it. But, if you see news from multiple sources at the same time, you’re far more likely to begin clicking the like button and the news becomes part of your worldview.

“We found that bots can be used to run interventions on social media that trigger or foster good behaviors,” said Ferrara. “This milestone shatters a long-held belief that ideas spread like an infectious disease, or contagion, with each exposure resulting in the same probability of infection. Now we have seen empirically that when you are exposed to a given piece of information multiple times, your chances of adopting this information increase every time.”

Ferrara created a bot that Tweeted out a set of health tips and fun life hacks to 25,000 real people using 39 bots. The team measured interaction with the bots and saw how the information began to become part of the user’s experience.

“We also saw that every exposure increased the probability of adoption – there is a cumulative reinforcement effect,” said Ferrara. “It seems there are some cognitive mechanisms that reinforce your likelihood to believe in or adopt a piece of information when it is validated by multiple sources in your social network.”

This helps explain why we are skeptical about a single movie recommendation, for example, but change our minds when we see multiple positive descriptions of a movie from multiple sources.

The bottom line? Bots work.

“The common approach is to have one broadcasting entity with many followers, but this study implies that it would be more effective to have multiple, decentralized bots share synchronized content,” he said. He proposed that organizations like the CDC use botnets to send information multiple times from multiple sources to increase the likelihood of adoption.

So if Twitter is casting you down into a deep pit of despair maybe all we need are a few botnets more Tweets like this one?

Featured Image: Kevin Smart/Getty Images

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Mobile hardware lab Nanoport gets $7 million in seed funding

Mobile hardware lab Nanoport gets $7 million in seed funding

Held at Moscone Center in San Francisco earlier this month, Mobile World Congress Americas was a pretty uninspiring show, but a few interesting startups stood out among the rows and rows of mobile companies. Nanoport was among the more interesting exhibits on the floor, offering up an array of different smartphone technologies aimed at rethinking the way we interact with our devices.

The event was a sort of public debut for the Silicon Valley-based R&D lab, a chance to showcase a pair of new technologies. Two weeks later, Nanoport tells TechCrunch that it’s secured $7 million in seed funding led by Horizons Ventures, the Hong Kong VC firm backed by  business magnate, Li Ka-shing. Other investors include BrightSpark Capital and Kensington Capital Partners.

Horizons has been backing the company since its earliest stealth days, as it’s grown into an independent lab aimed at developing forward thinking smartphone tech in a way that’s agnostic of manufacturers.

“It’s about advancing the mobile platform,” CEO and founder Tim Szeto tells TechCrunch. “Today, it’s very largely a one to one solitary experience. It evolved from the PC era, but we think, moving forward, it’s going to be a much more collaborative experience. It’s beyond your smartphone that involves other devices nearby in a much more seamless way.”

The technologies on display at MWCA are, if revolutionary, certainly compelling. There’s the Nanoport “tablet,” which uses magnetic adapters to daisy chain multiple handsets together for a larger image. The company calls it the “world’s first folding 10-inch tablet” — more correctly, it’s something to do with the device you’ve got lying around that you don’t want to sell or recycle for whatever reason. There aren’t too many instances when watching something on three connected phones beats a tablet, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

The other technology, TacHammer, is a haptics system for devices like smartphones and game controllers that allows for distinct and highly controllable feedback. The demo at MWC involved a game pad with distinct vibrations assigned to each button. Implemented in a smartphone, it could mean a more diverse control scheme for a buttonless device.

According to Szeto, this early stage funding will go toward expanding the company’s research facilities. “It’s to further our lab and accelerate commercial development,” he explains. “We’re doubling the size of the lab we have now to 12,000 square feet and opening up a new lab [this] week. It’s got an electronics prototyping lab, a software development lab and a mechanical prototyping lab.”

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Published at Mon, 25 Sep 2017 16:00:42 +0000

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We talk about hoofed spiders with the founder of Outlier clothing

We talk about hoofed spiders with the founder of Outlier clothing

Outlier’s founder Abe Burmeister is a designer who joined the world of clothing manufacturing over five years ago. His clothing – creating with cutting edge fabrics – is touted as high-tech and very chic but what frustrates Burmeister is how slowly the clothing industry is moving.

His latest creation, a rolltop knapsack, uses a unique material to create one of the lightest and strongest backpacks available. The fact that Burmeister is even using this material – a “nonwoven composite of Dyneema brand ultra high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE)” – is odd in an industry that hasn’t changed much in the past 100 years.

I asked Burmeister about trends in clothing materials, why he makes stuff out of UHMWPE, and what we can expect from materials in the future (including whether or not we’ll wear stuff made by spiders with hooves.) Enjoy.

Technotopia is a podcast about a better future by John Biggs. You can subscribe in Stitcher or iTunes and download the MP3 here.

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Accelo hauls in $9 million to digitize operations for project-driven small businesses

Accelo hauls in $9 million to digitize operations for project-driven small businesses

Accelo, a six-year old startup, is trying to solve a big problem for project-driven small businesses like architects, accountants and designers. These companies, which typically have less than 100 employees, don’t usually have access to software to get a complete view of their business operations.

That’s where Accelo comes in. It has designed a set of tools specifically for these cost-sensitive project-driven businesses. CEO Geoff McQueen says he walked in their shoes when he was running his own digital agency in Australia for 10 years. While he could peer at month-end financial reports to get one dimension of the company’s financial health, he couldn’t understand the business’s daily operational picture and that frustrated him. If it was a pain point for him, he reckoned that other small businesses were feeling it too and Accelo was born in 2011.

Today, the company announced a $9 million Series A led by by Level Equity with participation by from Fathom Capital and existing investor Blackbird Ventures.

Over the years, Accelo has built a suite of tools that now includes CRM, project management, customer service and accounting pieces. An uber tool that combines all of these tools into a single interface is being rebranded today from PSA to ServeOps.

McQueen says the ServeOps product gives customers insight across their entire business. As he points out, small businesses have very little room for error when it comes to bidding, winning and running a project. They have to bring it in at or under budget, and the only way to do that is to keep the entire process under control throughout the project, something that’s really difficult to do when you are only looking at monthly financial reports.

The company strives to pull as much data as it can from external sources like calendar entries or email to automate as much data entry as possible. It includes a timer customers can turn on when they start working on each project, so they can easily track project work inside the program.

Accelo was launched in Australia, where it still houses its engineering team. The rest of the team is in San Francisco (not far from TechCrunch’s offices). The company was bootstrapped from inception until 2015 when it received $2 million in seed investment.

McQueen said the Series A comes at a time when the company is actually profitable, not something you usually see with an early round like this. He believes that’s because they are solving a real problem for small service businesses and helping to keep them organized and running profitably.

And in case you’re wondering, McQueen says his company, which has 60 employees, uses its own products to run the company.

Featured Image: Kelvin Murray/Getty Images

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Published at Mon, 25 Sep 2017 12:00:21 +0000

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Marketing startup Synup gets $6M Series A to help brands manage their online reputation

Marketing startup Synup gets $6M Series A to help brands manage their online reputation

Synup founder Ashwin Ramesh

Synup, a startup that helps marketers monitor where their brands are mentioned online, announced that it has raised $6 million in Series A funding led by Vertex Ventures. Existing investor Prime Venture Partners also returned for the round.

Though based in Bangalore, Synup’s main market has been the United States and Canada since it launched two years ago. It will use some of its new capital to expand into the United Kingdom and Europe by the middle of next year.

Founded and CEO Ashwin Ramesh says the U.S. was not only the largest potential market for Synup’s services, but also “the best geography for us to build and perfect our template before going global.”

Synup’s customers use its cloud-based software to track all the places online—including review sites, business directories, search engine results and social networks—where their businesses or products are cited. It makes sure address information is synced, analyzes traffic and conversion rates, monitors the content of customer reviews and makes suggestions for search engine optimization.

Synup claims it hit an average rate of return of $1 million just nine months after it was founded, but it also faces competition from established rivals like Yext and Moz that also help brands track and manage their online mentions. Ramesh says that he believes Synup’s roster of features, which include optional manual listing services provided by the company, reputation monitoring tools for specific industries and insights for Google My Business, Bing and Facebook, is the most comprehensive so far. Synup also provides a white-label program and training for marketing agencies.

In addition to expanding into new markets, Synup also plans to use its new funding to launch new features, including more detailed analytics and new tools for its white-label program.

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Published at Mon, 25 Sep 2017 10:44:06 +0000

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Inkitt, a ‘reader powered’ book publisher, raises $3.9M to discover the next best-selling author

Inkitt, a ‘reader powered’ book publisher, raises $3.9M to discover the next best-selling author

Inkitt, which bills itself as “the world’s first reader-powered book publisher,” has raised $3.9 million in pre-series A funding, in a round led by Redalpine, with Frontline Ventures, Speedinvest and a number of private investors also participating. The Berlin-based startup is part writing and reading community, and part publishing house, with one aspect feeding the other.

Let me explain.

The Inkitt online community consists of a forum to post writing work in-progress and get feedback, and to solicit support for things like editing and plot development. However, a major focus — and key to the startup’s unique publishing model — is the beta readers section.

Here Inkitt members are encouraged to post full manuscripts to be read by the app’s over a million readers. This is a way to get reader reviews and further feedback, but can also lead to a publishing deal with Inkitt itself if the reader engagement data the company collects points to a potential best-seller.

“We analyse reader behaviour, analyse their engagement,” Inkitt founder Ali Albazaz tells me. “If they start reading and stay up all night to continue reading, if they use every break during the day to continue reading your story, we look at this reader behaviour in order to see if a book is good or not good”.

In addition, since Inkitt employs Facebook log in, the startup has demographic data on its readers and this, says Albazaz, puts it in a position to be able to make decisions very objectively. “If we see that the metrics are great, we offer the author a publishing deal,” he says, which covers ebooks, print, audio books, movie rights, and merchandise rights.

To date, the company has published 24 books, of which 22 have become Amazon best sellers. “We are basically a full publishing house but without acquisition editors,” says Albazaz. “Inkitt is about author equality not about what you have done before or the network you have. Three years later we are proving that our approach works. We are able to predict best sellers with incredible accuracy”.

Meanwhile, Albazaz regards Inkitt’s most direct competitor as Chuangshi by Tencent, a large fiction site in China. “It is our main global competition, but also our main proof point for a successful data-driven fiction publisher. Tencent’s service focuses exclusively on China,” he says.

Otherwise, the Inkitt founder reckons that, with the exception of Amazon, few publishing houses work extensively with data science or use online to its full potential. Instead they still rely on gut-level decision-making by literary agents who in turn pitch a publisher where an editor ultimately decides whether or not a work is sellable.

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Published at Mon, 25 Sep 2017 08:25:40 +0000

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Photo marketplace Picfair raises £1.5M, aims to ‘weaponise’ photographers

Photo marketplace Picfair raises £1.5M, aims to ‘weaponise’ photographers

Picfair, the London-based photo marketplace founded by ex-journalist Benji Lanyado, has raised £1.5 million in new funding — capital it plans to use to market its “fair trade photography” proposition to the plethora of companies that need authentic photo content.

These include publishers, creative agencies, and, with the huge rise in so-called content marketing, SMEs and corporates. However, rather than spend a ton of money on paid-for online marketing, Lanyado says the plan is to “weaponise” the marketplace’s 25,000 or so photographers, who, he believes, are best placed to spread awareness of Picfair and are already doing so.

Specifically, he says many of Picfair’s photographers — who range from smartphone photographers to professionals, as anyone can upload their work to the platform — already share their Picfair-hosted photo listings on social media or embed a link to the marketplace on their own portfolio sites, in a bid to point buyers away from industry behemoths, such as Getty and Shutterstock, and to Picfair. That’s because Picfair lets photographers set their own prices and takes a much smaller 20 per cent cut on each photo sold.

Now the startup wants to add a further incentive in the form of affiliate revenue, thus giving photographers an additional 10 per cent on every photo they sell direct. It is also developing tools to make embedding a Picfair buy button and other promotional materials much easier.

“Picfair’s growth among photographers has been almost exclusively organic, all through word of mouth” Lanyado tells me. “We’re the only place a photographer can set their own license prices, anywhere. That’s crazy but it’s true. Instead, the huge [photo] agencies have institutionalised their control of the industry by imposing themselves as brokers, setting the fees, and then — brace yourself — taking 80 per cent of the royalties. Picfair reverses this, giving 80 percent to the photographer. We only make money if they make a lot more”.

He says that photographers talk, and that the control and fairness that Picfair offers means they tell their friends, some of whom are on the demand side of the image licensing equation. “Ceatives across publishing, the agency world, and the ever-expanding tier of corporates who license images (this is pretty much any company – website collateral, social media, content marketing; everyone’s a publisher these days),” he says.

“So during Picfair’s next phase, we want to supercharge this. We’ve started gradually rolling out out incentives for photographers who refer customers to us – splitting our 20 per cent commission with them for a year on every customer they refer. And then we want to tool them up – with online resource suites, marketing material, offline assets”.

Meanwhile, the sell to photo buyers is that Picfair images are more authentic and unique, often avoiding the stale look of traditional stock photography. Despite living through the biggest proliferation of images in history, with the average image quality of non-professional imagery improving exponentially, “the supply of images to the industry is 99 per cent professional,” Lanyado says.

Picfair’s solution is to open the doors to everyone, while its “ever-improving curation technology” does the heavy-lifting of sorting through the resulting uploaded images for quality, agnostic of whether they are taken by an award-winning professional or a complete amateur.

The startup’s new round of funding was led by the Claverley Group, owners of Express & Star regional U.K. newspaper. Picfair is also angel-backed by the likes of Alexis Ohanian, Tom Hulme, Duncan and Max Jennings (the VoucherCodes brothers), Richard Fearn, John Fingleton (former CE of the OFT and Treasury advisor), Jeremy Palmer (Quantum Black CEO), Chris Sheldrick (CEO of What3Words), Anthony Eskinazi (CEO of Just Park), Julian Worth, Force Over Mass, and D5 Capital.

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Published at Mon, 25 Sep 2017 08:19:01 +0000

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Backed by Accel, GlowRoad helps Indian women build home businesses

Backed by Accel, GlowRoad helps Indian women build home businesses

GlowRoad’s team with founder Dr. Sonal Verma (center in green shirt)

Indian e-commerce company GlowRoad is built on a simple premise. By connecting manufacturers with resellers and using drop shipping, it keeps everyone’s overhead costs low. The Bangalore-based startup, however, doesn’t just aspire to be an online reseller network. Founded by a former physician, GlowRoad’s goal is to give housewives and stay-at-home mothers a low-risk way to start their own retail businesses from home.

GlowRoad, which secured $2 million in Series A funding from Accel Partners earlier this month, currently claims 100,000 registered users, 36,000 of whom are active resellers. Most selling takes place in WhatsApp groups or in-person and GlowRoad claims that its resellers complete about a total of 1,000 transactions every day.

While some resellers do keep physical inventory in their homes, most products are shipped directly from manufacturers to buyers. The company’s business model is designed to benefit resellers by letting them build an online store without managing stock and suppliers who have a ready-made distribution network.

“The idea is that women should be able to earn from home, without putting in any money and it should be a secure system, but if you look at it from a business person’s point of view, what it becomes is a very strong sales network,” says founder Sonal Verma, who acqui-hired the team behind LocalQueen, a reseller network, two months ago to build GlowRoad. “So if you launch something and want to launch it in all the cities in India, you can do so very rapidly and very cost-effectively through this channel.”

While working as a physician, Verma focused on community medicine before co-founding a telemedicine startup called HealthcareMagic.com. Going from medicine to e-commerce might seem like an odd path, but Verma says she was inspired by the women she treated.

“I wanted to work in a venture that empowers women and I saw a lot of reselling happening in my neighborhoods, so that put the idea in my head,” she says.

India’s e-commerce market is expected to be worth $220 billion by 2025 and, according to a report by Zinnov, one of the main beneficiaries will be women running businesses from home.

The consulting firm says about two million women have already made $9 billion in gross sales by reselling clothing and lifestyle products online, and that the number of “housewife resellers” is expected to increase to 21 million to 23 million by 2022.

GlowRoad’s suppliers offer goods at wholesale prices and resellers decide what margin to charge on top of that. While sellers have an online storefront on GlowRoad, they usually market their products through WhatsApp and Facebook groups or in their residential communities. GlowRoad monetizes by charging its suppliers 500 rupees a month (about $7.70), while resellers pay to unlock premium features.

GlowRoad’s biggest category is fashion, with Indian ethnic wear moving the most products, says Verma. Cosmetics and jewelry are also popular.

“WhatsApp has changed a lot of things for everyone,” says Verma. “Most ladies have fairly large WhatsApp groups and are members of multiple ladies groups on WhatsApp or Facebook. When they become serious resellers, they start doing it by sending more messages, saying that I’m in this kind of business, and then they start to make their own groups for their business.”

As each reseller’s business grows, GlowRoad teaches them how to run Facebook ads and optimize search results for their GlowRoad online stores. Since most GlowRoad resellers use drop shipping, it only takes them a few minutes to fill their online stores with listings.

Relying on drop shipping, however, comes with several risks. For example, not seeing a product before it reaches customers means resellers have very little control over quality. GlowRoad mitigates this by sending members of its team to vet manufacturers before adding them to the site and then using a review system that rewards top suppliers by setting them up with the site’s newest resellers.

Verma says some of GlowRoad’s Series A funding will be used to ensure that its quality assurance system can scale up. The company also plans to hire more people to build its digital marketing team and tech platform.

“Improving supply side is what we are working on the most at the moment, but we’ll ensure they have the best quality products,” says Verma.

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Published at Mon, 25 Sep 2017 07:26:41 +0000

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Deliveroo raises $385M in new funding, now valued at ‘over $2 Billion’

Deliveroo raises $385M in new funding, now valued at ‘over $2 Billion’

Deliveroo, the London headquartered restaurant food delivery startup, has raised $385 million in new funding, giving it a valuation of “over $2 billion,” according to the company.

The Series E round is led by U.S. fund managers T. Rowe Price, and Fidelity — who have previously backed the likes of Facebook, AirBnB and Tesla — with existing investors DST Global, General Catalyst, Index Ventures, and Accel Partners also following on. Total funding for the European unicorn now sits at $860 million.

The new capital will be used by Deliveroo to invest in three aspects of its business:

The first is expansion of its “Editions” (previously called RooBox) programme, which sees it open delivery-only kitchens to enable partner restaurants to expand without any of the traditional upfront costs, whilst increasing food selection for customers and optimising delivery times.

Second, the company plans to continue to grow the size of its technology team who, amongst other things, work on Deliveroo’s “real-time logistics algorithm and artificial intelligence systems” to help improve the speed and number of deliveries that can be made in order to increase what are otherwise very thin margins for on-demand food delivery. Another aspect to its data science is working out where it should launch the next Editions kitchens and what type of food is in demand locally.

Thirdly, Deliveroo says it wants to rapidly expand into new towns, cities and countries. “This will allow more people to order great food quickly to their door from their favourite local restaurants,” says the company.

Will Shu, founder and CEO of Deliveroo, said in a statement:

“I remember how excited I was carrying out our first delivery. I hoped that people would love being able to order great food from their favourite local restaurants straight to their front door. I am proud that just four years on, millions of people use Deliveroo in over 150 cities around the world. This is all thanks to the hard work of our riders, the great restaurants that we work with and our brilliant customers.

So I am extremely pleased that our new investors share this vision and have decided to make such a significant investment in our future.

With this funding we will invest further in our delivery-only kitchens Editions, in developing our technology and in taking Deliveroo to more towns and cities. This investment will take us to the next level and allow our riders to deliver ever more great food directly to people’s doors.”

Meanwhile, the company’s accounts for year ending 2016 were recently filed, and although they are obviously already 9 months out of date, make for interesting reading. As Business Insider reports, Deliveroo grew a lot that year, with revenue up 611 per cent to £129 million. But losses were up too — a 300 per cent increase to £129 million. However, the figure to really watch is the food delivery company’s gross margin percentage, which sat at just 0.7 per cent.

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Published at Sun, 24 Sep 2017 10:19:37 +0000

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Automakers accelerate their interest in startups

Automakers accelerate their interest in startups

When it comes to startup investment, carmakers are all over the road.

Over the past two years, we’ve seen a massive spike in venture funding by major auto manufacturers. Deal counts are up, more automakers are investing and more big rounds are getting done.

However, an analysis of Crunchbase funding data for the 20 largest global automakers finds wide variance in investment sizes, timing and strategic focus. Some automakers have focused on unicorns and mega-rounds, while others are active at the early stage. Still others have yet to park much capital in startups, illustrating a long-term reticence to engage actively in the venture space.

None of this is especially surprising to industry insiders. Automakers “operate at a different clock speed than the technology industry,” said Chris Stallman, a partner at Fontinalis Partners, a transport-focused venture firm with offices in Detroit and Boston. Five to seven-year vehicle product cycles make startup partnerships difficult because there is uncertainty about whether the company will still be around when a car comes to market.

That said, it’s no secret that automakers have shown more interest in startups lately. Nor is it any secret what’s driving that surge, given the massive shifts the industry faces from the rise of electric carsautonomous vehiclesride-hailing services and other emerging technologies and transportation business models.

Below, we set out to quantify combined investment by automakers in startups of all stripes, along with acquisitions, with a focus on how individual automakers compare.

Deal pace speeds up

First we look at deal count. Broadly, funding records for the past five years show a dramatic rise in startup investment beginning in 2016 and revving up further in 2017.

In the chart below, we look at the number of disclosed venture and seed rounds with participation by the major automakers. Keep in mind, these are only disclosed rounds, so the actual number of investments may be quite a bit higher, as automakers are known to do stealth deals, as well.

Deal-making isn’t concentrated in any particular sub-sector. We see sizeable rounds, for instance, for Shift, a car-selling platform; ChargePoint, a provider of electric vehicle charging stations; Turo, a provider of peer-to-peer car sharing; StoreDot, a battery developer and Momentum.ai, an autonomous-driving startup.

Car companies aren’t just doing more deals; they’re doing bigger investments. In all, automakers participated in at least eight mega-rounds ($100 million or more) this year, up from zero a few years ago. In the following chart,we look at mega-rounds over the past five years:

Ride apps have dominated so far this year, with at least four companies in the space securing mega-rounds with automaker participation: Via, Grab, Gett and Careem. Autonomous vehicles were also big, with Nauto and ArgoAI scoring mega-rounds.

Carmaker M&A

While it was a big year for startup investment by automakers, M&A has been slower. That’s not abnormal, as car companies generally don’t buy a lot of startups, although they do the occasional big deal or smaller asset purchase.

So far this year, we haven’t seen any large M&A transactions involving automakers. The most recent large-dollar purchase was GM’s purchase of self-driving technology startup Cruise Automation for $1 billion in 2016.

The latest deal, Volvo’s purchase this month of valet parking app developer Luxe, by contrast, was a smaller asset sale involving a startup that had ceased offering its service. Other recent deals, including Ford’s purchase of commuter transit provider Chariot, and PSA Group’s acquisition of online auto repair platform Autobutler, were smaller deals involving early-stage companies.

Whether they opt to partner or acquire, however, automakers are cultivating more relationships with startups, Stallman told Crunchbase News. The global recession of 2008-2009 required heavy cuts to R&D for many struggling automakers, and in the last couple of years they’ve been playing catch-up. Bringing in an outside startup can be a good way to speed up internal efforts.

How the biggest automakers stack up

Not everyone’s operating at the same speed, however. Some automakers like venture investing a lot more than others.

Looking at deal count, Germany’s BMW was the most active automaker by a wide margin, with more than 30 disclosed investments since 2012, including 10 so far this year. A majority are through its corporate fund, BMW iVentures, which invests across multiple sectors, including autonomous driving, electric vehicles, AI and automotive cloud technology.

Although most deals are Series A or B, BMW i Ventures invests across stages, and many of its early-stage rounds are quite large. This summer, the fund participated in a $38 million Series C for Shift, and a $159 million Series B for Nauto, a developer of AI-enabled camera technology for automotive fleets.

Germany’s Daimler was also quite active in 2017, with eight investments, including participation in two mega-rounds for two ride apps, New York-based Via and Dubai-based Careem.

In the chart below, we look at the number of disclosed investments since last year by major automakers:

A few automakers have so far stayed out of startup investing. Fiat Chrysler, in particular, has been reticent to invest, although a recent self-driving car partnership with Google demonstrates an interest in partnering with Silicon Valley companies. Nissan and Mazda have also shown little appetite for VC.

The road ahead

Looking ahead, it’s not far-fetched to presume that the momentum for startup investing among automakers will continue. If anything, signs point to further acceleration, with Toyota recently unveiling a $100 million AI-focused venture fund and Ford scaling up its tech-focused Ford Smart Mobility division.

Moreover, if any industry’s investment activities are going to follow Newton’s first law of thermodynamics, it ought to be transportation.

Featured Image: Li-Anne Dias

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Published at Sat, 23 Sep 2017 19:34:23 +0000

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How tbh hit #1 by turning anonymity positive

How tbh hit #1 by turning anonymity positive

“If we’re improving the mental health of millions of teens, that’s a success to us” says Nikita Bier, co-founder of tbh. His team has scored a surprise hit, rocketing to the top of the App Store by letting teens send each other compliments anonymously. While most anonymous apps like Secret and Yik Yak have devolved into cyberbullying, Bier explains that “You don’t necessarily need the ability to say whatever you want but to be able to say what you feel to others.”

The innovation of tbh, teen-speak for To Be Honest, was getting rid of the typing. Whether asking or answering questions, open text fields invite abuse when combined with anonymity. Even an innocuous question like “What do you think of me?” can lead to mean-spirited comments if responders don’t have their names, and therefore any accountability, attached.

So tbh writes the prompts for you, and purposefully allows only those that are tough to bend towards bullying. Open it iOS app (Android is in the works), upload your contacts, and you’re instantly answering multiple-choice questions where a random four friends are the answers. “Best to bring to a party?” “Their perseverance is admirable?” “Could see becoming a poet?”

“The next milestone is thinking about social platforms in terms of love and positivity”

— TBH team

tbh’s team says “We worked backwards from the content we wanted to see, which was nice comments about ourselves — a product you’d open and it’d tell you all your strengths and things you’re good at and make you happier and more productive.”

You get notified when you’re selected as who “does the most” or is “the biggest underdog”, though who chose you is kept anonymous. tbh saves all the answers so at any time you can browse the positivity sent your way. tbh’s sunny little questions are so addictive that the app only allows you to answer 12 per hour, so you never get sick of it and always want more.

“Our goals for anonymity are much different than most apps [that emphasize] the ability to say things without repercussions” the tbh team explains. “This is more about the ability to tell people more of the things that make them happy. One is more targeted towards harassment while ours is more targeted towards making people better off.”

Clearly teens are craving this positivity. tbh has only officially been around since August, and blew up this month after launching in California. It now has over 2 million daily users and has been the #1 free US iOS app for over a week, passing YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram.

The Hard Road To Honesty

tbh might have only taken two weeks to build, but the team had to fail for 7 years first. Bier started Midnight Labs back in 2010, eventually raising a seed round from a few investors including social app guru Josh Elman at Greylock. Midnight Labs built a personal finance app, a work time tracker, a college chat app, a personality test. “We probably built 15 products” the team tells TechCrunch.

Nothing quite flourished, but the five-person team purposefully kept its burn rate low to maximize its runway and get more chances to experiment. “We never spent money in any ways that would be considered lavish.” But after years of trial and error, “We were running towards the end of our runway. We only had maybe 60 days left.”

That’s when Midnight Labs got philosophical. “The big milestone of the last social apps was the ability for open discourse [like on] Twitter. That was a great achievement” the team explains. “We think the next milestone is thinking about social platforms in terms of love and positivity. We think that’s what’s been missing from social products since the inception of the internet.”

Meanwhile, the “To Be Honest” fad had blown up with teens on Instagram. Users would offer to send “TBH” compliments to people who Liked or commented on their photos. During the tumultuous and sensitive age of adolescents, kids were showing how eager they were for a dose of positivity.

Uniting the team’s philosophy with this trend, tbh was born. “We shipped it to one school in Georgia. 40% of the school downloaded it the first day. The next day it was in 3 more schools, and then the next day it was in 300 schools” the team recounts. That’s even more impressive because tbh doesn’t spam your contacts with unexpected invite messages. “User trust is really important” the team declares.

Following in the footsteps of Facebook, tbh wasn’t launched publicly. At first it was locked down to just a few states. That was to keep it from crashing as Midnight Labs scaled up the infrastructure. But also because tbh only works if lots of friends are on it. Throttling the roll out keeps demand pent up so when tbh launches somewhere new, like New York state this week, it becomes the talk of classrooms and teens download it in droves.

What’s To Be?

“My inbox is the who’s who of Silicon Valley” Bier says, sounding more stressed out and under-slept than arrogant. “Now we’re having investors breathe down our neck.” Yet tbh isn’t taking the money being thrown at it. “We’re focused on scaling the product without raising some headline-grabbing number. Often, social apps get caught up in saying they’ve changed the world before they actually have and there needs to be a little bit of humbleness.”

tbh’s next big task will be figuring out to harness this momentum into sticky new products before the next viral app usurps it. But the team is adamant about avoiding abuse vectors. “It’s hard to develop products where you want to ensure positive communication” says Midnight Labs. “We have to be really diligent in how we think through how users interact with each other. We can’t have any oversights in how we design features.”

Writing its second act may be tough if it stays away from typing, which would disqualify the usual additions of private messaging and status updates. It could try new types of polls, like questions where you assemble groups of friends like “Who’d make a great super hero team” or “Which of your two friends should have sitcom about living together?” It could let you send virtual gifts to people, or use voice changing effects and augmented reality masks to let you send anonymous audio and video complements. With teens being fickle, tbh can’t ignore product as it grapples with growth

“We haven’t really thought too much about monetization . . . or in app purchases” says the team. It’s laid the foundation, though, as you earn a gem each time you get a compliment. tbh could let you spend those on in-app purchases, like cosmetically enhancing your name when it appears in answer boxes, or bypassing the dozen questions per hour limit.

For now, though, it’d be silly to obstruct growth with any monetization. tbh should concentrate on retention and seeing how big it can scale its userbase and its mission. Until it reaches escape velocity, it’s vulnerable to Facebook’s copy-cat factory. Still, the team is confident, saying “By the time we have a clone, we’re ten steps ahead. We know what product and experience people want.”

Secret imploded due to bullying. Yik Yak’s anonymity meant there was little locking people into the app. tbh will have to marry the freedom of expression that comes when your name isn’t attached, with a sense of community that keeps kids committed.

“Improving people’s self-esteem — that’s been the most rewarding aspect of this product” Bier concludes. “Raising a ton of money, all that other stuff, it’s just an accessory to the goal. The goal is, can we make this generation happier?”

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Published at Fri, 22 Sep 2017 20:25:50 +0000

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How to run a token sale

How to run a token sale

Seed funding is drying up. Accelerators are scrambling for revenue. Things are changing drastically in the startup ecosystem.

Why?

First, as we all know, it’s easier than ever to build a startup. An MVP can hit the app stores in a few days and the need to raise millions for servers and software is over. Second, investors want to see traction, and few will take risks on relative unknowns. So how do you raise money when your product needs more than some Django code and an AWS instance?

You run an ICO, right?

We’ve heard the hype: It’s a get-rich-quick system meets Kickstarter! You can raise millions in a few minutes! There have been hundreds of successes! It’s completely safe!

All of these points are correct. But all of these points come with huge caveats. Welcome to the strange new world of token sales. Let’s explore.

Wait, what?

Token sales are, quite simply, a process of generating and selling a new cryptocurrency. While the details change from sale to sale, this process involves building a smart contract on the blockchain, generating, and then selling the resulting coins. The process usually involves lawyers, qualified investors, and a final public sale, and is at once a virtual roadshow, a circus and a community-building exercise.

First, some definitions.

In this process you are selling cryptographically generated tokens. These are digital objects that represent something in your business. You can use tokens to represent almost anything — free shirts on a t-shirt site or beers from a brewery. But what you can’t do without a great deal of legal cover — at least in the United States — is use tokens to sell equity. And that is where most token sales efforts stop: the SEC doesn’t want you horning in on its territory. Outside of that, for the most part, everything else is fair game.

We’re going to go into this piece with a few basic truths for Americans. These are not always applicable outside of the U.S., and many founders simply run their sales outside of the country to avoid dealing with the SEC and other parties. I’m not going to discourage or encourage this. It’s your call. The legality of these sales around the world is still up in the air, and there is a fine line between tokens and penny stocks, a fact few want to admit.

Further, token sales are not a funding vehicle. While many companies treat them as such — and crow over multi-million-dollar raises that explode in minutes — what they are really doing is floating a cryptocurrency on the open market. With a lot of planning and a lot of luck, these cryptocurrencies can rise in value and, if the token sale is structured correctly, this gives companies a little bit more funding than they had before they started. Without planning, you get a mess.

Tokens are supposed to be part of the life-blood of your company. Just as Disney Dollars once gave you access to Disney rides, Uber Bux should in some way give you access to some software made by Uber and Krablr Koins should give you access to an aspect of your new crab-fishing system. Companies have gone through all sorts of acrobatics to get their coins to work for their business, including pegging a token to a gram of synthetic rhino horn. Again, no judgement. This is a safe space. If you want to sell a massage token or popcorn token or a token associated with robotic speech generation, nobody can stop you. Once your Krablr Koin is minted, the little crab-dedicated economy you’ve built should be self-sustaining. That’s where you “make” your money — on speculation on your own success.

Token sales are set to replace traditional angel and seed rounds, this is clear, and can even completely disrupt VC. But how — and when — they do this is also unclear. So, ultimately, should you do a token sale?

Again, it depends.

Let’s look at a successful one.

Inside a token sale

Eyal Hertzog is the CEO of Bancor, a fintech company that had the recent — some would say dubious — honor of “raising” $153 million in three hours to create a product that will render cryptocurrency exchanges obsolete.

First, a bit of explanation. What Bancor did in this case was well over 76 million tokens. The tokens went out to early investors for a far lower than their current price $2 and rose immediately upon launch. The price has stabilized and current Bancor token owners can buy and sell these tokens as they please, thereby creating a real market for what is essentially a cryptocurrency.

Owners of the token do not own a part of Bancor but instead own a token that will be used in its product. As a notable New York Times article explained, imagine Bancor is a casino and raises cash by selling chips to early investors. Casino-goers will eventually use these chips at the gaming tables, but until that moment the chips hold a potential value based on the expected popularity of the casino. If enough people will pay $5 for a blue chip that once cost someone $1, you’re going to have a lot of happy investors. Bancor, however, did something even more interesting.

Hertzog explained:

We decided to launch a Token Allocation Event because we had a design for a promising protocol token – BNT, the Bancor Network Token, which is based on our Bancor protocol. It’s important to emphasize that this is not a for-profit startup fundraising round, nor is this a basic application token. The fundraiser was executed by a Swiss non-profit foundation, that has a mandate to use its funds in order to develop and promote the open-source Bancor protocol. On top of this we (and others) can build and operate services, such as the “Bancor Network” service, which will provide a simple to use UX for issuing, using, transferring, purchasing and liquidating “Smart tokens”. Smart tokens use the Bancor protocol to ensure their continuous liquidity to any other liquid store-of-value (Ether, Bitcoin, USD, EUR, etc.) BNT will serve as a backbone, liquidity providing token for all user-generated smart tokens that will hold it in reserve, linking all these new tokens to each other, and to ETH and other existing currencies through BNT. BNT will increase in value as more smart tokens are created, benefiting all the smart tokens which hold it in reserve. It is a true network ecosystem, where more users benefit everyone. It would not be possible to create this momentum and incentive structure (where early adopter are disproportionately rewarded if the network succeeds) by using another token (like ETH).

In short, this is a building block for a future product and may not even be used in the product itself.

In this kind of sale, a few things happen that make writing about these things problematic. First, remember that Bancor didn’t “raise” $153 million. It raised a fraction of that. And, unless it wants to tank its own token, it cannot move much of its own tokens without moving the market. Every company in this case is Satoshi Nakamoto sitting quietly on a hoard of coins hoping to one day sell.

How much did Bancor “make?” In most token sales the company holds back a certain number of coins — usually millions — that it can now buy and sell to support its operations. The founders, we also assume, hold back a few million, as well. In this case the company held back 10 percent, or 3,960,000. Buyers, at least in this case, own their own millions of tokens and, because they are liquid, can move them in and out of Bancor at will.

It is still not exactly clear how Bancor will use these tokens, except that they will “use its funds in order to develop and promote the open-source Bancor protocol.” The astute among you will note that this opens the door for another token sale down the line and that there are also plenty of tokens left to sell later.

Further, Bancor had to be very careful. Token sales have been beset by a number of problems, including scams to steal Ethereum. The simplest way to do this is to post false information about sales, sending potential buyers into a fake account. Other hackers have simply changed the collection address on the token sale site. Millions have been funneled away from the sellers this way.

Danger!

A few things can happen to the hapless token seller. Hackers are sniffing around the space and have figured out some clever tricks. For example, one hacker changed the target Ethereum address during the CoinDash token sale and stole $7 million worth of Ethereum overnight. This sort of behavior is happening almost daily — hackers or con artists pop up in Slack telling users that token sale sites have changed and pump-and-dumpers post fake claims on social networks to help move the price. Companies like MetaCert are creating systems to suss out fake links and phishing scams.

“If you like to invest in cryptocurrencies and you get a message about an ICO or Token discount that’s time-sensitive and it sounds too good to be true, it is,” said founder Paul Walsh. “Contact the company directly and ask them if it’s real. Crypto companies will not have time-sensitive deals that make you act within minutes or even hours. So don’t get caught off guard  —  this is how very smart people get duped.”

How can you stay safe? By staying smart.

“Any ICO that promises to make people money should be avoided,” said consultant and writer Marc Kenigsberg. “Check the team for historic projects and track record, read the white paper, make sure there is a need for the product and avoid anything that focuses heavily on marketing and is light on tech. When taking part in an ICO, watch out for phishing sites and addresses posted in slack channels and always verify an address before sending any money.”

VCs or virtual cash?

If you do a token sale, can you still raise VC? Will VCs care? What’s going to happen to VC in general? No one really knows, but we’re trending toward a general acceptance of token sales as a new “investment” vehicle, and more and more funds will be integrating token sales into their investment plans.

Investors are currently in a pickle. Many want to begin buying early coins and one, Moshe Hogeg, has made ICOs his core investment thesis. Others, especially VCs with older funds, must be careful during investment for fear of double-dipping. In short, they are set up to write checks to founders, not to robotic token exchanges. The Harvard Business Review explains the position well. They write:

Venture capitalists, who generally have been standoffish to the ICO phenomenon, are now becoming more interested in it for a number of reasons. One is profits — cryptocurrency investors made some massive returns in 2016, with cryptocurrencies from Blockchain startups Monero and NEM both seeing 2,000% increases in value. For example, the cryptocurrency used for the Ethereum network, called Ether, saw its value double in just a few days in March 2017. Yes, in three days, people who invested in Ether doubled their investment. Those investors can opt to cash out to a fiat-backed currency, or wait for the cryptocurrency to continue to rise (or fall). Volatility is a two-way street. While the price of Ether has been rising, Bitcoin has dropped 20% to $1,000 dollars from a record $1,290 on March 3, 2017.

The second reason VCs are becoming more interested in ICOs is because of the liquidity of cryptocurrencies. Rather than tying up vast amounts of funds in a unicorn startup and waiting for the long play — an IPO or an acquisition — investors can see gains more quickly and can pull profits out more easily, via ICOs. They simply need to convert their cryptocurrency profits into Bitcoin or Ether on any of the cryptocurrency exchanges that carry it, and then it’s easily converted to fiat currency via online services such as Coinsbank or Coinbase.

Ultimately whether or not running a token sale is a good idea will come down to general acceptance by the Valley community; so far, things are looking good. Many accelerator-backed companies are abandoning the Sand Hill Road show for a token sale, and many believe that most seed investment will come from tokens rather than LPs. In the same way Kickstarter has completely disrupted the consumer electronics industry, this is expected to disrupt everything else.

How-to

First, your situation and requirements may not be conducive to a token sale. This is fine. This is not a one-size-fits all solution, but perhaps new systems will fall into place that will help token sellers work more quickly and effectively. What follows is the basic process that a few startups I’ve seen have gone through to “raise” money.

There is no right way to run a token sale. If you need a high-level understanding of things, check out this basic guide we posted earlier. It discusses the sale from a high level. This description is a bit more detailed, but I’m still only scratching the surface.

One thing is certain: there is a right way to do it and a wrong way.

“There are people doing it all wrong,” said Rahul Sood, CEO of Unikrn who recently completed a token sale. “They’re treating this like an equity sale. They’re not getting the proper legal advice to set things up and their white paper looks like a donkey doing calculus wrote it.”

Ultimately, care must be taken to avoid legal issues or, worse, a token sale dud. Why? Because those interested in token sales are now almost fully educated on the pitfalls and benefits and anything untoward is immediately suspect.

“The community is catching on quickly,” said Sood.

1. Create a product. This first step is often glossed over by folks trying to run token sales as quickly as possible, but ignore it at your peril. You must have a product, and this product must use your token. Maybe you can get away with launching an MVP or beta and then running the sale, but assume you’ll have to raise a little equity investment to get your business off the ground. Most estimate you need about $100,000 – $150,000 to really get things going. That’s right: you need money to make money. This is not a hard and fast rule, but keep it in mind.

2. Create a token. At its core you are simply creating a token in the Ethereum ecosystem that can, literally or figuratively, represent something your business needs to survive. “Tokens in the Ethereum ecosystem can represent any fungible tradable good: coins, loyalty points, gold certificates, IOUs, in game items, etc. Since all tokens implement some basic features in a standard way, this also means that your token will be instantly compatible with the Ethereum wallet and any other client or contract that uses the same standards,” write the creators of Ethereum.

These tokens are controlled by something called a smart contract. A smart contract tells the coin how to react in certain situations. The creation of a smart contract is beyond the scope of this article, but you or your techie friends can find plenty of information online. If you need a quick rundown of what a smart contract looks like, visit this page, where the creators of Ethereum create a “minimum viable token” for educational purposes. There are a number of tools to use, including OpenZeppelin.

This code helps manage your tokens and generate your sale. You could also argue that this is the simplest portion of the whole project.

3. Get a legal opinion. Any time you begin messing with other people’s money you’re going to want to be covered legally. Where a token sale really begins is in the pre-sale and legal planning. You need, in most cases, a legal opinion and a legal description of the sale that will keep you on the right side of the SEC. Two law firms come up again and again in token sales. They are Perkins Coie and Cooley. Both are well-established and have cryptocurrency practices. Cooley worked on a framework called SAFT which, in theory, reduces the cost of these legal requirements.

The goal here is to ensure that your token is not a security. There is no effort here to deceive – you just need to be on the right side of the token sale definitions.

4. Write a white paper. After that you need to create a white paper or, increasingly, a deck. White papers are essentially prospectuses — descriptions of a financial plan that include a description of the product, a description of the team and a description of the token generation and distribution strategy. You can take a look at a few interesting ones here and here.

The first paper is a traditional one written much like a scientific treatise. The other paper is written more like a brochure. Both methods are equally effective. The primary mission of a white paper is to describe the product clearly, explain the use of the token and, finally, tell the world how you’ll distribute the coins. I’ve seen white papers that have looked like presentation decks and others with the complexity of a physics textbook. What’s most important, however, is absolute clarity. Sadly, many of these white papers remain unread even during the token sales process, resulting in miscommunication and confusion.

5. Create a community. Community is key in these early days of the token sale. This is the community that will support you. You’ll need a chat room in Slack or Discord where you can communicate with potential buyers and a PR plan. It is a sad but true fact that most token sales are driven by initial hype. Luckily this hype is bolstered by real community, and if you do not create this community early on you will find that your token will quickly fall. Further, you must ensure that early investors don’t sell their coins too quickly.

This is bad optically and bad for the market. Ultimately, you want to create a friendly community that supports you, not your token. There have been far too many token sales that can be considered simple pump and dump schemes for anyone to ignore the community growth aspect. By engendering trust in a core group of fans you can ensure you token remains valuable and useful.

6. Get your token on exchanges. Once you’ve created your coin and are ready to launch, you need to reach out to exchanges to carry your coin. This means people can buy and sell your coins on the open market at certain exchanges. Getting a few strong exchanges to accept your coin is absolutely imperative.

Most tokens will also be listed on CoinMarketCap, a website that is becoming the stock ticker of token sales. This site shows a long list of tokens and their market caps, and most tokens like to see themselves in the top 40. Tokens that crash end up at the end or delisted entirely, and it’s interesting to see the dead coins near the bottom of this massive list.

Token sales often have a pre-sale for accredited investors in order to prevent running afoul of the SEC. These initial sales mean that the public might miss out on a good initial price. but this is par for the course. Finally, most token sales go public, allowing anyone to buy and sell the token. At this point the token must fend for itself in the market, sinking or rising based on news, opinion or rumor.

Further, most companies hold back a number of tokens for founders, employees and investors. It’s this cash that makes these processes worthwhile for initial investors and founders, but remember, it’s not a preferred stock. Investors must have an understanding of your requirements, and many token sellers ask early investors to hold their coins for a period of time. This prevents an immediate dump.

Ultimately, we’re creating a new stock market without stocks, and an amazingly frictionless market. It’s inevitable that some of these token sales will fail, and many of the aspects about this process could change as international law begins to catch up. However the process of explaining, getting legal cover and building community won’t change.

When I began writing this guide I spoke to a token investor in China, Ahmed Al-Balaghi, who noted that there was “no regulation yet, which means everyone can invest and create ICOs.”

“Many new Chinese investors coming in with little or no knowledge of Blockchain and cryptocurrencies are gambling in ICO projects,” said Al-Balaghi. The ICO market in China is quite similar to the rest of the world (barring U.S.), as China has not released such regulations, yet in early June the PBOC hinted that “a regulatory sandbox approach could be adopted towards ICO” and Sheng Songcheng, an advisor to the People’s Bank of China, said recently, “Moderate regulation should be applied, but it should not stifle innovation.” So due to this, it is quite similar to the rest of the world (for the time being) in the sense that everyone can invest and participate due to the nature of ICOs and Blockchain.”

That just changed. The SEC could follow China’s lead by locking down token sales, miners and cryptocurrency firms or they could simply let things stand. The same thing could happen in the U.S. — or maybe it won’t. Until then, assume you should not create equity-based tokens and instead focus on utility tokens.

The process, in short, is get legal cover, write a white paper, make a token and sell it. This is not much different from running a Kickstarter or selling any product. But, because of the nature of these tokens, you must maintain interest and growth. There will be a moment in most of these sales when the naysayers outnumber the fans. This inflection point will sink a company if they’ve bet their entire company on the token sale. Intelligent and careful planning can help avoid this, but nothing can truly prevent it.

Buyer — and seller — beware.

The future

One thing has become clear to me while writing this piece: token sales are the new seed. Startups will have more and more trouble raising equity-based capital and will begin trying to shoehorn themselves into a token sale framework. This is actually fine.

What this amounts to, ultimately, is the embrace of cryptocurrencies as the glue of the financial world. There is plenty of space for multiple token sales, even in the same industry, and we also can expect to see shakeouts and changes to the market over the next few years. However, I suspect that angel investment will move toward token investment over time.

This is just the beginning of a new and unique fundraising model that will leave many losers and many winners. It’s an egalitarian method for raising cash for new ventures. Now it’s up to the makers, the designers, the programmers and the dreamers to make it happen in a sane way.

Featured Image: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

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Published at Fri, 22 Sep 2017 18:00:07 +0000

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ipsy launches its beauty product e-commerce business Shopper as hit hits 3M subscribers

ipsy launches its beauty product e-commerce business Shopper as hit hits 3M subscribers

ipsy, a subscription service that delivers a collection of products to its users every month, has spent the last six years building up a community with millions of people obsessed with beauty products. And now that the company has more than 3 million subscribers — with a $10 per month subscription cost — it’s ready to get a little bit more aggressive by getting directly into e-commerce.

CEO Marcelo Camberos said the company is launching Shopper, a way for ipsy’s customers to buy products directly from the site rather than wait for them to show up in their monthly Glam Bag. Now, instead of just waiting for the five beauty products in the mail every month, its users will be able to buy products from a myriad of brands on the site directly — opening up a much wider swath of the beauty industry to ipsy, which last raised $100 million about two years ago.

“We’ve never envisioned ourselves as a subscription service, we envisioned ourselves as a disruptive beauty community,” Camberos said. “Our mission is to inspire individuals around the world to express their unique beauty. Everything we do is about self-expression. The Glam Bag and everything else has all been super personalized from the beginning. When I came up with the name for the company, the legal name, it was Personalized Beauty Discovery Inc., it was always meant to be about personalized beauty.”

And this kind of move is not only inspired by the opportunity to get into e-commerce but the company’s ability to build a very robust understanding of who actually uses ipsy and how to grow. Each month, the company produces more than 10,000 variations of its Glam Bags based on the recommendations it generates from the hundreds of data points from its users. That’s meant ipsy has had to build out a big team focused on machine learning as it looks to chase the demands of its users before they even realize they want certain products.

“There’s a lot of lip service around data, and I think even for us in the first two years, we talked a lot about data,” Camberos said. “We’ve made huge investments in it. From the very beginning we’ve had a quiz. Most people who take the quiz connect their Facebook accounts. We have hundrteds of specific data points, people want to give us that data because they want us to give them better products. We get over 5 million product reviews every month. We have a team of over 40 people who do that. If we do a good job, [customers] stay with us a lot longer, and they’re likely to tell their friends how great ipsy is.”

ipsy also said it will be divesting EM Cosmetics, a brand led by co-founder Michelle Phan, as it looks to be more of a neutral party where brands can come and get their products into the hands of users. Rather than building direct-to-consumer brands, Camberos said it wants to utilize its massive community of 8,000 influencers to help brands more effectively reach customers — whether they’re well-known or emerging brands that are looking to get their start. All this is an effort to tap a growing audience of beauty enthusiasts that aren’t just going to malls and retailers to pick up their products.

As ipsy looks to grow, it’s going to lean heavily on that word of mouth and keep its cost of customer acquisition low. With millions of users paying $10 a month, it has the leeway to heavily invest in this new emerging business. But it also has to be careful not to fall into the trap of emerging consumer brands that end up aggressively spending to expand into new markets — especially ones that are outside of their sweet spot, which is often urban markets. ipsy, however, has always had a big following in middle America and is able to grow in multiple markets outside of just the urban bubble, Camberos said.

“We’ve never been an urban company,” he said. “We do over-index in beauty enthusiasts and people who really see beauty as a way to express themselves. They’re maybe less the beauty traditionalists, and maybe that’s why we’re a little less popular in the coasts. It’s not even about targeting, it’s about who’s really gravitated to our service. It’s people who are really into self-expression, but it’s not really been a coastal thing. Our base state is pretty stable, very representative of the whole country.”

One of the biggest challenges now, Camberos said, will actually be holding on to the machine learning team that it’s assembled. ipsy has the luxury of getting a lot of data around a specific set of products, meaning it’s a playground where engineers have an opportunity to experiment and rapidly adapt to the demands of their users. It may be in beauty, but it’s a problem that’s very attractive to the team it’s built by virtue of the data and the complexity of the operation.

Phan played a big part in building momentum for ipsy, but Camberos said that it’s build up a large enough influencer network that the company will help do a good job of ramping up its new e-commerce side on its own. While there’s certainly demand for products like this — Stitch Fix, for example, has built a business strong enough that it has confidentially filed to go public — there are also a lot of businesses that are still trying to figure out their footing. But with a robust customer base, Camberos is hoping that ipsy will be able to target a market it’s always expected to go after at some point — and that now is the right time.

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Published at Thu, 21 Sep 2017 19:00:16 +0000

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Freight startup Flexport soars from “unsexy” to $800M valuation

Freight startup Flexport soars from “unsexy” to $800M valuation

Flexport handles the boring logistics of a trillion-dollar business: the tranport of shipping containers around the world. Because the work of freight forwarding seemed so bland, it was long ignored by the tech world. But digitizing the paper work let Flexport speed up shipping so clients keep less inventory on hand while never running out.

When you apply that optimization to how every container full of electronics, clothes, or food gets from factory to store, Flexport keeps getting smarter as the value piles up. That’s why just a year after raising $65 million at a valuation of $365 million, TechCrunch has learned Flexport has just closed a huge new round of funding, according to five sources.

Initially, Flexport was receiving offers valuing it at over $1 billion, but turned those down in favor of a more manageable valuation. Our sources now confirm that the startup is going with an $800 million pre-money valuation in a raise of $110 million. The round is mostly filled with existing investors including DST.

What we’ve kept hearing is that Flexport co-founder Ryan Petersen is a favorite amongst investors. “He’s a machine” said one of TechCrunch’s sources. After growing up buying scooters from China and fencing them online, he co-founded ImportGenius to scan and sell shipping manifest data about imports. That led him to realize how antiquated freight forwarding was, paving the way for Flexport’s start in 2013.

“They’re hiring like crazy” one source said. Flexport appears to be trying to scale up fast enough to compete with entrenched giants in the shipping space like FedEx, DHL, and Expeditors that can’t adapt to new technology as quickly. Meanwhile, it’s looking to box out upstart competitors picking away at parts of the freight forwarding equation including Freightos, Haven, and Fleet.

Flexport founder and CEO Ryan Petersen

Soon after TechCrunch wrote a story about the company being “The unsexiest trillion dollar startup” last summer, we started receiving aggressive pitches from these competitors. Fusion’s Alexis Madrigal shined a light on how interesting the business could be with his podcast series Containers, which was sponsored by Flexport. And Flexport raised its $65 million Series B last September that brought it to $94 million in total funding. A year later, it’s value has more than doubled.

Now the company has over 400 employees in seven offices. It earns roughly 15% of the average $2000 it costs to move a shipping container around the world, compared to 25% that its competitors charge. Petersen told Forbes he expects revenue of $500 million this year, yet that still makes Flexport an underdog. “There are 25 freight forwarders that each do more than $1 billion in revenue a year” he said. “None of them was founded after Netscape.”

That’s Flexport’s advantage. Tracking everything with paper leads its older competitors to see clients individually. Flexport wholistically analyzes all its data to optimize shipping routes and simplify relationships with ports, truck drivers, and anyone else that touches a container. That’s allowed it to shave off 5 days of travel time for moving less than a container full of goods.

Now it’s opening its own “cross docks” — warehouses where it can temporarily store clients’ goods until it can batch their transport with other shipments going to the same place. That way it’s always moving full containers for maximum efficiency. Flexport already has cross docks in Hong Kong and LA, but Petersen foresees having a global network.

The new capital could help Flexport pay for transitioning from a pure-play software company merely handling routing logistics to being an actual freight company. This shift from bits to atoms doesn’t come cheap, but with plenty of revenue waiting to stolen from sluggish competitors, it’s having no problem finding the capital. TechCrunch has heard that many of Flexports existing investors that number at least 57 were shut out of the new round despite being interested.

The obvious, glamorous verticals of tech have been overrun with startups. Everyone seems to have a photo sharing app or some ‘revolutionary’ artificial intelligence. There’s an old addage that the best startup ideas are often at the intersection of “seems like a bad idea” and “is a good idea”, as the leader of Flexport investor Founders Fund Peter Thiel has said.

But as the mainstream embraces startup culture and aspiring founders flood Silicon Valley, there seems to be no shortage of people willing to chase things that seem like a bad idea. Perhaps an addendum to the startup hunter’s mantra should be “Seems bad and boring“.

Additional reporting by Ingrid Lunden

Featured Image: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

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Published at Thu, 21 Sep 2017 17:37:35 +0000

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Co-founder Brian Fenty becomes CEO at TodayTix

Co-founder Brian Fenty becomes CEO at TodayTix

There’s a new CEO at TodayTix, though he’s definitely not new to the company — Chairman Brian Fenty is becoming chief executive, while his co-founder (and the previous CEO) Merritt Baer is becoming the Head of Europe.

TodayTix sells theater tickets in cities across the United States (including New York, Chicago and San Francisco), but its European presence is currently limited to London. Fenty said there’s “a huge opportunity to go to some of the arts capitals of Europe — Paris, Hamburg, Vienna.”

“Who better to lead that charge than my partner in crime?” he added. “This is just the beginning of our European chapter.”

Fenty also characterized the leadership change as an extension of his existing partnership with Baer, who he said has an “aggressive operational tenacity.”

That operational focus was necessary to get TodayTix off the ground, and it’s now needed for the European expansion. Meanwhile, Fenty said that as chairman, he spent more time on strategy and partnerships, and those will continue to be his focus as CEO.

TodayTix has also been evolving as a business. Fenty said that while it was easy to describe the service as a mobile version of New York’s TKTS booths, giving users access to last-minute, discounted theater tickets, it’s actually expanded beyond that. Now it sells tickets up to 30 days in advance, with half of them sold at full price. (Fenty said that whether a ticket is sold at a discount or at full price, TodayTix is selling the most affordable tickets available: “We will never be beat on price.”)

In addition, TodayTix is no longer purely focused on theater. As Fenty put it, “We’re still trying to connect global culture lovers to theater, but our definition of theater has expanded to include comedy, dance, philharmonic music, improv. That’s come from our learnings launching in cities like Chicago, where if you don’t have Second City, or in LA, if you don’t have the Hollywood Bowl, you’re not a culture app.”

Fenty said TodayTix has now has 3.6 million users who have used the app to purchase $150 million in tickets. Looking ahead, he said the team is thinking about what else it can offer users either before or after going to the theater.

TodayTix has made some other executive hires recently, including bringing on Jerrell Jimerson, formerly SVP of Digital at iHeartRadio and PayPal, as its first chief product officer, and Craig Coffman, previously CTO of Reserve, as its first CTO.

Featured Image: TodayTix

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Published at Thu, 21 Sep 2017 15:16:31 +0000

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London and Antwerp-based Hummingbird Ventures closes new $95M fund

London and Antwerp-based Hummingbird Ventures closes new $95M fund

London and Antwerp-based Hummingbird Ventures, which counts Deliveroo and Showpad in its portfolio, has closed a new $95 million fund to invest in tech startups at the “late Seed and Series A” stage.

Targeting Europe and also further afield, having invested in more nascent ecosystems such as Turkey, Brazil and the continent of Africa, the VC is particularly on the lookout for startups operating in the areas of marketplaces, gaming, SaaS and crypto. It typically invests between $500,000 and $5 million.

In a post published on Medium, Hummingbird Venture founding partner Barend Vanden Brande says the new fund — the VC’s third, not counting the $25 million “Opportunities fund” it raised in 2014 for later-stage follow-on investments — was raised in just 40 days. Its LPs consist of 100+ private investors, including “entrepreneurs who built $1bn+ tech companies, strategic family offices and entrepreneurs who we once backed at seed stage”.

He is also keen to point out that no tax-payer money has gone into the fund. “We did not rely on any special tax incentives or the EIF’s of the world,” writes Vanden Brande.

The Hummingbird VC also reckons the fundraise could have been even larger, but that a decision was taken to cap it at $95 million. “Firstly, we believe this segment looks crowded in Europe, especially with U.S. funds swooping up many of the best European Series B deals. But most importantly, we want to stay true to ourselves. Our heart is in early stage investments: It’s what we do best,” he says.

Despite only announcing today, several investments out of Hummingbird Ventures III have already been made. They include Instacarro (Brazil), Frontier Car Group (Nigeria, Pakistan, Turkey, Chile, Mexico, Indonesia), and a stealth company in New York.

That said, Vanden Brande writes that the VC firm isn’t in the business of “spray and pray,” arguing it is more selective than a lot of early-stage venture capital. “We’ve done ~20 investments over 5 years, rather than the usual 20 investments per year,” he notes.

Featured Image: Alan Vernon/Getty Images

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Published at Thu, 21 Sep 2017 14:58:57 +0000

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Pinterest opens up more than 5,000 interests for advertiser targeting through its Taste Graph

Pinterest opens up more than 5,000 interests for advertiser targeting through its Taste Graph

Pinterest builds itself around visual discovery — the idea that you can come to the site or app, see something you like, and immediately dive down a rabbit hole. The company has built an extensive suite of tools internally to figure out which rabbit hole to divert users to, and now it’s opening up some of that knowledge to advertisers.

Pinterest said today that it’s unlocking more than 5,000 interests that advertisers can now target against using what the company is calling its “Taste Graph.” That’s Pinterest’s nomenclature for its system that is able to figure out not only what users like, but also how what they like changes over time — such as topics that are suddenly interesting, and ideas that decay into irrelevance. It’s another move as Pinterest tries to position itself as an alternative to big platforms with an entirely unique data set based on its user behavior.

“One of the biggest difference with the Taste Graph compared to what we were doing before was really diving into understanding the nuances of how we relate Pinners to Interests based on the recency and frequency of their engagement,” John Milinovich, product manager for the Taste Graph, said. “We’re much smarter about how we decay interests from a user’s taste profile so that we can better personalize their recommendations. So, if you haven’t pinned about your wedding in a while, you will stop seeing wedding content.”

The Taste Graph has been around for a while and has historically been used for organic content, Milinovich said. The technology was developed by the team from URX, which Pinterest acquired in 2016. It’ll be another compliment to Pinterest’s increasing efforts to hunt down users that are interested in products at specific moments in their lives. Earlier this year, Pinterest said it would also bring its visual search technology to its ads as it continues to try to build a differentiated advertising product.

Pinterest started exploring how to utilize the Taste Graph to improve its advertising products in 2017, which would help advertisers access users with a much more specific set of interests. The better the targeting, the more likely a user is likely to engage with an ad — which means the better the return for both the advertiser and Pinterest. Better-targeted ads are also probably less likely to have a negative impact on the user experience, which is table stakes going up against massive advertisers which have tons of data on how to best target their ads.

Pinterest executives emphasize that their hope is to build an advertising business that not only touches users at each point of their buying lifecycle but demonstrate to brands that the ads they showed to them at the very beginning of their awareness led to a conversion. That conversion could have happened months later, but in the end, it was still a conversion — and it’s a problem that traditional awareness advertising formats like TV have often struggled with. The company hopes that providing that attribution provides a strong enough selling point to grab ad spend away from bigger, more reliable platforms by offering a unique user base.

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Zenefits tries a rebrand and hands off insurance brokerage

Zenefits tries a rebrand and hands off insurance brokerage

Zenefits co-founder Parker Conrad was shown the door in February last year, paving the way for then-COO David Sacks to take over the company and try to turn it around. After about a year of working on that, Sacks stepped back and brought in Jay Fulcher as its new CEO, the former CEO of Ooyala and Agile Software.

Since then, Fulcher has been taking a heat test on the company and the brand, trying to re-orient it into something that’s seen as compliant and business-friendly — and away from the chaotic culture that it had under Conrad. After taking a deep look into the guts of the company, Fulcher and the company have come out today with two big announcements: first, the name isn’t going anywhere while the brand gets a makeover; and second, that it’s getting out of the insurance brokerage business and leaving that up to new partners. By doing that, Zenefits hopes to become an all-in-one HR tool for small businesses while leaving insurance brokerage deals to partners.

“We realized that digital brokerage in an online fashion and not in person is somewhat resonant with really small companies, but as you begin to go beyond that the digital brokerage value prop is not nearly as useful as having local, embedded brokers,”  Fulcher said. “They can offer the consulting and expertise to walk them through a lot of complexity. At the end of the day, I think all the meetings we’re having, we were trying to wrestle with how do we [ramp up] a product we know is ready for prime time. One of the best ways to do that is to partner with firms that have the infrastructure around the country.”

Initially, Zenefits will partner with OneDigital, an employee benefits company, as it starts to expand to partner with more regional and local brokers that have the expertise for various companies’ needs. Part of the dig against startups like Zenefits is often that as companies scale, they need to switch over to services that have the experience and prolific toolset needed to operate. Zenefits now hopes it can try to get the best of both worlds.

Fulcher says that this isn’t a play to make Zenefits a more diluted platform (or to go more “horizontal,” so to speak). Instead, Zenefits hopes to increase its addressable market — one that might graduate beyond the products that it offers as they look to those embedded, local brokers to handle the increasing complexity of insurance. By doing so, Zenefits is hoping to remove the sort of barrier for those companies that wanted to grow beyond its brokerage while staying on the service. “Our focus is on being a SaaS company, and not a broker,” he said.

Zenefits went to its customers, focus groups, analysts and other groups to assess the kind of damage that had been done to the Zenefits brand. Fulcher said he was surprised that the brand was, indeed, not completely tarnished and more than half the market had a positive impression of the company. As a result, the company looked more to refresh the narrative and hold on to the name. That includes not only the kind of mechanical changes happening at the brokerage level but the actual nitty gritty bits down to the logo of the company. Zenefits also said it is launching a new way to provide integration with third-party payroll tools.

Since Sacks took over, Zenefits has been looking more and more to focus on some core incremental bits like managing time off while it opens further up to partners to handle the rest of the suite of tools employers need. In that sense, this seems like another step in that direction as Zenefits looks more and more to be the kind of day-in-day-out tool for employees and HR managers. While that means Zenefits may increasingly cede parts of its turf to partners that may eventually become competitors one day, it means that it could also potentially get to markets that it wouldn’t be able to access faster.

“It’s still very early days in the SMB market, and it’s somewhat early days in my program to get the company back to very high growth momentum,” Fulcher. ” We’re maybe 30% of the way there is the way I’d describe it, we’re not confused about our product and we have a new business model that’s really exciting. I have completely rebuilt and reset listed the leadership team. People are excited about what we’re doing, they’re excited about the refreshed brand, they love the problem. The market we’re focused on is the backbone of the US economy. The noble purpose here isn’t lost on anyone and we have a very specific execution plan that we’re in the middle of working on.”

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Published at Thu, 21 Sep 2017 12:00:44 +0000

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DogBuddy, the European dog sitting marketplace, scores €5M Series A

DogBuddy, the European dog sitting marketplace, scores €5M Series A

DogBuddy, a pan-European online marketplace for dog sitting, has closed €5 million in Series A funding, money it plans for further expansion. Backing the London-headquartered startup in this round is existing investor Sweet Capital, the investment fund started by the founders of King.com, and a number of new unnamed private investors. It brings total raised by DogBuddy to €10 million.

Acting as a typical online marketplace, connecting supply with demand in as frictionless a way as possible, DogBuddy enables dog owners in the U.K., Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Sweden and Norway to easily “find a loving home away from home” for their dogs when they go away on weekends, longer holidays, business trips or have to work long hours. Services offered by dog sitters include walking, day sitting and full board.

The platform lets you browse vetted sitter profiles, look at pictures (including of people’s homes), read customer reviews, and book and pay online. As a further incentive to do so, services booked through DogBuddy are covered by insurance and emergency support. As I’ve noted before — when DogBuggy merged with Spanish rival Bibulu — this is a trust play as much as anything else.

Richard Setter, founder and CEO of DogBuddy, says strong growth in Sweden over the past year and the successful launch of Norway in January, serves as a good base to launch in more European countries in the coming months. “With this continued support and backing from our investors, we’ll be able to help make life easier for even more owners throughout Europe,” he says.

Along with its London HQ, the company has offices in Stockholm and Barcelona. It claims 500,000 dog owners have registered with the app, and over 30,000 approved dog sitters are on the platform. In addition to geographical expansion, DogBuddy says it will invest further in marketing to raise awareness of home dog boarding, doggy daycare and dog walking amongst dog owners.

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Published at Thu, 21 Sep 2017 07:00:32 +0000

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Pointy, a startup that lets local retailers easily put stock online with a simple gadget, raises​ ​$6M

Pointy, a startup that lets local retailers easily put stock online with a simple gadget, raises​ ​$6M

Pointy​,​ ​an Irish start​ ​startup​ ​that​ lets ​local​ ​retailers put their stock online so that they can be discovered via search engines, has raised $6 million in Series A funding. The round is being led by Frontline Ventures, alongside Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital, Draper Associates and a number of notable angel investors.

The latter includes Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress, Lars Rasmussen, co-founder of Google Maps, Taavet Hinrikus, co-founder of Transferwise, and Michael Birch, co-founder of Bebo. The company previously raised $1.2 million in seed funding from LocalGlobe, Frontline, and Seedcamp.

Founded by Mark Cummins and Charles Bibby — both of whom have decent startup pedigree, including Cummins co-founding Plink, a visual search engine company acquired by Google in 2010 — Pointy combines hardware and a software platform to help local retailers easily establish a presence online in order to drive more people to their store. Specifically, the ​”Pointy​ ​box”​ hardware ​gadget connects to a store’s barcode scanner and automatically puts scanned items on a Pointy-powered website the each store.

Store pages are then optimised for search engines, so that when you search for products locally — say your favourite artisan beer — a Pointy-powered result shows up and encourages you to visit the store and make a purchase. In other words, this is about fighting back against the likes of Amazon and helping local retailers drive more footfall, but with very little additional overhead.

In a call, Pointy’s founders, who both have PhDs in robotics, explained that even though the Pointy device scans items for addition to the store’s website at the point of sale, the startup has built algorithms to try to determine if it remains in stock. One part of this is measuring the frequency an item is purchased, with the assumption that a more regularly bought item will likely remain in-stock because it is frequently re-stocked.

Explains Cummins: “​If​ ​someone​ ​takes​ ​out​ ​their​ ​phone​ ​to​ ​search​ ​for​ ​a product​ ​they​ ​want​ ​to​ ​buy,​ ​they’re​ ​likely​ ​to​ ​see​ ​a​ ​result​ ​from​ ​Amazon,​ ​even​ ​if​ ​a​ ​local​ ​store 50​ ​feet​ ​away​ ​has​ ​the product​ ​in​ ​stock.​ ​It’s​ ​a​ ​frustrating​ ​for​ ​retailers​ ​and​ ​consumers​ ​alike. Pointy​ ​is​ ​solving​ ​that​ ​problem​ ​in​ ​a​ ​way​ ​that’s​ ​effortless​ ​for​ ​retailers.”

Meanwhile, I’m told that Pointy devices are already in use by local retailers across 48 U.S. states, and that store pages have appeared in search results “tens of millions of times”.

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Published at Thu, 21 Sep 2017 06:00:17 +0000

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ClassPass begins testing variable pricing as it expands beyond studio fitness

ClassPass begins testing variable pricing as it expands beyond studio fitness

On the heels of its $70 million Series C, an expansion to new markets, and a partnership with Blink Fitness, the popular workout subscription service ClassPass is now beginning to experiment with variable pricing. The test was revealed by new ClassPass CEO Fritz Lanman, speaking on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt SF this afternoon.

The idea to try out a virtual currency of sorts came about because ClassPass has been working to extend its business model to go beyond your typical gym class. With its Blink Fitness deal, for example, it added co-memberships – meaning ClassPass subscribers can opt to pay another $15 per month to have a real gym membership. And the company is expanding to include CrossFit locations, group runs, and even team sports, by way of rec leagues, among other things.

“We really started in studio fitness, and now we’re expanding to more types of fitness,” explained Lanman.

With all the different types of workout experiences available, ClassPass’s business model now has to evolve as well.

Right now, you buy an either 3, 5 or 10 class plan on ClassPass which can be used at any of the 8,500 locations in its network. That’s been working well so far – ClassPass recently said it doubled its member base in the past year and has grown to 35 million reservations to date.

“We have really strong product-market fit with a particular type of customer,” said Lanman. “But there’s some people we don’t work great for – like people who want more value for their money,” he admits.

The problem is that whether you take a yoga class at a gym or a Flywheel indoor cycling class (the latter being more expensive), both would cost you one class credit. The solution ClassPass is testing to solve this issue is variable credit currency within the ClassPass system.

In other words, ClassPass users would be able to better control how they want to spend their credits. If they wanted more workouts, they could decide to go to lower cost inventory, less popular classes, or go at times when the class wasn’t typically as full.

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“In these experiments, we’re seeing what would happen if we only charge you half of a class to go to a gym visit, or maybe to an off-peak class,” said Lanman. “It’s cheaper for us to buy it, so we should give the consumer an incentive to try it,” he explained.

That means people could work out more for the same budget – something that might appeal to those who think that a program like ClassPass isn’t affordable enough to meet their needs.

And on the flip side, this variable pricing system would also remove the limitation currently in place on being able to visit your favorite studios multiple times per month. Instead, you’d be able to go as much as you wanted – it would just get a little more expensive the more you want to go.

You might pay a few dollars extra, or pay a class and a half, in terms of credits, to go, the exec said.

This new pricing mechanic could also serve ClassPass as it expands beyond fitness, Lanman added.

“It would be really hard for us to introduce a massage into the current subscription, or going to visit the opera, or taking a language learning class,” he noted.

The company just began testing this pricing model in the last month or so with a subset of users in San Francisco and Chicago, we understand. There’s no formal ETA as to when it will arrive to the broader customer base at this time

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Published at Thu, 21 Sep 2017 00:56:13 +0000

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And the winner of Startup Battlefield at Disrupt SF 2017 is… Pi

And the winner of Startup Battlefield at Disrupt SF 2017 is… Pi

At the very beginning, there were 22 startups. After three days of incredibly fierce competition, we now have a winner.

Startups participating in the Startup Battlefield have all been hand-picked to participate in our highly competitive startup competition. They all presented in front of multiple groups of VCs and tech leaders serving as judges for a chance to win $50,000 and the coveted Disrupt Cup.

After hours of deliberations, TechCrunch editors pored over the judges’ notes and narrowed the list down to six finalists: Augmedics, colormass, Future Family, Matic, Onēva and Pi.

These startups made their way to the finale to demo in front of our final panel of judges, which included: Theresia Gouw (Aspect Ventures), Kirsten Green (Forerunner Ventures), Aileen Lee (Cowboy Ventures), Ann Miura-Ko (Floodgate), Matthew Panzarino (TechCrunch) and Krishna Yeshwant (GV).

Applications for the Startup Battlefield at Disrupt Berlin are now open. Please apply if you’d like to participate.

And now, meet the Startup Battlefield winner of TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017.

Winner: Pi

Pi is building a device that can charge multiple devices within about a foot in any direction. It’s not the full-room charging concept that other companies have spent years trying to tackle, but it provides a good bit more flexibility over a pad.

Read more about Pi in our separate post.

Runner-up: Oneva

Onēva enables employers to offer elder, infant and child care, as well as housecleaning and other in-home services, as employee benefits. All of Onēva’s providers are verified through FBI background checks, criminal background checks, reference checks and ID verification.

Read more about Onēva in our separate post.


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Published at Thu, 21 Sep 2017 00:39:33 +0000

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Why women are coming forward about harassment and discrimination

Why women are coming forward about harassment and discrimination

It’s been the talk of the summer in Silicon Valley. CEOs at Uber and SoFi lost their jobs after whistleblowers came forward, alleging sexism and harassment. Powerful venture capitalists, including Dave McClure from 500 Startups lost their jobs after women, including Sarah Kunst, accused him of making inappropriate advances when seeking a job at his venture firm.

Workplace harassment isn’t new, but we’re talking about it more than ever. So what’s inspiring these women to speak up?

Kunst, who joined us on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt, said that she felt encouraged after watching other women share their stories. “Seeing women like Elen Pao, seeing women like Susan Fowler come forward tell their stories, be believed and realizing that that’s what it took.” She said that she first tried to address the situation privately, but it wasn’t resolved.

Kunst, who’s a founder and CEO at Proday, says that too many work environments aren’t receptive to a discussion about these problems. “If you’re a manager…and no one has ever come to you with an issue about being harassed or feeling discriminated against, you are not encouraging open communication in your company,” she said, suggesting that these issues are common enough that they’re happening everywhere.

She was joined on the panel by Kim Scott, a former Google exec who now advises executives at companies like Dropbox and Twitter. She also authored the book, “Radical Candor.” Hilary Gosher, managing director at Insight Venture Partners and board member at Parity Partners was on stage as well.

“For so long women were told you’ll never get a job, you’ll blow up your life if you come forward,” said Scott. She advocates “teaching people the importance of bringing it up early. Not making a big deal of it is going to prevent these big explosive blowups later.”

Gosher believes that “people aren’t going to change unless they’re forced to change.” She said that the dramatic Uber situation should be a warning for other leaders. “Some of the boards like Uber turned a blind eye for many months until things became very obvious.”

The conversation was largely solutions-driven, focusing on what men and women can be doing to improve work environments, making them an inclusive place for everyone.

Click the link above to watch the full conversation.

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Published at Thu, 21 Sep 2017 00:39:34 +0000

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10x, founded by the ex-CEO of Barclays, raises $46M to take on ancient banking infrastructure

10x, founded by the ex-CEO of Barclays, raises $46M to take on ancient banking infrastructure

The fintech revolution continues apace, and while many startups are hoping that newer and better tech will help them take business away from traditional banks, today a company has received a large round of funding to help those incumbent institutions better compete.

10x Future Technologies is a startup that has built a ground-up platform that incorporates machine learning, cloud services, encryption at all states and other newer technology. Aimed at helping large banks manage data and transactions, build new products and work with consumers, it has now raised £34 million ($46 million) in its first outside funding.

The Series A — one of the biggest for a European financial tech startup — comes from two strategic backers, Chinese Insurance giant Ping An and management consultancy firm Oliver Wyman. Both work extensively with financial services firms, and the idea will be to leverage those relationships to help 10x grow its business.

10x up to now has been bankrolled by its founder and CEO, who is not your ordinary entrepreneur: up until last year, Antony Jenkins was the CEO of banking giant Barclays, experience that he said in an interview this week gives him a front-row seat to many of the problems that banks face today.

“I’ve lived with all those problems, and I’ve talked with bank chief executives who have tried and been unable to solve these problems,” he said.

Jenkins said that 10x is not talking about its valuation at this point.

10x, which was founded in 2016, has yet to launch a commercial product. Jenkins said that the first deal has been secured: Virgin Money is planning to launch a banking service on the platform sometime in 2018.

Virgin Money is a “greenfield” deal, a completely new offering from Virgin Money; but Jenkins said that in fact the aim of 10x is to work with large, existing banks (like his former employer) to bring them into the 21st century.

Banks today are full of ageing infrastructure and legacy systems that are patched together. Most of them have expressed a desire and mandate to update those systems for all the reasons you might guess. Among the most important are to make their data more secure, to make their services more efficient, and to launch new products to be more competitive with the new wave of financial services.

But the problem is that for many of them, up to now the prospect of rebuilding all their systems has been insurmountable.

“The legacy technology that operates in most banks is a major impediment to serving customers better, and increased challenges from regulation and more capital requirements make it hard to fix,” said Jenkins. “For all the money that they spend on technology, they still haven’t addressed this.”

10x’s answer, he said, is a “turnkey solution” to modernise this: it ingests legacy account data, on which it runs analytics to gain active insights and also to help plan and run new services. Built around APIs, it’s “very simple” to add in other services from third parties as well, something which isn’t always easy to do today.

In recent times, we have seen a wave of “new” banks being built from the ground up, with a fresh tech stack, using newer technologies like mobile to tap into a newer class of bankers. They include the likes of Atom Bank (also founded by a veteran banker from the incumbent world); Monzo; and N26. 10x is different in that it’s positioning itself as B2B2C — that is, it’s selling its services to other banks and does not intend to have a retail face of its own.

It’s that agnostic position, combined with 10x’s promise of making the large, legacy operations more modern, that interested its investors, who have a vested interest in helping their customers keep from becoming obsolete.

“The large majority of banks are highly constrained by legacy technology and rely on mainframe systems and other systems whose architecture is based on paradigms made 40-50 years ago. That is very difficult to change,” said Jonathan Larsen, the chief innovation officer at Ping An, in an interview. “Banks are at a competitive disadvantage, with fintech elements a reality at every stage of financial services today. Banks — even large and world-class financial institutions — have to adapt quickly or risk becoming less relevant.”

Featured Image: Anthony Bradshaw/DigitalVision/Getty Images

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Published at Wed, 20 Sep 2017 23:18:46 +0000

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Our favorite pitches from Alchemist Accelerator’s 16th batch

Our favorite pitches from Alchemist Accelerator’s 16th batch

Alchemist Accelerator, known for its specialty in working with enterprise startups, held its 16th demo day at Microsoft’s offices in Mountain View, California. 18 startups pitched ideas ranging from more traditional marketplaces to frontier aerospace technology.

Addressing the packed auditorium before the pitches began, Ravi Belani, managing partner at Alchemist, reasserted his core mission to surface and support startups serving the unsexy corners of the enterprise. The 16th class of Alchemist did that vision justice, venturing into uncertain territory while remaining anchored to macro growth trends in blockchain and machine intelligence.

We spent the afternoon listening to the founders in the batch and are including some background on five of the pitches we found most interesting.

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Published at Wed, 20 Sep 2017 23:47:10 +0000

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YC wants to let people invest in its startups through the blockchain

YC wants to let people invest in its startups through the blockchain

ICOs — or initial coin offerings — are emerging as a route for startups to raise money from a wide pool of investors through cryptocurrency networks. Now, one of the biggest and best-known accelerators in the world is mulling a way to use cryptocurrency networks and the blockchain to help get more people involved in backing their cohorts, according to its president.

“We are interested in how companies like Y Combinator can use the blockchain to democratize access to investing,” said Sam Altman, who leads the accelerator, on stage at Disrupt yesterday. “We should try to figure that out.”

Our sources tell us YC is actually a little farther along than that. Like a growing number of venture groups that are jumping into the digital currency world, the group is actively working on how it might use cryptocurrency to expand the investment pool. There are still legal and other details that are being examined, the sources say.

Speaking at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco, Altman actually painted a mixed picture of the role of ICOs in the tech world today. It wasn’t all good.

Altman highlighted how there are still a lot of questions to be resolved about how they work — including whether they are transparent, and legal, and effective. Counterbalanced with that is a very strong current of hype.

“I think ICOs are definitely a bubble right now,” he said, “but there is something underlying them, which is why smart people are fascinated.”

He also made a case for why there should be more government involvement in how ICOs are run.

“Do I think ICOs are silly, bordering on scams? Yes, they are,” he continued. “But, there are a few that are important, and the is blockchain more important than not… ICOs need to be regulated.”

The idea of using a new investment format — one that would potentially open up YC to a much wider pool of backers — wouldn’t necessarily represent a big shift for YC, which has big ambitions to become a much bigger operation, despite its almost exponential growth under Altman’s leadership.

At the same time, it could mean working, for the first time, with investors who are not “accredited,” meaning high net worth investors — an idea that appeals to Altman. To date, Y Combinator has been associated with some of the most elite and successful startups of the world, as well as the most elite and successful venture capitalists, with early investors in the program including names like Sequoia Capital, SV Angel, and Yuri Milner of DST.

The gap between this group of VCs and the wider world is big.

YC has meanwhile continued to ramp up its accelerator activities. In addition to its core YC program, the organization has started to focus also on maturing startups through its later-stage Y Continuity Fund; it also runs an online, 10-weeks long Startup School that touches 3,000 startups at once, Altman said yesterday.

Still, Altman has plain ambitions to back many more startups. Asked on stage if he planned to double the size of YC, which Altman had said last year it was his ambition to do, he smiled. “We’ve gotten significantly more ambitious in the last year . . . I think we can figure out a way to make a whole lot more startups happen and really help them.”

Added Altman of the appeal of ICOs in particular, “People are watching their friends get really rich and it’s making them [frustrated and wanting to get rich, too].”

“One of the trends that bothers me about Silicon Valley,” he continued, is that “more and more of the wealth creation here is not available to most people, and I think that’s very bad in a society with already so much wealth inequality. If there’s a way that new technology can make it practical and possible to democratize this, I think that’d be great.”

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HubSpot acquires chatbot builder Motion AI

HubSpot acquires chatbot builder Motion AI

HubSpot announced this morning that it has acquired chatbot startup Motion AI.

Motion AI launched in 2015 and offers an editor for building chatbots that work on websites, Facebook Messenger, SMS and Slack, no coding required. Even before the acquisition, the tool was already integrated into HubSpot Free CRM.

The entire Motion AI team, including founder and CEO David Nelson, will be joining HubSpot. The companies also said they’ll be sharing more details about the integration plans at HubSpot’s Inbound conference next week.

“It’s impossible to ignore the impact of chat and messaging, not just on the way B2B companies operate, but on society as a whole,” said HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan said in the acquisition announcement. “We’re in the midst of a massive shift as businesses embrace this new platform and consumers come to expect more immediate, always-on communication from brands.”

HubSpot (which acquired sales AI startup Kemvi few months ago) isn’t sharing the financial terms of the deal. Motion AI has raised funding from Charge Ventures, Crush Ventures and others.

Featured Image: Bryce Durbin

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Pymetrics attacks discrimination in hiring with AI and recruiting games

Pymetrics attacks discrimination in hiring with AI and recruiting games

Identify the traits of your top performing employees and hire people like them, but without the discrimanatory bias of traditional recruiting. That’s the promise of Pymetrics, an artificial intelligence startup that today announced $8 million in new funding on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt SF. Pymetrics’ goal is “making the world a fairer place” by dismantling hiring discrimination like sexism, racism, agees, and classism.

Anyone can play the Pymetrics test games and get scored on different hireable traits, plus see suggestions for job types they’d be great at.

Here’s how it works. A company’s all-star employees play Pymetrics’ set of games that assess things like memory, emotion detection, risk-taking, fairness, and focus. Pymetrics determines what traits equate to high performance for specific roles in the company.

Then recruiting candidates take the same test, which is scored by AI instead of humans so a person’s name, gender, skin, color, age, or resume aren’t factored in. Finally, Pymetrics recommends companies hire people who are similar on the inside to their best workers, but not necessarily on the outside.

The result is a hiring process that doesn’t preference white guys from elite schools who were on the sailing team just like the recruiter. Instead, it finds the best people for the job, regardless of their backgrounds. That leads companies to find amazing talent that’s been overlooked because of what they look like, or because they went to community college or haven’t worked at popular companies.

“The resume is the most biased piece of information used in the hiring process” says Pymetrics co-founder Frida Polli. The average resume gets scanned for six-seconds, and mostly just surfaces name-brand experience that looks good on paper rather than what makes someone good at a job. “Google did the famous study of resumes and performance test scores, and found an extremely small correlation” Polli tells TechCrunch.

Pymetrics’ insights can make companies better at hiring at a time when it’s becoming clear that talent is the big differentiator between success and failure. That’s why JAZZ Venture Partners led the $8 million Series B, and its partner Zach Lynch will join the startup’s board. The round also includes return support from Khosla Ventures, Randstad Innovation Fund, and BBG Ventures. Pymetrics also received a grant from The Rockefeller Foundation that will fund access to the software for companies that use it to hire high-potential at-risk youth.

Bringing Pymetrics to $17 million in total funding, the new capital will go towards expanding Pymetrics’ London and Singapore sales office as the company seeks to sign more international clients. It’s already working with 50 enterprise clients including huge companies like Accenture as well as Unilever, which recently put 250,000 of its employees through the Pymetrics test games. Polli says the company drastically increased the quality of candidates it brought in for interviews, becoming 100% more likely to hire them. It also hired new types of people, like one who’d never been on a plane before.

But Polli stresses that the goal isn’t to replace recruiters with AI, or make companies more efficient so they can lay off employees. Instead, its goal is to let employers reassign their recruiters from haphazard resume-scanning to outreach so they improve their candidate pool. Similarly, instead of eliminating jobs with fewer more skilled employees, Pymetrics believes employers can get staff working on harder problems to boost the business’ top line.

The challenge will be getting recruiters to adopt this bold new model of hiring, and overcoming their fears of being made obsolete.

I tried Pymetrics’ battery of games and not only were they fun, but they made me assess what traits I could improve in myself. It’s time we moved past using Ivy League degrees, past lucky breaks, and discriminatory pattern matching to sort people into careers. We have the technology to understand people’s underlying skills. With AI that doesn’t see race or sex or expensive suits, merit can shine through.

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Former AOL exec Seth Demsey joins Revcontent as an advisor

Former AOL exec Seth Demsey joins Revcontent as an advisor

As content recommendation company Revcontent plans to unveil new tools for online publishers, it’s also working with former AOL Platforms CTO Seth Demsey to develop its broader strategy.

Demsey left his role running adtech at AOL (which owns TechCrunch) over the summer, right before AOL-owner Verizon closed its acquisition of Yahoo. He told me that when he was introduced to Revcontent CEO John Lemp, he discovered they were “extremely ideologically aligned around what we think is the value of the Internet” — specifically, in giving publishers a distribution and business model beyond platforms like Facebook.

While Demsey’s official role at Revcontent is as an advisor (and he’s probably going to be pretty busy with his new “technology studio” 300 Qubits), he said that he’s going to be involved on a day-to-day basis.

“This isn’t like a venture advisor where you talk to somebody an hour a month,” he said. “I’m up to my neck in it. Every single day, there are 15 instant message threads I have to reply to. I’m on the hook for real work.”

Lemp added that Demsey is working with Revcontent on both product and business strategy.

Lemp has argued before that high quality content recommendations can be important for online journalism to find a home beyond the Internet’s “walled gardens.” This week, he said it’s too soon to discuss the specifics of Revcontent’s new products, but the idea is to treat content recommendations as “a stepping stone towards a much bigger picture — something we feel can really make a difference out there for media companies.”

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Yahoo’s former VP of Mobile launches YaDoggie, a dog wellness startup

Yahoo’s former VP of Mobile launches YaDoggie, a dog wellness startup

Having successfully founded and exited a couple of software companies, Tomfoolery (sold to Yahoo) and Rally Up (sold to AOL), Sol Lipman has made his move into dog wellness with the launch of YaDoggie.

YaDoggie aims to help dog parents take a holistic approach to caring for their pups. And it has an impressive group of tech investors on board, including Oath CEO Tim Armstrong (my boss’s boss) and Jacqueline Reses, Square’s chief human resources officer. But instead of defining itself as a dog tech company, YaDoggie is positioning itself as a dog wellness company using technology to make things better.

“We have a responsibility to think of ourselves as a dog and pet wellness company first,” Lipman said.

YaDoggie’s core offerings are healthy, grain-free kibble, treats and a smart scoop, which will cost $49. The food comes in three recipes, buffalo/duck, lamb and sweet potato and limited ingredient turkey and pea — none of which include rice, corn, wheat or soy.

Lipman, a dog parent himself, knows about the complexities of having a dog and not knowing if someone else in the house has already fed it. In his house, he connected a SmartThings Hub and motion monitor to let him know when the dog was getting fed.

“We’re literally feeding our dogs to death in the U.S.,” Lipman said.

The bluetooth-enabled smart scoop, which will launch in November, connects with your smartphone to let everyone in the house know when the dog has been fed. When you pick up the scoop, an LED light will flash green if the dog needs to be fed or red if the dog has already been fed.

“We thought to build a device to measure food, notify people in the household that the dog has been fed and allow them to know they’re about to run out of food,” Lipman said.

He calls this “predictive shipping” in contrast to the type of automated shipping you see from startups like Blue Apron. Instead of shipping automatically, YaDoggie’s algorithms predict when you’re about to run out of food and then proceeds to ship it. The dog parent can, of course, make adjustments online and either delay, expedite or pause shipments.

For a 40-pound dog, a subscription to Ya Doggie costs $50 a month, including shipping. Pricing, of course, varies on the size of the dog. Down the road, YaDoggie would be open to selling its products at retail locations, like a Blue Bottle Coffee location for pre-existing YaDoggie customers, but that’s not on the roadmap as of now.

“Pet retail,” Lipman said. “I don’t think it’s where we want to be.”

Featured Image: TechCrunch/Veanne Cao

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ClearMetal gets $9M from Prelude Ventures and Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors for its logistics platform

ClearMetal gets $9M from Prelude Ventures and Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors for its logistics platform

Logistics and supply chain management is a notoriously outdated and labor-intensive process. ClearMetal uses artificial intelligence to help manufacturers and retailers climb out from underneath piles of spreadsheets. Today the San Francisco-based startup announced that it has raised $9 million in Series A funding led by Prelude Ventures and Innovation Endeavors, the venture capital firm founded by Alphabet executive chairman Eric Schmidt.

NEA, SAP.io, PSA Unboxed, DCLI and John Urban, a founder of cloud-based supply chain management platform GT Nexus, also participated in the round. Along with a $3 million seed investment raised in February 2016, this brings ClearMetal’s total funding so far to $12 million.

ClearMetal, whose customers already include logistics provider Panalpina and paper goods giant Georgia-Pacific, was created because its founding team “saw a multi-trillion dollar global trade industry that moves 90 percent of everything around the world wasting billions of dollars as a result of not having the right tools and technology to handle the ever-increasing complexities of the supply chain,” says co-founder and chief executive officer Adam Compain.

Many companies still rely on spreadsheets and legacy software. ClearMetal, whose other founders are head of engineering Diego Canales and head of technology Will Harvey, wants to replace those outdated tools with its SaaS platform, which uses artificial intelligence to canonicalize freight data, or convert it into one standard format, and create more visibility for the entire supply chain.

ClearMetal’s technology also uses freight data to deliver predictions that help companies make inventory management decisions and avoid running into issues. As an example of how the platform can potentially benefit users, Compain describes a large retailer that needs to get shirts from a factory in China to its distribution center in Chicago in time for Black Friday.

This usually means it must make an order 60 days in advance to account for shipment delays. Even then, the retailer still has to budget for emergency air shipping because it doesn’t have a lot of visibility into the status of its freight.

ClearMetal’s platform, on the other hand, not only tells the retailer where its shipment currently is and predict transit delays, but also selects which ocean carriers to use by analyzing their service reliability. The retailer is therefore able to save money on shipment costs, nail down an arrival time for its shirts and avoid ordering backup stock. While the amount varies by company, Compain says ClearMetal’s customers have “cited tens of millions of dollars of value potential” by using its technology.

“Often we draw the analogy to the early days of mobile technology,” Compain says. “We’re helping equip supply chain operators with a smartphone when traditionally all they’ve been given is a flip  phone.”

Featured Image: Jetta Productions/Getty Images

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Ripio Credit Network launches, aiming to attack bank loan fees in emerging markets

Ripio Credit Network launches, aiming to attack bank loan fees in emerging markets

Ripio Credit (formerly BitPagos), the project that reached the finals at last year’s TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield in New York, is about to launch its new venture. The Ripio Credit Network (RCN) will be public in November and is designed to grow the product and platform outside Latin America, into the fast-emerging developing world.

Born in Argentina, the original idea was to widen financial inclusion by extending credit lending globally, and that idea remains. Ripio Credit now has 100,000+ active users and claims to be the most popular blockchain product in Latin America, with Draper and Boost VC as investors.

The new RCN is based on the Ethereum blockchain’s ERC20 standard and RCN tokens are required to access the ‘RCN network’. Both the wallet and the exchange need to implement the RCN protocol in order to interact with the rest of the agents.The network operates on cosigned smart contracts, thus connecting borrowers, lenders and co-signing agents.

Aside from the usual suspects as competitors, it is also going up against the block-chain/crypto startup Salt. That Denver, Colorado, startup is aiming to create membership-based business, the idea being to facilitate loans collateralized by bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Ripio also wants to cut all the management fees and costs associated with normal banking, and provide people with better conditions. Of course, as we know, traditional banking is regulated by governments, which decide how much it will cost you to loan money. That’s the big issue for emerging countries as the rates and risks tend to be high.

The RCN is designed to scale down the selectiveness associated with traditional lending, connecting lenders and borrowers anywhere in the world and on any local currency. Cutting all the costs and management fees, disrupts the current credit environment. The key way this is achieved is by creating a new intermediary agent (the “cosigner”) which neutralizes the lender’s credit risk, and in the case of a default, handles the tools to manage the debt in the borrower’s country of residence.

Sebastian Serrano, CEO and co-founder says the company has also now raised $5M in venture capital since inception, from the most prominent VC funds like Tim Draper, Pantera, DCG, among others. RCN will also now start the pre-sale of its ICO token.

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Matternet’s autonomous delivery drones can now refuel and reload by themselves

Matternet’s autonomous delivery drones can now refuel and reload by themselves

Matternet, a startup building autonomous drones for delivery, has been working to commercialize its tech via transportation of blood and pathology samples to labs. Taking traffic out of the equation has already shown it can cut hours off the testing process, but Matternet is pushing to become even more efficient at autonomous transportation. This drive led to the development of the Matternet Station — an automated basestation for swapping batteries and payloads on the company’s drones.

Packages ready to be fixed to a drone are placed into a drawer on the Matternet Station. A camera captures a QR code on the package which links it with a destination. A storage bay of five batteries is made available to the drone. Everything happens smoothly and with minimal human interaction by design.

“We are taking the expert out of the loop,” Andreas Raptopoulos, co-founder and CEO of Matternet explained to me in an interview. “You don’t need someone to swap batteries or insert things into the vehicle.”

Lofty ideas are a dime a dozen in the autonomous drone space, but few startups can say that they actually have an operational product working in the field. While Matternet waits on a favorable regulatory environment in the United States, the startup is preparing to deploy its drones in Switzerland.

This means that Matternet will soon be transporting real blood samples from hospital rooms to labs. A technician would only need to place the samples into a designated container and then feed the box into the Station.

Minutes matter in the world of medical testing. Shaving just a few minutes off processing lab work can improve outcomes and increase the likelihood that patients receive the right treatment at the right time.

Matternet supplies its technology (cloud + drone + station) to transportation providers. These providers then market to hospitals, offering peer-to-peer transportation that is faster than any traditional approach to logistics.

With its tech starting to solidify, Matternet’s next goal is to grow operations to multiple cities in Switzerland before exploring expansion to the U.K. and Germany. You can check out a video of the Matternet Station reload and refuel process below.

Featured Image: Matternet

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Meet the six finalists at the Disrupt SF Startup Battlefield

Meet the six finalists at the Disrupt SF Startup Battlefield

We’ve just watched 22 startups take the stage as part of TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield at Disrupt SF, where they showed off their technology and answered tough questions from expert judges.

We’ve winnowed them down to the following six finalists, who will be presenting for a whole new panel of judges. At the end of the day, one of them will take home the Battlefield Cup and $50,000.

Tune in tomorrow at 2pm Pacific to watch the finals.

Augmedics

Augmedics is an Israeli startup working on augmented reality headsets for surgeons performing spinal surgery. Instead of making you look away from your patient, the the company’s Vizor acts as a heads-up display and gives you greatly enhanced perception.

colormass

Berlin-based colormass has developed a platform that lets you recreate an IKEA-style experience for your own merchandise. A furniture company supplies its own production files and colormass uses computer vision algorithms to convert these images into lifelike 3D files that can be altered with different textures and colors.

Future Family

Future Family aims to simplify the world of female fertility testing, all while bringing down the cost of treatment options. It’s now offering fertility testing for men as well, with a new product called the Sperm Activity Test.

Matic

Matic wants to make the process of finding the right homeowner’s insurance easier and more efficient. Its solution leverages technology to simplify this process, while also personalizing the experience of receiving quotes and recommendations.

Oneva

Onēva enables employers to offer elder, infant and child care, as well as housecleaning and other in-home services, as employee benefits. All of Onēva’s providers are verified through FBI background checks, criminal background checks, reference checks and ID verification.

Pi

Pi is building a device that can charge multiple devices within about a foot in any direction. It’s not the full-room charging concept that other companies have spent years trying to tackle, but it provides a good bit more flexibility over a pad.

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Boundless helps you navigate the US immigration labyrinth for your partner

Boundless helps you navigate the US immigration labyrinth for your partner

Boundless is a Seattle based startup addressing the enormous issue of applying for immigrant status in the US.

Founder Xiao Wang came to the US over when he was young from China. “My family spent five months of rent money on immigration lawyers because we just didn’t know how to do it and didn’t know any better. And this is an experience that’s repeated by millions of families all around the world. And what I realized is that it doesn’t have to be that way,” he says.

Instead, you can actually take all of the knowledge that was previously trapped in the minds of the government and immigration lawyers and make it accessible to everybody. The online platform helps people actually navigate their immigration journey with confidence. The early results have been very encouraging,” says Wang.

Today the company is launching ‘marriage-based green cards’. So if you are a US citizen or a green card holder and you fall in love with someone who’s not, the company will help you get your partner either into the country or keep them in the country.

So how does it work? The web site translates complex government forms into questions that people can understand and answer easily. The site then adapts everything according to what people say and knows exactly which forms they need to complete, in a highly customised fashion. This is all done for a flat fee, less than a lawyer would charge.

The customer then gets a chance to review the application with an independent immigration lawyer who looks at the whole package and makes sure that everything is done the right way. The site then produces and assembles the entire package according to the US government’s specifications.

So far the company has raised a seed round in April that was led by Trilogy Equity Partners and a number of others.

It’s likely that the Trump administration, instead of discouraging such a service will, in fact, make it more valuable than ever. There’s also a network effect of immigrants bringing relatives and others over via similar means to their own, which should refresh the customer pool.

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M8 wants your friends to be the matchmaker

M8 wants your friends to be the matchmaker

Forget algorithms. M8 is a dating app that’s powered by human matchmakers. And these aren’t just any matchmakers, they’re your friends!

M8 is unveiling its concept for a different dating app at TechCrunch Disrupt’s Battlefield competition in San Francisco.

With M8, friends can look through dating apps to find the perfect match for their friends. And if they’re successful, they can be rewarded with gifts and, more importantly, the satisfaction of finding their best friend a new lover.

Stephen Liu, co-founder and CEO, said he had the idea because he and his wife started dating after a friend vouched for him. So he co-founded the platform with his wife, Linda.

Mr. Liu says that today’s “online dating is flawed.” He believes “the best matches come from people.”

In a world where Tinder matches are based on photos, he believes that a personal written endorsement from a friend will provide so much more.

Before founding M8, Mr. Liu founded a luxury lifestyle events company called PrivyCircle.com. He has also worked in the U.S.-China textile business. Mrs. Liu was an art director in the television industry.

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    M8 presents in Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017
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    M8 presents in Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017
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    M8 presents in Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017
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    M8 presents in Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017

So far they’ve raised about $700,000 for their startup idea. LegalZoom co-founder Brian Liu (no relation) and Alibaba Group VP Brian Wong are among the angel investors.

The app has yet to launch, but will soon be in private beta. The M8 team is hoping the Battlefield competition will help with publicity.

“The people you know that care about you want you to be happy,” emphasized Mr. Liu.
“Friends are always trying to drag their friends up.”

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Olfaguard is an electronic nose for smelling pathogens in food factories

Olfaguard is an electronic nose for smelling pathogens in food factories

A recent deadly outbreak of Salmonella has so far sickened more than 200 people throughout the eastern and southern United States. The culprit? Madrol papayas coming from three different distribution companies, all originating from four close farms in Mexico.

Now these distributors, the FDA and the CDC are scrambling to contain the outbreak from going further. Meanwhile, several law firms have stepped in to take to court those responsible.

Mitigating risk of food-borne illnesses can be a costly and time-consuming business for food manufacturers — but one that is necessary to avoid the type of scenario illustrated above.

With what it calls an electronic “sniffer,” Olfaguard, a new Toronto-based startup, is working to reduce the time it takes food manufacturers to discover food-borne pathogens like Salmonella and E. Coli in the food we buy.

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This machine works by picking up on possible pathogens, running it through the system and then coming out with results, which founder and CEO Pierre Salameh says have so far yielded results with a 94 percent accuracy in the lab.

The traditional methods for detecting pathogens in food are: one, taking a culture and developing it in a petri dish in 36 to 48 hours; or two, using a much more expensive method using a PCR microchip to get those results in 8-14 hours.

Either of those choices require lots of time and possibly a lot of money for the companies.

“We are training sensors to be able to discover pathogens online, that means in real time,” says Salameh. “We do it today in six hours, but we want to bring it to a place we can do it in zero time.”

But Salameh isn’t interested in saving manufacturers money. Instead, he wants to focus on speeding up production and delivering healthy, pathogen-free food so there are fewer outbreaks making people sick and possibly killing them.

“We provide an affordable method, but I don’t want to save money for factories. I want to double and triple output within the same budget of what they are doing,” Salameh tells TechCrunch.

It’s still early days, and Olfaguard has only been tested in the lab so far, but Salameh has raised $400,000 and forged a partnership with the largest food manufacturer in Israel, the Strauss Group, for a study tentatively scheduled to begin this October involving Olfaguard detection within the company’s facilities.

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Augmedics is building augmented reality glasses for spinal surgery

Augmedics is building augmented reality glasses for spinal surgery

Meet Augmedics, an Israeli startup that is working on an augmented reality headsets for surgeons performing spinal surgery. The company is participating in the Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt SF.

Computer assisted surgery systems are nothing new. Plenty of surgeons look at a screen while performing an operation. But Vizor is something new. Instead of making you look away from your patient, the device acts as a heads up display and gives you superpowers.

Vizor is a sort of eyewear with clear glasses. But it can also project your patient’s spine in 3D so that you can locate your tools in real time even if it’s below the skin. It has multiple sensors to detect your head movements as well.

“What we are projecting is the patient’s CT scans,” co-founder and CEO Nissan Elimelech told me before Disrupt. “We do not have an active X-ray device that emits X-ray light. But instead, we’re using the patient’s CT scan with a very sophisticated registration process. And then we project a 3D model of the CT scan.”

Hospitals first have to segment the spine from the rest of the scan, such as soft tissue. They already have all the tools they need to do it themselves.

Then, doctors have to place markers on the patient’s body to register the location of the spine. This way, even if the patient moves while breathing, Vizor can automatically adjust the position of the spine in real time.

Surgeons also need to put markers on standard surgical tools. After a calibration process, Vizor can precisely display the orientation of the tools during the operation. According to Augmedics, it takes ten to twenty seconds to calibrate the tools. The device also lets you visualize the implants, such as screws.

Elimelech says that the overall system accuracy is about 1.4mm. The FDA requires a level of accuracy below 2mm. The company is still working on FDA approval before it can sell Vizor to hospitals in the U.S. It could still take a year or two. But some surgeons have already tried it.

“We showed it to 50 spine surgeons right now. They’re all overwhelmed by the technology,” Elimelech said. “They could actually feel like they had superhero capabilities.”

And if you think spine surgery is a niche market, think again because navigation systems cost a small fortune. Neurosurgeons already use navigation systems, but it’s not as common for spine surgery. “We’re going to be reasonably competitive with other products,” Elimelech said. Current systems cost between $200,000 and $500,000.

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    Augmedics presents in Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017
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    Augmedics presents in Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017
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    Augmedics presents in Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017
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    Augmedics presents in Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017
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    Augmedics presents in Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017
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    Augmedics presents in Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017
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    Augmedics presents in Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017
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    Augmedics presents in Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017
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    Augmedics presents in Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017
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    Augmedics presents in Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017
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    Augmedics presents in Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017
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    Augmedics presents in Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017

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Materialize.X is using machine learning to disrupt the $300B engineered wood industry

Materialize.X is using machine learning to disrupt the $300B engineered wood industry

What’s the next $300 billion industry to be disrupted by technology? Wood. Specifically engineered wood.

For background, engineered wood is the technical name for any wood product (like particle board) that is created by bonding wood chips into different shapes using an adhesive. It’s much cheaper than using a solid piece of wood, and can be used to make anything from an Ikea desk to kitchen countertops.

Materialize.X, launching today at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017, has two new products that it thinks will revolutionize the $300 billion a year engineered wood market.

Part 1: a non-toxic adhesive

A lot of engineered wood is created using an adhesive called urea-formaldehyde, which has recently been labeled by the FDA as a toxic carcinogen. So now consumer demand, combined with government regulation, is leading to a shift to non-toxic alternatives in the engineered wood market.

And that’s where Materialize.X comes in. The startup has created a patented non-toxic adhesive to serve as an alternative to urea-formaldehyde. Unlike current alternatives, this new adhesive

Materialize.X plans on licensing the method for making this adhesive to chemical companies, or with engineered wood manufacturers so they can make the adhesive on site.

Part 2: machine learning to improve manufacturing

But creating this new adhesive is only one half of what Materialize.X does. The startup also provides engineered wood factories with software that uses machine learning to optimize how their adhesive is used in the production process.

For example, right now there’s a standard formula for creating engineered wood – you take wood chips, add adhesive, and press them together until they are bonded into the shape you want. But this standard formula doesn’t always produce the best results. That’s because it doesn’t account for variables that can change from day-to-day, like type of wood, temperature/humidity in the factory and even when the machines were cleaned last.

So Materialize.X has created software that uses machine learning to take in all those variables and make slight changes to the manufacturing process to that can greatly improve the quality of the final product. Examples of these changes are adjusting the amount of adhesive used or increasing the pressure in the bonding process depending on the variables listed above.

These two products provide the startup with two pretty diversified revenue streams. Some engineered wood manufacturers may choose to use the new adhesive but stick to their tried and true methods of manufacturing. On the other hand, others may use legacy adhesive solutions like urea-formaldehyde, but use Materialize.X’s machine learning algorithms to optimize their manufacturing process.

And the machine learning optimization can be useful in other manufacturing processes unrelated to engineered wood – right now the startup is testing algorithms to improve production in the steel industry.

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Published at Tue, 19 Sep 2017 21:36:08 +0000

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CryptoMove protects sensitive data by fragmenting it and moving it around

CryptoMove protects sensitive data by fragmenting it and moving it around

CryptoMove thinks that data encryption is not enough. If you want to protect your data against hackers, the startup is using a new strategy by fragmenting your data, encrypting it and moving it around so that it doesn’t stay still on a server somewhere. CryptoMove is participating in the Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt SF.

At the same time, CryptoMove doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. It works with your existing storage architecture and uses existing encryption algorithms.

If you’re storing data on your own servers, you can hook them up with CryptoMove. And if you’re using a public cloud infrastructure, CryptoMove also works thanks to APIs and integrations with Box, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. But the moving target defense strategy is something new when it comes to storing data.

The idea is that a hacker can study your infrastructure and slowly find a way to get into your servers. By constantly changing your infrastructure, it becomes much harder for hackers. Even if a hacker steals some data, chances are it’s going to be useless as CryptoMove fragments your data into tiny chunks.

“This moving target defense concept is coming out of a lot of academy and military research,” Michael Burshteyn told me before Disrupt. “In fact, one of our customers is the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.”

The company has been working on its solution for years and launched 7 months ago. And some big clients already signed up to CryptoMove, such as French bank BNP Paribas. The company is targeting big Fortune 100 companies and has a patent on its technology.

Another advantage of CryptoMove is that it’s a self-healing infrastructure. You can use multiple nodes across multiple regions or even multiple cloud vendors. If a node goes offline or gets re-encrypted by a ransomware attack, CryptoMove can re-duplicate your data and recover your stuff.

“We even shared a use case with the Department of Homeland Security on drones,” Burshteyn said. “They use CryptoMove to distribute data across many drones. So if a drone crashes, you can recover the data.”

And CryptoMove is very fast. For instance, it’s fast enough to encrypt a video and you can integrate it with live streams. The solution first splits data into tiny chunks and encrypts those chunks in parallel. More importantly, if HBO wants to avoid Game of Thrones leaks, the company should think about working with CryptoMove.

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Published at Tue, 19 Sep 2017 21:10:19 +0000

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Ourotech is taking the guesswork out of cancer treatment

Ourotech is taking the guesswork out of cancer treatment

Every day spent with late stage cancer matters — that’s why it’s so important to get treatments right the first time. Unfortunately, despite having dozens of cancer treatments available, we don’t have great processes for determining what treatments to prioritize. The consequence of this is that we often miscalculate and waste critical time pursuing the wrong path.

Ourotech is working to help doctors identify in advance which drugs are most likely to have the biggest impact killing a type of cancer. With proprietary synthetic gels, Ourotech is able to remove cancer cells from the body and test them against a variety of possible treatments.

Duleek Ranatunga, co-founder of Ourotech, explained to me in an interview that doctors traditionally have guidelines for how to treat cancer patients. In the case of breast cancer, they will first check if the cancer is HER2 positive or HER2 negative — the presence or absence of this protein dictates which of the 30 breast cancer treatments approved by the FDA should be prioritized. Unfortunately, even after the test, if you’re HER2 positive, there are still five preferred treatments and eight backups.

The process for picking between those five preferred treatments is anything but an exact science. Once selected, treatments consist of three to six drugs administered over the course of a year so it can be a long time before doctors realize they picked the wrong treatment.

So instead, Ranatunga, alongside his co-founder William Lin, are enabling doctors to test drugs for effectiveness by removing cancer from the body, cutting it up into small samples, and getting it growing again inside a specialty gel. This process can cut that year long process down to just a week.

The gel in this equation is incredibly important because it has to emulate the exact conditions within the body at the site of the cancer to serve as an accurate proxy for the real cancer. This means that, in the case of breast cancer, the gel can’t just emulate human tissue, it has to emulate human breast tissue.

Traditionally, approaches to this type of testing have relied on gene matching. If a drug has been FDA approved to treat a specific gene, you can try to determine what drug to use by searching for that target gene within the patients cancer. Unfortunately this only allows you to infer which drug is best. In reality, many factors are at play when a series of cancer treatment drugs enter the body. The only way to know a treatment will work for sure is to actually test it.

Hydrogels are not new. Popular hydrogels used today come from mice. But this too presents a problem, because these hydrogels are not a perfect proxy for the human body. It’s well known that many treatments that are tested on mice do not cause the same effects in humans.

It’s for this reason that Ourotech opted to create a synthetically modified gel based on bacteria for its tests. This increases the likelihood that a test done in the gel will be representative of the actual treatment outcome in a human

While the team waits on the arduous FDA approval process, it is commercializing its hydrogel with a drug testing as a service model. Pharmaceutical companies are willing to pay Ourotech to trial their promising drugs using the gel as an early indicator that the treatment could be effective.

Eventually Ourotech will be able to move beyond breast cancer into other types of cancer. The startup already has a partnership for colorectal cancer and is considering options for brain cancer as well. All of the data from this testing will prove to be a serious asset for the company when it becomes feasible to begin doing software testing. To this avail, Ourotech is beginning to invest some resources into developing machine learning models to preemptively predict the effectiveness of various treatments.

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Published at Tue, 19 Sep 2017 20:47:32 +0000

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O-Robotix spruces up its SeaDrone underwater robo-craft

O-Robotix spruces up its SeaDrone underwater robo-craft

At last year’s Disrupt SF, SeaDrone made it to the Battlefield finals with its simple, robust, and affordable underwater drone. With a few customers and a year of feedback under their belts, the engineers behind the robo-sub are putting out a version 2.0 with a few improvements.

The company’s pitch is basically an alternative to using expensive, professionally-piloted remotely operated vehicles for things like ship inspections and other underwater tasks. The SeaDrone is portable, easily piloted from an iPad, and its path and camera can be automated for frequently repeated jobs.

One of the things I was most impressed by originally was the propulsion, which the company’s founders engineered themselves. Their thrusters were already smaller and more efficient than off the shelf components, but somehow they found a way to improve them even further. Its top speed has increased by 20 percent — you still won’t be winning any races, but it means the job gets done that much faster.

It’s also important that the craft remains stable while it stays in place shoots images, of course, and to that end its battery has been shifted from the top to the bottom. Turns out being top-heavy matters underwater, too — co-founder Eduardo Moreno said this change vastly improved stability and made the SeaDrone considerably easier to control.

Interested fishermen and boat lovers should inquire at the SeaDrone website for more specifics.

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Published at Tue, 19 Sep 2017 20:22:26 +0000

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Kevin Durant explains his Twitter meltdown

Kevin Durant explains his Twitter meltdown

Golden State Warriors small forward Kevin Durant had a bit of a scuffle on Twitter yesterday calling out his former organization, the Oklahoma City Thunder. Given his status as one of the most prominent figures in basketball, it got quite a bit of attention.

Durant is a pretty prolific Twitter user and was on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017 to give a short explanation of what happened. Durant said he uses Twitter to primarily connect with his fans, but sometimes it seems it’s easy to get carried away.

We’re just going to put his full response here because it’s better to just let him say it in his own words:

I use Twitter to engage with the fans. I think it’s a great way to engage with bb fans. But I happened to take it a little too far, that’s what happens sometimes when I get into these basketball debates. What I really love is to just play basketball, and I went a little too far. I don’t regret clapping back at anybody or talking to my fans on Twitter. I do regret using my former coach’s name, and my former organization that I played for. That was childish, that was idiotic, all those type of words. I regret doing that, and I apologized to them for doing htat.

I don’t think I ever stop engaging with my fans. I think they really enjoy it, and I think it’s a good way to connect us all. But, I will scale back a little bit right now, just focus on playing basketball. So, I want to move on from that. It was tough to deal with yesterday, I was really upset with myself. But I definitely want to move on and keep playing basketball. But I still want to interract with my fans as well.

Durant was on stage with Rich Klein to talk about some of his investments and the rest of the way he interacts with the tech universe. A lot of pro athletes like Durant are looking to get into early-stage companies as they look to deploy some of their wealth. Klein said a lot of the challenge to ensure Durant is on board with the investments that his organization is making is ensuring that he’s able to give a quick and logical pitch as to why he should care.

“None of this is possible unless he’s playing basketball, we get that,” Klein said. “If he’s not on the court doing his job, none of this is possible. What I have to do with that time I’m given to talk about these deals is figure out the concept, if it’s the right company to introduce him to the executive team. If I can’t explain it in one sentence the regular consumer won’t understand it in one sentence.”

And for good reason. Durant won the NBA championship after moving to the Bay Area to play with the Golden State Warriors, taking down the defending champions, the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers. Durant stressed over and over that basketball was his first priority, but getting into the tech university was a curiosity that he still needed to explore.

Durant played alongside Russell Westbrook, who exploded in 2017 and averaged a triple-double following Durant’s departure, in Oklahoma City before he joined the Golden State Warriors in their (kind of inevitable) march to the championship. Still, Durant doesn’t seem quite ready for technology to take hold of the court in terms of getting AI-powered referees — which, given advances in image recognition and machine learning, doesn’t seem too far out of reach.

“I get away with a lot of stuff, I’m sure they would catch a lot more than a human ref. I’ll stick to what we have right now.”

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Published at Tue, 19 Sep 2017 18:49:27 +0000

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Agent AI aims to turbocharge its AI tools by offering free CRM

Agent AI aims to turbocharge its AI tools by offering free CRM

Agent AI is looking to automate more of the customer service process. To do that, it’s built its own customer relationship management product, as well as AI tools that sit on top — and now it’s making the CRM part available for free.

While giant software businesses have been built around CRM, CEO Fred Hsu said the market has changed, with the software becoming less differentiated and more commoditized.

He’s not saying that Agent AI’s CRM software — which allows businesses to save customer data, manage different communication channels and visualize customer interactions — isn’t good. But in his view, his company’s advantage will be on the AI side (it’s in the name, after all). And those AI products work best when they have lots of data to work with.

“By making our commodity software available for free, it’s a no cost, no risk way to make it really easy to onboard that customer data,” Hsu said.

Specifically, Agent AI’s Co-Pilot and Auto-Pilot services both draw on data about past interactions, a company knowledge base and more.

Agent AI

Co-Pilot suggests responses to customer questions and allows team members to accept those responses with just one click, while Auto-Pilot moves closer to full automation, sending responses to routine questions without any human intervention. Agent AI says Auto-Pilot can answer 50 to 80 percent of routine customer service inquiries.

Hsu also noted that Agent AI isn’t charging a standard software-as-a-service subscription fee. Instead, customers pay $1 per automated conversation, which he argued makes AI accessible to a wider range of businesses.

“Part of the problem and maybe some of the opportunity is that it’s been very binary — you have AI or you don’t,” he said. “It’s cost and timing prohibitive. … I haven’t seen realistic, usable models for these [businesses] who just want rapid fire, accurate, high quality converstaions.”

Also worth noting: While Agent AI is using free CRM as a way to bring businesses and their data on-board, Hsu said its AI technology also integrates with other CRM services through APIs.

Featured Image: Aniwhite/Shutterstock

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Published at Tue, 19 Sep 2017 18:36:52 +0000

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AR helmet startup Skully may have risen from the dead

AR helmet startup Skully may have risen from the dead

It seems Skully, the AR helmet company that crashed and burned last year after the former CEO Marcus Weller refused to sign a confidentiality deal with investors is trying to make a comeback.

A letter sent to those who had previously subscribed to the Skully email list, and obtained by TechCrunch, says new company SKULLY Technologies is bringing back the helmet.

Interestingly, cousins and new cofounders of the company Ivan Contreras and Rafael Contreras say in the letter they have purchased the company and relocated it to Atlanta, Georgia in an attempt to fulfill SKULLY’s “destiny.”

It appears the Contreras cousins have “refounded” a number of previously existing companies, including an electric bike company called TORROT, which was a company created in the 1980’s formerly known as GASGAS.

There was a lot of talk from various entities possibly purchasing the bones of what was left of Skully but it’s not clear if the new SKULLY holds the rights to the former company’s IP or how soon it may be offering the new helmets for purchase. However, a high-tech bike helmet would fit nicely within the Contreras’s company interests and it makes sense the two would want to see the helmet through to production.

While the letter stresses this new SKULLY is different from the now bankrupt company it is based on, it hints of possibly delivering the helmets to those who previously purchased them or contributed to the making of the helmets under the old company.

“Although SKULLY Technologies has no formal obligation to the customers of the now defunct SKULLY, Inc., we recognize that hundreds of SKULLY helmet enthusiasts around the world have contributed to this product and were understandably disappointed that they never received one. We are determined to make this right,” the letter states.

Note, the letter does not explicitly say it will deliver helmets to those who had purchased from the previous Skully and it’s not clear at this time what “make this right” means. A couple of people who received the letter today have also told TechCrunch they are skeptical of ever getting the helmet they paid thousands for.

We’ve reached out to the new cofounders to learn more and will be sure to update you if and when they let us know more. In the meantime, please send any tips you might have to sarah dot buhr at techcrunch dot com.

Here’s the letter in full below:

You are receiving this email because you are part of the SKULLY Nation and we are bringing back the SKULLY helmet.

We are happy to inform you that the assets of SKULLY, Inc., have been acquired by Ivan Contreras and Rafael Contreras, successful businessmen in a variety of global turnaround industrial and technology ventures, with the goal of fulfilling SKULLY’s destiny.

Ivan Contreras, President of the new company SKULLY Technologies, assembled a new leadership team and has located the headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia.

SKULLY Technologies is unrelated to the former SKULLY, Inc., which filed bankruptcy and is no longer in business.  Although SKULLY Technologies has no formal obligation to the customers of the now defunct SKULLY, Inc., we recognize that hundreds of SKULLY helmet enthusiasts around the world have contributed to this product and were understandably disappointed that they never received one.

We are determined to make this right.

We will be sharing more updates soon on SKULLY and the revival of the SKULLY Nation.

Ivan Contreras
President
SKULLY Technologies

www.skullytechnologies.com

Featured Image: Skully UNDER A CC BY 2.0 LICENSE

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Published at Tue, 19 Sep 2017 17:04:51 +0000

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WT2 real-time translation earpieces look to crowdfund first run

WT2 real-time translation earpieces look to crowdfund first run

This summer the TC team took a brief trip to Shenzhen, where I met Wells Tu, whose company TimeKettle has made an earpiece that translates spoken Chinese to English and vice versa in near real time. Having created a functioning prototype (it isn’t vaporware; we tried it, as you can see above) he and the team are now heading to Kickstarter to raise the money for their first run of the gadget.

The device, or rather devices, are pretty foolproof: you open the case, put one earpiece in your ear, and give the other to the person you want to talk to. They automatically sync to a smartphone app, then detect which language each person speaks and translate it as they speak.

In our tests, it worked pretty well — there’s noticeable lag, but the team was in the middle of optimizing for that when I talked to them in June. But that’s pretty much impossible to avoid in the current state of machine translation. And really, the draw is that you can just put this thing in your ear and then make eye contact with your partner and chat more or less like normal. That’s much preferable to both of you staring at a phone together.

Right now, the system supports Chinese and English, but new languages can (and will, Wells told me) be added via the companion app.

If you move quick, you’ll be able to grab a set for $99, but of course the price goes up from there.

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Published at Tue, 19 Sep 2017 17:03:14 +0000

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GGV’s Jenny Lee says Xiaomi doesn’t need to come to the U.S. yet

GGV’s Jenny Lee says Xiaomi doesn’t need to come to the U.S. yet

Xiaomi is one of the most valuable startups in the world and has become a big icon in smartphone design, sometimes suggested as an analog to Apple in China.

The company’s flagship phones receive a ton of press in the U.S., too, but they aren’t available in the U.S. just yet. Instead, Xiaomi is looking to emerging markets like India in addition to getting its phones into the hands of consumers in China. Jenny Lee, a managing partner at GGV, said this is an intentional move for the company. Xiaomi, instead, should look to those emerging markets instead of even bothering with coming to the U.S. just yet.

“In my view, no,” she said when asked whether or not the company should go into the U.S. She talked a bit more about Xiaomi and the firm’s investment on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017.

Part of the reason is that Xiaomi, often known for trying to build premium phones for a more accessible market, needs to look for markets that really need those kinds of products. The U.S. is heavily targeted by companies like Apple and Samsung, where consumers have the ability to limit the upfront cost of those premium products while still getting their hands on very high-end phones with big price tags. Meanwhile, a lot of the world is still a green field when it comes to getting big phone brands into the hands of consumers.

“When new markets emerge for mobile, Xiaomi is looking at emerging economies and mobile internet [markets that are getting] their first access,” Lee said. “When you think about the 7 billion world pop, China being 1.4 billion, we’re looking where is that emerging economy. If you look at the US market, it’s fully penetrated from a mobile phone perspective. If you are Xiaomi you are looking at where is that big market, you aren’t going to come to the US as the first international market. You’re gonna be looking at markets like Indonesia, like India.

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Published at Tue, 19 Sep 2017 16:53:19 +0000

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Subscription art crowdfunder Patreon confirms $60M fundraise

Subscription art crowdfunder Patreon confirms $60M fundraise

Patreon upgrades content creation from a passion to a profession by paying artists 95% of subscription payments from fans instead of 55% of skimpy ad revenue like Facebook and YouTube. Now Patreon itself is getting paid with today’s official announcement of the big series C funding round TechCrunch broke news of last week.

Patreon has raised $60 million led by Chris Paik at Thrive Capital which also led its Series B. As we reported, Index participated in the round that two sources told us value the startup at around $450 million. The Series C also includes existing investors CRV and Freestyle, plus new back Draper Fisher Jurvetson via partner Barry Schuler.

The funding will go towards hiring and scaling up growth by recruiting more videographers, political pundits, game developers, illustrators, musicians, and comedians. Patreon’s business is doubling in size each year across metrics like creators on-boarded and paying subscribers, and it expects that grow to continue. Patreon already has 50,000 creators and 1 million subscribers on the platform that pay an average of $12 per month.

Patreon’s tiny 5% cut of subscription revenue is highly attractive to creators who are used to a much smaller cut. That incentivizes them to funnel fans from other platforms like YouTube, Facebook Instagram, podcasts, and blogs to Patreon where they can more effectively monetize them.

But to become a truly successful business and justify its new validation, Patreon will either need to grow much larger, or boost the amount it earns. Right now despite its success, it’s only on track to earn $7.5 millon in revenue off the $150 million to creators this year.

The funding could help Patreon develop new premium tools for creators that they’d pay extra to use. Those could include ecommerce functionality for selling merchandise or event tickets, enhanced analytics and CRM features, or new ways to communicate with fans.

As other ad platforms tighten their restrictions over what content is allowed, Patreon has found a way to allow artists to earn a living by being themselves.

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Published at Tue, 19 Sep 2017 15:00:30 +0000

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