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Updated: 6 hours 52 min ago

Here is where CEOs of heavily funded startups went to school

11 hours 44 min ago

CEOs of funded startups tend to be a well-educated bunch, at least when it comes to university degrees.

Yes, it’s true college dropouts like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates can still do well. But Crunchbase data shows that most startup chief executives have an advanced degree, commonly from a well-known and prestigious university.

Earlier this month, Crunchbase News looked at U.S. universities with strong track records for graduating future CEOs of funded companies. This unearthed some findings that, while interesting, were not especially surprising. Stanford and Harvard topped the list, and graduates of top-ranked business schools were particularly well-represented.

In this next installment of our CEO series, we narrowed the data set. Specifically, we looked at CEOs of U.S. companies funded in the past three years that have raised at least $100 million in total venture financing. Our intent was to see whether educational backgrounds of unicorn and near-unicorn leaders differ markedly from the broad startup CEO population.

Sort of, but not really

Here’s the broad takeaway of our analysis: Most CEOs of well-funded startups do have degrees from prestigious universities, and there are a lot of Harvard and Stanford grads. However, chief executives of the companies in our current data set are, educationally speaking, a pretty diverse bunch with degrees from multiple continents and all regions of the U.S.

In total, our data set includes 193 private U.S. companies that raised $100 million or more and closed a VC round in the past three years. In the chart below, we look at the universities most commonly attended by their CEOs:1

The rankings aren’t hugely different from the broader population of funded U.S. startups. In that data set, we also found Harvard and Stanford vying for the top slots, followed mostly by Ivy League schools and major research universities.

For heavily funded startups, we also found a high proportion of business school degrees. All of the University of Pennsylvania alum on the list attended its Wharton School of Business. More than half of Harvard-affiliated grads attended its business school. MBAs were a popular credential among other schools on the list that offer the degree.

Where the most heavily funded startup CEOs studied

When it comes to the most heavily funded startups, the degree mix gets quirkier. That makes sense, given that we looked at just 20 companies.

In the chart below, we look at alumni affiliations for CEOs of these companies, all of which have raised hundreds of millions or billions in venture and growth financing:

One surprise finding from the U.S. startup data set was the prevalence of Canadian university grads. Three CEOs on the list are alums of the University of Waterloo . Others attended multiple well-known universities. The list also offers fresh proof that it’s not necessary to graduate from college to raise billions. WeWork CEO Adam Neumann just finished his degree last year, 15 years after he started. That didn’t stop the co-working giant from securing more than $7 billion in venture and growth financing.

  1. Several CEOs attended more than one university on the list.
Categories: Business News

CommerceDNA wins the TechCrunch Hackathon at VivaTech

13 hours 14 min ago

It’s been a long night at VivaTech. The building hosted a very special competition — the very first TechCrunch Hackathon in Paris.

Hundreds of engineers and designers got together to come up with something cool, something neat, something awesome. The only condition was that they only had 24 hours to work on their projects. Some of them were participating in our event for the first time, while others were regulars. Some of them slept on the floor in a corner, while others drank too much Red Bull.

We could all feel the excitement in the air when the 64 teams took the stage to present a one-minute demo to impress fellow coders and our judges. But only one team could take home the grand prize and €5,000. So, without further ado, meet the TechCrunch Hackathon winner.

Winner: CommerceDNA Runner-Up #1: AID Runner-Up #2: EV Range Meter Judges

Nicolas Bacca, CTO, Ledger
Nicolas worked on card systems for 5 years at Oberthur, a leader in embedded digital security, ultimately as R&D Solution Architect. He left Oberthur to launch his company, Ubinity, which was developing smartcard operating systems.

He finally co-founded BT Chip to develop an open standard, secure element based hardware wallet which eventually became the first version of the Ledger wallet.

Charles Gorintin, co-founder & CTO, Alan
Charles Gorintin is a French data science and engineering leader. He is a cofounder and CTO of Alan. Alan’s mission is to make it easy for people to be in great health.

Prior to co-founding Alan, Charles Gorintin was a data science leader at fast-growing social networks, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, where he worked on anti-fraud, growth, and social psychology.

Gorintin holds a Master’s degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from Ecole des Ponts ParisTech, a Master’s degree in Machine Learning from ENS Paris-Saclay, and a Masters of Financial Engineering from UC Berkeley – Haas School of Business.

Samantha Jérusalmy, Partner, Elaia Partners
Samantha joined Elaia Partners in 2008. She began her career as a consultant at Eurogroup, a consulting firm specialized in organisation and strategy, within the Bank and Finance division. She then joined Clipperton Finance, a corporate finance firm dedicated to high-tech growth companies, before moving to Elaia Partners in 2008. She became an Investment Manager in 2011 then a Partner in 2014.

Laure Némée, CTO, Leetchi
Laure has spent her career in software development in various startups since 2000 after an engineer’s degree in computer science. She joined Leetchi at the very beginning in 2010 and has been Leetchi Group CTO since. She now works mainly on MANGOPAY, the payment service for sharing economy sites that was created by Leetchi.

Benjamin Netter, CTO, Lendix
Benjamin is the CTO of Lendix, the leading SME lending platform in continental Europe. Learning to code at 8, he has been since then experimenting ways to rethink fashion, travel or finance using technology. In 2009, in parallel with his studies at EPITECH, he created one of the first French applications on Facebook (Questions entre amis), which was used by more than half a million users. In 2011, he won the Foursquare Global Hackathon by reinventing the travel guide with Tripovore. In 2014, he launched Somewhere, an Instagram travel experiment acclaimed by the press. He is today reinventing with Lendix the way European companies get faster and simpler financing.

And finally here were our hackmasters that guided our hackers to success:

Emily Atkinson, Software Engineer / MD, DevelopHer UK
Emily is a Software Engineer at Condé Nast Britain, and co-founder & Managing Director of women in tech network DevelopHer UK. Her technical role involves back-end services, infrastructure ops and tooling, site reliability and back-end product. Entering tech as an MSc Computer Science grad, she spent six years at online print startup MOO – working across the platform, including mobile web and product. As an advocate for diversity and inclusion in STEM & digital in 2016 Atkinson launched DevelopHer, a volunteer-run non-profit community aimed at increasing diversity in tech by empowering members to develop their career and skills through events, workshops, networking and mentoring.

Romain Dillet, Senior Writer, TechCrunch
Romain attended EMLYON Business School, a leading French business school specialized in entrepreneurship. He covers many things from mobile apps with great design to fashion, Apple, AI and complex tech achievements. He also speaks at major tech conferences. He likes pop culture more than anything in the world.

Categories: Business News

Riminder raises $2.3 million for its AI recruitment service

2018, May 26 - 2:31am

French startup Riminder recently raised a $2.3 million funding round from various business angels, such as Xavier Niel, Jean-Baptiste Rudelle, Romain Niccoli, Franck Le Ouay, Dominique Vidal, Thibaud Elzière and Fred Potter. The company has been building a deep learning-powered tool to sort applications and resumes so you don’t have to. Riminder participated in TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield.

Riminder won’t replace your HR department altogether, but it can help you save a ton of time when you’re a popular company. Let’s say you are looking for a mobile designer and you usually get hundreds or thousands of applications.

You can then integrate Riminder with your various channels to collect resumes from various sources. The startup then uses optical character recognition to turn PDFs, images, Word documents and more into text. Riminder then tries to understand all your job positions and turn raw text into useful data.

Finally, the service will rank the applications based on public data and internal data. The company has scraped the web and LinkedIn to understand usual career paths.

Existing HR solutions can integrate with Riminder using an API. This way, you could potentially use the same HR platform, but with Riminder’s smart filtering features.

With this initial sorting, your HR team can more easily get straight to the point and interview the top candidates on the list.

While it’s hard to evaluate algorithm bias, Riminder thinks that leveraging artificial intelligence for recruitment can help surface unusual candidates. You could come from a different country and have a different profile, but maybe you have the perfect past experience for a particular job. Riminder isn’t going to overlook those applications.

With today’s funding round, the company is opening an office in San Francisco to get some clients in the U.S.

Categories: Business News

Gravy’s new mobile game show is ‘Price is Right’ mixed with QVC

2018, May 26 - 2:18am

Following the success of the live mobile game show HQ Trivia, a team of serial entrepreneurs have begun testing the market to see if another game show concept can work, too. Their new game show-inspired app, Gravy, is meant to be a riff on the “Price is Right” combined with a QVC-style shopping experience. That is, the “contestants” compete for discounts of 30 to 70 percent off the products advertised, with a portion of the proceeds going to charity. In addition, through a side game, users can guess when the product – whose quantities are unknown – will sell out and at what price. Those who guess closest win a cash prize.

The startup was created by Mark McGuire, Brian Wiegand, and Craig Andler – the founding team behind Jellyfish.com, an older social shopping network that was acquired by Microsoft back in 2007, to help create Bing Shopping. They’ve also paired up on other projects, including NameProtect (before Jellyfish), printable coupons resource Hopster, social network Nextt, and e-commerce subscription retail site, Alice.com. These have either exited or shut down or both.

The team’s efforts imply a clear passion for working with brands, but getting consumers to connect with brands in new ways is far more difficult, as their track record shows.

That’s why they’re now trying Gravy.

The hope is that the excitement around seeing the product unveiled nightly – and knowing you’ll get a big discount if you buy – will become an entirely new ad unit of sorts, while keeping players engaged in a game-show like experience.

“One of the challenges with millennials is their short attention spans, and they don’t respond well to interruptive advertising,” explains Wiegand, of why the team wanted to build this startup. “I don’t think anyone’s really mastered how to monetize live video. So we came up with this opportunity to create this new ad unit where brands could tell their story, and – for seven or eight or nine minutes – create a live shopping event where millennials can tune in and hear that story but in a fun, gamified kind of manner,” he says.

Here’s how Gravy works. Every night, at 8:30 PM ET in the Gravy iOS app, a live host will unveil the product users can buy. Currently, there’s a rotating selection of hosts who work on a per-show contract basis, usually local comedians – not brand reps.

Players are not told how many items are available, but it’s typically anywhere from two to twenty.

Then the price starts to drop. If you buy early, you’ll have a chance to snag it at a slight discount. But the longer you wait, the higher the percentage off will become. However, you don’t know who else could snatch it up first and when. If you wait too long, the product will sell out.

Meanwhile, if you’re not interested in the product itself, you can guess when you expect it to sell out (meaning, at which price.) Those ten or so closest will receive a small cash prize – a split of maybe $200 or $300, with first place receiving the largest chunk.

At least 20 percent of sales are given away to charity – a nod, I suppose, to millennials’ interest in do-gooder style companies. But ultimately, that decision that has more to do with the fact that Gravy doesn’t aim to be a retailer – it’s not another deal-of-the-day destination like Woot!, despite the similarities around generating product excitement.

Instead, it expects brands to donate products and pay a fee for the “advertising opportunity” Gravy offers.

Brands will like Gravy because they get millennials’ attention for seven minutes or more, Wiegand says. “They love the engagement. It’s a highly engaged audience…I have a chance to buy the products, so I’m heavily engaged in thinking about that product. The recall, memorability, and all of the subsequent buzz – tweeting and all the social media that gets created because of that – is great,” he adds.

However, none of this is proven out yet – Gravy is just a couple of weeks old.

So far, around 50 percent of the products it has featured have actually been donated by brands, including 23andMe, 3D Doodler, Tapplock, and others. The rest have been subsidized by Gravy, including the bigger draws – like a DJI drone, for example.

It’s not yet charging for the ad opportunity, either, as it’s hoping to grow the audience first.

The company says that’s already underway. After alerting friends and family to the app’s launch, the games are seeing 600+ players nightly, Wiegand claims, and is growing its audience 15 percent week-over-week. Around half of those who signed up to play are returning to watch around three shows per week, he says.

While the early numbers are promising if true, and it’s clear the team likes to work in the general space of connecting brands with consumers, Gravy still feels – like much of what the founders have created before – designed primarily with the needs of brands in mind, before that of consumers.

A “Price is Right”-style app would be a lot of fun, but this isn’t it – it’s, at the end of the day, an invitation to watch an ad and shop at a discount. That’s not something consumers may want to do every day, long-term – even if you try to woo them with a small cash prize won through a guessing game.

And like Trivia HQ , which has dropped from a top 20 app to the 140’s (by App Store overall rank, the shine may eventually wear off for Gravy, too. Especially because it’s not primarily a game – and millennials, as fickle and short attention-spanned as they may be (really? the generation that binges entire TV seasons in a few days?), will know it.

Wiegand isn’t concerned, though.

He says he gets bored with trivia apps in a few weeks, but Gravy is different.

“I always shop and I always like a deal. The deal industry and the shopping industry are so much larger than the trivia space,” Wiegand insists. “And the thrill of seeing a product that you like going down into the sixties and seventies percent off is unbelievably thrilling,” he enthuses. “We are able to feature things that have the best price on the planet of first-run products…it creates this heart-pounding, exhilarating and experience like, ‘Should I buy? Oh my God, look at this price. I can’t turn it down,'” he says.

The company raised $2.1 million in seed funding from a range of investors, including the founders at the turn of the year. Around eighty percent was outside capital, led by New Capital. The under-20 person team is based in both Madison and Minneapolis.

Gravy is on the App Store here.

Categories: Business News

Kaltura acquires interactive video startup Rapt Media

2018, May 25 - 11:24pm

Kaltura is expanding its enterprise video platform with the acquisition of Rapt Media.

Kaltura already offers support for some interactivity in videos, particularly with quizzes, but co-founder and CEO Ron Yekutiel predicted that this technology is going to become increasingly important: “The bigger play in the world of enterprise and the world of education is a play towards interactivity and personalization.”

Kaltura isn’t the only interactive video startup — for example, I’ve been impressed by the branching narratives powered by Eko. But Yekutiel said Rapt stood out because it offers true interactivity (not just adding a few buttons and links to a linear video) for marketing, education and HR. He also praised its “high availability and reliability with zero lag time.”

In addition, Yekutiel said Kaltura customers had already expressed interest in integrating with Rapt, and he argued that the biggest benefit comes in bringing the technology into the broader Kaltura platform.

“We consider interactivity as one layer of this layer cake,” Yekutiel said. “Nobody wants to connect to 20 technology companies for video … They want to have one platform for all their video needs.”

The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Rapt Media was founded in 2011 and has raised $12 million in funding from investors including Boulder Ventures. Yekutiel said Rapt team members will continue to work out of their office in Boulder, Colorado and bring the total Kaltura headcount to more than 450.

“What an honor it is for our vision and technology to be recognized by a video technology powerhouse like Kaltura,” said Rapt Media founder and CEO Erika Trautman in the announcement. “I am excited that Rapt Media customers can now benefit from Kaltura’s wide range of video solutions and easily expand their video strategy to support any use case that may arise today and in the future.”

Categories: Business News

Dot lets you invest in property without the hassle of a traditional mortgage

2018, May 25 - 5:00pm

Dot, a new U.K. startup de-cloaking today, aims to make it easy to invest in property without the hassle of taking out a traditional ‘buy to let’ mortgage. The company is founded by Gray Stern, who previously co-founded London-based Buy to Let mortgage lender Landbay, and so knows at least a thing or two about investing in property. Namely, that it doesn’t need to be as arduous as it currently is.

In fact, Dot’s headline draw is that it makes property ownership a one-click affair via the “Dot Button” it wants to embed on property listings sites, including estate agents and property developers. Under the hood of the offering is what the startup describes as a “point-of-sale finance and management solution” that can be wrapped around any property that meets Dot’s lending criteria.

If you want to purchase the property as an investment, you simply click the button, pay the required deposit, and Dot will acquire and manage the property on your behalf, advancing 70 percent of the purchase price in the form of its pre-approved or “instant mortgage”. In addition, the property is furnished and Dot takes out buildings, contents and rent guarantee insurance. After those expenses, you receive monthly rent from the property, minus management fees and interest paid on your Dot mortgage.

Technically, once the property is purchased it is moved into a passive investment structure: an SPV known as a “Dot Container”. This structure holds the asset on your behalf (you effectively become the SPV’s beneficial owner/shareholder).

When you’re ready to sell, in theory a Dot Container can move from owner to owner without conveyancing, and can be refinanced without requiring new mortgage documents (via Dot Platform, Dot’s mortgage marketplace). Alternatively, the property can be put on the open market. Either way, as the SPV’s sole shareholder, you benefit from any increase in the valuation of the property, less the remaining balance of the mortgage.

“Dot enables anyone with a 30 percent deposit to become a professional property investor instantly, with none of the hassle of being a landlord,” explains Stern. “We do this by providing U.K. and U.S. estate agents and property developers with a pre-approved finance and management solution — a Dot Container — that can hold any suitable property. The agent can then offer Dot as a payment option (via the embedded Dot Button), turning their previously static listings into turnkey investments that anyone, anywhere can buy online on a fully financed and managed basis.

“Every Dot Container comes complete with a pre-approved mortgage, insurance, legal/conveyancing, tax compliance and reporting, lettings and management, furnishings and everything else required to turn that property into a compliant, well-managed and good-looking rental home. Dot takes care of the entire end-to-end process… and because we are lending a large portion of the total cost we have a vested interest in managing your property well”.

Stern says that Dot differs from property crowd-investing type platforms, such as Property Partner or Bricklane, which typically let you buy shares in a portion of a property or a property portfolio and aren’t coupled with a financing option.

“Dot’s solution is for sole investors or couples looking to build property portfolios that they control, we do not offer fractional ownership,” he adds. “Our clients own the asset and while they give Dot management rights, they can also remove Dot at any time, sell at any time, refinance their loans at any time. Dot’s challenge is to make our offer sufficiently compelling that they won’t want to”.

Meanwhile, Dot has raised $1.5 million in a pre-seed round from Stage Dot O, an L.A.-based venture-build firm run by Roofstock co-founder Devin Wade and ex hedge fund manager Mike Self.

Categories: Business News

And the winner of Startup Battlefield Europe at VivaTech is… Wingly

2018, May 25 - 3:27am

At the very beginning, there were 15 startups. After a morning 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 €25,000 and an all-expense paid trip for two to San Francisco to participate in the Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch’s flagship event, Disrupt SF 2018.

After many deliberations, TechCrunch editors pored over the judges’ notes and narrowed the list down to five finalists: Glowee, IOV, Mapify, Wakeo and Wingly.

These startups made their way to the finale to demo in front of our final panel of judges, which included: Brent Hoberman (Founders Factory), Liron Azrielant (Meron Capital), Keld van Schreven (KR1), Roxanne Varza (Station F), Yann de Vries (Atomico) and Matthew Panzarino (TechCrunch).

And now, meet the Startup Battlefield Europe at VivaTech winner.

Winner: Wingly

Wingly is a flight-sharing platform that connects pilots and passengers. Private pilots can add flights they have planned, then potential passengers can book them.

Runner-Up: IOV

IOV is building a decentralized DNS for blockchains. By implementing the Blockchain Communication Protocol, the IOV Wallet will be the first wallet that can receive and exchange any kind of cryptocurrency from a single address of value.

Categories: Business News

Dog-sitting startup Rover just raised $155M

2018, May 25 - 2:21am

Rover, a dog-walking and dog-boarding service that merged with DogVacay around this time last year, is now the second of such startups this year to raise a massive new round of funding with its announcement of a $155 million financing round.

While competitor Wag has become a juggernaut, there seems room for both room for a second player and the potential to outmaneuver Wag even with its massive influx of capital. Both DogVacay and Rover had a very similar model and eventually merged in an all-stock deal, creating a more substantial competitor for Wag. The round consisted of $125 million in equity financing led by funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, with a $30 million credit facility with Silicon Valley Bank. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the round values Rover at $970 million.

Wag earlier this year picked up $300 million in a massive funding round led by SoftBank. That was, of course, SoftBank — which is investing massive piles of capital into startups and pretty much altering the calculus of venture capital in the process. But it also signaled a huge interest in various dog-care services, including apparently Rover, as a potential business opportunity for the millions of dog owners in the world. If you’ll walk anywhere in San Francisco, you’re destined to run into a very large number of very good dogs, and it makes enough sense that there should be an opportunity to capitalize on dog-ownership as a whole.

Rover connects dog owners with various users that will walk, board, or generally take care of dogs — a critical service for anyone who might be traveling, or just work in a non-dog friendly office. Users just book a dog walker or sitter through the app, which connects them with area sitters. It’s an area where Wag has faced a lot of criticism following a major Bloomberg report regarding poor service (and losing dogs). There are, of course, many challenges for any service that offloads some kind of daily need to a third party starting in a similar fashion to Uber.

Rover, interestingly, notes on its website that it “accepts less than 20% of potential sitters,” perhaps a dig at the criticism for Wag or the space in general and as an attempt to soothe concerns from potential users. Rover says it has more than 200,000 sitters throughout North America. The company previously raised $156 million, and previous investors include A-Grade Investments, Foundry Group, Madrona Venture Group, Menlo Ventures, OMERS Ventures, Petco, and StepStone Group.

Categories: Business News

Sinemia, a MoviePass competitor, launches cardless ticketing

2018, May 25 - 12:04am

Sinemia is further differentiating itself from its main competitor, MoviePass. The moviegoing startup is launching a new feature today that gets rid of the need for people to have a physical card in order to purchase movie tickets. This comes after a number of new Sinemia customers reported long wait times for their debit cards to arrive.

“The Cardless feature was in our product pipeline but we accelerated it due to strong demand and issues that it brought,” Sinemia founder and CEO Rifat Oguz said in a statement to TechCrunch.

Following Sinemia’s launch of new plans that cost as little as $4.99 a month a few weeks ago, interest and demand has skyrocketed, according to the company. That resulted in longer wait times for debit cards.

“We’ve seen incredible demand for our movie ticket subscription service, with many customers wanting to dive right in and buy movie tickets without waiting for a physical card to be shipped to them,” Oguz said in a press release. “At Sinemia, we strive to provide the best moviegoing experience possible while driving the industry forward, and this is just one example of how we’re moving quickly to address our customers’ needs. Sinemia Cardless makes it easier than ever for people to get their movie tickets in advance.”

MoviePass, on the other hand, requires a physical card that you have to use in person at the theater. That means advanced ticketing is not an option with MoviePass. Sinemia’s cardless feature will not just be available to new customers, but to everyone in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia. Meanwhile, MoviePass is on the struggle bus and might not have enough money to make it through the summer.

Categories: Business News

WorkFusion adds $50 million from strategic investors as it bulks up for acquisitions

2018, May 24 - 11:48pm

WorkFusion, a business process automation software developer, has raised $50 million in a new, strategic round of funding as it prepares to start adding new verticals to its product suite.

The company’s new cash came from the large insurance company, Guardian; healthcare services provider New York-Presbyterian; and the commercial bank, PNC Bank. Venture investor Alpha Intelligence Capital, which specializes in backing artificial intelligence-enabled companies, also participated in the new financing.

Certainly WorkFusion seems to have come a long way since its days hiring crowdsourced workers to train algorithms how to automate the workflows that used to be done manually. The company has raised a lot of money — roughly $121 million, according to Crunchbase — which is some kind of validation, and in its core markets of financial services and insurance it’s attracted some real fans.

“Guardian uses data to better understand and serve customers, and WorkFusion will bring new data-driven intelligence capabilities into the company,” said Dean Del Vecchio, executive vice president, chief information officer and head of Enterprise Shared Services at Guardian, in a statement. “We look to invest in and deploy RPA and AI technology that can help us leap forward in operations and improve outcomes — WorkFusion has that potential.”

According to chief executive Alex Lyashok, the company now intends to begin looking at acquisition opportunities that can “complement our technology,” he said. “WorkFusion today is focused on banking, financial services and insurance. This problem [of automation] is not endemic to those industries.”

Particularly of interest to the New York-based company are those industries that missed out on the first wave of automation and digitization. “Industries that have already invested in digitization are being very aggressive, but companies that have been very manual and then have not developed a technology program internally,” also represent a big opportunity, Lyashok said.

Categories: Business News

ClassPass plans to add nine international cities by the end of 2018

2018, May 24 - 11:30pm

ClassPass, the studio fitness platform that gives users access to thousands of boutique fitness classes, has said it plans to expand internationally into nine new countries by the end of 2018. The company’s top priorities are consolidating its position in the UK and launching in three countries in Asia, according to chief executive Fritz Lanman. Lanman declined to disclose which countries the fitness subscription service was targeting.

ClassPass’s further international expansion isn’t exactly a surprise. The company already serves parts of Canada, the UK and Australia alongside its 50 cities within the US. ClassPass also raised a whopping $70 million Series C last year which Lanman tells me was purposefully large to fuel this type of expansion without being dependent on another round of financing.

As part of the expansion initiative, ClassPass has hired Chloe Ross as VP of International. Ross has worked on international strategy at Microsoft and has helped in developing policy in the UK Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit.

In 2014, ClassPass found its footing with a brand new model for the fitness world. The company aggregated fitness classes and studio partners while offering a subscription model for users, letting them pick and play as they choose across a wide variety of classes. In essence, the company brought a media model, not unlike Netflix, to the real world industry of fitness.

Lanman says that this kind of business model innovation has spurred a large number of clones, both domestically and internationally, and that international expansion is integral to cementing ClassPass’s spot at the top of the heap.

As it stands now, ClassPass currently has 9,000 studio partners, but Lanman and founder Payal Kadakia see the opportunity to grow that to 90,000 as the company ventures outside of the U.S.

Moreover, ClassPass has played with the idea of expanding into new verticals for quite some time, with wellness being first in line. But before ClassPass can dive deep into a wellness vertical, it must first solidify its place as a global aggregator of studio fitness.

The company recently unveiled a new at-home workout program called ClassPass Live, letting users stream classes from the comfort of their own home. No word yet on when ClassPass Live will debut in new international markets, Lanman said.

ClassPass has raised a total of $154 million since launch.

Categories: Business News

Crowd Cow, offering ranch to table meats, picks up $8 million from Madrona, Ashton Kutcher

2018, May 24 - 11:00pm

Most high-end restaurants don’t get their beef from the local grocery store. Well-regarded chefs and restauranteurs build relationships with small farms and family ranchers to procure what’s known in the industry as craft beef.

Just like coffee or chocolate or wine, the smallest differences (type of grass, breed of cow, lifestyle, etc.) can make a big difference in overall taste. But you and I have never had easy access to this beef outside of hitting up a Michelin-star restaurant.

And then Crowd Cow came along.

Crowd Cow, based in Seattle, works with small family farms to let users choose their cow and their cut. Crowd Cow then ships this craft beef directly to a user’s home.

Before Crowd Cow, five or six families would have to go in together on more than 500 LBs of beef in order to be a compelling customer to these small farms. That means they need a large meat freezer, upfront cash, and all the time and resources necessary to get the product from the farm to the home.

Crowd Cow founders Joe Heitzeberg and Ethan Lowry realized the whole process would be much better for everyone if they could crowdsource 50 families, instead of four or five, to buy a cow. The company handles logistics and offers users a way to learn about the ranch, the cow, and more via the app.

Today, the company is announcing that it has closed an $8 million Series A funding led by Madrona Venture Group, with participation from Ashton Kutcher of Sound Ventures and existing investor Joe Montana of Liquid 2 Ventures.

Since launch, Seattle-based Crowd Cow has expanded to offer chicken, olive wagyu, and pork and now serves the entire contiguous United States. The company generates more than $1 million in revenue a month and revenue has grown 10x over the last year.

The greater vision is to de-commoditize beef.

The Seattle-based company isn’t the only startup to raise money in an attempt to get people to eat better beef. Earlier this month, Porter Road closed on $3.7 million to go after the market with a similar mission.

Backed by a slew of New York venture firms including Slow Ventures, Max Ventures, BoxGroup, Tribeca Venture Partners and the Collaborative Fund, Porter Road was founded by trained chefs and butchers Chris Carter and James Peisker. Originally working out of a butcher shop in Nashville, Tenn. since 2011, the two partners work with sustainable local farmers to source the best meat.

Both companies are putting a new spin on a model made famous by Omaha Steaks, the meat packer and mail order distributor founded over 100 years ago, which is now pulls in $450 million in revenue a year.

“Before Starbucks and microbrew, coffee was 50 cents and there were a handful of beers and no one really cared,” said Crow Cow’s Heitzeberg. “The reality is that beef is varied. There are 300 breeds, and there are different types of grass in these pastures, and these factors will lead to a very different taste. Beef doesn’t have to be a commodity.”

Crowd Cow plans to use the funding to continue expansion into different proteins and new markets, as well as opening new distribution centers to speed up delivery to customers.

Categories: Business News

Sentry raises $16M Series B from NEA and Accel to help developers squash bugs more quickly

2018, May 24 - 10:34pm

Created to help app developers find and fix bugs more efficiently, Sentry announced today that it has raised a $16 million Series B led by returning investors NEA and Accel. Both firms participated in Sentry’s Series A round two years ago.

Co-founder and CEO David Cramer tells TechCrunch that the new round puts Sentry’s post-money valuation at around $100 million. The company recently launched Sentry 9, which, like its other software, is open source. Sentry 9 lets app developers integrate error remediation into their workflows by automatically notifying the developers responsible for that part of the code, letting them filter by environment to hone in on the issue, and manage collaboration among different teams. This reduces the amount of time it takes to fix bugs from “five hours to five minutes,” Sentry claims.

The company will “double down on developers and their adjacent roles,” in particular product teams, Cramer says. Next in the pipeline is tools that will answer more in-depth questions related to app performance management.

“Today we answer ‘this specific thing is broken, why?’ Next we’ll expand that into deeper insights whether it’s ‘these sets of things are broken for the same reason’ as well as exploring non-errors. For example, if you deploy an update to your product and traffic to your sign-up form goes to zero that’s pretty serious, even if you’re not generating errors,” Cramer says.

Sentry’s technology originated as an internal tool for exception logging in Djana applications while its founders, Chris Jennings and Cramer, were working at Disqus. After they open-sourced it, the software quickly expanded into more programming languages. Sentry launched a hosted service in 2012 to answer demand. It now claims to have 9,000 paying customers (including Airbnb, Dropbox, PayPal, Twitter and Uber), be used by 500,000 engineers and process more than 360 billion errors a year.

In a press statement, Accel partner Dan Levine said “Sentry’s growth is a testament to the now-universal truth that app users everywhere expect a flawless experience free of bugs and crashes. Poor user experience kills companies. In order to keep moving forward as quickly as possible, product teams need to know that customers will never leave because of a broken app update. Sentry lets every developer build software that is functionally error-free.”

Categories: Business News

InVision design tool Studio gets an app store, asset store

2018, May 24 - 9:43pm

InVision, the startup that wants to be the operating system for designers, today introduced its app store and asset store within InVision Studio. In short, InVision Studio users now have access to some of their most-used apps and services from right within the Studio design tool. Plus, those same users will be able to shop for icons, UX/UI components, typefaces and more from within Studio.

While Studio is still in its early days, InVision has compiled a solid list of initial app store partners, including Google, Salesforce, Slack, Getty, Atlassian, and more.

InVision first launched as a collaboration tool for designers, letting designers upload prototypes into the cloud so that other members of the organization could leave feedback before engineers set the design in stone. Since that launch in 2011, InVision has grown to 4 million users, capturing 80 percent of the Fortune 100, raising a total of $235 million in funding.

While collaboration is the bread and butter of InVision’s business, and the only revenue stream for the company, CEO and founder Clark Valberg feels that it isn’t enough to be complementary to the current design tool ecosystem. Which is why InVision launched Studio in late 2017, hoping to take on Adobe and Sketch head-on with its own design tool.

Studio differentiates itself by focusing on the designer’s real-life workflow, which often involves mocking up designs in one app, pulling assets from another, working on animations and transitions in another, and then stitching the whole thing together to share for collaboration across InVision Cloud. Studio aims to bring all those various services into a single product, and a critical piece of that mission is building out an app store and asset store with the services too sticky for InVision to rebuild from Scratch, such as Slack or Atlassian.

With the InVision app store, Studio users can search Getty from within their design and preview various Getty images without ever leaving the app. They can then share that design via Slack or send it off to engineers within Atlassian, or push it straight to UserTesting.com to get real-time feedback from real people.

InVision Studio launched with the ability to upload an organization’s design system (type faces, icons, logos, and hex codes) directly into Studio, ensuring that designers have easy access to all the assets they need. Now InVision is taking that a step further with the launch of the asset store, letting designers sell their own assets to the greater designer ecosystem.

“Our next big move is to truly become the operating system for product design,” said Valberg. “We want to be to designers what Atlassian is for engineers, what Salesforce is to sales. We’ve worked to become a full-stack company, and now that we’re managing that entire stack it has liberated us from being complementary products to our competitors. We are now a standalone product in that respect.”

Since launching Studio, the service has grown to more than 250,000 users. The company says that Studio is still in Early Access, though it’s available to everyone here.

Categories: Business News

Watch every startup from Startup Battlefield Europe

2018, May 24 - 9:42pm

TechCrunch is hosting its first ever Startup Battlefield in Paris. This morning, 15 startups competed for the coveted Best of Show award.

They all pitched in front of three different panels of esteemed judges. Investors and tech leaders took some time to ask them some tough questions and understand what they’re doing. Later today, finalists will pitch on the big stage in front of a brand new batch of judges.

And now, meet the 15 startups who competed in the Startup Battlefield Europe.

Wisebatt

Wisebatt wants to lower the cost of R&D for hardware engineers by providing them with a patented simulation and collaboration platform.

Wingly

Wingly is a flight sharing platform connecting private pilots with passengers to share the cost of a flight.

Walk With Path

Walk With Path’s wearables help Parkinson’s patients walk more confidently and avoid falls.

Wakeo

Wakeo is a SaaS platform that uses machine learning and satellite data to help industrial leaders optimize their supply chain.

Varanida

Varanida is a web extension that allows users to choose when they want to see ads.

Tapoly

Tapoly offers on-demand insurance for freelancers contractors and SMEs.

StatusToday

StatusToday is an AI-powered employee insights platform that simplifies team management.

Statice

Statice’s software secures a company’s private data while providing an avenue for sharing of that data.

Solely Original

Solely Original is a womens footwear brand that enables customers to design their own shoes online.

Mapify

Mapify is a social travel platform aimed at providing a single outlet for planning transportation, entertainment and housing.

IOV

IOV provides a universal protocol for blockchains and wallet users.

Glowee

Glowee is a sustainable living light source powered by waste products and reusable biomass. Their mission is to disrupt the way we produce and consume light.

DROVA

Drova is a decentralized gaming rental service that enables clients to rent games/apps around the world without having to buy a gaming console.

BIMlosophy

BIMlosophy is a platform aimed at providing construction managers with the software needed to pay workers without having to buy a license.

Anorak

Anorak is a platform that uses machine learning to tailor advice to those seeking life insurance.

Categories: Business News

Meet the five finalists at Startup Battlefield Europe

2018, May 24 - 9:34pm

Fifteen companies just got off the stage at TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield Europe at VivaTech in Paris.

The TechCrunch team has taken feedback from our expert judges and narrowed the group down to five companies that will be competing in the finals on the VivaTech Main Stage at 6:15pm CET. (If you’re not at VivatTech, you can watch the finals live here on TechCrunch.)

One of the startups will receive the the TechCrunch Startup Battlefield Top European Startup award, as well as €25,000 in equity-free money. Here are the finalists:

Glowee

Glowee is developing biological light systems using the natural properties bioluminescent marine organisms. These systems are built by encoding genes in symbiotic bacteria and will require neither electricity nor installation infrastructure.

IOV

IOV is building a decentralized DNS for blockchains. By implementing the Blockchain Communication Protocol, the IOV Wallet will be the first wallet that can receive and exchange any kind of cryptocurrency from a single address of value.

Mapify

Mapify aims to help travelers discover where to head next, what to pack and who to go with. It also allows them to share information about places, people and experiences.

Wakeo

Wakeo helps shippers and forwarders improve customer experience and optimize operations. It does this by consolidating multiple transport partners into a central SaaS platform to bring real-time visibility on all transport flows.

Wingly

Wingly is a flight-sharing platform that connects pilots and passengers. Private pilots can add flights they have planned, then potential passengers can book them.

Categories: Business News

Macron defends the European way of tech regulation

2018, May 24 - 7:37pm

French President Emmanuel Macron gave a speech at VivaTech in Paris, alternating between French and English. He defended a third way to regulate tech companies, which is different from the U.S. and from China.

Macron thinks Europe should have a say when it comes to regulation — and it shouldn’t be just about privacy. Of course, he defended GDPR and online privacy, but he also talked about taxes, cyberbullying, the protection of independent workers and more.

What is at stake is how we build a European model reconciling innovation and common good Emmanuel Macron

Yesterday, Macron hosted 50 tech CEOs to talk about leveraging tech for the common good, especially when it comes to education, labor and diversity. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella talked about the event before Macron took the stage.

Macron first started with a few numbers on the French tech ecosystem. “I want to talk to the entire French ecosystem here today. What we’re all doing is essential for our country and the world,” he said.

Based on his numbers, startups raised $2.9 billion in France last year (€2.5 billion). That’s three times as much as in 2015. He then listed some of the recent changes, from corporate taxes to France’s open data policy and the French Tech Visa.

He didn’t have much to say about the tech industry in particular. You could feel that he has a lot on his plate right now and that tech is more or less an afterthought.

“France is changing like crazy. And that’s why we can say that France is back,” he said in English to conclude the first part of his speech.

“My second message is for Africa because you decided to invite Africa to VivaTech this year,” he said.

Macron then announced that France is going to invest some public money in the most promising African startups. “For the past six months, the French Development Agency has worked hard on this,” he said. “And the French Development Agency is going to announce in the coming weeks a new specific program of €65 million [$76 million] in order to invest small amounts, €30,000 to €50,000 per startup.”

Marlene Awaad / Bloomberg / Getty Images

A message to big tech companies

Finally, Macron talked about the Tech for Good Summit and tech regulation in general. “We’re currently experiencing a revolution. I truly believe in that revolution and our country believes in it too,” he said. “But you can’t deny that some people in our country and in the world fear change.”

“Tech companies haven’t always been exemplary. Some haven’t complied with taxation laws and it has fostered mistrust — even from French entrepreneurs.”

Macron then defended France’s project to create a European tax on big tech companies. If the French Government can convince other European Governments, big tech companies would be taxed on local revenue in each European country. It could be a way to avoid tax optimization schemes. Smaller European countries with a lower corporate tax rate don’t seem convinced yet.

“I’m a big tech optimist and this country does believe in innovation,” he said. “But it’s not enough — making money, creating jobs and making shareholders happy is great. Especially creating jobs as far as I’m concerned.”

Macron also criticized U.S. regulation on tech companies, saying that the U.S. Government is not doing enough when it comes to online harassment, taxes, labor and more.

He then criticized the Chinese model, saying that the Chinese Government is not doing enough when it comes to privacy, human rights and gender equality.

“What is at stake is how we build a European model reconciling innovation and common good,” he said. “We have to work together to build this common framework.”

After yesterday’s commitments, the French Government is going to track tech companies every six months to see if they actually implement what they promised when it comes to tech for good.

He also finished by saying that the Tech for Good Summit should become an annual initiative. Tech CEOs will be invited once again to the Élysée next year ahead of VivaTech.

Categories: Business News

Klevio launches its smart intercom and app that lets you open doors remotely

2018, May 24 - 5:00pm

Klevio, a smart home startup out of the U.K., is officially launching its first product: a smart intercom system that lets you control your front door lock remotely via an iOS and Android app on your phone.

Dubbed “Klevio One,” the device is designed to be retrofitted to existing electric strike-enabled locks, and also interfaces with intercom systems found on the communal doors of apartment blocks. This, say its makers, means that it is better suited to flats than smart locks already on the market.

In a call with Klevio co-founder and CEO Aleš Špetič, he explained that the approach the London-based company has taken is different to smart locks that typically use a motor to turn the lock and require tearing out and replacing your existing lock. In contrast, if you already have an electric strike as part of your lock — which a lot of apartments do — the Klevio One can simply be wired to interface with it. If you don’t, a Klevio installer can fit one to your existing lock for you.

This major upside of this approach is that Klevio isn’t re-inventing the whole wheel, but taking years old, tried and tested electric strike technology, and simply adding smart connectivity to it.

It means the Klevio One works with multiple doors and there’s no need to modify the communal area of apartment buildings when installing it, since the device is located within an individual apartment. You can also still use your old physical keys as a backup, and the company says the use of Klevio won’t be obvious to anyone outside the building.

And as you’d expect, the Klevio system is cloud-connected so that you can control your lock remotely, and issue virtual and one-time use keys. It comes in a WiFi only version, and a subscription version with added 4G.

The startup’s back story is noteworthy, too. The Klevio’s original concept and eureka moment came at Onefinestay, the ‘upscale Airbnb’ acquired by Accor in 2016. After the exit, Onefinestay co-founder Demetrios Zoppos teamed up with CubeSensors’ Aleš Špetič and Marko Mrdjenovič to start the new company, including purchasing the needed patents from Onefinestay.

In addition, Onefinestay co-founder Greg Marsh is an investor in Klevio, alongside LocalGlobe’s partner Robin Klein (who I’m told has invested in a personal capacity). To date Klevio has raised £1.2 million in funding.

Meanwhile, Špetič tells me that prior to today’s wider launch — where it can be ordered via the Klevio website — the Klevio One has been piloted with 1,000 users across London.

Categories: Business News

Announcing the 15 companies competing in Startup Battlefield Europe

2018, May 24 - 4:00pm

TechCrunch scoured all of Europe to find the most innovative and disruptive early-stage startups to launch at TechCrunch Startup Battlefield Europe 2018 at VivaTech. And today starting at 9:05 am CET on the TechCrunch homepage you can watch the pitches from the latest 15 Startup Battlefield companies. 

Each company will pitch for six minutes on the Pitch B stage at VivaTech, followed by a rigorous six-minute Q&A with esteemed judges from all over Europe. Five companies will be selected to pitch in the finals this evening at 6:15 pm on the VivaTech Main Stage in front of a fresh crop of judges.

Our teams come from a diverse set of industries and are using a range of technologies, from insurance tech to biotech, and from blockchain technology to the latest in bioluminescent capture. Some are first-time founders and others have already negotiated $60 million financing rounds and developed tokens with over a billion-dollar market cap. These founders are challenging industry norms, and replacing the status quo of today’s businesses with technologies that support circular economy, optimized IoT design, GDPR-compliant data innovation and so much more.

Many of the problems these startups attempt to solve are rooted in personal experiences: One entrepreneur is building an insole to help Parkinson’s patients, like her father, regain their ability to sense the ground beneath them. Another entrepreneur grew up in a port city watching the dysfunction of shipments and became fixated on making them more seamless. And there’s an entrepreneur participating who built a flight marketplace, realizing first-hand that hobby pilots’ empty seats were a market opportunity waiting to be unlocked.

Here are the 15 Startup Battlefield Europe companies and the order in which they will pitch:

Session 1 at 9:05 am CET: Statice, Anorak, Tapoly, Wakeo, BIMlosophy

Session 2 at 10:30 am CET: Glowee, Mapify, DROVA, Walk With Path, StatusToday

Session 3 at 12:00 pm CET: Wingly, Varanida, Solely Original Shoes, Wisebatt, IOV

Over the last two months, these 15 startups refined their business models, demos and messaging with TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield team and editors. Today, it will culminate onstage as they share their business with the world and answer the judges’ questions about the viability of their businesses.

Battlefield alumni have raised more than $8.2 million with over 105 successful exits, so investors, get your checkbooks ready. One of these 15 startups will receive the TechCrunch Startup Battlefield Top European startup award along with €25,000 in equity-free money.

TechCrunch Editor-in-Chief Matthew Panzarino and I will kick off Startup Battlefield Europe at 9:05 am CET. You can find more information about Startup Battlefield Europe here.

Categories: Business News

Revolut adds Ripple and Bitcoin Cash support

2018, May 24 - 2:01pm

Fintech startup Revolut is adding Bitcoin Cash and Ripple to its cryptocurrency feature. While cryptocurrency isn’t really Revolut’s focus point, it’s a good way to get started with cryptocurrencies.

If you have a Revolut account, you can now buy and hold Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum, Ripple and Bitcoin Cash. Behind the scene, the startup has partnered with Bitstamp to process the transactions. Revolut currently charges a 1.5 percent fee for cryptocurrency transactions. There are currently 100,000 cryptocurrency transactions per day.

Compared to a traditional cryptocurrency exchange, you can’t send or receive cryptocurrencies from your Revolut account. You don’t get a bitcoin address for instance. All you can do is buy tokens in the app. If you want to transfer those tokens somewhere else, you’ll have to sell them for USD, GBP, etc. and then buy cryptocurrencies on a traditional exchange using your fiat money.

Recently, the startup also announced a new feature called Vaults. Revolut users can set up a vault to save money over time.

You can round up your spare change every time you make a transaction. For instance, if you pay $3.47 for that delicious ice cream, you’ll save 53 cents in your vault. You can also multiple that amount so that you save multiple times your spare change with each transaction. Many fintech startups also provide this feature.

You can also set up recurring payments to set aside a bit of money each day, each week or each month. Interestingly, you get to choose the currency of your vault. So it means that you can decide to buy ethers with spare change and weekly payments for instance. It’s a great way to hedge against the volatility of cryptocurrencies.

Users don’t earn interests on vaults. It’s just a way to set some money aside that doesn’t appear in your main Revolut account. You can decide to close your vault whenever you want.

Categories: Business News

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