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Acting as the data integrator between hospitals and digital health apps brings Redox $33 million

2019, April 18 - 3:46am

Investors have forked over $33 million in a new round of funding for Redox, hoping that the company can execute on its bid to serve as the link between healthcare providers and the technology companies bringing new digital services to market.

The financing comes just two months after Redox sealed a deal with Microsoft to act as the integration partner connecting Microsoft’s Teams product to electronic health records through the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources standard.

Redox sits at a critically important crossroads in the modern healthcare industry. Its founder, a former employee at the electronic health record software provider Epic, knows more than most about the central position that data occupies in U.S. healthcare at the moment.

“What we’re doing, we’re building the platform and connector to help health systems integrate with technologies in the cloud,” says chief executive, Luke Bonney. 

Bonney served as a team lead in various divisions at Epic before launching Redox, and the Madison, Wis.-based company was crafted with the challenges other vendors faced when trying to integrate with legacy systems like the health record provider.

“The fundamental problem is helping a large health system use a third-party tool that they want to use,” says Bonney. And the biggest obstacle, he said, is finding a way to organize into a format that application developers can work with the data coming from healthcare providers. 

Investors including RRE Ventures, Intermountain Ventures and .406 Ventures joined new investor Battery Ventures in financing the $33 million round. As part of the deal, Battery Ventures general partner Chelsea Stoner will take a seat on the company’s board.

Application developers pay for the number of integrations they have with a health system, and Redox enables them to connect through a standard application programming interface, according to the company. 

Its approach allows secure messaging across any format associated with an organization’s electronic health record (EHR), the company said. 

Redox works with more than 450 healthcare providers and hundreds of application developers, the company said.

High-profile healthcare networks that work with the company include AdventHealth, Atrium Health, Brigham & Women’s, Clarify Health, Cleveland Clinic, Geisinger, HCA, Healthgrades, Intermountain Healthcare, Invitae, Fitbit, Memorial Sloan Kettering, Microsoft, Ochsner, OSF HealthCare, PointClickCare, R1, ResMed, Stryker, UCSF, University of Pennsylvania and WellStar.

Categories: Business News

NuvoAir raises $3M to help patients monitor respiratory diseases with AI

2019, April 18 - 3:42am

With air quality not improving any time soon (hello pollution!), respiratory conditions are on the rise. This has created an opportunity for startups to employ smartphones to monitor respiratory diseases with apps and smart devices.

ResApp’s smartphone app, called ResAppDx, diagnoses a wide range of respiratory illnesses accurately by using cough sounds. Healthymize listens for signals of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) when you make calls.

NuvoAir is a new digital therapeutics startup that is also tackling this problem. It has now closed a financing round of $3 million led by venture capital firm Industrifonden, one of the largest life science and tech investors in the Nordics. The round also saw participation from existing investor Investment AB Spiltan.

Aria, NuvoAir’s digital therapeutics software, sends a patient personalized care suggestions based their condition.

NuvoAir aims to make respiratory diseases measurable and more treatable. Established in 2015, NuvoAir launched a smartphone-connected “spirometer,” making real-time lung function assessment possible at home. It has now collected more than 500,000 spirometry tests in the last three years. These tests power its machine learning algorithms to provide insights to patients, their physicians and pharma companies.

Lorenzo Consoli, CEO of NuvoAir, said, “This investment and partnership can significantly advance our focus on digital therapeutics and bring to market new smart devices to help patients manage their condition while improving physicians’ clinical decisions.”

Categories: Business News

Twitter acqui-hires highlight-sharing app Highly

2019, April 18 - 3:19am

Quotes from articles are much more eye-catching than links on Twitter, so the social giant is scooping up the team behind highlight-sharing app Highly. This talent could help Twitter build its own version of Highly or develop other ways to excerpt the best content from websites and get it into the timeline.

Twitter confirmed to TechCrunch that the deal was an acqui-hire, and a spokesperson provided this statement: “We are excited to welcome the Highly team to Twitter. Their expertise will accelerate our product and design thinking around making Twitter more conversational.” We’ve asked about what data portability options Highly will offer.

Highly will shut down its iOS and Slack app on April 26th, though it promises that “No highlights will be harmed.” It’s also making its paid “Crowd Control” for private highlight sharing plus Highly For Teams free in the meantime.

“Social highlights can make sharing stories online feel personal, efficient and alive — like retelling a story to a friend, over coffee. They give people shared context and spark meaningful conversations,” the Highly team writes.

Quotes can make the difference between someone breezing past a link they don’t want to leave Twitter to explore, and getting a peek at what’s smart about an article so they know if it’s worth diving deeper. Many people use OneShot to generate Twitter-formatted screenshots of posts. But Highly lets you just rub your finger over text to turn it into an image with a link back to the article for easy tweeting. You could also search an archive of your past highlights, and follow curators who spot the best quotes. Its browser extensions and native app let you highlight from wherever you read.

Get Highly before Twitter shuts down its appshttps://t.co/3yLbfWW25l pic.twitter.com/xAEMG7oJai

— Josh Constine (@JoshConstine) April 17, 2019

“Sharing highlights, not headlines — sharing thinking instead of lazily linking — helps spark the kind of conversation that leaves participants and observers alike a bit better off than they started. We’d like to see more of this,” the Highly teams writes. That’s why it’s joining Twitter to work on improving conversation health. Founded in 2014, Highly had raised a seed round in 2017.

Twitter’s shift to algorithmic ranking of the timeline means every tweet has to compete to be seen. Blasting out links that are a chore to open and read can lead to low engagement, causing Twitter to show it to fewer people. Tools like Highly can give tweeters a leg up. And if Twitter can build these tools right into its service, it could allow more people to create appealing tweets so they actually feel heard.

Categories: Business News

As researchers pursue links between bacteria and human health, startups stand to benefit

2019, April 18 - 2:00am

In 2009, the National Institutes of Health launched a five-year, $150 million project to stimulate research into a new field of medicine examining the connections between the millions of bacteria living in the human gut and overall human health.

Spurred by the advancements in genetics from a decade earlier, this new field of research would map not just the human genome, but the genetic sequences of the microbes living in the body to ascertain their function and the role they played in ensuring the health of the humans they inhabited.

A decade later, investors are encouraging the commercialization of these tools with hundreds of millions in financing for startup companies with names like uBiome, Viome, Finch Therapeutics, Kallyope, Second Genome, Human Longevity, Maat Pharma, Seed and many, many more.

In all, these companies have raised well over half a billion dollars.

Some of these companies, like Finch Therapeutics, Second Genome, and Maat Pharma are squarely in the clinical world of big pharma — developing treatments for disease through standard research techniques and clinical trials.

Others, like uBiome and Viome, have gone directly to consumers first. Looking to build up a body of knowledge about the microbiome through consumer microbiome analysis kits that will give customers a snapshot of the microbes living in their gut ,and offer basic recommendations on how changes in diet could improve their overall health.

Viome chief executive and co-founder, Naveen Jain

These companies are operating in the regulatory gray area that governs supplements and nutraceuticals, which means they aren’t subject to regulatory approval.

But as they look for validation and acceptance in retail stores and scientific journals, they’re beginning to focus on clinically validated trials to prove that the science behind their recommendations is sound — and so that they can move further up the value chain into drug development. It’s like the strategy that 23andMe used to collect a body of genetic knowledge that the company is now offering up to drug companies so they can collaborate on developing new treatments for diseases.

Earlier this year, uBiome, which has raised over $100 million from investors for its microbiome testing kits since its launch in 2012, laid off over 50 employees in a move the company said was designed to refocus its efforts on drug development.

Now, Viome has raised $25 million as it pursues roughly 15 clinical research trials and looks to move into developing treatments of its own.

The goal of the trials is “to show that our intervention that we’re recommending actually produces results,” says Jain.

Recent scientific research has shown that focusing on microbiome health can reduce the disease burden or slow progression for a variety of illnesses including depression, osteoarthritis, functional bowel diseases, and multiple sclerosis.

Photo: Andrew Brookes/Getty Images

For its part, Viome is focusing on colorectal cancer, breast cancer, depression and anxiety, diabetes and obesity, Crohn’s disease, colitis and digestive disorders.

While Viome has lagged behind other companies in filing patents and publishing papers, the new $25 million in funding from new and existing investors including Khosla Ventures, Bold Capital, Marc Benioff, Physician Partners, Hambrecht Healthcare Growth Venture Fund, and Matthew Harris of Global Infrastructure Partners will likely change that.

What separates Viome from other companies in the direct-to-consumer microbiome space is its testing technology, according to Jain. The company is the first spinout from Jain’s BlueDot venture, which was founded to commercialize orphaned technology coming from various national research laboratories around the country.

Viome’s tests have their origins in tech that BlueDot pulled from Los Alamos National Laboratory which is a variant on sequencing ribonucleic acid, the messenger mechanism which provides instructions to cells on what they should be producing.

Jain and his team of scientists argue that by sequencing RNA they can see the signaling pathway and metabolic pathway for how bacteria are producing chemicals in the body that can benefit or harm human health.

Viome and uBiome both benefited from their embrace by the “quantified self,” biohacking, and wellness communities that are looking for ways to optimize health using homeopathic or natural remedies for many diseases.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

“Three years ago the microbiome was a very niche market and now the market is more mainstream. Now that it is mainstream it has to work for people,” says Jain. “It can’t simply be a research tool for the self-quantified people. It has to deliver value.”

That’s why the company is beginning to develop its clinical trials — a process that Jain said came with some growing pains.

A brief scan of customer reviews for the company’s product on consumer reporting websites reveals that not everyone has embraced Viome’s products and services and Jain attributed those reviews to the company’s decision to receive CLIA certification — something Jain said was necessary to proceed with the clinical trial research.

“We had growing pains last November and December. We were growing fast and we wanted to become a clinically certified lab…. That certification took a month [then] once we got the federal certification and we needed to get the state certification,” Jain says. “In those three months we got a lot of unhappy customers.”

Some industry observers ascribe the struggles of microbiome-focused startups less to their movement into clinical trials and more to the simple fact that these companies tackled the market too early, while much of the science remains unproven.

“The microbiome space is incredibly important too. But there is both on the scientific side a wealth of information that is still to be uncovered and the collection and understanding of that data needs to be moving that field forward,” said one entrepreneur in the consumer health market. “But the process [for] consumers is still too early.”

That’s likely one reason why both Viome and uBiome are looking to develop treatments.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

“We are going to break even or lose money on selling the kits,” says Jain. “Once we understand why people have insomnia, diabetes and depression, then we can come up with a personalized set of nutrients that each person needs… Some could be new types of probiotics or prebiotics.”

Meanwhile, uBiome is touting its own patent portfolio as indicative of the real science behind its services (although most of the patents are around the technology it uses to sequence and analyze microbiome health, not any treatment protocols based on its analysis).

The company’s chief officers and researchers hold the first, second, and third spots as top microbiome inventors in terms of portfolio size and they hold the second, third, and fourth spots in terms of patent quality. This study provides a case study of how in-depth patent analyses can identify early indicators of technology and investment trends from large patent databases, according to a statement from uBiome last month.

The patents cover the method and analysis of their microbiome test kits, as well as the diagnostics and therapeutics of conditions ranging from cardiovascular disease, endocrine conditions, autoimmune disorders, neurological disorders, and more, the company said.

Both Jain and uBiome chief executive Jessica Richman are unlikely standard bearers for the potential of microbiome treatments. Neither have a background in science, but both believe strongly in the need to give consumers access to the potential benefits of the science quickly.

“The NIH-funded Human Microbiome Project (HMP) was a five-year, $173 million endeavor to better understand the human microbiome that ran from 2007 to August 2012. We started our crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo in November 2012– right after it ended,” Richman said in an interview published on the Y Combinator site. “We wanted to take the results of the HMP and bring them directly to the public, enabling all of us to learn about our microbiomes and participate in science as soon as possible– without waiting years and years for the results to trickle down into products and services that people could use.”

For Jain, Viome represents an opportunity to give back and a chance to develop a cure for the disease that killed his father.

“It is more than a company to me it is a mission to me it is my promise to my dad to making it right,” Jain says. “It’s also part of paying it forward.”

Categories: Business News

How-to video maker Jumprope launches to leapfrog YouTube

2019, April 18 - 1:13am

Sick of pausing and rewinding YouTube tutorials to replay that tricky part? Jumprope is a new instructional social network offering a powerful how-to video slideshow creation tool. Jumprope helps people make step-by-step guides to cooking, beauty, crafts, parenting and more using voice-overed looping GIFs for each phase. And creators can export their whole lesson for sharing on Instagram, YouTube or wherever.

Jumprope officially launches its iOS app today with plenty of how-tos for making chocolate chip bars, Easter eggs, flower boxes or fierce eyebrows. “By switching from free-form linear video to something much more structured, we can make it much easier for people to share their knowledge and hacks,” says Jumprope co-founder and CEO Jake Poses.

The rise of Snapchat Stories and Pinterest have made people comfortable jumping on camera and showing off their niche interests. By building a new medium, Jumprope could become the home for rapid-fire learning. And because viewers will have tons of purchase intent for the makeup, art supplies or equipment they’ll need to follow along, Jumprope could make serious cash off ads or affiliate commerce.

The opportunity to bring instruction manuals into the mobile video era has attracted a $4.5 million seed round led by Lightspeed Venture Partners and joined by strategic angels like Adobe Chief Product Officer Scott Belsky and Thumbtack co-founders Marco Zappacosta and Jonathan Swanson. People are already devouring casual education content on HGTV and the Food Network, but Jumprope democratizes its creation.

Jumprope co-founders (from left): CTO Travis Johnson and CEO Jake Poses

The idea came from a deeply personal place for Poses. “My brother has pretty severe learning differences, and so growing up with him gave me this appreciation for figuring out how to break things down and explain them to people,” Poses reveals. “I think that attached me to this problem of ‘how do you organize information so it’s simple and easy to understand?’ Lots and lots of people have this information trapped in their heads because there isn’t a way to easily share that.”

Poses was formerly the VP of Product at Thumbtack where he helped grow the company from 8 to 500 people and a $1.25 billion valuation. He teamed up with AppNexus’ VP of engineering Travis Johnson, who’d been leading a 50-person team of coders. “The product takes people who have knowledge and passion but not the skill to make video [and gives them] guard rails that make it easy to communicate,” Poses explains.

Disrupting incumbents like YouTube’s grip on viewers might take years, but Jumprope sees its guide creation and export tool as a way to infiltrate and steal their users. That strategy mirrors how TikTok’s watermarked exports colonized the web.

How to make a Jumprope

Jumprope lays out everything you’ll need to upload, including a cover image, introduction video, supplies list and all your steps. For each, you’ll record a video that you can then enhance with voice-over, increased speed, music and filters.

Creators are free to suggest their own products or enter affiliate links to monetize their videos. Once it has enough viewers, Jumprope plans to introduce advertising, but it could also add tipping, subscriptions, paid how-tos or brand sponsorship options down the line. Creators can export their lessons with five different border themes and seven different aspect ratios for posting to Instagram’s feed, IGTV, Snapchat Stories, YouTube or embedding on their blog.

“Like with Stories, you basically tap through at your own pace,” Poses says of the viewing experience. Jumprope offers some rudimentary discovery through categories, themed collections or what’s new and popular. The startup has done extensive legwork to sign up featured creators in all its top categories. That means Jumprope’s catalog is already extensive, with food guides ranging from cinnabuns to pot roasts to how to perfectly chop an onion. 

“You’re not constantly dealing with the frustration of cooking something and trying to start and stop the video with greasy hands. And if you don’t want all the details, you can tap through it much faster” than trying to skim a YouTube video or blog post, Poses tells me. Next the company wants to build a commenting feature where you can leave notes, substitution suggestions and more on each step of a guide.

Poses claims there’s no one building a direct competitor to its mobile video how-to editor. But he admits it will be an uphill climb to displace viewership on Instagram and YouTube. One challenge facing Jumprope is that most people aren’t hunting down how-to videos every day. The app will have to work to remind users it exists and that they shouldn’t just go with the lazy default of letting Google recommend the videos it hosts.

The internet has gathered communities around every conceivable interest. But greater access to creation and consumption necessitates better tools for production and curation. As we move from a material to an experiential culture, people crave skills that will help them forge memories and contribute to the world around them. Jumprope makes it a lot less work to leap into the life of a guru.

You can watch my first Jumprope here or below to learn how to tie up headphones without knots:

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Categories: Business News

The Exit: an AI startup’s McPivot

2019, April 18 - 1:05am

Five years ago, Dynamic Yield was courting an investment from The New York Times as it looked to shift how publishers paywalled their content. Last month, Chicago-based fast food king McDonald’s bought the Israeli company for $300 million, a source told TechCrunch, with the purpose of rethinking how people order drive-thru chicken nuggets.

The pivot from courting the grey lady to the golden arches isn’t as drastic as it sounds. In a lot of ways, it’s the result of the company learning to say “no” to certain customers. At least, that’s what Bessemer’s Adam Fisher tells us.

The Exit is a new series at TechCrunch. It’s an exit interview of sorts with a VC who was in the right place at the right time but made the right call on an investment that paid off. 

Fisher

Fisher was Dynamic Yield founder Liad Agmon’s first call when he started looking for funds from institutional investors. Bessemer bankrolled the bulk of a $1.7 million funding round which valued the startup at $5 million pre-money back in 2013. The firm ended up putting about $15 million into Dynamic Yield, which raised ~$85 million in total from backers including Marker Capital, Union Tech Ventures, Baidu and The New York Times.

Fisher and I chatted at length about the company’s challenging rise and how Israel’s tech scene is still being underestimated. Fisher has 11 years at Bessemer under his belt and 14 exits including Wix, Intucell, Ravello and Leaba.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Saying “No”

Lucas Matney: So, right off the bat, how exactly did this tool initially built for publishers end up becoming something that McDonalds wanted?

Adam Fisher: I mean, the story of Dynamic Yield is unique. Liad, the founder and CEO, he was an entrepreneur in residence in our Herzliya office back in 2011. I’d identified him earlier from his previous company, and I just said, ‘Well, that’s the kind of guy I’d love to work with.’ I didn’t like his previous company, but there was something about his charisma, his technology background, his youth, which I just felt like “Wow, he’s going to do something interesting.” And so when he sold his previous company, coincidentally to another Chicago based company called Sears, I invited him and I think he found it very flattering, so he joined us as an EIR.

And really only at the very end of his residence did he come up with this idea that would become Dynamic Yield. He came about it very much focused on the problem he saw with publishers being outwitted by ad buyers. He felt like all the big publishers really didn’t understand their digital businesses, didn’t understand their users, didn’t understand how performance ad buying was working, and he began to build a product that could dynamically optimize a publisher’s website to maximize revenue, hence the yield … the dynamic yield.

But very quickly, we told him, ‘That’s interesting, but we’re not sure how big that market is. And, you know it’s not always great to sell to those kind of weak customers. Sometimes they’re weak for a reason.’

Categories: Business News

Help TechCrunch find the best startup growth marketing agencies

2019, April 18 - 1:05am

While billions of people are now online, thousands of companies large and small are using every channel they can to reach them. Companies like Slack, Airbnb, Pinterest, Instagram and Dropbox have become dominant players in their market in the course of a few years, but how did they do it? As traditional marketing channels, like newspapers, TV and PR, become less effective, how do startups go from zero users to their first million customers?

Today, we’re launching a new initiative to help founders find the best growth marketing agencies in tech. If you’ve worked with a talented growth team that has helped your company scale, please fill out this two-minute nomination form.

Growth marketing is an interdisciplinary term that applies product management, engineering, analytics and marketing techniques to solve one of the most gnarly challenges for startups: getting more people to use your product.

While technological barriers are lower and digital marketing channels are more affordable, it’s still exceptionally difficult for early-stage companies to acquire, retain and monetize new users. Channels like SEO and email are saturated and newer marketing channels underperform over time. Entrepreneurs need to be more creative and strategic to win their market, and fortunately there are services that can help.    

Growth marketing is one of our latest efforts to make it easier and faster for founders to find the best service providers in the world. Whether it’s lawyers, brand designers or growth marketers, we rely on founder nominations, like yours, to determine who we feature on our shortlist of Extra Crunch Verified Experts.

So, if you’ve worked with an awesome growth marketing agency, fill out this nomination form, and be on the lookout for profiles of our top founder-approved agencies in the next few weeks.  

Have any questions? Email ec_editors@techcrunch.com.

Categories: Business News

EAT Club acquires Taro to expand its corporate lunch program

2019, April 18 - 1:00am

EAT Club, the lunch delivery service that counts companies like Facebook, Postmates and others as customers, has acquired meal delivery service Taro. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Taro’s business model worked by shipping pre-made meals directly to consumers. With the acquisition, however, Taro will no longer serve customers directly. Instead, it will be folded into EAT Club’s corporate program that enables employees to select their individually packed lunch.

“EAT Club is the only food delivery service for businesses that treats eating in the workplace as a personalized culinary experience,” Taro co-founder and CEO Krishna Mehra said in a statement. “When we set out to expand our reach and distribution beyond family dinners, EAT Club emerged as a natural partner with its unique approach of delivering employees individualized selection within a collaborative atmosphere. EAT Club is making it possible for thousands of new workers to experience Taro’s food and flavors, and we are proud to join forces with them in increasing workplace satisfaction.”

What attracted EAT Club to Taro was its emphasis on healthy, authentic meals, and its approach to managing food production and distribution, EAT Club CEO Doug Leeds told TechCrunch.

“They’ve built some really interesting things we want to keep competitively secret on the equipment side,” Leeds said. “From top to bottom, we were pretty excited about what we were seeing at Taro. We’re going to take their people, tech, recipes and food production processes, and apply them to our existing customers.”

Leeds, the former CEO of IAC Publishing, joined EAT Club last year. Despite his short tenure, this marks the second acquisition under his leadership. Last year, EAT Club acquired lunch box delivery service Farm Hill.

EAT Club has served more than 17 million meals to employees to date, which comes out to about 25,000 meals a day. Given the amount of energy required for that level of production, EAT Club has implemented what it’s calling a Zero Carbon Initiative. Through the initiative, EAT Club will offset its carbon footprint by matching its electricity usage with renewable energy generation. EAT Club also plans to make all of its packaging either recyclable or compostable and support landfill recapture programs.

“By far, the biggest carbon impact of our business is in the delivery — the transportation aspect,” Leeds said. “But we wanted to go further than that. In our production, it was in all of the energy we used to cook food. We wanted to see what is the actual carbon footprint of the entire operation.”

On the employee-side, EAT Club plans to provide stronger commuter benefits and is looking to move its Los Angeles-based office to a location closer to the metro line, Leeds said. To date, EAT Club has raised more than $46 million from investors like August Capital, Trinity Ventures and Sodexo Ventures.

Categories: Business News

Verified Expert Brand Designer: Lake Buckley

2019, April 18 - 12:50am

In 2017, Lake Buckley turned down an in-house role at Patagonia to launch her freelance design career in a 400 sq. ft studio in Brooklyn, NY. Since then, the RISD-trained designer and art director has helped founders bring their mission-driven brand to life. We spoke with Lake about why she chose to become an independent designer, what makes a successful client collaboration, and what projects she’s most proud of (hint: one of them involves fig wasps).

Why she likes working with founders:

I think entrepreneurs are less jaded. They’re putting a lot more on the line and so because of that, oftentimes, they’re going to be a bit more awake at the switch, a bit more passionate, and down to do things in a non-traditional way. I really enjoy the level of excitement that they bring to the table because there is no one forcing them to start their own company. It’s coming from a place of genuine belief in their idea. It’s contagious. I think it’s important to maintain a sense that you’re doing things out of choice, not because you’re forced to. I really appreciate that energy coming from founders.

On her ideal client:

“I am excited about companies that care about design and are interested in taking risks and having a unique visual perspective. I love it when there is room to be humorous, bizarre, and slightly whimsical. I have a bold POV, and I look for clients that celebrate that.”

“Lake created an entire illustration system, a photography system, a color system, elements for a tone of voice, and a detailed strategy for deploying each of these elements in harmony.” A media executive in NYC

Below, you’ll find the rest of the founder reviews, the full interview, and more details like pricing and fee structures. This profile is part of our ongoing series covering startup brand designers and agencies with whom founders love to work, based on this survey and our own research. The survey is open indefinitely, so please fill it out if you haven’t already.

The Interview

Yvonne Leow: Can you tell me how you got started in design?

Lake Buckley: I’ve always been a maker. As a kid, I had a hundred projects going on at once. Knitting shoes, baking bread, drawing, making short movies with my brothers, etc. As I got older, I continued to study design and art as well as environmental science. The art gallery world that I had been exposed too felt too insular, and I enjoyed the practical nature of design and the myriad applications of it. I studied art and science in undergrad but I wanted a more formal design training, so I pursued graphic design at RISD for my graduate degree.

Categories: Business News

Airbase launches with $7M Series A to simplify spending control systems

2019, April 18 - 12:00am

Airbase is a startup with a plan to change the way you think about accounting around spending. Instead of multiple workflows, it wants to create a simpler one involving, well, Airbase. It’s a bold move for any startup to take on something as entrenched as financials, but it’s giving it a shot, and today the company launched with a $7 million Series A investment.

First Round Capital was lead investor. Maynard Webb, Village Global, BoxGroup and Quiet Capital also participated. The deal closed at the end of November last year. This is the first external funding for the company, which company founder and CEO Thejo Kote had bootstrapped previously with $300,000 of his own money.

“At a high level, Airbase is the first all-in-one spend management system. It replaces a number of different systems that companies use to manage how they spend money,” Kote told TechCrunch.

He knows of what he speaks. Prior to starting this company, Kote co-founded Automatic, a startup that he sold to SiriusXM for more than $100 million in 2017. As a founder, he saw just how difficult it was to track the vast variety of spending inside a company, from supplies to subscriptions to food and drink.

“Think about the hundreds of things that companies spend money on, and the way in which the management of that happens is a pretty broken process today,” he said. For starters, it usually involves some sort of approval request in a tool like Slack, Jira or Google forms.

Once approved, the person requesting the expense will put that on a company credit card, then have to submit expense reports at the end of each month using a tool like Expensify. If you purchase from a vendor, then that involves an invoice and that has to be processed and paid. Finally it would need to be reconciled and accounted for in accounting software. Each step of this process ends up being time-consuming and costly for an organization.

Kote’s idea was to take this process and streamline it by removing the friction, which he saw as being related to the disparate systems in place to get the work done. He believed by creating a single workflow on a unified, single platform he could create a smoother system for everyone involved.

He is putting that single system between the bank and the accounting system, including a virtual Airbase Visa card to take the place of physical cards. Request for spending happens inside Airbase instead of an external tool. When the virtual card gets charged, bookkeeping and reconciliation gets handled in Airbase and pushed to your accounting package of choice.

Airbase workflow. Diagram: Airbase

This could be a difficult proposition for companies with existing systems in place, but could be attractive to startups and small companies whose accounting systems have not yet hardened. Perhaps that’s why most of Airbase’s customers are startups or SMBs with between 500 and 5,000 employees, such as Gusto, Netlify and Segment.

Bill Trenchard, general partner at lead investor First Round Capital, says he has seen very little innovation in this space and that’s what drew him to Airbase. “Airbase has taken a bold step forward to create an entirely new paradigm. It delivers a real solution to the biggest problems finance teams face as their companies grow,” Trenchard said in a statement.

The company was founded in 2017 and has 22 employees. It has a sales office in San Francisco, but other employees are spread across four countries.

Categories: Business News

Alsid raises $14.7 million to secure your Active Directory installation

2019, April 17 - 11:06pm

French startup Alsid has raised a $14.7 million funding round (€13 million). The company is working on a security solution to protect your Microsoft Active Directory installation and make sure a hacker can’t access your system.

Idinvest Partners is leading today’s round. Existing investors 360 Capital Partners and Axeleo Capital are also participating.

If you have a corporate laptop or if you access files on your corporate network, chances are your company uses Active Directory. Most companies uses this directory service to manage users and their access rights. Whenever you enter your login and password on your corporate laptop, macOS or Windows check the Active Directory to see if you have the rights to use this laptop and various corporate services.

Big companies have a hard time managing this directory. They acquire other companies, merge directories and don’t realize that some users end up with very generous access rights. Hackers take advantage of that.

There are some solutions to scan your directory and fix vulnerabilities, but they require admin access. They create a risk as much as a solution. Alsid has a completely different approach.

“We operate like an employee working remotely. Our system asks a lot of questions to the directory and detects issues,” co-founder and CEO Emmanuel Gras told me in 2017. The company creates a normal user account, connects to your corporate network with a VPN and uses Microsoft’s API to attack your own Active Directory.

Alsid then generates reports with detailed steps to protect a directory. And, of course, the company tries to monitor the directory as often as possible. You can deploy Alsid locally or in the cloud.

The company uses a software-as-a-service approach and currently monitors 3 million Active Directory users. Many big companies already use the service, such as Groupe Accor, Orange, Sanofi and Unibail-Roadmco-Westfield.

Categories: Business News

Meet the first judges for The Europas Awards (27 June) and enter your startup now!

2019, April 17 - 11:06pm

I’m excited to announce that The Europas Awards for European Tech Startups is really shaping up! The awards will be held on 27 June 2019, in London, U.K. on the front lawn of the Geffrye Museum in Hoxton, London — creating a fantastic and fun garden party atmosphere in the heart of London’s tech startup scene.

TechCrunch is once more the exclusive media sponsor of the awards and conference, alongside new “tech, culture & society” event creator The Pathfounder.

Here’s how to enter and be considered for the awards.

You can nominate a startup, accelerator or venture investor that you think deserves to be recognized for their achievements in the last 12 months.

*** The deadline for nominations is 1 May 2019 ***

For the 2019 awards, we’ve overhauled the categories to a set that we believe better reflects the range of innovation, diversity and ambition we see in the European startups being built and launched today. There are now 20 categories, including new additions to cover AgTech / FoodTech, SpaceTech, GovTech and Mobility Tech.

Attendees, nominees and winners will get discounts to TechCrunch Disrupt in Berlin, later this year.

The Europas “Diversity Pass”

We’d like to encourage more diversity in tech! That’s why, for the upcoming invitation-only “Pathfounder” event held on the afternoon before The Europas Awards, we’ve reserved a tranche of free tickets to ensure that we include more women and people of colour who are “pre-seed” or “seed-stage” tech startup founders. If you are a women founder or person of colour founder, apply here for a chance to be considered for one of the limited free diversity passes to the event.

The Pathfounder event will feature premium content and invitees, designed be a “fast download” into the London tech scene for European founders looking to raise money or re-locate to London.

The Europas Awards

The Europas Awards results are based on voting by expert judges and the industry itself.

But key to it is that there are no “off-limits areas” at The Europas, so attendees can mingle easily with VIPs.

The complete list of categories is here:

  1. AgTech / FoodTech
  2. CleanTech
  3. Cyber
  4. EdTech
  5. FashTech
  6. FinTech
  7. Public, Civic and GovTech
  8. HealthTech
  9. MadTech (AdTech / MarTech)
  10. Mobility Tech
  11. PropTech
  12. RetailTech
  13. Saas/Enterprise or B2B
  14. SpaceTech
  15. Tech for Good
  16. Hottest Blockchain Project
  17. Hottest Blockchain Investor
  18. Hottest VC Fund
  19. Hottest Seed Fund
  20. Grand Prix

Timeline of The Europas Awards deadlines:
* 6 March 2019 – Submissions open
* 1 May 2019 – Submissions close
* 10 May 2019 – Public voting begins
* 18 June 2019 – Public voting ends
* 27 June 2019 – Awards Bash

Amazing networking

We’re also shaking up the awards dinner itself. Instead of a sit-down gala dinner, we’ve taken feedback for more opportunities to network. Our awards ceremony this year will be in the setting of a garden lawn party, where you’ll be able to meet and mingle more easily, with free-flowing drinks and a wide-selection of street food (including vegetarian/vegan). The ceremony itself will last approximately 75 minutes, with the rest of the time dedicated to networking. If you’d like to talk about sponsoring or exhibiting, please contact dianne@thepathfounder.com

Instead of thousands and thousands of people, think of a great summer event with the most interesting and useful people in the industry, including key investors and leading entrepreneurs.

The Europas Awards have been going for the last 10 years, and we’re the only independent and editorially driven event to recognise the European tech startup scene. The winners have been featured in Reuters, Bloomberg, VentureBeat, Forbes, Tech.eu, The Memo, Smart Company, CNET, many others — and of course, TechCrunch.

• No secret VIP rooms, which means you get to interact with the speakers

• Key founders and investors attending

• Journalists from major tech titles, newspapers and business broadcasters

Meet the first set of our 20 judges:


Brent Hoberman
Executive Chairman and Co-Founder
Founders Factory


Videesha Böckle
Founding Partner
signals Venture Capital


Bindi Karia
Innovation Expert + Advisor, Investor
Bindi Ventures


Christian Hernandez Gallardo
Co-Founder and Venture Partner at White Star Capital

Categories: Business News

Lyric raises $160 million in debt and equity to power the next generation of hospitality

2019, April 17 - 11:00pm

Lyric, a platform for folks who struggle to decide between a hotel and an Airbnb, has today announced the close a $160 million financing round (an even combination of debt and equity). Airbnb led the equity financing. Other investors that participated in the financing include Tishman Speyer, RXR Realty, Obvious Ventures, SineWave, Dick Costolo and Adam Bain, as well as existing investors Barry Sternlicht, NEA, SignalFire, FifthWall and Tusk Ventures.

Lyric is a hospitality platform for business travelers. The company secures its own inventory in multi-family residential buildings through partnerships with landlords. From there, the company brings in its designers to beautify the place and pack it full of amenities, including coffee from a local roaster and a fully functional kitchen.

You can think of Lyric as a premium operator,” said co-founder and CEO Andrew Kitchell. “We do everything from selecting locations to bringing in a brand and design team to managing every single room every single day. We’re a modern hotel operator with a meaningfully different supply.”

[gallery ids="1813701,1813700,1813698,1813697"]

The startup uses a proprietary app called Tidy to manage room cleanings. The app not only walks cleaners through the process of getting a rental ready for the next customer or day, but also has them take photographs to verify that the room is up to standard. Cleaners are not employed in-house, but rather Lyric partners with local vendors for room cleanings and maintenance. The company also uses tech to help determine which locations work best for a Lyric rental in a given city.

One of the biggest differences between Airbnb and Lyric is that Lyric is more of a premium hotel operator, putting the latter in lockstep with landlords rather than pitted against them. Lyric argues to landlords that it can be an anchor tenant in a new building, which means the landlord can avoid at least some of their inventory just sitting unrented. It also can be seen as an amenity for other tenants, who can put up their visitors at a discount on a different floor in their very building.

Here’s what Airbnb’s president of Homes, Greg Greeley, had to say:

At Airbnb, we have seen how hospitality entrepreneurs like the team at Lyric can help deliver amazing experiences and help guests feel like they can belong anywhere in the world. Lyric has combined the latest technology, strong partnerships with the real estate community and cutting-edge design, and we are excited to support their work.

This financing comes at an interesting time for the hospitality market. While Airbnb disrupts hotels, the lines are being blurred around what is a hotel and what is a rental. We’ve already seen big acquisitions in the space — see AccorHotel’s $170 million acquisition of OneFineStay — as well as big players enter it. WeWork launched a co-living product called WeLive in 2016.

Lyric is currently available in 13 markets, and Kitchell says that the company is operating legally in every one of them. The company provides Studios, 1BR and 2BR units, with a starting price around $200/night, depending on the market.

With the new funding, Lyric hopes to expand its operations and go from its current 500 units across 13 markets to 1,000 units by the end of the year. Lyric has raised a total of $185 million.

This post has been updated to clarify that the $160 million financing was an equal split between debt and equity.

Categories: Business News

Aidoc, the AI solution for medical imaging analysis, raises $27M Series B

2019, April 17 - 10:00pm

Aidoc, the Tel Aviv startup using AI to analyse medical scans, has raised $27 million in Series B funding. The round is led by Square Peg Capital and brings total funding to date to $40 million. The company’s previous backers include Israeli VC TLV Partners, Magma Ventures and Emerge.

Offering a solution aimed at radiologists — and already deployed commercially across 100 sites — Aidoc claims to be able to detect high-level visual abnormalities from various types of medical scans. The idea is that by working in tandem with humans, it’s able to flag the most critical and urgent cases where a faster diagnosis and treatment could save lives.

Initially providing support for CT scans, the Israeli startup recently reached its millionth analysed patient scan. It says it is adding support for oncology and X-ray. The oncology solution will automatically and instantly detect, measure and compare tumour size with past scans as soon as the radiologist opens the image. I’m also told that another feature on the upcoming roadmap is support for MRI scans.

Meanwhile, Aidoc has grown its team from 5 people to 60 since we last covered the company in early 2017. It has also taken part in a number of published clinical studies in various journals and has had its algorithms cleared by the FDA and achieve European CE marks.

“From the 100 sites we’re already working with, mounting evidence is demonstrating real value to patients,” says Aidoc co-founder and CEO Elad Walach. “We feel a responsibility to get this technology into as many hospitals as possible, as soon as possible.” The company aims to be deployed in 500 hospitals within the next two years.

Walach says that Aidoc is working with the American College of Radiology DSI to continuously monitor the performance of the company’s commercially deployed solution. The aim is to provide public visibility on the real-life clinical impact, which he argues is crucial for the continued adoption of AI technologies within medical practice.

Categories: Business News

Sweden’s Engaging Care raises €2.5M seed to scale patient communication and improve outcomes

2019, April 17 - 9:25pm

Engaging Care, the Swedish heathtech startup founded by Annica Belfrage and Charlotta Tönsgård (who was previously CEO of online doctor app Min Doktor), has raised €2.5 million in seed funding. The round is co-led by two European venture capital firms: Connect Ventures and Crowberry Capital.

It follows the company’s €800,000 pre-seed funding in July from a number of well-known European investors. They include Neil Murray’s The Nordic Web Ventures, Hampus Jakobsson (venture partner at BlueYard Capital and co-founder of TAT, which sold to Blackberry for $150 million), and Sophia Bendz (Atomico Partner and former Global Marketing Director at Spotify).

Aiming to digitise healthcare beyond traditional electronic medical record systems, Engaging Care is developing a SaaS and mobile apps to enable healthcare providers to better connect and communicate with patients. Its first product, launched late last year, is a communications platform that allows healthcare providers to share information and interact with patients in a secure way.

The SaaS is already deployed with several paying customers who use the platform on a daily basis for both their healthcare professionals and patients.

“Interaction between healthcare professionals and patients is generally speaking still a very analog activity,” Egaging Care CEO Tönsgård tells me. “The work is centered around exchanging information at face-to-face meetings. Our healthcare professionals are a scarce and expensive resource, and sometimes their time is wasted in a careless way”.

Tönsgård argues that digital technology is the solution, and that new digital tools such as Engaging Care enable the knowledge built up by healthcare teams to be accessible to more patients “faster and easier”. This in turn frees up medical professionals to spend more time on the things that actually matter. “Our tool allows healthcare teams to have a reliable place to collect knowledge and communicate effectively with their patients,” she says.

As one example, the Organ Transplant Unit at Sweden’s Skåne University Hospital are using the Engaging Care application to complement face-to-face knowledge sharing with a digital library accessible to both patients and their team 24/7. This is enabling patients to have more autonomy over their healthcare and make better informed decisions.

“One of the challenges when it comes to the digitization of healthcare is the high workload that already exists. For that reason, we will continue to release new features that lower the threshold for adoption, making it easier for professionals to integrate our tools into their day-to-day work,” adds Tönsgård.

“We believe that safe, scalable communication is the key to increase the efficiency of healthcare long term, while also helping patients to become more aware and independent about their own health. One specific feature we’ll be focusing on the next months is to enable patients and healthcare professionals to prepare physical meetings beforehand. Our trials with clinics show that this is an important path to both more efficient meetings and meetings with higher quality”.

Categories: Business News

Super raises $20M to fix the home services and repairs market with its subscription service

2019, April 17 - 8:30pm

Home owners in the U.S. spend upwards of $300 billion annually on home repairs and maintenance — a huge sum that often comes with another, more hidden cost: the stress of finding reliable tradespeople, managing those jobs and (in the worst-case scenario) picking up the pieces if things go wrong.

Now, a startup called Super has built what it believes is a “fix” for that problem: a subscription service for maintenance and repair services for your property. Today, it’s announcing a Series B of $20 million to continue scaling that business across the U.S. after growing its business 400 percent each year for the past two years.

The funding is being led by Aquiline Technology Growth (ATG), with participation from Munich Re Ventures, Liberty Mutual from the insurance industry, Moderne Ventures, Joe Lonsdale’s firm 8VC, the Qatar Investment Authority and Solon Mack Capital. It’s an impressive mix, as it underscores Super’s traction and credibility among those close to its field: Munich Re Ventures and Liberty Mutual are insurance powerhouse, Aquiline and Moderne focus on insurance and real estate startups, QIA has extensive investments in the construction sector and Solon Mack is the family office of the Mack real estate entrepreneurs.

Jorey Ramer, the founder and CEO of Super, said he came up with the idea for Super after he sold his previous company, Jumptap — an advertising network acquired by Millennial Media (which is now part of Verizon by way of its acquisition of AOL, just like TechCrunch). Having been an apartment renter and dweller for all of his adult life, he found himself buying property when he moved to the Bay Area, and it came with more than a little reluctance because of the headache of taking care of his new home.

“I liked being a renter,” he said in an interview. “You pay a fee, and you know what to expect.” (Indeed, “Super” is double word play meaning “great” but also the nickname for the superintendent that often handles the maintenance and repair in an apartment building.)

Looking at the state of the market, he said he wasn’t very happy with the services that were already out there offering to provide maintenance and care, which he found were too entrenched in their old way of doing things (something that I’d agree with from personal experience as a homeowner in England, by the way).

“These companies have prioritized costs over service,” he said. “Yes, they have built service provider networks, but they are not service providers that you would invite into your own home if you were finding them directly. The whole system creates incentives to do the least amount of work possible, or upsell work that you just don’t need. They are deeply ingrained systems that needed to be reinvented from scratch.”

And that is what Super is aiming to do. Right now, the company provides links through to vetted providers of repair and maintenance services that are priced in tiers of $20, $60 or $90 per month depending on levels of service (for example: appliance, home, premium home; breakdown coverage; expanded coverage, and so on). Today there is a $75 copay on all repairs and other work, but as the company continues to hone its business model and relationships with suppliers — including those who might sell its service to home owners such as the companies selling the actual homes — that is likely to change.

“The long-term vision,” Ramer said, “is eventually to cover 100 percent of your repair and maintenance in your home. You will never have to pay for anything because everything will be included in the subscription.”

Super is touching on an emerging but very interesting point here. Just as companies like Uber and Lyft have helped change the conversation about the future of transportation services, companies like Opendoor are changing the dynamics and conventions around how people buy and sell — and potentially own — homes. That’s presenting a big opportunity to rethink every stage of that process, bringing in new players like Super, and old players like Angie’s List that are now taking new approaches; to also reconsider not just what they offer to the market, but what channels they use to find customers. (It’s an area that Amazon, unsurprisingly, is also eyeing up, as the home is the ultimate platform for just about everything else it offers to the market in terms of products and services.)

Ramer said that while Super today is primarily selling directly to homeowners, there are many options open in the future for how its service might be bundled with others, be they buying the property, or buying insurance, or even buying the white goods and other things that will eventually fill those homes.

“Super has developed an effective, convenient platform to provide premium care and repair services for homeowners,” said Max Chee of ATG in a statement. “Super is tackling an industry that is ripe for innovation with a smart, technology-forward approach, and we are excited to work with Jorey and the rest of the team at Super to help continue that exciting trajectory.”

Categories: Business News

Enterprise events management platform Bizzabo scores $27M Series D

2019, April 17 - 7:00pm

Bizzabo, the New York and Tel Aviv-based events management platform, has raised $27 million in Series D funding. Leading the round is Viola Growth, along with new investor Next47.

We’re also told that previous backers, including Pilot Growth, followed on. The new funding brings the total raised by the company to $56 million.

Originally launched in 2012 as a networking app for event attendees, Bizzabo now claims to be the leading end-to-end “Event Success Platform”. As it exists today, one way to describe the cloud-based software is akin to ‘Salesforce for events’: helping enterprises create, manage and execute every aspect of a live event.

As TechCrunch’s Catherine Shu previously wrote, the SaaS automates time-consuming event tasks related to email, social media and web marketing, and contact management.

There’s an increasing data play, too, with the ability to crunch and analyse event data to help event organisers garner more registrations, increase revenue, and improve the overall attendee experience.

“Our vision is to provide a data-driven and personalized journey for attendees,” Bizzabo CEO and co-founder Eran Ben-Shushan tells me. “An 800-person conference should feel like 800 unique in-person event experiences. By leveraging hundreds of data points throughout the attendee journey, our customers can deliver extremely personalised promotion campaigns, custom-tailor the event agenda and proactively cater to each attendee action”.

As an example, Ben-Shushan says an attendee at a user conference can receive recommended sessions, business introductions, and even sponsored offers based on interest and intent expressed before, during, and after the event.

To that end, Bizzabo says its Series D will be used to expand the platform’s capabilities and continue to help enterprise and mid-market organizations “build data-driven, personalized and engaging professional event experiences”. The will include growing its R&D and own marketing teams, adding to the more than 120 current employees in its New York and Tel-Aviv offices.

Ben-Shushan reckons that on average 25 percent of a B2B company’s marketing budget is spent on live events. This has resulted in the number of professional events increasingly exponentially each year, such as conferences and seminars, trade shows or other experiences.

However, it remains a challenge to create, manage, market and measure the success of events while maximizing ROI — which is where Ben-Shushan says Bizzabo comes in.

Bizzabo’s better known customers include Inbound, SaaStr, Forbes, Dow Jones, Gainsight, and Drift. Meanwhile, the event management space as a whole is said to be worth $500 billion.

Categories: Business News

Birth control delivery startup Nurx taps Clover Health’s Varsha Rao as CEO

2019, April 17 - 9:05am

Varsha Rao, Airbnb’s former head of global operations and, most recently, the chief operating officer at Clover Health, has joined Nurx as its chief executive officer.

Rao replaces Hans Gangeskar, Nurx’s co-founder and CEO since 2014, who will stay on as a board member.

Nurx, which sells birth control, PrEP, the once-daily pill that reduces the risk of getting HIV, and an HPV testing kit direct to consumer, has grown 250 percent in the last year, doubled its employee headcount and attracted 200,000 customers. Rao tells TechCrunch the startup realized they needed talent in the C-suite that had experienced this kind of growth.

“The company has made some really great progress in bringing on strong leaders and that’s one of the things that got me excited about joining,” Rao told TechCrunch. Nurx recently hired Jonathan Czaja, Stitch Fix’s former vice president of operations, as COO, and Dave Fong, who previously oversaw corporate pharmacy services at Safeway, as vice president of pharmacy.

Rao, for her part, joined Clover Health, a Medicare Advantage startup backed by Alphabet, in late 2017 after three years at Airbnb.

“After being at Airbnb, a really mission-driven company, I couldn’t go back to something that wasn’t equally or more so and healthcare really inspired me,” Rao said. “In terms of accessibility, I feel like [Nurx] is super important. We are really fortunate to live in a place where can access birth control and it can be more easily found but there are lots of parts of the country where physical access is challenging and costs can be a factor. To be able to break down barriers of access both physically and from an economic standpoint is hugely meaningful to me.”

Nurx, a graduate of Y Combinator, has raised about $42 million in venture capital funding from Kleiner Perkins, Union Square Ventures, Lowercase Capital and others. It launched in 2015 to facilitate women’s access to birth control across the U.S. with a HIPAA-compliant web platform and mobile application that delivers contraceptives directly to customers’ doorsteps.

Today, the telehealth startup is available to customers in 24 states and counts Chelsea Clinton as a board member.

Birth control delivery startup Nurx now offers an at-home HPV testing kit

Categories: Business News

Kindbody raises $15M, will open a ‘Fertility Bus’ with mobile testing & assessments

2019, April 17 - 8:54am

Kindbody, a startup that lures millennial women into its pop-up fertility clinics with feminist messaging and attractive branding, has raised a $15 million Series A in a round co-led by RRE Ventures and Perceptive Advisors.

The New York-based company was founded last year by Gina Bartasi, a fertility industry vet who previously launched Progyny, a fertility benefit solution for employers, and FertilityAuthority.com, an information platform and social network for people struggling with fertility.

“We want to increase accessibility,” Bartasi told TechCrunch. “For too long, IVF and fertility treatments were for the 1 percent. We want to make fertility treatment affordable and accessible and available to all regardless of ethnicity and social economic status.”

Kindbody operates a fleet of vans — mobile clinics, rather — where women receive a free blood test for the anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH), which helps assess their ovarian egg reserve but cannot conclusively determine a woman’s fertility. Depending on the results of the test, Kindbody advises women to visit its brick-and-mortar clinic in Manhattan, where they can receive a full fertility assessment for $250. Ultimately, the mobile clinics serve as a marketing strategy for Kindbody’s core service: egg freezing.

Kindbody charges patients $6,000 per egg-freezing cycle, a price that doesn’t include the cost of necessary medications but is still significantly less than market averages.

Bartasi said the mobile clinics have been “wildly popular,” attracting hoards of women to its brick-and-mortar clinic. As a result, Kindbody plans to launch a “fertility bus” this spring, where the company will conduct full fertility assessments, including the test for AMH, a pelvic ultrasound and a full consultation with a fertility specialist.

In other words, Kindbody will offer all components of the egg-freezing process on a bus aside from the actual retrieval, which occurs in Kindbody’s lab. The bus will travel around New York City before heading west to San Francisco, where it plans to park on the campuses of large employers, catering to tech employees curious about their fertility.

“Our mission at Kindbody is to bring care directly to the patient instead of asking the patient to come to visit us and inconvenience them,” Bartasi said.

A sneak peek of Kindbody’s “fertility bus,” which is still in the works

Kindbody, which has raised $22 million to date from Green D Ventures, Trailmix Ventures, Winklevoss Capital, Chelsea Clinton, Clover Health co-founder Vivek Garipalli and others, also provides women support getting pregnant with in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and intrauterine insemination (IUI). 

With the latest investment, Kindbody will open a second brick-and-mortar clinic in Manhattan and its first permanent clinic in San Francisco. Additionally, Bartasi says they are in the process of closing an acquisition in Los Angeles that will result in Kindbody’s first permanent clinic in the city. Soon, the company will expand to include mental health, nutrition and gynecological services.

In an interview with The Verge last year, Bartasi said she’s taken inspiration from SoulCycle and DryBar, companies whose millennial-focused branding strategies and prolific social media presences have helped them accumulate customers. Kindbody, in that vein, notifies its followers of new pop-up clinics through its Instagram page.

In the article, The Verge called Kindbody “the SoulCycle of fertility” and questioned its branding strategy and its claim that egg freezing “freezes time.” After all, there is limited research confirming the efficacy of egg freezing.

“The technology that allows for egg-freezing has only been widely used in the last five to six years,” Bartasi explained. “The majority of women who froze their eggs haven’t used them yet. It’s not like you freeze your eggs in February and meet Mr. Right in June.”

Though Kindbody touts a mission of providing fertility treatments to the 99 percent, there’s no getting around the sky-high costs of the services, and one might argue that companies like Kindbody are capitalizing off women’s fear of infertility. Providing free AMH tests, which often falsely lead women to believe they aren’t as fertile as they’d hoped, might encourage more women to seek a full-fertility assessment and ultimately, to pay $6,000 to freeze their eggs, when in reality they are just as fertile as the average woman and not the ideal candidate for the difficult and uncomfortable process.

Bartasi said Kindbody makes all the options clear to its patients. She added that when she does hear accusations that services like Kindbody capitalize on fear of infertility, they tend to come from legacy programs and male fertility doctors: “They are a little rattled by some of the new entrants that look like the patients,” she said. “We are women designing for women. For far too long women’s health has been solved for by men.”

Kindbody’s pricing scheme may itself instill fear in incumbent fertility clinics. The startup’s egg-freezing services are much cheaper than market averages; its IVF services, however, are not. Not including the costs of medications necessary to successfully harvest eggs from the ovaries, the average cost of an egg-freezing procedure costs approximately $10,000, compared to Kindbody’s $6,000. Its IVF services are on par with other options in the market, costing $10,000 to $12,000 — not including medications — for one cycle of IVF.

Kindbody is able to charge less for egg freezing because they’ve cut out operational inefficiencies, i.e. they are a tech-enabled platform while many fertility clinics around the U.S. are still handing out hoards of paperwork and using fax machines. Bartasi admits, however, that this means Kindbody is making less money per patient than some of these legacy clinics.

“What is a reasonable profit margin for fertility doctors today?” Bartasi said. “Historically, margins have been very, very high, driven by a high retail price. But are these really high retail prices sustainable long term? If you’re charging 22,000 for IVF, how long is that sustainable? Our profit margins are healthy.”

Bartasi isn’t the only entrepreneur to catch on to the opportunity here, as I’ve noted. A whole bunch of women’s health startups have launched and secured funding recently.

Tia, for example, opened a clinic and launched an app that provides health advice and period tracking for women. Extend Fertility, which like Kindbody, helps women preserve their fertility through egg freezing, banked a $15 million round. And a startup called NextGen Jane, which is trying to detect endometriosis with “smart tampons,” announced a $9 million Series A a few weeks ago.

It’s a new era for fertility tech

Categories: Business News

Cytora secures £25M Series B for its AI-powered commercial insurance underwriting solution

2019, April 17 - 8:05am

Cytora, a U.K. startup that developed an AI-powered solution for commercial insurance underwriting, has raised £25 million in a Series B round. Leading the investment is EQT Ventures, with participation from existing investors Cambridge Innovation Capital, Parkwalk and a number of unnamed angel investors.

A spin-out of the University of Cambridge, Cytora was founded in 2014 by Richard Hartley, Aeneas Wiener, Joshua Wallace and Andrzej Czapiewski — although both Wallace and Czapiewski have since departed.

Its first product launched in late 2016 to a number of large insurance customers, with the aim of applying AI to commercial insurance supported by various public and proprietary data. This includes property construction features, company financials and local weather, combined with an insurance company’s own internal risk data.

“Commercial insurance underwriting is inaccurate and inefficient,” says Cytora co-founder and CEO Richard Hartley. “It’s inaccurate because underwriting decisions are made using sparse and outdated information. It’s inefficient because the underwriting process is so manual. Unlike buying car or travel insurance, which can be purchased in minutes, buying business insurance can take up to seven days. This means operating costs for insurers are extremely high and customer experience isn’t good leading to a lack of trust.”

To illustrate how inefficient commercial insurance can be, Hartley says that for every £1 of premium that businesses pay to insurers, only 60 pence is set aside to pay total claims. The other 40 pence evaporates as the “frictional cost of delivering insurance.”

Powered by AI, Hartley claims that Cytora is able to distill the seven-day underwriting process down to 30 seconds via its API. This enables insurers to underwrite programmatically and build workflows that provide faster and more accurate decisions.

“Our APIs are powered by a risk engine which learns the subtle patterns of good and bad risks over time,” he explains. “This gives insurers a better understanding of the underlying risk of each business and helps them set a more accurate price. Both customers and insurers benefit.”

Typical Cytora customers are commercial insurers that are digitally transforming their underwriting process. Users of the software are either underwriters within insurance companies who are underwriting large commercial risks (i.e. an average insurance premium ~£500k and above) or business customers of insurance companies who are buying insurance direct online with an average premium of £1,000-£5,000.

“For the latter, our customers have built quotation workflows on top of Cytora’s APIs, enabling business owners to buy policies online in less than a minute without having to fill in a form,” says Hartley. “We require only a business name and postcode to issue a quote, which revolutionises the customer experience.”

To that end, Cytora generates revenue by charging a yearly ARR license fee, which increases based on usage and per line of business. The company says today’s Series B funding will be used to accelerate the expansion of its product suite and for scaling into new geographies.

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