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Celonis, a leader in big data process mining for enterprises, nabs $290M on a $2.5B valuation

2019, November 21 - 10:03pm

More than $1 trillion is spent by enterprises annually on “digital transformation” — the investments that organizations make to update their IT systems to get more out of them and reduce costs — and today one of the bigger startups that’s built a platform to help get the ball rolling is announcing a huge round of funding.

Celonis, a leader in the area of process mining — which tracks data produced by a company’s software, as well as how the software works, in order to provide guidance on what a company could and should do to improve it — has raised $290 million in a Series C round of funding, giving the startup a post-money valuation of $2.5 billion.

Celonis was founded in 2011 in Munich — an industrial and economic center in Germany that you could say is a veritable Petri dish when it comes to large business in need of digital transformation — and has been cash-flow positive from the start. In fact, Celonis waited until it was nearly six years old to take its first outside funding (prior to this Series C it had picked up less than $80 million, see here and here).

The size and timing of this latest equity injection is due to seizing the moment, and tapping networks of people to do so. It has already been growing at a triple-digit rate, with customers like Siemens, Cisco, L’Oréal, Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone among them. 

“Our tech has become its own category with a lot of successful customers,” Bastian Nominacher, the co-CEO who co-founded the company with Alexander Rinke and Martin Klenk, said in an interview. “It’s a key driver for sustainable business operations, and we felt that we needed to have the right network of people to keep momentum in this market.”

To that end, this latest round’s participants lines up with the company’s strategic goals. It is being led by Arena Holdings — an investment firm led by Feroz Dewan — with Ryan Smith, co-founder and CEO of Qualtrics; and Tooey Courtemanche, founder and CEO of Procore, also included, alongside previous investors 83North and Accel.

Celonis said Smith will be a special advisor, working alongside another strategic board member, Hybris founder Carsten Thoma. Dewan, meanwhile, used to run hedge funds for Tiger Global (among other roles) and currently sits on the board of directors of Kraft Heinz.

“Celonis is the clear market leader in a category with open-ended potential. It has demonstrated an enviable record of growth and value creation for its customers and partners,” said Dewan in a statement. “Celonis helps companies capitalise on two inexorable trends that cut across geography and industry: the use of data to enable faster, better decision-making and the desire for all businesses to operate at their full potential.”

The core of Celonis’ offering is to provide process mining around an organizations’ IT systems. Nominacher said that this could include anything from 5 to over 100 different pieces of software, with the main idea being that Celonis’s platform monitors a company’s whole solar system of apps, so to speak, in order to produce its insights — providing and “X-ray” view of the situation, in the words of Rinke.

Those insights, in turn, are used either by the company itself, or by consultants engaged by the organization, to make further suggestions, whether that’s to implement something like robotic process automation (RPA) to speed up a specific process, or use a different piece of software to crunch data better, or reconfigure how staff is deployed, and so on. This is not a one-off thing: the idea is continuous monitoring to pick up new patterns or problems.

In recent times, the company has started to expand the system into a wider set of use cases, by providing tools to monitor operations and customer experience, and to apply its process mining engine to a wider set of company sizes beyond large enterprises, and by bringing in more AI to its basic techniques.

Interestingly, Nominacher said that there are currently no plans to, say, extend into RPA or other “fixing” tools itself, pointing to a kind of laser strategy that is likely part of what has helped it grow so well up to now.

“It’s important to focus on the relevant parts of what you provide,” he said. “We one layer, one that can give the right guidance.”

Categories: Business News

Route’s app auto-tracks all your packages, raises $12M

2019, November 21 - 10:00pm

Between Amazon, FedEx, UPS and indie merchants, it’s easy to lose track of when your online purchases will be delivered. And if you’re buying something pricey or important, a lack of shipping insurance can leave you anxious and constantly checking your porch.

But a fresh startup has found unprecedented growth by letting you monitor all your e-commerce orders in one app thanks to a Gmail extension. Plus, you can buy insurance for just 1% of an item’s cost. Meet Route, emerging from stealth today to become the Find My Friends for packages. By helping merchants handle post-purchase satisfaction while charging consumers for insurance, this year Route has grown to $8.85 million in revenue run rate and from 5 to 100 employees.

Now Route is announcing it has raised $12 million in total through a quiet $500,00 January pre-seed round from Peak Venture Capital and a new seed round with the rest from Album VC and strategic partner in direct-to-consumer brands, Pattern. The cash will help Route keep up with demand and add new features to its app. Route co-founder and CEO Evan Walker tells me consumers “no longer accept the unsatisfying status quo of not knowing exactly where their order is.”

Pizza tracker but for everything

Domino’s saw sales skyrocket thanks to its highly visual pizza tracker app that shows live updates as your pie goes in the oven, hits the road and reaches your door. Route wants to bring that reassuring experience to all of e-commerce.

Route co-founder and CEO Evan Walker

Walker asks, “How could I NOT build this company?” The 25-year e-commerce entrepreneur got his start selling video games online in 1994, and has founded seven companies since. The communications gap between customers and merchants always plagued his businesses.

“The big lightbulb moment happened when I was traveling in Italy a few years back,” Walker recalls. Talking to a furniture shop owner, he heard about their troubles of shipping vintage trunks. “He mentioned he was having a lot of issues with these items breaking in transit and wished he had a solution for it.” Now there is one.

The Route iOS app for visually tracking orders officially launches today. Purchases from partnered merchants instantly show up in the app and its website via API, but all your other buys from Amazon etc. can be automatically ingested by authorizing the Route Bot Gmail extension that scans for shipping updates. Route lays out all the orders on a map with immediate access to their latest status changes, like when shipping info is received, an item goes out for last-mile delivery or there’s a problem. There’s no need to copy and paste tracking numbers across multiple websites.

The Route+ insurance program that lets customers pay for peace of mind is launching today too. Customers get the option to add it from partnered merchants, file claims for lost / damaged / stolen packages in one tap and get reimbursement from respected Lloyd’s of London.

Walker claims that merchants that offer Route+ (which is free for them) “have seen an increase in conversion, decreased spend on customer support teams and an improved post-purchase customer experience due to Route’s ability to quickly handle customer claims.” Merchants can also opt to pay themselves for Route+ on every order.

Route now works with 1,600 merchants and 600 carriers and has overseen shipments to 1.3 million customers in 187 countries. John Mayfield from Peak Venture Capital says, “Their phenomenal growth of acquiring over 600 clients in the first three months makes them one of the fastest growing companies we have ever seen.”

The brown box wars

The biggest challenge for Route is overcoming the thick, thick crowd of competitors in the market. Rakuten’s Slice can pull orders from your email and also grabs you refunds if an item goes on sale after you buy it. 17Track lets you paste in big lists of tracking numbers in case they’re registered to someone else’s email. Parcel offers a barcode scanner. ‘Deliveries’ will set up calendar appointments for arrivals, and works on Mac and Apple Watch. ParcelTrack lets you forward it emails of purchases to monitor, and a $2.99 premium version offers live locations of your packages plus customizable push notifications.

Route’s strength is that it’s totally free for consumers unless they want to buy insurance, and does email tracking automatically, though it will lack manual tracking number input for a few more weeks. It has managed a 90% customer satisfaction score. Still, the startup could be vulnerable to a major player in e-commerce like Amazon or Shopify barging into the space. There are also platform risks, such as if Gmail blocked its scanning for tracking numbers, though Google is currently partnered with Route to facilitate email scanning.

“The better that Amazon gets at providing similar services, the more other merchants need those tools in order to compete outside of Amazon,” says Walker. “From the insurance side, we are pretty good at detecting risk before it becomes a major issue and we are insuring on an individual order basis so catastrophic incidences are minimized.” The company also has to keep a watchful eye out for fraudulent insurance claims.

The growing megatrend of purchase behavior shifting online means the once occasional activity of receiving a package has become a constant chore in need of streamlining. Plenty of merchants are meanwhile looking to offload the complexity of keeping impatient buyers happy. If Route conquers its first market, it could move into adjacent spaces, ranging from merchant services like freight forwarding and financing to consumer features like physical mail scanning for electronic delivery.

“E-commerce is in my blood. I feel like I’ve taken 25 years of experience and started to craft a really interesting product in this space,” Walker concludes. “With commerce going more digital everyday, there is an opportunity to create a big dent.” Or in Route‘s case, an opportunity to insure your packages against big dents.

Categories: Business News

Wonderbly launches Wonderbly Studios to let other brands use its personalisation API for printed books

2019, November 21 - 9:52pm

Wonderbly, the personalised book publisher backed by Google Ventures and best known for the breakout hit “Lost My Name,” is unveiling Wonderbly Studios in a bid to make it easier for other brands to offer personalised and bespoke printed books on-demand.

Initially, Wonderfully Studios will work with select partners to provide access to its personalisation API and help create new books using its technology and expertise in the space. However, longer term, Wonderbly co-founder and CEO Asi Sharabi tells me the plan is to continue developing the platform and eventually open up the whole thing so that anybody can offer high-quality and data-infused personalised books via its API.

“Selling high-quality personalised products — products that extend beyond the trivial ‘put my name on a mug’ — is no easy task,” he says. “Meaningfully personalised products and businesses are still quite complex to operate at scale. You need a rendering stack, integration with a local print house, couriers, customer support and more. These technical and operational hurdles are a barrier to entry.”

Sharabi adds that although Wonderbly is aware of some “cool” personalised book ideas already on the market, he says that very few are reaching meaningful scale. “We hope to change all that with our personalisation platform and provide a fast, seamless experience with responsive previews and high-fidelity physical products for multiple and complex personalisation logics,” he says.

The first project to come out of Wonderbly Studios is an interactive journal from Wizarding World (the Official Harry Potter Fan Club), which is a joint venture between Pottermore Ltd. and Warner Bros.

The “Keys and Curios” journal is described as full of interactive surprises and secrets that can be unlocked using the Wizarding World app. It incorporates a fan’s name, house traits and more to take them on a unique journey through the wizarding year.

The book’s contents were written and designed by the Wizarding World Digital team, and feature images from across the Wizarding World, artwork by illustrator Jim Kay and specially designed Hogwarts house covers by MinaLima (the graphic designer design team behind some of the visuals from the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts films).

Meanwhile, the personalisation technology, e-commerce integration and on-demand printing/logistics is powered by Wonderbly.

“The end customers interact via the partner’s e-commerce stack,” explains Sharabi. “These stacks (e.g Shopify or Magento) were not built for personalised products and customisation. Adding this functionality is hard — we know, we’ve been doing it for five years. This is why we developed the Wonderbly Personalisation API.”

Products created on the Wonderbly platform can deliver a “limitless amount of creativity, constrained only by imagination,” says the Wonderbly CEO. That’s because Wonderbly takes cares of a lot of the remaining heavy-lifting.

“Products are rendered in real time at scale for customers as part of the shopping experience,” explains Sharabi. “The platform handles the complexities of integrating with e-commerce systems in a developer-friendly way, making it a simple task to add a personalised product to a cart. When an order is completed a simple web hook ensures that the products are rendered, printed and shipped to the customer, while feeding into our partner’s systems for progress notification and customer support.”

The breadth of personalised books we might see come to market as Wonderbly Studios opens up further is impossible to predict. That’s because the full range of potential experiences is something that no single person or team could ever imagine, which, of course is the whole point.

As Sharabi previously told TechCrunch, you can’t scale creativity in the same way as tech — you have to allow creativity to come from anywhere.

“What if you can create a customised art, poetry or recipes book at the same ease you make a Spotify playlist?” he asks rhetorically. “What would gaming printed yearbooks look like? What if travel guides and language acquisition become more personalised? What if you can order an ‘I was there’ personalised keepsake for live gigs and festivals? These and more are questions that get us very excited.”

Categories: Business News

Annual Extra Crunch members get a discount on Aircall

2019, November 21 - 9:45pm

We’re excited to announce a new Extra Crunch community perk from Aircall. Starting today, annual and two-year Extra Crunch members that are new to Aircall and located within the U.S. or Canada can receive two months of free service on an annual Aircall contract.

Aircall is a cloud-based phone system that can help satisfy the needs of your customer support and sales teams. It’s easy to set up and scale, intuitive for users, has proven high-quality calls and can connect to your existing CRM in a few clicks. You can learn more about Aircall here

You must meet the following criteria to qualify for the Aircall community perk from Extra Crunch:

  • Must be an annual or two-year Extra Crunch member. You can sign up here.
  • Must be located within the U.S. or Canada.
  • Cannot have existing account or past account with Aircall.

The two months free from Aircall is inclusive of subscription fees, but not inclusive of minutes on annual contracts.

Extra Crunch is a membership program from TechCrunch that features how-tos and interviews on company building, intelligence on the most disruptive opportunities for startups, an experience on TechCrunch.com that’s free of banner ads, discounts on TechCrunch events and several community perks like the one mentioned in this article. Our goal is to democratize information about startups, and we’d love to have you join our community.

You can sign up for Extra Crunch here.

After signing up for an annual or two-year Extra Crunch membership, you’ll receive a welcome email with a link to sign up for Aircall and special code to enter to claim the discount. Aircall offers a free seven-day trial, and if you are interested in purchasing an annual plan after the trial you can enter the code to get two months free. 

If you are already an annual or two-year Extra Crunch member, you will receive an email with the offer at some point today. If you are currently a monthly Extra Crunch subscriber and want to upgrade to annual in order to claim this deal, head over to the “my account” section on TechCrunch.com and click the “upgrade” button.

This is one of several community perks we’ve recently launched for Extra Crunch members. Other community perks include a 20% discount on TechCrunch events, 100,000 Brex rewards points upon credit card sign up and an opportunity to claim $1,000 in AWS credits.

If there are other community perks you want to see us add, please let us know by emailing travis@techcrunch.com.

Sign up for an annual Extra Crunch membership today to claim this community perk. You can purchase an annual Extra Crunch membership here.

Categories: Business News

Omnius CEO Sofie Quidenus-Wahlforss is joining us at Disrupt Berlin

2019, November 21 - 6:00pm

When you think about artificial intelligence, chances are you think about anthropomorphic robots that can make decisions on their own. But artificial intelligence already has huge impacts in the insurance space. That’s why I’m excited to announce that omni:us founder and CEO Sofie Quidenus-Wahlforss is joining us at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin.

omni:us is an AI-driven service that can process a ton of documents (including documents with handwriting), classify them and extract relevant data. This way, omni:us customers can use the platform for automated claims handling.

The startup doesn’t want to disrupt existing insurance companies. Instead, it is working with some of the biggest insurance companies out there, such as Allianz, Baloise, AmTrust and Wefox.

Last year, omni:us raised a $22.5 million Series A funding round (€19.7 million) led by Berlin-headquartered VC firm Target Global, followed by MMC Ventures and Talis Capital. Existing investors Unbound and Anthemis, also participated. Up next, omni:us wants to expand to the U.S.

omni:us is well aware that relying more heavily on artificial intelligence can create some issues. Many AI-driven platform act as a sort of black box — you input data and get a result without really knowing why. omni:us says front and center that it wants to make fast, transparent and empathetic claims decisions.

Buy your ticket to Disrupt Berlin to listen to this discussion and many others. The conference will take place on December 11-12.

In addition to panels and fireside chats, like this one, new startups will participate in the Startup Battlefield to compete for the highly coveted Battlefield Cup.

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Sofie Quidenus-Wahlforss is an experienced managing director with a strong entrepreneurial spirit. Her strategic skills coupled with a passion for AI led her to create omni:us with the goal of redefining the way people work and how companies are handling their business operations. omni:us is as an MI-based, SaaS solution to massively optimize workflows, and empower businesses to make comprehensive data-driven decisions.

Prior to omni:us, Sofie founded Qidenus Technologies which quickly became the leader in the market of robotics and digitization. Sofie is also the patent owner of the Vshape scanner Technology and winner of several awards including the Woman Technology. omni:us is an Artificial Intelligence as a Service (AIaaS) provider for cognitive claims management. Built on a fully data-driven approach, omni:us is transforming the way insurers interact with their insured parties. It provides all the necessary tools and information to make fast, transparent and empathetic claims decisions, whilst improving operational efficiency and reducing loss adjustment expenses. The company is headquartered in Berlin, with research partners in Barcelona and representations in the UK, France and the United States. For further information visit omnius.com.

Categories: Business News

Bandit opens a ‘mobile-only’ coffee shop in New York

2019, November 21 - 8:14am

If you wander into the Bandit coffee shop in Midtown New York, you won’t be able to just walk up to the counter and order something. Instead, you’ll need to download a mobile app.

I experienced it for myself yesterday afternoon, when I — along with several other customers — pulled out my phone, downloaded the Bandit app, then used the app to create a profile, order and pay. A couple of minutes later, a barista called me up to the counter and handed me a pretty good cup of coffee.

In other words, while Starbucks has been experimenting with mobile ordering and payment, Bandit is betting entirely on what co-founder and CEO Max Crowley called a “mobile-only” store.

Obviously, this model can lead to some initial awkwardness, particularly if random passersby don’t understand it. But there are friendly Bandit staff members on-hand to help, and Crowley (who was previously the general manager of Uber for Business) said that this model offers an opportunity to create “a whole new type of experience.”

He pointed to the rapid growth of China’s Luckin Coffee as an inspiration, and suggested that, ultimately, Bandit should offer customers the most convenient way to satisfy their coffee cravings: Wherever they are, they open the app and order the drink they want. Then they’ll be told when it will be ready, and where to pick it up.

Bandit can’t deliver that level of convenience for most customers quite yet, as it only has a single location. But Crowley said he’s rethought other aspects of the coffee shop model.

For one thing, this first Bandit store is located in what’s essentially a raw retail space. Crowley said his team has developed an 11’x11′ countertop where all the coffee is prepared — it’s assembled elsewhere and just needs to be plugged in, eliminating the need for an extensive buildout.

“We can launch [a new location] in a few hours, and we can do it at about a tenth the cost of a traditional store,” he said.

So the plan is to launch four or five more New York stores in the coming months, and to expand beyond New York by the end of the first quarter of 2020.

Crowley added that by keeping costs down, Bandit can also keep its coffee affordable: “I don’t think an iced latte needs to be $6 or $7. Our goal is to be less expensive than Starbucks.” (My coffee yesterday, for example, cost me $2.) It’s also experimenting with other pricing models, starting with a $20 subscription that gets you an unlimited number of $1 drinks for a month.

And if this phone and pop up-focused mentality sounds a little transactional — maybe even a little soulless — I will note that the actual coffee shop didn’t feel that way at all. While the space was a bit bare, it was eye-catching, with several large games like cornhole set up for customers. Most importantly, people weren’t just rushing in to pick up their coffee — they were actually hanging out.

“When we did some rudimentary scouting of coffee shop locations, we saw that about 80% of customers are grabbing their coffee and leaving,” Crowley said. “That is definitely core to us, making it super easy to grab it and leave, fulfilling drink orders in less than a minute. All of that said, in the future, we’re going to have this portfolio of different kinds of spaces, different kinds of experiences.”

Bottomless has a solution for lazy coffee addicts

Categories: Business News

VEnvirotech transforms organic waste into bioplastics

2019, November 21 - 4:21am

After a year of testing out environmental technologies for a private company, co-founder Patricia Ayma developed a process for bioplastic production using bacteria. The system turns organic matter, such as food waste, into a product that can be used as a biodegradable alternative to single-use plastics. “I realized that it was a simple technology for taking to society, that will benefit everyone,” she tells us.

The biotech startup began its pilot phase near Barcelona, at a BonArea supermarket plant, where they were able to develop and test the technology on an industrial scale with a potential customer. Ayma plans to push the innovation toward two sectors: Organic waste producers that want to shrink waste management costs and companies interested in purchasing the bioplastics for various applications.

The startup recently closed an investment round of more than €2 million, which will allow them to open a 33,000-square-foot plant to start production on the VE-box: A portable waste management container that will transform organic waste into biodegradable plastics. 

 

Categories: Business News

Announcing TechCrunch Early Stage, a new event series all about founders

2019, November 21 - 3:54am

TechCrunch covers a lot of bases in the tech startup world, but none is more important than supporting founders — especially early-stage founders. That’s what our new event series, TechCrunch Early Stage, is all about.

These single-day events debuting next year will be highly interactive opportunities for founders to tap experts in the core startup disciplines, starting with early-stage investors (lots of investors), legal whizzes, growth gurus, product-market fit wallahs, tech stack experts, recruiting aces and much more, including workshops on pitch breakdowns.

TechCrunch’s goal is to provide founders with insights and new relationships on par with what an accelerator experience provides, only in a single day, and with a much greater variety of experts and investors.

TC Early Stage is an outgrowth of Extra Crunch, TechCrunch’s subscription-based editorial offering that focuses on deep analysis and advice around the big topics facing founders. In October this year at Disrupt SF, we brought Extra Crunch to life on its own stage and featured experts on dozens of topics, including:

  • How to Raise My First Dollars (Russ Heddleston, DocSend, Charles Hudson, Precursor Ventures and Annie Kadavy, Redpoint Ventures)
  • How to Hire at Breakneck Speed (Scott Cutler, StockX, Harjeet Taggar, TripleByte and Liz Wessel, WayUp)
  • How to Evaluate Talent and Make Decisions (Ray Dalio, Bridgewater Capital)
  • How to Get into Y Combinator (Michael Siebel, Y Combinator)
  • How to Decide Between Bootstrapping and Raising Venture (Ben Chestnut, Mailchimp and Kathryn Petralia, Kabbage)

The sessions were mobbed. The TechCrunch team knows a winner when they see one, and the result is this new event series. The first of three TC Early Stage events next year will be in San Francisco on April 28, with one in Paris on October 28 and another in New York City (date TBA).

TC Early Stage is designed for founders who are in their early innings, anywhere from pre-seed through Series A, when entrepreneurs need all the guidance they can get. With that in mind, the event’s heart is dozens of breakout sessions run by experts and curated by TechCrunch editors. The breakouts will be long on attendee questions and conversation, and the event is structured so that attendees can easily get to six to eight different breakouts over the course of the day. In addition, TechCrunch editors will hold a handful of interviews on a main stage with notable founders and investors in time slots that will not conflict with the breakouts.

Here is a sampling of the types of breakout sessions TechCrunch Early Stage will feature:

  • Raising a first seed round
  • Landing a Series A
  • Raising early-stage investment for a SaaS company (also consumer and other major categories)
  • Considering your first term sheet
  • Growing users fast
  • Recruiting a fabulous team
  • Building a tech stack (you won’t regret)

Between sessions, attendees also can meet the experts running the breakout sessions, as well as each other, via CrunchMatch, TechCrunch’s event networking platform that connects like-minded attendees and arranges a meeting time and place.

The TechCrunch team is already busy building an all-star lineup for experts for the breakout sessions and memorable interviews for the main stage. The response from the expert community around TechCrunch has been resoundingly clear. Everyone sees the need — the deeper education of early-stage founders — and they love the TC Early Stage format — a single day, highly interactive event that brings together early-stage founders with an unprecedented collection of experts from across the startup ecosystem.

Tickets for the San Francisco event are available now, so jump in and grab yours to secure your seat while they last.

Not an early-stage founder? That’s okay, too. Later-stage founders, investors or just general startup enthusiasts are welcome to attend. A limited number of “Innovator passes” are available for folks who are not early-stage founders.

Partners are also very welcome! The event has many sponsorship opportunities, including breakout sessions. Contact the sales team to learn more by filling out this form.

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Categories: Business News

Circ, the Berlin-based e-scooter company, makes layoffs following ‘operational learnings’

2019, November 21 - 3:06am

Circ, the Berlin-based e-scooter rentals — or so-called micromobility — company founded by Lukasz Gadowski of Delivery Hero fame, has made a number of layoffs, TechCrunch has learned.

This has seen a reduction in headcount in its HQ and other regional operations. The exact number isn’t clear, although one source placed it at around 50 people, or less than 10% of employees.

Confirming the restructuring, Circ issued the following statement, citing the move to swappable batteries and a shift of focus to “efficiency and ops excellence”:

After fast growth in the initial stage now we focus on efficiency and ops excellence, including switching our operations mode to swappable battery scooters, [we] just introduced the Circ “KAISER” vehicle in a few German cities. Apart from being more cost efficient that is also more sustainable (cargo bikes instead of vans).

I managed to get Gadowski on a call and he added some further context to the layoffs, citing three reasons behind the decision to reduce headcount: seasonality, operational learnings and indeed the move to e-scooters with swappable batteries.

“It’s a seasonal business, we have less riders in the winter than summer,” explained the Circ founder. “In winter you can expect less than 50% of your summer rides with the current micromobility devices. That may change in the future.”

With regards to operational learnings, Gadowski says the company needed to learn how to operate a micromobility service across many markets simultaneously. “Basically figure out how to be more efficient, how to run a micromobility operation; it’s not optimised yet and we learned over the summer.”

He also conceded that, within the micromobility space more generally, there had been something of a land grab strategy that is now perhaps inevitably shifting toward greater emphasis on capital efficiency. “When we started this there was a focus on time to market but now it is not about time to market but efficiency,” he tells me.

Finally, Gadowski says the move to swappable battery technology means that Circ can run more efficiently and therefore also requires fewer people.

“What happens at the moment is we have warehouses where we store the scooters, maintain them and charge the batteries. Vans bring them into the city hotspots, the user rides them, then vans pick them up again where they are maintained or batteries charged. And now this changes to swappable batteries operations in which the vehicles are equipped with batteries that are swappable so you charge only the battery in the warehouse… and mechanics do light maintenance in-field. This requires less people because it is more operations efficient.”

The Circ KAISER, equipped with a swappable battery system

Meanwhile, Circ shared some updated metrics with TechCrunch. The company says it has enabled approximately 10 million rides to date and has 3 million registered customers. It operates in more than 40 cities across 14 European countries, in addition to United Arab Emirates.

I’m also told that this year Circ has seen “positive unit economics” in cities in about one-third of its countries (five out of 14). “In 2020 we expect to be unit economic profitable across the group,” a spokesperson tells TechCrunch.

Circ — then called Flash — raised €55 million in Series A funding in January, with Target Global leading the round via its mobility fund.

Categories: Business News

Kleiner Perkins joins $24.5M funding led by Blockchain Capital for Bison Trails

2019, November 21 - 2:27am

Kleiner Perkins has joined a $24.5 million Series A funding round for Bison Trails, a provider of blockchain protocols, which was led by Blockchain Capital to develop the firm’s infrastructure services.

Other participants included Coinbase Ventures, ConsenSys, A Capital, Collaborative Fund and Sound Ventures as new investors. Galaxy Digital and Initialized, as early backers, joined this latest round after participating in a $5.25 million seed round in March.

Bison Trails became one of the 21 founding members for Facebook’s Libra Association in October, boosting its somewhat flagging reputation as a global infrastructure service provider after high profile players like PayPal pulled out.

That makes Bison Trails the only blockchain infrastructure firm in the Libra project.

The New York-based startup helps customers deploy the participation nodes on any blockchain, without having to develop their own supporting technologies such as security, and serves more than 20 protocol projects.

In a statement, Kleiner Perkins investing partner Monica Desai said: “Bison Trails realized early that node infrastructure would become a bottleneck to blockchain adoption, which is why they created a decentralized, user-friendly solution.”

“When we started building Bison Trails, we wanted to bring transparency and ease to entrepreneurs bold enough to build in a decentralized ecosystem, investors wise enough to back a nascent market, and enterprises courageous enough to commit to a technological inevitability like blockchain technology and cryptocurrency,” said Joe Lallouz, CEO of Bison Trails. “We have become the easiest way to run infrastructure on multiple blockchains. And have helped the world’s leading protocols, companies and builders launch and manage secure, highly-available and geographically distributed nodes on blockchain networks.”

Categories: Business News

Cheq raises another $16M to fight ad fraud

2019, November 21 - 2:08am

Cheq, a startup focused on preventing ad fraud and ensuring that ads run in brand-safe environments, has raised $16 million in Series B funding.

When the company raised its $5 million Series A last year, CEO Guy Tytunovich contrasted Cheq’s approach with what he called “first generation solutions for ad verification” — rather than identifying fraud and other issues after an ad has already run, he said Cheq is more proactive and can block ads from being served in real time.

I caught up with Tytunovich yesterday, and he told me that this approach remains one of Cheq’s strengths.

At the same time, he also acknowledged that “refunds, rebates and make goods” are allowing advertisers to achieve a kind of retroactive prevention. So he’s increasingly focused on Cheq’s accuracy.

Tytunovich suggested that rather than simply relying on keywords (an approach that might suggest that a relatively innocuous article like “LeBron James killed it last night” isn’t an appropriate place to serve an ad), Cheq is examining 1,200 different factors, “looking for anomalies or looking where the fraudster did some sloppy work.”

He added, “We investigate every single impression in JavaScript. We are extremely deterministic, to not cause this damage of false positives and false negatives.”

Cheq raises $5M for a proactive, AI-driven approach to safe ad placement

And Tytunovich said that despite the number of companies tackling the issue, fraud is still growing — he pointed to a recent report from Cheq estimating that fraud will cost advertisers $23 billion this year.

“You need to be smarter every day,” he said. “We’re definitely seeing in ad fraud, not just different types of sophisticated fraud — as the time goes by we see more and more of that organized crime type of ad fraud. Which is fascinating on the one hand, but also it’s kind of frightening if you really think about it.”

The new funding was led by Battery Ventures (which also led the Series A) and MizMaa Ventures. The latter is an Israeli firm that Tytunovich said already “helped tremendously” with things like introductions, even before making an investment.

Cheq is also moving into new areas like connected TV and console gaming.

Ultimately, Tytunovich said he wants the company to become the “immune system of the internet” — which doesn’t just mean detecting ad fraud, but also becoming “a solution to everything that sucks about digital advertising specifically, things like fake news and how advertising relates to that.”

Categories: Business News

With echoes of Theranos, Truvian Sciences revives the dream of low-cost, accessible blood tests

2019, November 21 - 1:50am

A little over a year after the dissolution of the once high-flying blood testing startup Theranos, another startup has raised more than $27 million to breathe new life into the vision of bringing low-cost blood tests to point-of-care medical facilities.

Unlike Theranos, Truvian Sciences is not claiming that most of its blood tests do not need clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and is, in fact, raising the money to proceed with a year-long process to refine its technology and submit it to the FDA for approval.

“More and more consumers are refusing to accept the status quo of healthcare and are saying no to expensive tests, inconvenient appointments and little to no access to their own test results,” said Jeff Hawkins, the president and chief executive of Truvian, in a statement. “In parallel, retail pharmacies are rising to fill demand, becoming affordable health access points. By bringing accurate, on-site blood testing to convenient sites, we will give consumers a more seamless experience and enable them to act on the vast medical insights that come with regular blood tests.”

Hawkins, the former vice president and general manager of reproductive and genetic health business at Illumina, is joined by a seasoned executive team of life sciences professionals, including Dr. Dena Marrinucci, the former co-founder of Epic Sciences, who serves as the company’s senior vice president of corporate development and is a co-founder of the company.

Image courtesy of Flickr/Mate Marschalko

As part of today’s announcement, the company said it was adding Katherine Atkinson, a former executive at Epic Sciences and Illumina, as its new chief commercial officer, and has brought on the former chairman of the Thermo Fisher Scientific board of directors, Paul Meister, as a new director.

Funding for the company came from GreatPoint Ventures and included DNS Capital,Tao Capital Partners and previous investor Domain Associates.

The ultimate goal, according to Hawkins, is to develop a system that can be installed in labs and can in 20 minutes and for as low as $50 provide from a small sample of blood accurate results for a battery of health tests. Typically, these tests can cost anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars — depending on the testing facility, says Hawkins.

Using new automation and sensing technologies, Truvian is aiming to combine chemistries, immunoassays and hematology assays into a single device that can perform standard assessment blood tests like lipid panels, metabolic panels, blood cell counts and tests of thyroid, kidney and liver functions.

The company’s system includes remote monitoring and serviceability, according to a statement from Truvian. Its dry reagent technology allows materials to be stored at room temperature, removing the need for cold chain or refrigerated storage. According to a statement, the company is working to receive a CE Mark in the European Economic Area and submitted to the FDA for 510(k) clearance along with a “clinical laboratory improvement amendments” waiver application to let the devices be used in a retail setting or doctor’s office.

“We don’t believe that single drop of blood from a finger stick can do everything,” says Hawkins (in opposition to Theranos). “Fundamentally as a company we have built the company with seasoned healthcare leaders.”

As the company brings its testing technology to market, it’s also looking to complement the diagnostics toolkit with a consumer-facing app that would provide a direct line of communication between the company and the patients receiving the results of its tests.

Truvian’s data will integrate with both Apple and Google’s health apps as well as reside on the company’s own consumer-facing app, according to Hawkins.

“At the end of the day, precision medicine is going to come from integrating these data sources,” says Hawkins. “I think if we pull off what we want we should be able to make your routine blood testing far more accessible.”

Categories: Business News

Front announces Front Calendar to integrate scheduling with shared inboxes

2019, November 21 - 1:30am

Front, the company that lets you manage your inboxes as a team, acquired Meetingbird last year. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Front is about to roll out its own calendar. This way, you can manage meetings within Front and find time that works for everyone.

Integrating emails with your calendar makes a lot of sense. There’s a reason why Outlook lets you manage both your inbox and your calendar. And there’s also a reason why Google includes both Gmail and Google Calendar in G Suite accounts.

Front Calendar works with both Google and Office 365 accounts as the backend infrastructure for your calendars. You can open up a day view by clicking on the calendar button in the top right corner.

As you can see in the following screenshot as well, you get a preview of your existing events when somebody sends you a calendar invitation.

A day view doesn’t cut it when you’re trying to plan further ahead, that’s why you can expand the calendar and get a full-fledge calendar in glorious full screen:

Finally, Front Calendar is bringing back Meetingbird’s core feature. You can insert a widget in your email with your available meetings times. Recipients can click to accept a time slot.

It looks like a good Google Calendar or Outlook alternative. But Front says that it wants to add a multiplayer component — beyond just inviting people to events. You could imagine opening an event and @-mentioning your teammates to reschedule an event. You could also imagine setting up sophisticated rules to automatically tag and organize events based on multiple criteria.

The first version of Front Calendar will be available in December.

Categories: Business News

Vouch raises $45M led by YC Continuity for business insurance that targets startups

2019, November 21 - 12:12am

“Move fast and break things” is a term we usually associate with Facebook (at least, until 2014) and the general startup ethos of being disruptive. Now in true entrepreneurial fashion, the phrase is finding itself as the center of — what else — a startup idea, which today is announcing a sizeable Series B as it gains traction.

Vouch, which offers business insurance specifically targeting startups, is today announcing a Series B of $45 million, led by Y Combinator’s Continuity Fund. The company was part of YC cohort that presented this past August, and between then and now it appears to have also raised a Series A of $24 million, with this Series B actually also closing back in September (I’m guessing the delay in timing was to coincide the news with the expansion of its service to California). PitchBook data indicates that Vouch’s valuation has also ramped up rapidly: it’s currently at $210 million. (Previous investors in the company include Ribbit Capital, SVB Financial Group, Y Combinator, Index Ventures, and 500 Startups, with the total raised to date now at $70 million.)

The company — not to be confused with the tutoring network Vouch, nor the ‘social network for loans’ Vouch — will be using the money that it will use to continue expanding its product and to bring the service to more geographies.

In addition to now launching in its newest region of California, today, it’s also live in Oregon, Utah, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan. Today’s move is a key one, considering Silicon Valley is at the heart of the tech world, and therefore startups, and therefore fertile ground for acquiring new customers.

(It seems that although Vouch itself is based in San Francisco, it delayed a California launch in part to test out the product in smaller markets before hitting the big time: California, it notes, accounts for 50% of the whole business insurance market in the US, and California startups alone spend $44 billion annually on it.)

When Vouch launched at YC, founder Sam Hodges (who had been one of the original co-founders of Funding Circle, the business lending platform that went public in London) described the platform’s mission as a way of mitigating risks because sometimes “bad things happen to good startups.”

The company’s insurance covers all the tricky things that can befall young businesses in what is a very volatile market. (Common wisdom says that most fail, some have put the figure as high as 90%.)

That includes general liability (which includes damage to rented premises, personal or advertising injury, and related areas), business liability, management liability, fiduciary liability, cyber and crime coverage, rented and non-owned auto insurance and more. (Health or workers’ compensation are not included.) The products start at $200/year, which Vouch says undercuts most of what is already on the market. Munich Re backs the policies.

“Vouch helps founders manage the risks associated with starting up a new company, so they can focus on creating and growing businesses that change the world. We believe that’s a purpose worth pursuing,” said Hodges in a statement. “As an entrepreneur, I’ve spent most of my career building companies at the intersection of technology and financial services. I know first-hand that along the journey of building and growing a business, teams will face numerous high-stakes challenges. Vouch is here to support entrepreneurs and mitigate those challenges from the beginning, leaving more room for growth.”

Y Combinator has always had a soft spot for startups that built services for startups, and this is no exception. It makes perfect sense as a follow-on investment for Continuity, which has also backed Brex, Gusto, Instacart, LendUp, and Stripe. In this sense, it becomes a strategic investor, not unlike Silicon Valley Bank (which tells startups that do business with it that Vouch is its preferred insurance provider).

“Y Combinator and Vouch share a common goal – giving founders the support they need to build successful, innovative companies,” said Anu Hariharan, Partner at Y Combinator Continuity, in a statement. “Vouch is built specifically for startups, so founders have the peace of mind that their business is covered. This platform is fundamental to the startup community, as it enables founders to focus on growing their companies — which is why we were bullish on leading the Series B.”

Categories: Business News

WHILL brings its autonomous wheelchairs to North American airports

2019, November 21 - 12:04am

After trials in Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, Tokyo’s Haneda airport and Abu Dhabi airport earlier this year, WHILL, the developer of autonomous wheelchairs, is bringing its robotic mobility tech to North America.

At airports in Dallas and Winnipeg, travelers with mobility limitations can book a WHILL through Scootaround and test out the company’s products.

Using sensing technologies and automatic brakes, WHILL’s wheelchairs detect and avoid obstacles in busy airports, allowing customers to get to their gate faster.

Based in Yokohama, Japan, WHILL has raised roughly $80 million for its technology to bring autonomy to personal mobility.

WHILL raises $45M to help people with disabilities get around airports and other large venues

“When traveling, checking in, getting through security and to the gate on time is critical to avoid the hassle and frustration of missing a flight,” said Satoshi Sugie, the founder and chief executive of WHILL, in a statement. “Travelers with reduced mobility usually have to wait longer times for an employee to bring them a wheelchair and be pushed to their gate, reducing their flexibility while traveling. We are now providing an opportunity for travelers with reduced mobility to have a sense of independence as they move about the airport and get from point A to point B as smoothly as possible.”

The company is one of a growing number of startups and established technology companies tackling the massive market of assistive technologies.

Assistive technologies will be a $26 billion-dollar market, and investors are only now addressing it

The entire population of people with disabilities globally stands at 1 billion, and there are 70 million potential customers for assistive technology products across Europe. If demand in human terms isn’t enough to sway would-be entrepreneurs, then perhaps a recent market report indicating that spending on assistive technologies for the elderly and people with disabilities is projected to reach over $26 billion by 2024 will do the trick.

“Accessibility is a priority for Winnipeg Richardson International Airport and travel is now easier for passengers with limited mobility thanks to our partnership with WHILL. We are excited to be one of the first airports in North America to trial WHILL’s autonomous personal mobility devices with our travelers.”

Categories: Business News

Inhabitr raises $4 million to let you rent furniture

2019, November 21 - 12:00am

Inhabitr, a Chicago-based furniture rental platform, has today announced the close of $4 million in Series A funding, led by Great North Labs.

Inhabitr launched in 2016 after the co-founders, who have gone through dozens of moves between the two of them, decided that purchasing, moving and maintaining furniture is one of the biggest pain points of the whole process.

Inhabitr tries to solve that by letting users rent furniture on the platform at a much more affordable cost than buying, never having to worry about the associated costs of moving that furniture should they relocate.

The company works directly with manufacturers to source products, and partners with local furniture stores and their employees to handle delivery and white glove installation.

Customers can choose from pre-packaged rooms, which have been curated by in-house designers, or build their own room by renting à la carte. Living room packages range from $70/month to $130/month, while individual pieces of furniture, like a sofa, are priced anywhere between $30/month to as high as $150/month for some high-end pieces. If at any time a user wants to change things up, Inhabitr charges a $99 swap fee to swap old furniture out with new.

The Chicago-based company already serves 10 cities in the U.S. and has put furniture in more than 2,000 homes.

The hope is that Inhabitr can better serve the end customer by tying together these three existing frameworks — designers, furniture manufacturers and retail stores.

Co-founder Ankur Agrawal believes that one of the biggest challenges for the company is scaling operations in a logistics-heavy industry, and perfecting the training playbook for the retail employees interfacing with the end customer.

“Another big challenge is capital,” said Agrawal. “Furniture as a category is an operations-heavy category and there is little understanding around the industry. Investors think of this as a non-sexy category and are looking for an obsolete business that software can come and disrupt. But the next feat of iteration will come from brick and mortar innovation.”

Categories: Business News

Email app Spark receives update with new design

2019, November 20 - 11:19pm

Spark, the popular email app from Readdle, has been redesigned on iOS and Android. The interface has always been a bit busy in the mobile app. That’s why the updated app now features a cleaner design and a handful of new features.

On the design front, Spark now uses simple headers to separate smart sections, such as newsletters, notifications and personal emails. It looks better than the rounded boxes with a colorful background.

There’s a lot of whitespace now, but the company has also taken advantage of this update to add dark mode. When you tap on a thread, the thread view has been updated as well.

When it comes to new features, the app tries to autopopulate your inbox with profile pictures. Just like Vignette, it pulls images from popular web services. For instance, if somebody who emails you has a Twitter account under the same email address, Spark can add the Twitter profile picture to your inbox.

Everybody has their own way of dealing with their email inbox. That’s why Spark lets you choose the buttons that appear at the bottom of an email thread. For instance, if you use folders a lot, you can put a folder button. But if you want to replace that button with a snooze button, you can.

Spark is now a better citizen on iPadOS 13. You can open multiple instances of Spark. This way, you can work on a document with an email thread using Split View and you can open a second Spark window to check your inbox in a separate workspace. Spark on iPadOS also supports the floating keyboard and new iPadOS gestures.

Categories: Business News

Tuesday Company acquires VoteWithMe as tech for politics looks to consolidate ahead of 2020

2019, November 20 - 11:11pm

Tuesday Company, the organizational toolkit for political advocacy groups and candidates, has taken another step to consolidate its position in the growing market for tech-enabled political outreach with the acquisition of the voting mobilization service VoteWithMe.

Launched in the wake of the 2016 election by three former staffers from Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the presidency, Tuesday is one of the higher-profile alumni from the progressive-focused technology accelerator, Higher Ground Labs.

Higher Ground Labs is betting tech can help sway the 2020 elections for Democrats

Michael Luciani, Jordan Birnholtz and Shola Farber, the co-founders of Tuesday Company, met working on mobilization and outreach for the Clinton campaign in 2016. Although Clinton lost, the work the trio did to encourage staffers and volunteers to send personalized outreach messages to their social network increased outreach in Michigan and other battleground states.

Now, coupled with VoteWithMe’s technology to encourage people to get to the polls on election day, the company believes it has a more complete platform to organize and mobilize for election day.

While Tuesday’s users were political campaigns, advocacy groups and their professional staffers, VoteWithMe was a free-to-use app that went directly to voters to encourage them to get friends to voting booths. The company had more than 250,000 downloads at the time of its acquisition.

“The opportunity to bring the B2B and B2C aspects together was really, really, really important,” says Farber, the Tuesday Company chief operating officer.

“We did a really great job building for organizations and for staff and organizers because our team is so strongly rooted in the organizing practice… and, VoteWithMe, they did a great job of building that consumer experience and our goal is to blend the expertise there,” according to Birnholtz, the company’s chief product officer.

The size of the acquisition was not disclosed, but the all-cash transaction means that Tuesday Company now owns the VoteWithMe tech and the team developing the VoteWithMe product will continue to have a consulting relationship with Tuesday Company.

While national politics dominates the news, advocacy groups of all stripes are seeing the benefits in applying the same tools that well-funded political campaigns brought to bear on the electorate to promote particular issues.

Nonprofits represent at least $13 billion of annual business, according to Farber, and Tuesday Company believes its services can provide value to all of them.

“The… political campaign world is really hard to build an innovative, sustainable business in, because it’s relatively small. Folks that don’t figure out how to become broadly relevant won’t survive,” says Birnholtz.

In the wake of the acquisition, investors can expect to see Tuesday Company out on the fundraising trail. The company is backed by Higher Ground Labs and individual investors like Chris Sacca and Reid Hoffman.

While Hoffman’s forays into the intersection of tech and politics have not always been without scandal, he has emerged as one of the most prolific backers of companies looking to apply technology to the political sphere.

Categories: Business News

Brava, a smart oven maker with big names attached, just sold to an industrial equipment company

2019, November 20 - 11:00pm

Brava had a lot of things working in its favor, as startups go. It was founded in 2015 by serial executive John Pleasants, whose past stints have included being co-president of Disney Interactive Media Group, COO of Electronic Arts and CEO of Ticketmaster.

His plans to create a suite of snazzy direct-to-consumer smart hardware and software products, beginning with the Brava oven, also attracted tens of millions of dollars from an impressive lineup of backers, including True Ventures, TPG Growth and Lightspeed Venture Partners, among others. Indeed, though some sophisticated kitchen devices have come and gone (Juicero), some liked what Pleasants and his growing team in Redwood City, Calif., were trying to cook up. One of these admirers, apparently, was the Middleby Corporation, a publicly traded commercial and residential cooking and industrial process equipment company in Illinois that just acquired Brava — though neither Brava nor Middleby is disclosing terms of the deal.

We were in touch via email yesterday with both Pleasants and the CEO of Middleby, Tim FitzGerald, to learn what they can share about the tie-up, as well as to ask what happens to Brava and its tens of employees now.

TC: This was a young company. Why turn around and sell it?

JP: The company itself is four years old and we’ve had product available in market for one year. We’ve been venture funded to date and had the option to continue raising growth capital or merge with Middleby Corporation. Brava’s mission has always been to enable everyone to cook delicious, healthy home-cooked food with minimal time and effort, and we believe the fastest way to achieve this bold goal is through a strategic partnership with someone who can help make that happen.

TC: How did Brava and Middleby come together? Who brokered the first conversation? Was Brava talking with anyone else?

JP: We’ve been in talks with many people about financing, and a select group of strategics about a deeper partnership to achieve our objective. We had the assistance of City Capital in the process, and they made the introduction to Middleby in Chicago.

TC: How much is Middleby paying for the company? Also, is this an all-cash deal?

JP: While not disclosing the total amount, the consideration includes a mix of cash and stock.

TC: So what’s next? Will Middleby retain the Brava name or will this be phased out over time?

JP: Brava as it’s known today will not only continue but see accelerated growth and expansion. We will continue to sell the product and support our customers under the Brava brand while further innovating new products and services for our customers.

TF: The Brava name will remain. The product and technology will enhance our existing residential and commercial kitchen appliance portfolio. In Middleby Residential, we manufacture and sell Viking Range and other well-known consumer brands.

TC:  How many people does Brava currently employ and how many if any are going to Middleby?

JP: Brava employs 38 people and all will be going to Middleby. I will remain as the CEO of Brava and will also work with other Middleby divisional leaders to leverage Brava’s light-cooking platform and services for their existing brands. We’re excited by this because we currently have many ideas and plans for leveraging the Brava technology across new form factors, business segments (residential and commercial) and geographies. This all becomes more feasible with Middleby.

TC: We last talked before the Brava oven was out in the world. How many units did you wind up selling? 

JP: We’re closing in on 5,000 customers and expect to have a big holiday.

TC: What were some of the lessons learned with this experience?

JP: People love it. You can see this every day throughout our online communities. It’s not just about the quality of food and the ease in creating it . . . we hear comments all the time about how spouses who hardly ever cooked now do, how kids who never liked vegetables now ask for more . . .

In terms of what people want that doesn’t currently exist, [I’d say] more recipes and programs (we have thousands, but there are so many more we can do) and more flexibility; we can uniquely cook multiple ingredients simultaneously to perfection with our light-cooking technology and this enables lots of fun combinations [but] our customers would like even more flexibility in mixing and matching ingredients.

TC: Any business lessons?

JP: In terms of business lessons, it’s challenging to explain Brava’s full value proposition in a quick ad on social media. We have revolutionary technology that enables a new way of cooking that’s better, easier, faster — and that sounds almost too good to be true.

TC: Do you think the market for smart cooking appliances is big enough at this point? What do you think are the remaining hurdles and how do consumers get past them?

JP: The “smart cooking appliance” market is in its infancy. There are still very few pioneers in the space and household penetration is negligible. But this is all about to change. Once people know someone who can personally attest to the benefits, I fundamentally believe the adoption curve will bend exponentially. People spend a lot of money on household appliances…once they can be “smart” and “chef powered” and deliver well against that promise, why would most people not want a “smart” one versus a “non-smart” one?

TF: We see this market growing significantly with the next generation [of home cooks] who currently rely on and demand a digital experience.

Categories: Business News

Gravitational nabs $25M Series A to ease cloud deployment with Kubernetes

2019, November 20 - 10:57pm

As we move into an increasingly multi-cloud world, there is a portability problem moving applications between clouds. Gravitational wants to fix that, and today it announced a $25 million Series A.

The round was led by Kleiner Perkins with help from S28 Capital and Y Combinator. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $31 million, according to the company.

Ev Kontsevoy, Gravitational co-founder and CEO, says his company is solving a couple of big problems around cloud portability. “There are just differences between all these different cloud providers because applications have dependencies. The application might depend on the cloud provider’s capabilities, and they use all this different middleware software that the cloud providers are bundling today with the infrastructure,” Kontsevoy explained. Those dependencies make it difficult to move an application to another cloud without additional coding.

He says that the other problem is related to on-going management of an application after you deploy it in the cloud, and that requires a large operations team. The problem with that is that there is a shortage of talent to fill these positions.

To solve these problems, Gravitational looked to Kubernetes . The company believes customers should build software using Kubernetes, open-source software and standards, and instead of building in the cloud dependencies up front, make their programs completely vanilla.

“Start with your application and don’t worry about clouds at all, don’t even have a cloud account in the beginning. Make sure your application runs on top of Kubernetes, package all of your software dependencies into Kubernetes, use open-source software and open standards as much as you possibly can,” he explained.

He says that Kubernetes gives you the ability to build software with very little administration, and then you can use Gravitational’s Gravity tool to package that solution into a single file, which you can then deploy on any cloud, private data center or even make available as download like you could with software back in the 1990s.

He sees organizations moving to container-driven software using Kubernetes, and as they do this, he believes they can break this dependency on the individual cloud providers using his company’s tools.

It’s certainly compelling if it works as described. Gravitational has 20 employees and around 100 paying customers. The company offers a couple of tools, Gravity and Gravitational Teleport as open source. It was a member of the Y Combinator 2015 cohort.

Gravitational Helps Deliver Software On-Prem And In Cloud From Single Code Base

Categories: Business News

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