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Save over $200 with discounted student tickets to Robotics + AI 2020

2020, January 16 - 7:30am

If you’re a current student and you love robots — and the AI that drives them — you do not want to miss out on TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020. Our day-long deep dive into these two life-altering technologies takes place on March 3 at UC Berkeley and features the best and brightest minds, makers and influencers.

We’ve set aside a limited number of deeply discounted tickets for students because, let’s face it, the future of robotics and AI can’t happen without cultivating the next generation. Tickets cost $50, which means you save more than $200. Reserve your student ticket now.

Not a student? No problem, we have a savings deal for you, too. If you register now, you’ll save $150 when you book an early-bird ticket by February 14.

More than 1,000 robotics and AI enthusiasts, experts and visionaries attended last year’s event, and we expect even more this year. Talk about a targeted audience and the perfect place for students to network for an internship, employment or even a future co-founder.

What can you expect this year? For starters, we have an outstanding lineup of speaker and demos — more than 20 presentations — on tap. Let’s take a quick look at just some of the offerings you don’t want to miss:

  • Saving Humanity from AI: Stuart Russell, UC Berkeley professor and AI authority, argues in his acclaimed new book, “Human Compatible,” that AI will doom humanity unless technologists fundamentally reform how they build AI algorithms.
  • Opening the Black Box with Explainable AI: Machine learning and AI models can be found in nearly every aspect of society today, but their inner workings are often as much a mystery to their creators as to those who use them. UC Berkeley’s Trevor Darrell, Krishna Gade of Fiddler Labs and Karen Myers from SRI International will discuss what we’re doing about it and what still needs to be done.
  • Engineering for the Red Planet: Maxar Technologies has been involved with U.S. space efforts for decades and is about to send its fifth robotic arm to Mars aboard NASA’s Mars 2020 rover. Lucy Condakchian, general manager of robotics at Maxar, will speak to the difficulty and exhilaration of designing robotics for use in the harsh environments of space and other planets.

That’s just a sample — take a gander at the event agenda to help you plan your time accordingly. We’ll add even more speakers in the coming weeks, so keep checking back.

TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020 takes place on March 3 at UC Berkeley. It’s a full day focused on exploring the future of robotics and a great opportunity for students to connect with leading technologists, founders, researchers and investors. Join us in Berkeley. Buy your student ticket today and get ready to build the future.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

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Categories: Business News

NextNav raises $120M to deploy its indoor positioning tech to find people in skyscrapers

2020, January 16 - 5:55am

NextNav LLC has raised $120 million in equity and debt to commercially deploy an indoor positioning system that can pinpoint a device’s location — including which floor it’s on — without GPS .

The company has developed what it calls a Metropolitan Beacon System, which can find the location of devices like smartphones, drones, IoT products or even self-driving vehicles in indoor and urban areas where GPS or other satellite location signals cannot be reliably received. Anyone trying to use their phone to hail an Uber or Lyft in the Loop area of Chicago has likely experienced spotty GPS signals.

The MBS infrastructure is essentially bolted onto cellular towers. The positioning system uses a cellular signal, not line-of-sight signal from satellites like GPS does. The system focuses on determining the “altitude” of a device, CEO and co-founder Ganesh Pattabiraman told TechCrunch.

GPS can provide the horizontal position of a smartphone or IoT device. And Wi-Fi and Bluetooth can step in to provide that horizontal positioning indoors. NextNav says its MBS has added a vertical or “Z dimension” to the positioning system. This means the MBS can determine within less than three meters the floor level of a device in a  multi-story building.

It’s the kind of system that can provide emergency services with critical information, such as the number of people located on a particular floor. It’s this specific use case that NextNav is betting on. Last year, the Federal Communication Commission issued new 911 emergency requirements for wireless carriers that mandates the ability to determine the vertical position of devices to help responders find people in multi-story buildings.

Today, the MBS is in the Bay Area and Washington, D.C. The company plans to use this new injection of capital to expand its network to the 50 biggest markets in the U.S., in part to take advantage of the new FCC requirement.

The technology has other applications. For instance, this so-called Z dimension could come in handy for locating drones. Last year, NASA said it will use NextNav’s MBS network as part of its City Environment for Range Testing of Autonomous Integrated Navigation facilities at its Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.

The round was led by funds managed by affiliates of Fortress Investment Group . Existing investors Columbia Capital, Future Fund, Telcom Ventures, funds managed by Goldman Sachs Asset Management, NEA and Oak Investment Partners also participated.

XM Satellite Radio founder Gary Parsons is executive chairman of the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company.

Categories: Business News

Brooke Hammerling on how early-stage startups should think about PR

2020, January 16 - 1:35am

It’s easy to remember the big names in tech. But we often forget about the operators who help them along the way. When it comes to the person behind the person, few are as notable and experienced as Brooke Hammerling.

I sat down with the Brew PR founder (and new pop culture newsletter author), who sold her firm to Freuds in 2016 for $15 million, to discuss how startups should think about media presence, when they should go about hiring a comms lead or an agency, and how to go about that process.

Hammerling founded Brew PR 15 years ago during a pivotal time in the communications industry. Tech was starting to gain traction, and the incumbent communications agencies were still pretty much doing things the same way: cold calls and emails.

Categories: Business News

Mobile payment app Lydia raises $45 million round led by Tencent

2020, January 16 - 1:00am

French startup Lydia is raising a $45 million Series B round (€40 million). Tencent is leading the round with existing investors CNP Assurances, XAnge and New Alpha also participating.

If you live in France, chances are you already know Lydia quite well. The company has become a ubiquitous mobile payment app, especially for people under 30 years old. Think about it as a sort of Square Cash or Venmo, but for France.

“At first, we wanted to raise less but we ended up raising more,” Lydia co-founder and CEO Cyril Chiche told me in a phone interview.

The company has managed to attract 3 million users in France. More impressive, 25% of French people between 18 and 30 years old have a Lydia account — and 5,000 people sign up every day. Lydia currently has 90 employees.

More recently, the company has expanded beyond peer-to-peer payment. First, the company wants to help you manage your money in many different ways with an important value — everything should happen in real time.

You can create multiple Lydia accounts to put some money aside or use money in that sub-account for a specific purpose. That feature alone turns the app into a versatile money management app.

For instance, you can associate a Lydia payment card with a Lydia account and a virtual card with another Lydia account — that virtual card works with Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay and more. You can change those settings in real time.

You can share accounts with other Lydia users. And shared accounts are truly shared — everyone can top up and withdraw money from that account. You can spend directly from that account or withdraw money to another account.

You can also turn any Lydia account into a money pot account. In just a few taps, you can generate a link and share it with your friends so that they can add money using their regular payment card or a Lydia account.

More recently, the company has introduced “the market”, a marketplace of other financial products. From the Lydia app, you can borrow up to €1,000 in just a few seconds. You can also insure your phone and other mobile devices. You can get some free credit when you open a bank account, insure your home with Luko, switch to another electricity and gas provider, compare mobile phone and internet providers and more.

And that strategy is going to be key in the future. “We have an ambitious goal, which is turning Lydia into a mobile financial service app,” Chiche said.

He also pointed out that the company that has been the most successful when it comes to creating a mobile marketplace of financial products is Tencent with WeChat.

“Tencent is also the number one player in the video game industry, and there’s no industry with as much user engagement,” Chiche said. Tencent acquired Supercell, bought 40% of Epic Games, acquired Riot Games (League of Legends), invested in Ubisoft, Activision Blizzard, Discord, etc. Lydia hopes that it can learn from Tencent on the user engagement front.

Compared to many fintech startups, Lydia doesn’t want to replace banks altogether — the company says it wants to build a meta-banking app. Peer-to-peer payments represent the top of the funnel and a great user acquisition strategy thanks to networking effects.

You can then connect your Lydia account with your bank account and your debit card. This way, you can send money back and forth between your Lydia accounts and your bank account. As a user, that strategy slowly pays off over time. After a while, you end up spending money directly from your Lydia account and relying more heavily on Lydia’s native payment features, with your bank account acting as a money back end.

At the bottom of the funnel, Lydia hopes that it can turn active Lydia users into paid customers with a handful of in-house and third-party financial products. In other words, Lydia doesn’t want to become a credit institution like a traditional bank, it wants to become a financial hub. Expanding the marketplace will be a big focus for the company going forward.

While Lydia is available in other European countries, Lydia is still massively used in its home market with other markets lagging behind. With today’s funding round, growth in foreign countries is going to be the second key topic.

Categories: Business News

Sophie Alcorn, Rebecca Lynn, MG Siegler and Garry Tan are joining us for Early Stage SF

2020, January 16 - 12:31am

One of the most valuable resources in the tech startup community is mentorship. Founders, tackling brand new challenges and adapting to a rapidly changing world, can sometimes feel like no one understands what they’re going through.

But alas, the Early Stage SF event in April will most certainly prove them wrong. Early Stage will bring together seasoned operators and experts across a wide variety of topics that fall under the broad umbrellas of funding, marketing and operations.

How do you secure funding? How do you get to your first yes? How do you identify the right investors? And the right lead investor? How do you negotiate a cap table that makes sense for you and your team? How do you get from seed to Series A? These are some of the questions our speakers will answer, and that’s just on the topic of funding.

We’ll also hear from experts in the legal arena, wizards of the tech stack, leadership coaches, brand design geniuses, growth hackers and more!

Today, we’re pleased to announce four more breakout session leaders: Sophie Alcorn, Rebecca Lynn, MG Siegler and Garry Tan .

Each of these experts will lead 40-minute breakout sessions, including a brief presentation followed directly by a Q&A session with the audience.

How to Make Immigration Work For You – Sophie Alcorn

Dealing with a tricky visa situation? Troubleshoot the many snags that can affect early-stage startups that are trying to bring talent into the country, with top Silicon Valley immigration expert Sophie Alcorn.

How to Structure Your Fintech Startup – Rebecca Lynn

With the disintermediation of banks, and financial services more broadly, startups that are well-structured can really have major advantages entering those markets. From benchmarking growth metrics that matter to navigating regulatory changes, learn more about Canvas Ventures’ approach toward evaluating founding teams and equipping companies with what it takes to make the most of opportunities in fintech.

Time Isn’t on Your Side, So Timing Better Be – MG Siegler

We live in an era of app and services inundation. The problem for early-stage startups isn’t a lack of good ideas, it’s a lack of time that users have to try out such things, let alone implement them into their lives. M.G. Siegler will go through some ideas and trends that could be interesting entry points for startups to break through.

How to Avoid 1,000 Landmines – Garry Tan

When you’re starting your company, there are thousands of small, avoidable mistakes that can turn success into failure. Learn how to navigate around those and maximize your chance of success with key learnings from Garry Tan, founder and managing partner at Initialized Capital.

Early Stage SF will have approximately 50 different breakout sessions covering a variety of startup core competencies. The hope is that early-stage founders can come in with a blank notebook and leave with a semester’s worth of insights and information on how to tackle the challenges of the future.

Obviously, there is only so much time in the day, and it would be impossible for an attendee to participate in every single breakout session. But fear not! Transcripts from every breakout will be made available to attendees.

And there’s one more thing!

Our speakers have graciously agreed to spend part of the day at the show participating in CrunchMatch. CrunchMatch allows founders, investors, etc. to fill in information about who they’d like to meet — for example, a D2C startup founder might want to meet with brand design experts and e-commerce VCs — and set a time and place for a quick meeting right at the event.

Here’s the fine print. Each of the 50+ breakout sessions is limited to around 100 attendees. We expect a lot more attendees, of course, so signups for each session are on a first-come, first-serve basis. Buy your ticket today and you can sign up for the breakouts we are announcing today. Pass holders will also receive 24-hour advance notice before we announce the next batch. (And yes, you can “drop” a breakout session in favor of a new one, in the event there is a schedule conflict.)

So get your TC Early Stage: San Francisco pass today, and get the inside track on the sessions we announced today, as well as the ones to be announced in the coming weeks.

Possible sponsor? We have some very nifty ways to bring sponsors in on the show flow, so please contact us here!

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Categories: Business News

Customer data platform ActionIQ raises $32M

2020, January 15 - 11:25pm

ActionIQ co-founder and CEO Tasso Argyros knows there are plenty of companies promising to help businesses use their customer data to deliver personalized experiences — as he put it, “The space has gotten very, very hot over the last couple of years.”

But in the face of growing competition, ActionIQ (founded in 2014 and headquartered in New York) has attracted some impressive customers, like The New York Times, Conde Nast, American Eagle Outfitters, Vera Bradley and Pandora Media, as well as high-profile investors like Sequoia Capital and Andreessen Horowitz.

Today, it’s announcing that it has raised $32 million in Series C funding.

“At this point, we believe we are four to five years ahead of the market,” Argyros told me. “[Customer data platforms are] very hot, you see people really jumping into it, but nobody really has a product.”

He attributed the rise of these platforms to the growth in customer acquisition costs: “Everybody’s switched their focus from ‘How do we acquire more customers?’ to ‘How do you grow lifetime value?’ ”

The key, Argyros said, is “delivering personalized experiences at scale.” So if you’re a business trying to understand which customers need to be convinced to stick around, which customers are ready to upgrade to a paid subscription and so on, you need a platform like ActionIQ: “What’s common about all these questions is that they’re all data questions.”

He described ActionIQ’s approach as “product-first,” creating self-serve tools for enterprises rather than relying on consulting or IT services, and he said the product is designed to “drive intelligent actions activated through any channel.”

Customer data management company Amperity raises $50M

Argyros contrasted this approach with the large marketing clouds, where he said that stitching together products from various acquisitions has led to “a huge data gap between what marketing clouds promise and what they can actually deliver.” And he said other customer data platforms are limited to bringing the data together — but “just putting customer data in one place, that doesn’t mean business can use the customer data to drive value.”

March Capital Partners led the round, with participation from Cisco Ventures, as well as previous investors Sequoia, Andreessen and FirstMark Capital. Meredith Finn, a partner at March, is joining ActionIQ’s board of directors.

“From my professional experience at Salesforce and Twitter, when it comes to building a relationship with your customers, data is everything,” Finn said in a statement. “ActionIQ took a data-first approach from day one in contrast to many vendors that are now scrambling to address their data gaps by duct-taping data infrastructure to their existing point solutions. … The potential of such a platform is limitless, and spans well beyond traditional marketing channels to other areas of customer interactions including web and mobile app experiences, customer support and sales.”

ActionIQ has now raised a total of $75 million in funding. And while the Series C isn’t significantly larger that the $30 million that ActionIQ raised in 2017, Argyros said the company didn’t need to raise a huge round this time around, because it’s already built out the core product.

“A lot of dollars were invested heavily in the product way before the demand was there,” he said. “The Series B was pretty significant because there was so much upfront product investment. … Most of these funds are going towards expanding the business in sales and marketing.”

Adobe announces GA of customer data platform

Categories: Business News

Austin-based FlashParking raises $60 million for parking management technology

2020, January 15 - 11:02pm

FlashParking, an Austin-based developer of parking management software and services, has raised $60 million in new financing from the private equity investment firm L Catterton.

The company’s software, first launched in 2011, provides real-time data and variable pricing options for parking space providers.

FlashParking’s CEO and co-founder, Juan Rodriguez, envisions his company’s software and services as the cornerstone for a new kind of hub encompassing several different modes of transportation and autonomous or robotic vehicles. The company’s payment, monitoring and management software can extend beyond app-enabled parking or valet services to electric vehicle charging; vehicle servicing and cleaning; drone launch, landing and maintenance; and hubs for ride-hailing services.

“This unique platform has allowed us to configure an operating system that’s not only the best solution for parking infrastructure today but also a model that’s ready for tomorrow,” said Rodriguez, in a statement.

The company is already managing 30,000 parking spaces across 34 facilities in the Texas Medical Center alone and has 6 million customers using its services to pay for parking each month, bringing in around $1 billion in transaction revenue, the company says.

BofA Securities served as the financial advisor to FlashParking.

Categories: Business News

Verbit raises $31M Series B to expand its transcription and captioning service

2020, January 15 - 11:00pm

Verbit, a Tel Aviv and New York-based startup that provides AI-assisted transcription and captioning services to professional users, today announced that it has raised a $31 million Series B round led by growth equity firm Stripes. Existing investors Viola Ventures, Vertex Ventures, HV Ventures, Oryzn Capital and ClalTech are also participating in the round; this brings the company’s total funding, which includes a $23 million Series A round in 2019, to $65 million.

The three-year-old company plans to use the new funding to expand to new verticals and add new languages. Currently, its focus is on the media and legal industries, as well as educational institutions. In total, the company currently has more than 150 customers, including Harvard, Stanford and Coursera . Verbit also plans to double its headcount in 2020.

Verbit’s AI-based tools get to about 90% accuracy, but it also works with about 15,000 human transcribers who make revisions as necessary in order to get to 99% accuracy. As with virtually all machine-learning systems, those changes then flow back into the system in order to improve its accuracy.

Recently, the company also launched its real-time transcription service and opened its New York office.

“When I established Verbit three years ago, I didn’t anticipate we would become one of the market-leading companies in our industry so quickly,” said Tom Livne, CEO and co-founder of Verbit. “This latest financing round is an important milestone in Verbit’s journey and strengthens the incredible momentum we had in 2019. The collaboration with Stripes is a great indicator of Verbit’s category-leading product and will allow us to continue innovating in the market.”

Verbit raises $23M for its transcription service

Categories: Business News

Zinier raises $90M to automate field service management

2020, January 15 - 10:07pm

Zinier, a startup that is bringing automation to the field service management realm, announced today that it has raised $90 million in fresh funding as it looks to tackle new categories and court more clients.

The San Francisco-based startup said its $90 million Series C financing round was led by ICONIQ Capital, and saw participation from Tiger Global Management and existing investors Accel, Founders Fund, Qualcomm Ventures, Nokia-backed NGP Capital and France-based Newfund Capital.

The new financing round pushed the five-year-old startup’s total raise to $120 million, and valued it above $500 million, one of its investors told TechCrunch. Zinier co-founder and chief executive Arka Dhar declined to comment on the valuation.

Zinier is helping the electricity and telecom industries automate their field services, a job that has typically innovated slowly and relied on legacy systems and manual processes, Dhar told TechCrunch in an interview.

“Field service means everything that happens from work of origination, their scheduling and dispatching, matching the right person with the right task at the right location, and at the end, verifying the task. It’s a complex, manual and disparate system. It typically sees 20% of our client’s expenses. We are optimizing these processes with AI to help these clients become more efficient and save money,” said Dhar.

Dhar declined to reveal all the major Zinier clients, but said some of the biggest players in the electricity and telecoms businesses work with the startup. Indeed, 40% of the startup’s clients today are based in the U.S., 40% are in Latin America and the rest are in Asia Pacific. The startup said it works with Black & Veatch and Car-Sa, and maintains strategic partnerships with system integrators such as Capgemini and Tata Consultancy Services.

Until two years ago, Zinier focused on the telecom industry, but has since expanded to serve energy and utility spaces. The fresh fund would help the startup double down its efforts in non-telecom industries, Dhar said.

A number of players are working on the field service management space. Major giants such as Salesforce and Microsoft own stakes in firms that operate in this industry and also offer their own products. ServiceMax was earlier acquired by GE Digital for $915 million. Without calling names, Dhar cautioned that some of its competitors are merely digitizing the pen and paper logs, and are not really optimizing the process.

“It is critical for companies to optimize this costly and complex part of their business, and Zinier has the platform-based technology and team to take on this global, multi-industry market. We are excited to partner with Zinier and support them in their mission of changing the paradigm on field service work on a global scale,” said Will Griffith, partner at ICONIQ Capital.

Categories: Business News

The crypto rich find security in Anchorage

2020, January 15 - 8:57pm

Not the city, the $57 million-funded cryptocurrency custodian startup. When someone wants to keep tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in Bitcoin, Ethereum, or other coins safe, they put them in Anchorage’s vault. And now they can trade straight from custody so they never have to worry about getting robbed mid-transaction.

With backing from Visa, Andreessen Horowitz, and Blockchain Capital, Anchorage has emerged as the darling of the cryptocurrency security startup scene. Today it’s flexing its muscle and war chest by announcing its first acquisition, crypto risk modeling company Merkle Data.

Anchorage founders

Anchorage has already integrated Merkle’s technology and team to power today’s launch of its new trading feature. It eliminates the need for big crypto owners to manually move assets in and out of custody to buy or sell, or to set up their own in-house trading. Instead of grabbing some undisclosed spread between the spot price and the price Anchorage quotes its clients, it charges a transparent per transaction fee of a tenth of a percent.

It’s stressful enough trading around digital fortunes. Anchorage gives institutions and token moguls peace of mind throughout the process while letting them stake and vote while their riches are in custody. Anchorage CEO Nathan McCauley tells me “Our clients want to be able to fund a bank account with USD and have it seamlessly converted into crypto, securely held in their custody accounts. Shockingly, that’s not yet the norm–but we’re changing that.”

Buy and sell safely

Founded in 2017 by leaders behind Docker and Square, Anchorage’s core business is its omnimetric security system that takes passwords that can be lost or stolen out of the equation. Instead, it uses humans and AI to review scans of your biometrics, nearby networks, and other data for identity confirmation. Then it requires consensus approval for transactions from a set of trusted managers you’ve whitelisted.

With Anchorage Trading, the startup promises efficient order routing, transparent pricing, and multi-venue liquidity from OTC desks, exchanges, and market makers. “Because trading and custody are directly integrated, we’re able to buy and sell crypto from custody, without having to make risky external transfers or deal with multiple accounts from different providers” says Bart Stephens, founder and managing partner of Blockchain Capital.

Trading isn’t Anchorage’s primary business, so it doesn’t have to squeeze clients on their transactions and can instead try to keep them happy for the long-term. That also sets up Anchorage to be foundational part of the cryptocurrency stack. It wouldn’t disclose the terms of the Merkle Data acquisition, but the Pantera Capital-backed company brings quantative analysts to Anchorage to keep its trading safe and smart.

“Unlike most traditional financial assets, crypto assets are bearer assets: in order to do anything with them, you need to hold the underlying private keys. This means crypto custodians like Anchorage must play a much larger role than custodians do in traditional finance” says McCauley. “Services like trading, settlement, posting collateral, lending, and all other financial activities surrounding the assets rely on the custodian’s involvement, and in our view are best performed by the custodian directly.”

Anchorage will be competing with Coinbase, which offers integrated custody and institutional brokerage through its agency-only OTC desk. Fidelity Digital Assets combines trading and brokerage, but for Bitcoin only. BitGo offers brokerage from custody through a partnership with Genesis Global Trading. But Anchorage hopes its experience handling huge sums, clear pricing, and credentials like membership in Facebook’s Libra Association will win it clients.

McCauley says the biggest threat to Anchorage isn’t competitors, thoguh, but hazy regulation. Anchorage is building a core piece of the blockchain economy’s infrastructure. But for the biggest financial institutions to be comfortable getting involved, lawmakers need to make it clear what’s legal.

Categories: Business News

Submissions for The Europas Tech Startups Awards are now open

2020, January 15 - 8:29pm

Submissions for The Europas Awards 2020 have now opened. We’re back for our 11th year of recognizing the hottest tech startups across the European tech scene, as supported by TechCrunch.

The awards evening will be held on 25 June 2020 in London, U.K., at the Museum of the Home (formerly known as the Geffrye Museum). Earlier in the day, we will be running a series of Pathfounder workshops aimed at giving Series A and late-stage seed startups practical advice on scaling up. The working agenda is here.

We’re actively scouting the top startups in each category, but you can nominate a startup, accelerator or venture fund that you think deserves to be recognized for their achievements in the last 12 months (1 January 2019 – 1 January 2020).

To be eligible to apply for the startup portion of the awards, you must be a late-stage seed or Series A startup. If you are bootstrapped, you must be generating sustainable revenues of at least £500,000 a year. For unicorns minted in the last year (1 January 2019 – 1 January 2020), you can apply to Unicorn of the Year.

This year, there are 22 categories, refreshed to ensure we recognize those startups working in tech’s most compelling fields. This year, ag tech and food tech have their own categories. We have included three tech-specific awards: Hottest AI Startup, Hottest Blockchain Project and Hottest Quantum Computing startup.

As we roll into our 11th year of The Europas, and into a new decade, we’re very conscious that collectively, we have only 10 years left to reach the UN’s ambitious Sustainable Development Goals. We want to recognize those startups striving to create a more sustainable, equitable future. To that end, three new categories have been added, including Hottest GreenTech Startup, Hottest Social Innovation and Hottest Sustainability Tech. Sustainability Tech includes any startup working in an industry for which they’ve built a sustainable product or service.

We are also introducing one new final award, “Pathfounder of the Year,” to honor a person who has made a significant contribution to the tech industry. The contribution may be over a lifetime, or it may have occurred in the past year.

The application is here. Early-bird tickets are here.

The timeline for The Europas are:

14 January: Entries open to the 2020 Europas.
25 March: Entries close.
14 April: Long list announced. Public voting opens.
15 May: Public voting closes. Judges deliberation begins.
8 June: Short list announced.
25 June: Winners announced at The Europas Awards evening.

The complete list of categories are:

Hottest AgTech Startup
Hottest B2B / SaaS Startup
Hottest CyberTech Startup
Hottest EdTech Startup
Hottest FinTech Startup
Hottest FoodTech Startup
Hottest GreenTech Startup
Hottest HealthTech Startup
Hottest Mobility Tech Startup
Hottest PropTech Startup
Hottest Public, Civic, GovTech Startup
Hottest SpaceTech Startup
Hottest Social Innovation
Hottest Sustainability Tech Startup
Hottest AI Startup
Hottest Blockchain Project
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Categories: Business News

Insurify raises $23M Series A to add new coverage varietals, boost its marketing efforts

2020, January 15 - 5:01pm

The venture-backed insurance world is more than the Lemonades and MetroMiles of the world. There’s more room in the industry for startups to shake things up. One such company, Cambridge-based Insurify, is out today with a new venture round that greatly expands its capital base.

The startup, which had accepted just $6.6 million over two rounds before its latest investment, has raised $23 million in a Series A led by MTECH Capital and VIOLA FinTech. Prior investors MassMutual Ventures and Nationwide took part in the new investment.

TechCrunch hasn’t caught up with the company since our own Sarah Buhr covered its first $2 million deal back in early 2016. As you’d expect, a lot has changed in the last four years.

What’s Insurify?

To get under the skin of the new round, TechCrunch caught up with Insurify’s CEO and founder, Snejina Zacharia.

Zacharia, formerly of Gartner, came up with the idea for Insurify after she had an accident years ago. Following an unsatisfying experience working with the insurance industry after the fact, she discovered that consumers “have very, very little idea of how much coverage they need,” and that insurance providers (Insurify started out working with car insurance and is expanding to life and home insurance, as well) were “really struggling to [access] digital consumers because they have very poor UIs, [and] their APIs [were] not up to date.”

Enter Insurify, which bridges that gap. Working to build “automation behind insurance,” Insurify wants to help people find the coverage that they need, online, at a fair price; it’s a good business for the startup, which gets paid when consumers buy new insurance through its tooling.

Insurify, according to Zacharia, operates as a licensed agent for the various types of insurance it helps consumers find.

It’s more than a middleperson, however. The startup wants to bring the buying of insurance more firmly into the digital world. Today, Insurify completes 65% of its new policies online, and provides pre-loaded information to carriers when it passes a consumer over to their side of things.

Insurify is also building out its own technology products that exist a little past insurance, including a “wallet” that lets users manage multiple policies in one place.

New capital

TechCrunch asked Zacharia why she decided to raise capital now. According to the CEO, after doing “a lot with almost nothing,” her company is ready to accelerate its go-to-market motion.

In practical terms, the new capital will help Insurify with “horizontal expansion,” like “launching new verticals” that will include home, rental and other types of insurance, she said. Even more interesting, the Series A will also be used to fuel the startup’s marketing arm, which Zacharia says is run like a “hedge fund.” Insurify’s marketing efforts are “automated through [an] artificial intelligence model,” she told TechCrunch, which estimates “the value of every click” through a set of algorithms that it tunes regularly.

(We’ll avoid making a joke about hedge fund returns at this juncture.)

The CEO went on to say that “putting more money and more fuel behind [Insurify’s] marketing engine could really help us tremendously at this point,” helping to explain why Insurify decided to take on more capital when it did.

The startup had options when it came to investor selection, with Zacharia telling TechCrunch that her firm “had multiple, different term sheets” from which to choose. Why MTECH and VIOLA as lead investors? Zacharia emphasized venture partner selection as key, also highlighting the experiences and expertise of each firm (insurance with MTECH, and fintech with VIOLA).

It will be fascinating to see what happens at the meeting point of new capital, an operating marketing engine and an expanding set of products. Presumably Insurify can grow like heck from that confluence of factors. We’ll ask in a few months.

Categories: Business News

Grover tops up debt facility to €250M to scale its renting model for consumer electronics

2020, January 15 - 5:00pm

Grover, the Berlin-based startup that offers “pay-as-you-go” subscriptions to the latest consumer tech, including e-scooters, has closed a new “asset-backed” financing deal, topping up an existing debt facility with Varengold Bank to a total of €250 million.

The additional capital will fuel the next phase of growth as the German company has entered scale-up territory. Specifically, it is an increase of an existing €55 million debt facility with Varengold, via an unnamed supporting debt investor, and will be used to expand Grover’s product range and for the purchasing of assets. Buying the latest gadgets to then rent them out is pretty capital intensive, after all.

Operating in Germany and Austria, with other markets to be launched in 2020, Grover pitches itself as part of the so-called “circular economy” whereby people rent things rather than outright own them. The idea is that it offers a more sustainable form of consumption, since items can have several owners during their lifespan, and can be more cost effective, depending on your penchant for the latest consumer electronics.

As well as targeting consumers direct, offering subscriptions via its own website, Grover also partners with major electronics retailers. This sees it essentially become a form of point-of-sale finance by letting consumers rent the item they were considering buying, with the option to purchase it outright later.

The company says it is currently present in the online-channels of eight leading European electronics retailers and in more than 500 brick-and-mortar stores across Germany. It is hoping to build on this go-to-market strategy in 202.

In addition, Grover plans to expand its B2B offering to meet continued demand from business customers. It also says it will continue to develop its e-mobility category, with the aim of making future micro-mobility vehicles accessible to consumers on a flexible monthly basis.

Categories: Business News

Anyline, the Austrian startup that provides OCR tech, picks up $12M Series A and heads to the US

2020, January 15 - 4:01pm

Anyline, the Vienna-based provider of optical character recognition (OCR) technology that developers use to build OCR functions into their websites and apps, has raised $12 million in Series A funding. The company has also unveiled plans for a U.S. expansion.

Leading the round is Berlin-based VC firm Project A, with participation from Anyline’s existing investors, including Johann “Hansi” Hansmann, Senovo, and the Gernot Langes-Swarovski Foundation.

Founded in 2013, Anyline offers specialised OCR solutions that it says the big tech vendors are not set up to supply. This has seen the Austrian startup pick up a portfolio of international clients such as Canon, Porsche and E.On, as well as national governments and the United Nations.

Its OCR functionality can be built into any modern website or app and is being used by businesses to scan and collect various “analogue” information, such as identity documents, serial numbers and utility meters, using any standard mobile device.

The upside of such an approach is obvious: by using proven OCR tech that actually works, businesses can make considerable savings in terms of time and resources by eliminating manual data entry, which is prone to costly mistakes.

From a customer point of view, anybody who has used OCR to add a debit card to an app or submit a meter reading knows it provides an infinitely less painful experience than having to manually type long numbers on a phone.

Anyline says the new capital will primarily be used to double its headcount, and to open a first U.S. headquarters in Boston in early 2020. This will enable Anyline to bring its mobile OCR solutions to new international markets and industries, including smart manufacturing, KYC services and fintech, says the company.

“As businesses move to an increasingly virtual world, it is vital they have access to advanced technologies that enable them to digitise previously analog mediums,” says Lukas Kinigadner, CEO and co-founder of Anyline, in a statement.

“We are proud to say European-born technology is helping businesses across the world to reduce the errors, inefficiencies and frustrations that come with manual input. By becoming the market leader in mobile OCR, Anyline plans to be the technology partner businesses need to meet these challenges on the horizon”.

Meanwhile, Anyline’s planned U.S. launch as seen the company found Anyline Inc., and hire Bryan Boatner, the former Global Sales Director of Cognex Corporation, as its new VP of Sales and Business Development.

Categories: Business News

Oviva scores $21M Series B to bring its digital diabetes treatment to more of Europe

2020, January 15 - 4:00pm

Oviva, the health tech startup that provides a digital solution for Type 2 diabetes treatment in Europe, has raised $21 million in Series B funding.

Leading the round is MTIP, with participation by new investor Earlybird, and existing investors AlbionVC, F-Prime Capital, Eight Roads Ventures and Partech.

Oviva says the new capital will be used to further develop its technology, and continue expanding in Europe to serve more patients not able to currently aaccess treatment. It brings the total raised by Oviva to date to $34 million.

Claiming to have treated 90,000 patients in the last three years across the U.K., Germany, France, Switzerland and the UAE, Oviva offers an “evidence-based” digital solution to stop the progression of and reverse Type 2 diabetes and obesity-related conditions. Patients receive tailored nutrition advice and personalised coaching via their phone, at lower costs and better outcomes compared to face-to-face therapy, says the startup.

“With your consent, your doctor sends Oviva your diagnosis, relevant lab reports, background and contact details,” explains Oviva co-founder and CEO Kai Eberhardt. “We then contact you, either directly to ask you to download our app or via phone, onboard you and initiate treatment. You are then treated typically for four to nine months, depending on your condition and local reimbursement. After that time you can continue, paying yourself, or get another referral (typically annually, as our behaviour-change treatment is recommended in most guidelines each year and reimbursement is provided each year)”.

Eberhardt says that in most of the countries Oviva currently operates in, it is the patients’ health insurance that pays for the service, and in the U.K. the NHS pays for access. “Typically for patients to access our treatment requires a doctors’ prescription,” he says. “Most referrals are made by the patient’s general practitioner, or in some cases also specialists, e.g, an endocrinologist. A typical scenario is that the patient’s doctor makes a referral when they are diagnosed, or as part of a regular check up for their chronic condition”.

Once Oviva has been sent the patient “goal,” such as losing weight, better blood sugar control etc., and the patient has been on-boarded, they start logging anything that is important related to their lifestyle and disease. This includes photos of meals, activity, weight and symptoms. They can also connect a step counter, weight scale or blood glucose meter to the app to complete most of the data collection automatically.

“You will agree specific behaviours you want to change over the course of the treatment with your dietitian (e.g. more vegetables and fruits, portion control, activity levels),” says Eberhardt. “Your dietitian and a group of peers will support you in achieving those goals. On the one hand that is motivation and emotional support, on the other hand with specific pointers targeted to your needs, e.g. around how you time meals and portion sizes over the day to avoid lows or hunger periods”.

Over the course of treatment, a patient can also have video-call appointments with their dietitian, and review a curriculum of videos and other content supporting the management of their condition, as part of a “behaviour change journey”.

Meanwhile, Christoph Ruedig, Partner at AlbionVC, says that despite compelling evidence that digital treatments improve patient access and outcomes while reducing costs for health systems, “Europe is investing a fraction” in digital health compared to the U.S. “We’re excited to continue to support Oviva’s accelerated roll out across Europe,” he says.

Categories: Business News

Paper-rich startup employees look for ‘pre-wealth’ help to lock down stock options

2020, January 15 - 10:28am

For Silicon Valley’s potential startup millionaires, compensation packages staked on future promises of wealth are where the action is, but what happens when these employees get laid off or have to leave before an exit?

When Wouter Witvoet left a startup that he had joined as employee #4, he felt relatively prepared, having set aside $50,000 to exercise his available stock options, only to be informed by HR that he was also liable to pay taxes on said options so he was about $1.8 million short with 90 days to settle up.

“I ended up losing my entire equity stake,” Witvoet tells TechCrunch.

Witvoet later founded Secfi, which is just one of a handful of entities looking to establish itself in the hot “pre-wealth” management space with what it calls forward purchase agreements enabling startup employees to exercise stock options and wait until an IPO or exit to make payments.

Looking to leverage paper wealth is hardly a new trend, but more institutional investors are eyeing the non-traditional opportunity as high-growth startups get harder to access. For some of the hedge funds and private equity funds playing around in this space, these deals represents a back door into the paydays of mature IPO-bound startups at a discount.

There are a number of players with hundreds of millions at play. Section Partners has $120M in committed capital and calls it option exercise financing a “lifeline” for employees facing option expiration. Troy Capital Group’s Quid has partnered with Oaktree Capital Management on a $200 million fund. The Bay Area ESO Fund has been providing this financing to startup employees since its founding in 2012.

Secfi, which has raised $7 million in venture funding from investors including Rucker Park Capital, Social Leverage and the Weekend Fund, had previously been acting as a go-between for multiple firms, but is announcing today that they’ve partnered with New York hedge fund Serengeti Asset Management, locking down a $550 million debt facility.

Taking out run-of-the-mill loans to exercise options with the assumption that a great exit inevitably awaits your startup is an awful call. These forward purchase agreements are backed by the options themselves so the recourse is limited to the options in question. If your startup succeeds, you’ll be paying the company back the principal, plus an interest rate and an equity rate, i.e. a good chunk of your upside. If your startup endures a WeWork-like fiasco, no one is coming after your car.

With more late-stage startups pumping the brakes on spending and eyeing layoffs, there aren’t many great resources for affected employees looking to see what their options are worth. Many end up finding themselves going down Quora rabbit holes, browsing for information that is rarely one-size-fits-all. Educating on an individual basis has its merits, but most of these options financing firms are also trying to get HR departments at companies to do a bit of the marketing for them through partnerships with the startups themselves.

As more money gets directed from these behemoth funds toward “pre-wealth” financial services, you can expect to see more startups like Secfi popping up hoping to offer potential startup millionaires a platform that extends beyond the pathway to options upside.

Categories: Business News

Don’t be a selfless startup

2020, January 15 - 7:21am

One of the enduring truths of big companies is that they aren’t innovative. They are “innovative” in the marketing sense, but fail to ever execute on new ideas, particularly when those ideas cannibalize existing products and revenues.

So it often takes a real competitor to force these incumbent, legacy businesses to evolve in any meaningful way. Usually that change leads to disruption, in the classic way that Clayton Christensen describes in “The Innovator’s Dilemma.” An upstart company creates a new technology or business model that is better for an under-served segment of a market, and as that company improves, it competes directly with the incumbent and eventually wins over its market with a vastly superior product.

Unfortunately, real life isn’t so easy, as WeWork and MoviePass have shown us over the past few years.

In both cases, there were incumbents. In movie theaters, you had AMC and the like, which built a business model around ticket sales (shared with movie studios) and food/beverage concessions that targeted occasional customers at a high price point. Meanwhile, in commercial real estate, you had large landowners and family holders who demanded extremely long rent terms at high prices, often with personal financial guarantees from the CEO of the tenant firm.

Categories: Business News

Google acquires AppSheet to bring no-code development to Google Cloud

2020, January 15 - 5:46am

Google announced today that it is buying AppSheet, an eight-year-old no-code mobile-application-building platform. The company had raised more than $17 million on a $60 million valuation, according to PitchBook data. The companies did not share the purchase price.

With AppSheet, Google gets a simple way for companies to build mobile apps without having to write a line of code. It works by pulling data from a spreadsheet, database or form, and using the field or column names as the basis for building an app.

It is integrated with Google Cloud already integrating with Google Sheets and Google Forms, but also works with other tools, including AWS DynamoDB, Salesforce, Office 365, Box and others. Google says it will continue to support these other platforms, even after the deal closes.

As Amit Zavery wrote in a blog post announcing the acquisition, it’s about giving everyone a chance to build mobile applications, even companies lacking traditional developer resources to build a mobile presence. “This acquisition helps enterprises empower millions of citizen developers to more easily create and extend applications without the need for professional coding skills,” he wrote.

In a story we hear repeatedly from startup founders, Praveen Seshadri, co-founder and CEO at AppSheet, sees an opportunity to expand his platform and market reach under Google in ways he couldn’t as an independent company.

“There is great potential to leverage and integrate more deeply with many of Google’s amazing assets like G Suite and Android to improve the functionality, scale, and performance of AppSheet. Moving forward, we expect to combine AppSheet’s core strengths with Google Cloud’s deep industry expertise in verticals like financial services, retail, and media  and entertainment,” he wrote.

Google sees this acquisition as extending its development philosophy with no-code working alongside workflow automation, application integration and API management.

No code tools like AppSheet are not going to replace sophisticated development environments, but they will give companies that might not otherwise have a mobile app the ability to put something decent out there.

Categories: Business News

Delta Air Lines’ startup partnerships are fueling innovation

2020, January 15 - 3:58am

For the first time, this year Delta Air Lines had a large presence at CES. The carrier used much of its space to highlight the “parallel reality” screens developed by Misapplied Sciences and Sarcos Robotics, which brought its latest Guardian exoskeleton. At the show, I sat down with COO Gil West, an industry veteran with years of experience at a number of airlines and airplane manufacturers, to talk about how the company works with these startups.

Like all large companies, Delta has gone through a bit of a digital transformation in recent years by rebuilding a lot of the technical infrastructure that powers its internal and external services (though like all airlines, it also still has plenty of legacy tech that is hard to replace). This work enabled the company to move faster, rethink a lot of its processes and heightened the reality that a lot of this innovation has to come from outside the company.

“If you think about where we are as a world right now, it’s a Renaissance period for transportation,” West said. “Now, fortunately, we’re right in the middle of it, but if you think about the different modes of transportation and autonomous and electrification — and the technologies like AI and ML — everything is converging. There’s truly, I think, a transportation revolution — and we’ll play in it.

Categories: Business News

Seattle’s ExtraHop expects $100M ARR in 2020, IPO the following year

2020, January 15 - 1:28am

Hello and welcome back to our regular morning look at private companies, public markets and the gray space in between.

Today we’re continuing our series on companies that have reached the $100 million annual recurring revenue (ARR) threshold, or are about to. ExtraHop is the company of the day, a Seattle-based firm that deals with cloud analytics and a portion of the security world called “network detection and response.”

ExtraHop is interesting because of its scale, its IPO plans and its history of capital efficiency. Regular readers will recall that we’ve praised Braze and Egnyte in this series, noting that, compared to some unicorns and other members of the $100 million ARR club, they had raised modest sums. Both have raised a multiple of ExtraHop’s own known capital tally.

TechCrunch got on the phone yesterday with ExtraHop’s CEO Arif Kareem and CFO Bill Ruckelshaus to dig in more. Here’s what we learned.

Growth

In conjunction with its ARR and IPO notes that we’ll deal with shortly, ExtraHop announced a number of financial metrics this morning, including: more than $150 million in bookings in 2019, up from over $100 million in 2018; and, revenue growth of “more than” 40% in 2019, a threshold it also cleared in 2018.

Categories: Business News

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