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Can a games platform tackle kids’ anxiety about having to do math?

2019, December 9 - 10:06pm

You know that feeling when you look at your bank statements and try to figure out what on earth is going on? Or when you do your taxes? It turns out this isn’t just an insignificant feeling, but a scientifically recognized anxiety. Mathematics Anxiety (MA) is defined in research literature as feelings of concern, tension or nervousness experienced in combination with math in ordinary life and in academic situations.

And it is, in fact, a widespread worldwide problem that can cause damaging effects throughout life. If your population is too scared to add up and subtract, your economy will suffer. Badly. Some 17 million adults in the U.K. (49% of the working-age) have a numeracy level expected from primary school children. This results in a £20 billion loss to the U.K. economy a year, according to one study. If that’s just the U.K., imagine what the figures must be for other countries?

If people weren’t so anxious about doing math, then we’d probably also have more tech workers. More than three-quarters (77%) of children with high math anxiety are — when tested — between normal to high achievers on curriculum math tests. So this anxiety prevents students from entering STEM fields when in fact they would be perfectly able to perform well in these fields.

The problem is down to the amygdala, the same part of the brain that responds to fearful situations. It shows a heightened response in children with high math anxiety (as if it’s a physical danger) and triggers a fight-or-flight response.

The origins of Math Anxiety are rooted in the prevalence of accumulated negative math learning experiences by around six years old. So if you could get kids comfortable with math by age six, then you’d boost the economy and society.

Now, to address this problem, two young math-savvy mums have co-founded a startup, Funexpected, to tackle this worldwide problem.

Their solution is a “multisensory” iOS app offering a new approach to learning, which has achieved significant early success. Inside the first month of its launch, Apple featured the app among its “Best of September” and “New Apps We Love” in the U.K. and “Best Apps for Kids” and “Awesome Kids Apps” categories in App Stores of more than 60 countries.

By late October this year, the startup had been selected as an ed tech innovator for the EDUCATE programme led by the UCL Institute of Education, considered by many to be the leading U.K. research accelerator into ed tech. And as of last week, Apple Stores will feature the Funexpected app on the stores’ native devices, among Prisma, Alterlight, Headspace and other big names.

Furthermore, next year, Dor Abrahamson, professor of cognition and development at the UC Berkeley School of Education, plans to create a game for the app.

The bootstrapped startup, founded by Natalia Pereldik (after she left investment banking) together with friend Alexandra Kazilo, has now seen its app downloaded more than 35,000 times in over 50 countries in four weeks after the launch.

So what does it do?

The app itself is a collection of 11 games located across the landscapes of Japan, Egypt and Greenland. Children tap, cut, slide, grab and move animated on-screen objects to propel the story forward, such as by feeding a monkey with the correct amount of juicy berries gathered from various branches or learning logic by catching the right type of fish with a net and filling a fish pond. Parents can use it with their kids as well. The app runs a subscription-based model of £3.99 a month ($5.25) or £31.99 a year ($42.10).

It’s tackling a big market. The global mobile learning market was valued at $10.93 billion in 2016 and is projected to reach $179.21 billion by 2025.

Categories: Business News

Singapore’s Neuron Mobility raises $18.5M to bring its electric scooters to more international markets

2019, December 9 - 10:00pm

Neuron Mobility, a Singapore-based startup, has closed an $18.5 million financing round as it looks to scale its e-scooter startup in international markets — a month after the nation introduced difficult regulatory changes.

The new financing round, dubbed Series A, was funded by GSR Ventures, a venture capital firm that was the first institutional investor in Chinese ride-hailing giant DiDi Chuxing, and Square Peg, Australia’s largest venture capital firm.

Existing investors SeedPlus and SEEDS Capital also participated in the round. The three-year-old startup has raised about $23.5 million to date.

Neuron Mobility, which began its journey in Singapore, operates an eponymous e-scooter rental platform. In recent years and quarters, Neuron has expanded to cities in Malaysia, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand.

Neuron’s e-scooters are affordable in every market where they are available. In Brisbane, Australia, for instance, anyone can begin a trip with a Neuron bike by paying one Australian Dollar (68 U.S. cents) and then 38 Australian cents for each minute of the ride, Zachary Wang, co-founder and chief executive of Neuron, told TechCrunch in an interview.

These electric scooters can go as fast as 25 kilometre per hour (15.5 miles per hour), and automatically slow down at certain places, such as near a school. Wang said the startup closely works with city councils to understand how these e-scooters should operate.

In a statement, Square Peg’s Tushar Roy said, “the culture of collaboration with cities permeates through Neuron. Its entire DNA is built around working very closely with local leadership to bring new mobility solutions to citizens in a safe and sustainable way.”

On a single charge, a Neuron scooter can travel up to 60 kilometres (37.2 miles). These e-scooters are equipped with a swappable battery. Once the ride is finished, a customer can drop the bike at any nearby parking station or any suitable location. Neuron works with a large number of people who actively swap the batteries on these scooters.

Like India’s electric scooter and bike startups Bounce and Yulu, Neuron Mobility also designs its electric scooters, but relies on a Chinese equipment manufacturer for producing them. (Yulu recently inked a strategic deal with Bajaj Auto to task the Indian auto manufacturing giant with the production job.)

Singapore turns its back on electric scooters

As Neuron expands to international markets, it has had to halt its e-scooter rental service in the home market of Singapore. Last month, Singapore said e-scooters could no longer operate on footpaths, creating major challenges for all the players. Wang and executives from other startups have expressed concerns over the decision.

Telepod, which uses e-scooters to deliver food; GrabFood, another food delivery startup; and shared e-scooter service startup Beam, said they could no longer offer the same level of customer service to their users, and had little choice but to focus on other markets.

Wang said that Neuron still has teams that work from Singapore, but they have always focused on the larger Asia Pacific region and other markets. Besides, Neuron stopped its service in Singapore months before the nation passed any new law. (Prior to the recent order, Singapore had other issues with electric scooters.)

Neuron will use the fresh capital to further its footprint in the markets where it operates and explore building new categories, Wang said. “We feel we are in the midst of a wave where a number of technologies are falling into place that could help us improve our electric scooter and build more mobility solutions.” The startup is also exploring new markets, though Wang declined to name them.

Like in the United States, electric scooters and bikes have imploded in Southeast Asian markets, where a growing number of familiar brands such as Lime, Bird, Ofo, oBike and local players are increasingly expanding their presence.

Categories: Business News

French e-grocery app Jow raises $7M additional funding

2019, December 9 - 7:02pm

Jow, the French e-grocery app — which combines recipes, recommendations and online grocery ordering — has raised $7 million in new funding.

The round is led by Stride.VC, alongside Caterina Fake and Jyri Engeström from Yes VC, and Shan-Lyn Ma, the co-founder and CEO of Zola. Previous seed backers, DST global partners and eVentures, also participated.

Launched in 2018 and now supporting five of France’s leading grocery retailers (Monoprix, Carrefour, Auchan, Chronodrive, and E.Leclerc), Jow’s app claims to let you complete your weekly online food shop in as little as a minute (once you’ve been on-boarded, of course).

It does this by creating customised menus, tailored to each user and household, and then automatically fills your online shopping cart with the required ingredients. The idea is to answer the question: “what’s for dinner tonight?” while providing a more cost-effective alternative to recipe kits such as Blue Apron or Hellofresh, and less reliance on take-outs from the likes of Deliveroo or Uber Eats.

“Doing your weekly shopping online can take you up to one hour,” says Jow co-founder and CEO Jacques-Edouard Sabatier. “You waste a lot of time looking for the right product category, sub category, scrolling through hundreds of references, you finally find your product, put it in your cart, and repeat this process up to 40 times (the number of items in your cart)! It’s a horrendous experience, with no added value at all for the customer”.

That’s in contrast to brick ‘n’ mortar grocery shopping, argues Sabatier, where there is an opportunity to “feel, taste and smell the products”. He says it’s the terrible user experience of grocery shopping online that has limited its e-grocery growth. Jow aims to change that.

“Jow creates a customised menu, just for you, with simple and delicious recipes,” explains Sabatier. “Our food recommendation engine considers your tastes, your kitchen appliances, whether or not you have children and checks the availability of the ingredients in your supermarket. Jow then automatically fills your cart with all the ingredients you need to cook the meals”.

In addition, Jow offers a customised list of your repeat purchases, and its recommendation engine claims to help you choose the exact quantities needed to avoid waste. You can also check out with a single click, and the app will synchronise with your chosen supermarket delivery or pick up service.

Noteworthy is that the app’s recipe to cart feature represents on average 75% of the products Jow users add to their cart. Staple products such as toilet paper, beverages, toothpaste etc. make up the remaining 25%.

The app is free for end users, seeing the Paris and New York-based startup generate affiliate revenue from supermarkets that want to use the service to acquire younger, mobile-first customers. The business model is asset light, too, since Jow is largely built on top of the existing infrastructure and capabilities of larger supermarkets.

“Apart from the 50x improvement on the e-grocery funnel, it’s unbelievable to see that to date, in a world where you have tailored and recommended experiences around music, video etc., you have no strong recommendation engine or experiences around food,” adds Sabatier.

In addition, the startup believes that more broadly it has created a mobile e-grocery experience that actually works. “E-grocery is one of the only e-commerce segments where desktop still prevails,” says Sabatier. “[Bucking this trend], 90% of Jow’s customers shop using their mobile devices, the experience is so smooth and fast that you can do your weekly shopping in just one minute on the subway or the bus”.

Categories: Business News

By Miles, the UK pay-by-mile car insurance app, adds ‘connected car’ policy for Tesla drivers

2019, December 9 - 7:00pm

By Miles, the U.K. pay-by-mile car insurance provider, is launching a “connected car” insurance policy specifically for Tesla drivers.

The new insurance product pulls real-time mileage information directly from a car owner’s Tesla account and uses the distance they have driven to price their insurance each month. It claims to be the first car insurance policy to take data from a car without the need for a “black box” or aftermarket device.

The new policy — created in partnership with digital insurer La Parisienne Assurances (backed by Swiss Re) — offers lower mileage Tesla owners in the U.K. (those that drive under 7,000 miles a year) the opportunity to save significantly on their annual car insurance, according to By Miles.

More broadly, the insurtech says it is bucking the trend of car insurance not keeping pace with changes in technology, including the move to connected and electric cars. It cites industry figures that suggest 1 in 10 new cars sold in the U.K. are now electric.

James Blackham, co-founder of By Miles, says the insurance industry needs to “catch up and launch policies as smart as the cars themselves”.

To activate the pay-per-mile Tesla policy, drivers simply connect their Tesla with their By Miles account, with no need to install a separate so-called “black box”. Via the By Miles app, they are then able to instantly see the cost of each day’s miles and pay for what they’ve driven monthly.

The new policy also claims to provide electric-first policy coverage, including covering items often not included on insurance policies as standard, such as “damage or theft of charging cables and accessories as well as electric car batteries”.

Meanwhile, in other ways the By Miles connected car policy isn’t so much of a deviation from the company’s existing By Miles coverage. It first launched a pay-by-mile policy in July 2018 enabled by its “Miles Tracker” device that plugs into your car to count mileage, and now claims over 10,000 policyholders.

Categories: Business News

RaySecur, a mailroom security startup, raises $3M in seed funding

2019, December 8 - 7:23pm

Raysecur says at least ten times a day someone sends a suspicious package containing powder, liquid, or some other kind of hazard.

The Boston, Mass.-based startup says its desktop-sized 3D real-time scanning technology, dubbed MailSecur, can intercept and detect threats in the mailroom before they ever make it onto the office floor.

Mailroom security may not seem fancy or interesting, but they’re a common gateway into a corporate environment. They’re a huge attack vector for attackers — both physical and cyber. Earlier this year we wrote about warshipping, a “Trojan horse”-type attack that can be used as a way for hackers to ship hardware exploits into a business, break the Wi-Fi, and pivot onto the corporate network to steal data.

Now, the company has raised $3 million in seed-round funding led by One Way Ventures, with participation from Junson Capital, Launchpad Venture Group, and also Dreamit Ventures, a Philadelphia-based early stage investor and accelerator, which last year announced it would move into the early-stage security space.

Raysecur’s proprietary millimeter-wave scanner, MailSecur. (Image: supplied)

Raysecur uses millimeter-wave technology — similar to the scanners you find at airport security — to examine suspicious letters, flat envelopes, and small parcels. Its technology can detect powders as small as 2% of a teaspoon or a single drop of liquid, the company claims.

The startup said the funding will help expand its customer base. Although still in its infancy, the company has about ten Fortune 500 customers using its MailSecur scanner.

Since it was founded in 2018, the company has scanned more than 9.2 million packages.

Semyon Dukach, managing partner at One Way Ventures, said the funding will help “bring this compelling technology to an even broader market.”

With warshipping, hackers ship their exploits directly to their target’s mail room

Categories: Business News