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Foodvisor automatically tracks what you eat using deep learning

2019, October 14 - 5:10pm

Meet Foodvisor, a startup that has built a mobile app that helps you log everything you eat in order to lose weight, follow a diet or get healthier. You can add data by capturing a photo of your plate before you eat.

“We’ve spent a little over two years doing research and development before we launched the app in 2018 in France,” co-founder and CMO Aurore Tran told me. Foodvisor has raised $1.5 million so far (€1.4 million).

The company is using deep learning to enable image recognition to detect what you’re about to eat. In addition to identifying the type of food, the app tries to estimate the weight of each item.

Foodvisor tries to evaluate the distance between your plate and your phone using camera autofocus data. It then calculates the area of each food item. The company then tries to extrapolate the volume of each item depending on the type of food.

And of course, if Foodvisor got something wrong, you can manually correct it before you log your meal. Many people give up on nutrition trackers because it’s too demanding. Foodvisor’s technology is all about making the data entry process as seamless as possible.

After that, you get a list of nutrition facts about what you just ate — calories, proteins, carbs, fats, fibers, etc. You can then set a goal, log activities and monitor your progress over time.

The startup has managed to attract 1.8 million app downloads already. It is available on iOS and Android in French, English, German and Spanish. “We have adjusted our product, we’ve enriched our database to better target the American market,” Tran said.

It offers a premium subscription for $5 to $10 per month. In addition to more analysis and diet plans, the main feature of the premium plan is that you can chat with a registered dietitian/nutritionist directly in the app. It turns out that artificial intelligence can’t replace real human nutritionists altogether.

Categories: Business News

Friday deadline alert: Apply to TC Top Picks @ Disrupt Berlin 2019

2019, October 14 - 5:00pm

We dedicate this countdown post to all the early-stage startup founders who hunger for an opportunity to break new ground. This is the final week you can apply to be a TC Top Pick and exhibit your startup — for free — in Startup Alley at Disrupt Berlin 2019 on 11-12 December.

The application window remains open until this Friday, 18 October at 12 p.m. (PT). Don’t miss your shot at media attention, investor interest and plenty of exposure to potential customers and collaborators — apply to be a TC Top Pick right now.

If you haven’t heard about our Top Picks program, here’s a brief rundown. In this pre-Disrupt competition, TechCrunch editors closely review and vet applications from any early-stage startups that fit in one of these tech categories: AI/Machine Learning, Biotech/Healthtech, Blockchain, Fintech, Mobility, Privacy/Security, Retail/E-commerce, Robotics/IoT/Hardware, CRM/Enterprise and Education.

They’re searching for innovative, interesting startups with a real shot at success. Check out the TC Top Picks from Disrupt Berlin 2018 to get a sense of what they look for. Ultimately, they’ll select up to five startups to represent each category.

All TC Top Picks receive a free Startup Alley Exhibitor Package which, among other perks, includes three Founders passes and one full day exhibiting in a prime location within Startup Alley. This truly is a VIP experience that includes invitations to networking parties and plenty of attention from investors, global press and potential customers.

In a classic “but wait, there’s more” moment, our TechCrunch editors will take to the Showcase Stage to interview every Top Pick. We’ll record the interviews and promote the videos across our social media platforms. Talk about a great conversation starter when you’re meeting with potential clients or investors.

You don’t have anything to lose by applying to be a TC Top Pick, but you do have a lot to gain. Here’s what Caleb John, co-founder and CEO of Cedar Robotics, had to say about his experience.

“Being a TC Top Pick validates your startup, helps your business gain traction and opens doors to investors, customers or vendors. The onstage interview was a great experience, and the YouTube video exposure is huge for us.”

Disrupt Berlin 2019 takes place on 11-12 December, but you have only until this Friday, 18 October at 12 p.m. (PT) to apply to be a TC Top Pick. Take a shot and break new ground for your outstanding startup. Come and show us what you’ve got!

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt Berlin 2019? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Categories: Business News

AI-based firefighter safety startup Prometeo wins IBM Call for Code Challenge

2019, October 13 - 10:00am

During an event at the United Nations Delegates Dining Room in New York City, IBM unveiled the winners of its annual Call for Code Global Challenge. The competition, which is targeted at computing solutions for global problems, crowned five winners, ranging from first responders to healthcare info.

Prometeo took the top prize for its Watson-based AI solution targeted at firefighters. The team, which is led by a 33-year firefighting veteran, has developed a tool designed to monitor health and safety in the industry, both long term and in real time. The Spanish startup developed a smartphone-sized device that straps onto the wearer’s arm to gauge things like temperature, smoke and humidity.

“If the color signal is green, the health of the firefighter is okay,” co-founder Salomé Valero explains on IBM’s site. “But if the color signal is yellow or red, the command center must do something. They must take immediate action in order to rescue or remove the firefighter from the fire.”

The team is working to roll out the device for testing in Spain, but is currently seeking funding for the project. The $200,000 prize from IBM ought to help out a bit.

The second place prize went to India/China/U.S.-based Sparrow, which has developed a platform for addressing physical and psychological health during natural disasters. UCLA’s team, Rove, scored third place with a similar concept.

Call for Code is a five-year program that aims to hand out $30 million for teams addressing widespread societal issues.

Categories: Business News

Why each Libra member’s mutiny hurts Facebook

2019, October 13 - 8:07am

There’s a strategic cost to the defection of Visa, Stripe, eBay, and more from the Facebook -led cryptocurrency Libra Association . They’re not just names dropping off a list. Each potentially made Libra more useful, ubiquitous, or reputable. Now they could become obstacles to the token’s launch or growth.

Fearing regulators’ inquiries not just into their Libra involvement but the rest of their businesses, these companies are pulling out at least for now. None had made precise commitments to integrating Libra into their products, and they’ve said they could still get involved later. But their exit clouds the project’s future and leaves Facebook to absorb more of the blowback.

Here’s what each of the departing Libra Association members brought to the table and how they could spawn new challenges for the cryptocurrency:

Visa

With one of most widely-accepted payment methods, Visa could have helped make Libra universally spendable. It’s also one of the most prestigious names in finance, lending deep credibility to the project. Visa’s departure leaves Libra looking more like tech companies barging into payments, conjuring fears of their move fast, break things approach that could cause financial ruin if Libra runs into problems. It also could leave Libra with a much weaker presence in brick-and-mortar shops. No one will want to own a cryptocurrency that doesn’t appreciate in value and can’t be easily spent.

MasterCard

The involvement of MasterCard alongside Visa made Libra look like the incumbents adapting to modern technologies. This made it less threatening, and gave cryptocurrency an air of inevitability. MasterCard would have also brought an even wider network of locations where Libra could one day be used for payment. Now MasterCard and Visa might actively work against Libra to prevent their payment methods being made obsolete by Libra and its elimination of transaction fees through the blockchain. Two of Libras biggest allies could become its biggest foes.

PayPal

Facebook has repeatedly told regulators that its Calibra app plus integrations into Messenger and WhatsApp would not be the only Libra wallets, pointing to PayPal . Facebook’s head of Libra David Marcus told Congress when asked about the social network’s outsized power to exploit Libra through its own Calibra wallet that “you have companies like PayPal and others that will, of course, collaborate, but [also] compete with us”. Now Facebook won’t have a scaled payment method it doesn’t own to point to as a likely alternative for people who don’t want to trust Facebook’s Calibra, Messenger, or WhatsApp to be their Libra wallet. The Libra Association also loses PayPal’s enormous network of online merchants that accept it, plus the inroad to integration into its peer-to-peer payback app Venmo. PayPal convinced the mainstream public to trust online payments — the exact kind of trust Facebook desperately needs. The fact that Marcus was also the former president of PayPal but couldn’t keep it in the association raises concerns about the group’s coalition-building prowess.

Stripe

Stripe’s enormous popularity with ecommerce vendors made it a valuable Libra Association member. Together with PayPal, Stripe facilitates a huge portion of online transactions outside of China. Its ease of integration made it a top pick for developers Facebook surely hoped would build atop Libra. Stripe’s exit destroys a critical bridge to the fintech startup ecosystem that could have helped institutionalize Libra. Now the association will have to work on engineering payment widgets from scratch without Stripe’s assistance, which could slow adoption if it ever launches.

There’s a clear reason all these payment processors bailed. Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) wrote a letter to Visa, MasterCard, and Stripe’s CEOs this week explaining that “If you take this on, you can expect a high level of scrutiny from regulators not only on Libra-related activities, but on all payment activities.”

eBay

As one of the longest standing ecommerce companies, eBay bolstered beliefs that Libra could be used to power transactions between untrusted strangers without a costly middleman. It might have also put Libra into practice on one of the top western online marketplaces outside of Amazon. Without destinations like eBay onboard, average netizens will have fewer opportunities to be exposed to Libra’s potential to eliminate transaction fees.

Mercado Pago

One of the lesser-known Libra Association members, Mercado Pago helps merchants receive payments via email or in installments. The idea of connecting financially underserved populations has been core to Facebook’s pitch for why Libra should exist. The Libra Association has been light on the details of how exactly it serves this demographic, relying on the inclusion of partners like Mercado Pago to help it figure this out later. Mercado Pago’s departure leaves Libra looking more like a financial power grab rather than a tool to assist the disadvantaged.

Who’s Left?

On Monday, the remaining Libra Association members will meet to finalize the initial member list, elect a board, and create a charter to govern the project. This forced the hands of the companies above, who had their last chance to depart this week before being pulled deeper into Libra.

UNITED STATES – JULY 16: David Marcus, head of Facebook’s Calibra digital wallet service, prepares to testify during the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on “Examining Facebook’s Proposed Digital Currency and Data Privacy Considerations” on Tuesday, July 16, 2019. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Who’s left includes venture capital firms, ride sharing companies, non-profits, and cryptocurrency companies. They are less tied up with the status quo of payment processing, and therefore had less to lose. The blockchain-specific companies were likely hoping to piggyback on financial giants like Visa to get Libra approved and create more legitimacy for their industry as a whole.

Pegging Libra to just the $ could soothe regulators, a16z says

These partners could help fund an ecosystem of Libra developers, create daily use cases, spread the system in the developing world, and push for alliances between Libra and cryptocurrency players. Facebook will need to fight to keep them aboard if it wants to avoid Libra looking like a unilateral disruption of the economy.

For Libra to actually launch, Facebook needs to make serious concessions and divert from its initial vision. Otherwise if it continues to butt heads with regulators, more members could flee. One option floated by Libra Association member Andreessen Horowitz’s a16z Crypto partner Chris Dixon was for Libra to be denominated in US dollars instead of a basket of international currencies. That might lessen fears that Libra intends to compete directly with the dollar.

It’s become apparent that Facebook will not get its ideal cryptocurrency out the door. This is the brand tax of 100 scandals coming back to bite it. Now the best it can hope for is to get even a watered-down version launched, prove it can actually help the underbanked, and then hope to convince regulators it’s well-intentioned.

Categories: Business News

Startups Weekly: YC grad Revel’s plan to connect women over 50

2019, October 12 - 9:00pm

Hello and welcome back to Startups Weekly, a weekend newsletter that dives into the week’s noteworthy news pertaining to startups and venture capital. Before I jump into today’s topic, let’s catch up a bit. I’ve been on a bit of a startup profile kick as of late. Last week, I was tired from Disrupt. Before that, I wrote about up and coming telemedicine company Alpha Medical.

Remember, you can send me tips, suggestions and feedback to kate.clark@techcrunch.com or on Twitter @KateClarkTweets. If you don’t subscribe to Startups Weekly yet, you can do that here.

Startup Spotlight

Y Combinator’s latest batch concluded two months ago, which means my inbox is beginning to fill with pitches from companies ready to talk about the first rounds of fundraising. We’ve profiled many of the companies already, like Tandem, Narrator, SannTek Labs and more to come.

This week, I have some notes on Revel, a recent grad from the hot accelerator network that plans to create a nationwide subscription-based network tailored to women over the age of 50. The startup’s founders, Harvard Business School graduates Lisa Marron and Alexa Wahl, say there are no good existing options in the market to help women in this demographic foster new relationships.

“I think a lot of the things that exist are nonprofits that are a little antiquated now,” Marron tells TechCrunch. “I think we saw that those are really serving the need of our members’ parents’ generation, but they haven’t really adapted as much to the modern age.”

Women 50 years and older can become a member of Revel. For now, the service is free, though the company plans to charge a $100 annual fee in the coming months. Currently, Revel’s community includes 500 women. With a $2.5 million funding led by Forerunner Ventures’ Kirsten Green, the small team plans to expand within the Bay Area. They said they won’t begin establishing Revel outside the region until they raise a Series A.

It’s hard to imagine women will stay committed to paying an annual Revel membership, considering the real value comes from the company’s ability to facilitate introductions to like-minded women. Once those introductions have been made, women can discontinue their membership and develop relationships outside the service. Forerunner Ventures, however, is known for backing successful and prominent brands, like Glossier, Warby Parker and Outdoor Voices. My guess is Revel has ambitions to become the brand representing women over 50 seeking meaningful connections.

“We want to take this wide in a short number of years because we feel there is a need and opportunity to build this strong community for women of this age; venture capital in that sense was rocket fuel,” adds Marron.

VC rounds M&A
  • Uber plans to buy a majority stake in a Latin American grocery delivery business called Cornershop. The Chilean startup was founded in 2015 by Oskar Hjertonsson, Daniel Undurraga and Juan Pablo Cuevas. It will continue to operate under that leadership in its current form for now, says Uber.
  • To beat Amazon Go, Standard Cognition is buying DeepMagic, a pioneer in autonomous retail kiosks. “The $86 million-funded Standard Cognition is racing to equip storefronts with an independent alternative using cameras to track what customers grab and charge them. But Amazon’s early start in the space poses a risk that it could patent troll the startup,” writes TechCrunch’s Josh Constine.
Extra Crunch

Extra Crunch subscribers have a lot to chew on this week. Reminder, if you haven’t yet signed up for our premium content service, you still can here.

This week, I wrote about the importance of having a culture expert on staff at a venture capital firm. Increasingly, startups are being judged for their cultures, diversity of staff and more. VCs, for the most part, are unprepared to help their companies foster more inclusive environments, and that’s a problem. One firm, True Ventures, has taken a big step toward holding their companies accountable for culture and giving them real resources to help them improve things early. I talked to True Ventures’ Madeline Kolbe Saltzman about her new title, VP of Culture.

Equity

I took a break from Equity this week, but my co-host Alex Wilhelm was in studio with IPO expert James Clark. Listen to the excellent conversation here.

Equity drops every Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify and all the casts.

Categories: Business News

Source: Nike has picked up Russell Wilson’s Tally/TraceMe in a rare acquisition

2019, October 12 - 7:47am

Nike has long been synonymous with premium sneakers and other sports gear, but now it seems that the company could be extending its brand into another area — digital media — thanks to the rumored acquisition of a Seattle-based startup.

TechCrunch has learned from a source that the multibillion-dollar sports giant has acquired TraceMe, which originally built an app to let fans engage with sports stars and other celebrities before later pivoting into a service called Tally, a platform aimed at sports teams, broadcasters and venues to help fans engage around sporting events.

TraceMe was originally founded by Russell Wilson, the champion quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks, who was the executive chairman of the startup. The company had raised at least $9 million from investors that included the Seattle-based Madrona Venture Group and Bezos Expeditions (Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ fund), as well as YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley and others, and it was last valued, in 2017, at $60 million.

Our source said the deal closed in recent weeks and that “it was a good outcome” for the company and investors. It involved both IP — the main interest, the source said, was in TraceMe’s tech rather than Tally’s — and the team.

Indeed, at least eight of them, including TraceMe’s CEO Jason LeeKeenan, an ex-Hulu executive, are now listing Nike as their place of employment. LeeKeenan describes his new role as the head of Nike Seattle. Others on the team now have taken roles that include software engineers, head of product and product designers.

No one at TraceMe and Nike that we contacted has responded to our requests for comment, but just a little while ago GeekWire (which likely had the same tip we did) published a post noting that it had a source that confirmed the deal.

The athletic footwear giant Nike is no stranger to the world of technology: it has been a longtime collaborator with the likes of Apple to develop apps for its devices and has been an early mover on the concept of bringing and integrating cutting-edge (yes, possibly gimmicky) tech into its footwear and other gear. And that’s before you consider Nike as an e-commerce force.

But while the dalliance between sports, tech and fashion is well established, this deal opens up a different frontier for the company. It’s very rare for Nike to make an acquisition, but it makes sense that if it were going to do some M&A, it would be in the area of digital media and picking up engineers to execute on a wider vision in that area.

The company is best known, of course, for its shoes and related sporty clothes, which it has for a long time created in co-branding with the biggest sports stars and has more recently started to extend to a wider circle of celebrities and hot brands in a spirit of sporty street style. These have included the likes of so-cool Supreme, Travis Scott and seemingly tentative forays into music culture.

Nike overshadows all other sports shoe brands in size, with its current market cap at nearly $117 billion, more than twice that of its closest competitor, Adidas . But Adidas has been stealing a march when it comes to partnerships with a wide network of celebrities (even if Drake prefers checks over stripes).

While it isn’t clear yet how and if Nike will be using the startup’s existing services, you could see how a deal like this could help Nike start to think about how it might leverage the collaborations and endorsements it already has in place into experiences beyond shoes, advertising and athletic performance. In this age of Instagram and influencers playing a massive role in shifting consumer sentiment (and dollars), this could give Nike a shot at building its own media platform, independent of these, on its own terms.

This is a bigger trend that we’re seeing across a lot of digital media. Consider how companies like Spotify have extended beyond simple music streaming, investing in building tools to help artists on its platform with marketing and expanding their brands: selling shoes means selling a concept, and that concept needs to have a foothold in a digital experience. 

Categories: Business News

Brad Feld: what founders need to know about recent changes in VC deal terms

2019, October 12 - 5:08am

Extra Crunch offers members the opportunity to tune into conference calls led and moderated by the TechCrunch writers you read every day. This week, TechCrunch’s Connie Loizos hopped on the line with prominent investor, entrepreneur, thought leader, and Techstars co-founder Brad Feld to chat about the latest edition of his book “Venture Deals,” his advice to founders and investors, and his take on hot-button issues of the day.

In their conversation, Brad and Connie discuss the need to know information when it comes to preparing for, structuring and executing venture deals, and how that information has changed over the past several decades. Feld walks through the major topics that have been added in the latest edition of the book, such as how to handle venture debt, along with tactical attributes that aren’t currently in the book, such as secondary market trading.

Brad also shares his take on the most effective fundraising tactics for founders, and which common pieces of advice might be overblown.

Brad Feld: “I think the approach to the amount of money that you’re raising is both nuanced and evolves based on what financing round you’re at. So if you’re in an early round, some of the characteristics are different than if you’re in a later round. But I think the general truism… that I like to use when people say, ‘Well, how much money should I raise?’

I start with two variables and you the entrepreneur get to define those two variables. The two variables are: the amount of money you raise and what getting to the next level means. The amount of money you should raise is the amount of money that you need to get your business to the next level. There are lots of different ways to define what next level is and by forcing yourself internally to define next level and then define what you need in terms of capital to get to that next level… when you’re raising that first round of financing or even the second or third round of financing, it helps you size rationally what you need versus reactively to whatever the market characteristics are.

I actually encourage entrepreneurs to raise the least amount of money they need to get to the next level, or at least that’s the number that they go out to market with. Not a range, not a big number because you’re trying to drive some kind of valuation characteristic off a big number, but the amount of money that you actually think you need to get to the next level. Then if you can be oversubscribed, that’s an awesome situation.”

Feld and Connie dive deeper into current issues in the startup and venture landscape, including Brad’s take on the impact of the SoftBank Vision Fund, what went down internally and externally at both WeWork and Uber, as well as how boards, executives and founders can manage cult of personality and static company cultures.

For access to the full transcription and the call audio — and for the opportunity to participate in future conference calls — become a member of Extra Crunch. Learn more and try it for free. 

Connie Loizos: I think the last time I saw you in person was out here in San Francisco at an event I was hosting and that was maybe two years ago?

Brad Feld: Yup, that’s right. That was at the Autodesk Lab if I remember correctly.

Loizos: Yes. It’s good to hear your voice, and thank you for joining us on this call. We have a lot of readers who are big fans of yours that are on the line and are eager to learn about your book “Venture Deals” and your broader thoughts about the current state of the market. That said — and I know you only have so much time — let’s dive first into the book. So Wiley, your publisher has just put out the fourth edition of this book “Venture Deals,” and it’s really easy to appreciate why. I was looking through it and it’s so incredibly instructive how venture deals come together and possible pitfalls to avoid. And given there are always new entrepreneurs emerging, it continues to be highly relevant.

How do you go about updating a book like this, given that some things change and some things stay the same?

Categories: Business News

Instacart shoppers are organizing a nationwide protest

2019, October 12 - 2:19am

Instacart has long been at odds with its shoppers — the people who go to the grocery store on behalf of customers. From November 3-5, thousands of Instacart shoppers plan to protest with three demands. They want Instacart to change the default tip amount to at least 10%, ditch the service fee and commit to always giving 100% of the tip to the shopper.

“We did not arrive at the 10% figure arbitrarily, rather this is what the default tip amount was back when I and many others started working for Instacart,” Vanessa Bain, an Instacart shopper wrote on Medium this week. “We are simply demanding the restoration of what was originally promised.”

Back in 2016, Instacart removed the option to tip in favor of guaranteeing its workers higher delivery commissions. About a month later, following pressure from its workers, the company reintroduced tipping. Then, in April 2018, Instacart began suggesting a 5% default tip and reduced its service fee from a 10% waivable fee to a 5% fixed fee.

“We take the feedback of the shopper community very seriously and remain committed to listening to and using that feedback to improve their experience,” an Instacart spokesperson told TechCrunch.

This protest is on the heels of a class-action lawsuit over wages and tips, as well as a tipping debacle where Instacart included tips in its base pay for shoppers. Instacart, however, has since stopped that practice and provided shoppers with back pay. Though, Fast Company recently reported that Instacart delivery drivers’ tips are mysteriously decreasing.

But it’s a new day for gig economy workers — at least in California. Last month, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law gig worker protections bill AB-5. This legislation will make it harder for gig economy companies to classify their workers as 1099 independent contractors when it goes into effect in January. The victory came after gig workers made their voices heard through protests and other direct actions.

What’s clear at this point is that workers are refusing to stay silent and are more than willing to advocate for themselves. Organizers of the Instacart protest have outlined three ways for shoppers to get involved. The more active approach would entail shoppers signing up for as many hours as possible from November 3 -5, but keep letting the batches time out. The more passive approach entails not signing up for any hours at all, and not accepting any on-demand batches.

“Despite loyalty to Instacart and the customers we’ve gotten to know over the years, many of us have been forced to find other gigs to make ends meet,” Bain wrote. “But not all Shoppers are so lucky or even have the ability to be so fluid with their careers or their time. A large portion of the working body are single parents, caregivers, are disabled or have other conditions or obligations that would make getting other work difficult or impossible. Instacart is highly aware of this and weaponizes this fact against us when turning the pay dials lower and lower.”

Categories: Business News

Polte raises $12.5 million to track devices using LTE signal

2019, October 12 - 1:18am

Polte has raised another $12.5 million. The company is building a service that leverages 4G (and potentially 5G) signal to track things for commercial and industrial use cases. The main advantage is that using cellular signal uses a lot less battery than acquiring GPS location and transmitting it over cellular.

Today’s funding round is an extension of the company’s Series A round. In 2017, Polte raised $6 million — and the company is raising another $12.5 million this year. Polte isn’t disclosing the list of investors. The startup participated in TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield.

There are many potential use cases for Polte, but most of them involve tracking stuff on the move with as little battery as possible. You could use it for your supply chain, if you’re running a logistics or transportation company, in the energy or automotive industry, etc.

If you want to use an IoT device to track a package over multiple weeks, it can be a costly effort as you need to determine the location of the package using GPS and transmit the location of the package over the air. While GPS is insanely accurate, it also requires a ton of battery just to position a device on a map.

That’s why some devices rely on Wi-Fi signal to triangulate a position with a database of Wi-Fi access points. But that’s not as accurate, especially in the countryside.

Polte turns data from the cell modem into location information. It works with existing modems; Polte is a software solution. None of the computing is done on the device itself. Polte-enabled devices transmit 300 bytes of data back to Polte’s servers so the company can determine the location a few seconds later.

This way, you can use cheaper IoT devices to track packages. And if you’re running a company that wants to track thousands or millions of items, that could help you save a ton of money over the long run.

Categories: Business News

Uber to acquire grocery delivery startup Cornershop

2019, October 11 - 11:09pm

Uber will acquire Cornershop, a grocery delivery startup that began life serving the Latin American market and recently shifted to offer service in Toronto, its first North American city. Uber announced on Friday that it expects its acquisition of a majority ownership stake in Cornershop in early 2020, once it receives all the necessary regulatory sign-offs.

Cornershop was founded in 2015 by Oskar Hjertonsson, Daniel Undurraga and Juan Pablo Cuevas; it’s headquartered in Chile. The company will continue to operate under that leadership in its current form for now, Uber says, and will report to a board that counts Uber leadership in the majority of its overall makeup.

Over the course of four rounds of funding, Cornershop raised $31.7 million from investors including Accel, Jackson Square Ventures and others. The on-demand grocery company was supposed to be acquired by Walmart in a deal valued at $225 million announced in September, but that deal ultimately fell apart in June when Mexican anti-trust regulators blocked it from going through.

Meanwhile, Walmart has continued to work with Cornershop, expanding its service offerings in Toronto with the startup as recently as yesterday. Uber has previously experimented with grocery delivery, including in partnership with Walmart, and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has said that grocery delivery is a natural place for the company to expand its business, given the success of Uber Eats. It’ll face competition from entrenched players, including Instacart and Postmates, but Uber Eats also faced competition from much more established players at its genesis, too.

The deal is still subject to regulatory approval, as mentioned, and that’s exactly where the planned Walmart acquisition stumbled, so it’s worth keeping a close eye on this one. Still, Uber’s not making any secret of its intentions with the grocery category, so that looks likely to take shape one way or another.

Categories: Business News

Club Factory raises $100M to expand its lifestyle e-commerce platform in India

2019, October 11 - 11:00pm

Club Factory, a Chinese e-commerce platform that sells fashion and beauty items and electronics accessories, has raised $100 million in a new financing round as it looks to expand its footprint in India.

The new financing round — Series D — was led by Qiming Venture Partners, Bertelsmann, IDG Capital “and  other Fortune 500 companies from the U.S. and Asia,” the five-year-old Hangzhou-headquartered startup said. Club Factory, which raised $100 million in its previous financing round early last year, has raised about $220 million to date.

Club Factory has amassed more than 70 million users on its platform, of which about 40 million live in India. The startup cited figures from app analytics firm App Annie to claim that Club Factory is now the third-largest e-commerce platform in India, surpassing once a market-leader Snapdeal.

Club Factory does not charge local sellers any commission fee, incentivizing them to cut down the cost of their items and expand offerings. The number of sellers on its platform in India has grown by 10X in the last six months, the startup claimed. Club Factory, which has about 5,000 sellers in India, plans to double that figure by year-end, it said.

A screenshot of Club Factory’s homepage

“At the same time, we have also pioneered to strengthen the ‘store-within-platform’ concept in India’s e-commerce industry, allowing direct contact between buyers and sellers through our application,” said Vincent Lou, co-founder and chief executive of Club Factory, in a statement.

He added, “We have changed the status of the Indian e-commerce industry that monopolized information of buyers and sellers, allowing SMEs to own their customers and run their business better. All this, combined with our strategy to reduce the transaction costs of buyers and sellers and allow more local players to enter the ecosystem, has worked very well for us in India.”

The startup said in the coming months it will also bulk up more items on its platform and introduce new product categories.

Categories: Business News

Apester unveils a new Story Strip format for online publishers

2019, October 11 - 10:43pm

Apester, which helps digital publishers add interactivity to their content, is rolling out a new format called the Story Strip.

CEO and co-founder Moti Cohen told me that the Story Strip is modeled on the Story format popularized by Snapchat and Instagram — a format that he praised for being one of the few content types that’s truly “tailored to the mobile experience,” offering a fast, interactive experience for readers.

Cohen said that by bringing the format out of “the social walled gardens” and allowing publishers to embed Story Strips into their articles, Apester is “paving the way for media companies to capture a new audience, a young audience.”

You can see a Story Strip for yourself on TV Insider, a pop culture and entertainment website of NTVB Media. It appears in articles as a carousel of related stories, allowing readers to select the story that interests them and then quickly swipe through slides summarizing the story highlights.

Cohen said a Story Strip can be created by a publisher’s editorial team, or Apester can automatically generate them based on an article. And because they can also include ads, this creates new monetization opportunities for publishers. In fact, Apester says TV Insider has seen its daily revenue double since the two companies started working together.

As for how these kinds of content widgets might fit in as publishers explore subscriptions and other business models beyond advertising, Cohen argued that even as business models change, “the blend is what’s going to be important.”

And by allowing publishers to engage with users and collect data about their behavior, he said, “Apester is going to allow you to monetize all of [your audiences] differently … You can use the engagement that’s happening and understand why it’s happening in order to drive the right action.”

Publisher adtech startups Taboola and Outbrain merge in $850M deal to take on Google and Facebook

Categories: Business News

Rahko raises £1.3M seed from Balderton for quantum machine learning tech

2019, October 11 - 9:34pm

There remains a problem with the race to create a quantum computer, which is that experiments in this area can be extremely error-prone. Rahko is a new U.K. startup that thinks it can address this problem with what’s known as “Quantum machine learning.”

It’s now raised £1.3 million ($1.6 million) in a seed round led by Balderton Capital, a rare move for a VC that normally only comes in at a Series A level. Joining the round is AI Seed and angel investors Charles Songhurst (former Microsoft head of Corporate Strategy), Tom McInerney (founder, TGM Ventures), John Spindler (CEO, Capital Enterprise) and James Field (CEO, LabGenius).

Rahko says it is building “quantum discovery” capabilities for chemical simulation, which could enable groundbreaking advances in batteries, chemicals, advanced materials and drugs. It was started by co-founders Leonard Wossnig, Edward Grant, Miriam Cha and Ian Horobin.

Leo and Ed were longtime collaborators through their PhDs at University College London. They had been working on research in quantum machine learning (QML) with now lead developers Shuxiang Cao and Hongxiang Chen for several years and had been consolidating all their research into a QML platform.

They say the QML platform attracted serious attention from a tech giant and overtures were made. Leo and Ed made the decision not to give away control of the sum of their work, and decided instead to launch a business to commercialize it.

Chemical simulation is a vital capability for research that has not advanced significantly in recent years due to the limited computational power of classical computers. Rahko claims it has an arsenal of tools that may make quantum computers accessible and commercially usable at an accelerated pace, often through the use of hybrid approaches with classical computers.

Leo Wossnig, CEO, said: “Most people find quantum computers mysterious and wonder if they are going to save or break the world as we know it. In reality, quantum computing is going to unlock radical advances in areas of research and technology in which we have found ourselves stuck for some time now. Our team is excited to get together every day to work on problems that would have been impossible to solve only a couple of years ago. We are delighted to welcome on board this unique group of investors who truly share our excitement.” Earlier this year, Wossnig was the recipient of the prestigious 2019 Google Fellowship in Quantum Computing for his achievement in computer science.

Lars Fjeldsoe-Nielsen, general partner at Balderton Capital, said: “Rahko is one of the top teams in the world working on a complex space at the very edge of science and computing. The application of discoveries within quantum has already been profound and impacted our fundamental understanding of the world around us. The pace and rate of change in this field over the past few years has been astonishing, and we feel incredibly lucky to be supporting this exceptional team as they continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible.”

Rahko is one of several startups originating from UCL’s Computer Science programme, supported by Conception X, a venture builder for deep tech startups. It works in partnership with several of the world’s largest quantum hardware manufacturers, leading academic teams and national laboratories.

Wossnig added: “Quantum software is a relatively new field. It is growing very quickly but at this stage the field is small enough for us to know all of the best teams out there and be working with many of them. IBM and Microsoft, for instance, have large software teams but we are partners with both of them.”

The entire quantum computing industry is relying on quantum hardware maturing to a scale that will allow powerful, commercially valuable applications. It’s estimated this will be in three-five years. Until this happens it is a little premature to say definitively who is leading the race.

Categories: Business News

Descartes Labs snaps up $20M more for its AI-based geospatial imagery analytics platform

2019, October 11 - 9:25pm

Satellite imagery holds a wealth of information that could be useful for industries, science and humanitarian causes, but one big and persistent challenge with it has been a lack of effective ways to tap that disparate data for specific ends.

That’s created a demand for better analytics, and now, one of the startups that has been building solutions to do just that is announcing a round of funding as it gears up for expansion. Descartes Labs, a geospatial imagery analytics startup out of Santa Fe, New Mexico, is today announcing that it has closed a $20 million round of funding, money that CEO and founder Mark Johnson described to me as a bridge round ahead of the startup closing and announcing a larger growth round.

The funding is being led by Union Grove Venture Partners, with Ajax Strategies, Crosslink Capital, and March Capital Partners (which led its previous round) also participating. It brings the total raised by Descartes Labs to $60 million, and while Johnson said the startup would not be disclosing its valuation, PitchBook notes that it is $220 million ($200 million pre-money in this round).

As a point of comparison, another startup in the area of geospatial analytics, Orbital Insight, is reportedly now raising money at a $430 million valuation (that data is from January of this year, and we’ve contacted the company to see if it ever closed).

Santa Fe — a city popular with retirees that counts tourism as its biggest industry — is an unlikely place to find a tech startup. Descartes Labs’ presence there is a result of that fact that it is a spinoff from the Los Alamos National Laboratory near the city.

Johnson — who had lived in San Francisco before coming to Santa Fe to help create Descartes Labs (his previous experience building Zite for media, he said, led the Los Alamos scientists to first conceive of the Descartes Labs IP as the basis of a kind of search engine) — admitted that he never thought the company would stay headquartered there beyond a short initial phase of growth of six months.

However, it turned out that the trends around more distributed workforces (and cloud computing to enable that), engineers looking for employment alternatives to living in pricey San Francisco, plus the heated competition for talent you get in the Valley all came together in a perfect storm that helped Descartes Labs establish and thrive on its home turf.

Descartes Labs — named after the seminal philosopher/mathematician Rene Descartes — describes itself as a “data refinery”. By this, it means it injests a lot of imagery and unstructured data related to the earth that is picked up primarily by satellites but also other sensors (Johnson notes that its sources include data from publicly available satellites; data from NASA and the European space agency, and data from the companies themselves); applies AI-based techniques including computer vision analysis and machine learning to make sense of the sometimes-grainy imagery; and distills and orders it to create insights into what is going on down below, and how that is likely to evolve.

This includes not just what is happening on the surface of the earth, but also in the air above it: Descartes Labs has worked on projects to detect levels of methane gas in oil fields, the spread of wildfires, and how crops might grow in a particular area, and the impact of weather patterns on it all.

It has produced work for a range of clients that have included governments (the methane detection, pictured above, was commissioned as part of New Mexico’s effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions), energy giants and industrial agribusiness, and traders.

“The idea is to help them take advantage of all the new data going online,” Johnson said, noting that this can help, for example, bankers forecast how much a commodity will trade for, or the effect of a change in soil composition on a crop.

The fact that Descartes Labs’ work has connected it with the energy industry gives an interesting twist to the use of the phrase “data refinery”. But in case you were wondering, Johnson said that the company goes through a process of vetting potential customers to determine if the data Descartes Labs provides to them is for a positive end, or not.

“We have a deep belief that we can help them become more efficient,” he said. “Those looking at earth data are doing so because they care about the planet and are working to try to become more sustainable.”

Johnson also said (in answer to my question about it) that so far, there haven’t been any instances where the startup has been prohibited to work with any customers or countries, but you could imagine how — in this day of data being ‘the new oil’ and the fulcrum of power — that could potentially be an issue. (Related to this: Orbital Insight counts In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture arm, as one of its backers.)

Looking ahead, the company is building what it describes as a “digital twin” of the earth, the idea being that in doing so it can better model the imagery that it injests and link up data from different regions more seamlessly (since, after all, a climatic event in one part of the world inevitably impacts another). Notably, “digital twinning” is a common concept that we see applied in other AI-based enterprises to better predict activity: this is the approach that, for example, Forward Networks takes when building models of an enterprise’s network to determine how apps will behave and identify the reasons behind an outage.

In addition to the funding round, Descartes Labs named Phil Fraher its new CFO, and is announcing Veery Maxwell, Director for Energy Innovation and Patrick Cairns, who co-founded UGVP, as new board observers.

Categories: Business News

Final day to save up to €600 on passes to Disrupt Berlin 2019

2019, October 11 - 7:53pm

Tick tock, it’s now-o’clock, startuppers. The last few hours of super early-bird savings on passes to Disrupt Berlin 2019 are slipping away faster than grains of sand through an hourglass. The bird bites the dust and prices go up as of 11:59 p.m. (CEST) tonight, 11 October.

Buy your passes to Disrupt Berlin now and, depending on which pass you choose, you can save up to €600. Who wants to pay more than necessary?

What’s high on your Disrupt must-see list? Maybe it’s the Hackathon, where up to 500 participants will compete in sponsored challenges to create solutions to real-world problems — in less than 36 hours. It’s intense, exhausting, caffeine-fueled fun, and we can’t wait to see which teams win the individual contests and which one team wins the €5,000 grand prize for best overall hack.

Perhaps you’re all about witnessing the glorious chaos that is Startup Battlefield? Who can blame you? It’s fast-paced action as 15-20 of the top early-stage startups take the Main Stage to deliver a convincing six-minute pitch and demo to a tough panel of expert technologists and veteran VCs. The follow-up Q&A is no joke, either. Talk about flop sweat. It’s worth the ride and the chance to take home the Disrupt Cup and $50,000.

Could be you’re looking to make business connections to keep your startup (founder or investor) dream moving forward. Set your GPS for Startup Alley, the exhibition floor where opportunity awaits. Hundreds of early-stage startups and sponsors will be in force to talk tech, share inspiration and meet potential customers, investors and collaborators. It’s a veritable breeding ground of opportunity, innovation and inspiration.

While you’re there, be sure to connect with our TC Top Picks. TechCrunch editors hand-pick this cohort of stellar early-stage startups, choosing only up to five to represent each of these tech categories: AI/Machine Learning, Biotech/Healthtech, Blockchain, Fintech, Mobility, Privacy/Security, Retail/E-commerce, Robotics/IoT/Hardware, CRM/Enterprise and Education.

As always, we’ll feature a slate of amazing speakers on our different stages. Iconic technologists, boundary-pushing VCs, entrepreneurs who’ve persevered, done the work and reaped the rewards. They’ll be on hand to share their stories, tips and insights. You’ll find big topics on the Main Stage and an opportunity to have smaller, more intimate conversations with speakers in our Q&A Sessions.

So much to do at Disrupt Berlin 2019 and so little time to get the best price on passes. Super early-bird pricing ends tonight at 11:59 p.m. (CEST). Don’t let the hours slip past you — buy your passes. It’s now-o’clock, baby!

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt Berlin 2019? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Categories: Business News

CrunchMatch helps you network with ease at Disrupt Berlin 2019

2019, October 11 - 5:51pm

One of the most exciting aspects of Disrupt Berlin 2019, which takes place on 11-12 December, is networking with like-minded startuppers from around the world. But with thousands of attendees, hundreds of early-stage startups exhibiting in Startup Alley — and only two programming-packed days to take it all in — how the heck can you zero in on the right connections?

Never fear, we’ve got you covered and then some. Take advantage of CrunchMatch, our free business match-making service that takes the pain out of networking. No more wasting time talking to the wrong people.

Before we explain how CrunchMatch simplifies your Disrupt experience, we must ask a vital question. Did you buy your pass yet? If not, know this: super early bird pricing ends tonight at 11:59 p.m. (CEST). Buy your ticket now, and save up to €600.

Where were we? Ah, yes…CrunchMatch can help everyone attending Disrupt Berlin ’19 — founders looking for developers, investors hunting hot prospects, technology service providers eager for new customers, founders looking for marketing help — the list is endless. Here’s how it works.

We’ll email registered attendees when CrunchMatch launches and explain how to access the platform. Then you create a profile listing your specific business criteria, goals and interests. CrunchMatch (powered by Brella) waves its magic algorithm to find and suggests matches. And, subject to your approval, CrunchMatch proposes meeting times and sends out meeting requests.

If you’re wondering whether an automated, albeit curated, networking platform can really make a difference, listen up. In 2018, CrunchMatch facilitated more than 3,000 meetings. And Yoolbox — makers of a portable wireless charger — says the connections it made through CrunchMatch helped to increase its distribution.

Needmore encouragement? More than 95 percent of our CrunchMatch users reported that they’d use the platform again. And here’s what Caleb John, co-founder of Cedar Robotics, said about his experience using CrunchMatch.

“CrunchMatch is a great way to pitch your ideas to investors quickly. Instead of approaching each one individually, just type up your pitch and send it to 50 people. Even if only 10 percent get back to you, you still have five investors. It’s one of Disrupt’ best benefits.”

You have only two action-filled days at Disrupt Berlin 2019. Make the most of your time, save your shoe leather and tap into more opportunity with CrunchMatch. And don’t forget: the super early bird price disappears tonight at 11:59 p.m. (CEST). Go buy your pass and save!

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt Berlin 2019? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Categories: Business News

Klarna CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski to speak at Disrupt Berlin shortly after raising $460 million

2019, October 11 - 5:00pm

Klarna is quietly becoming a fintech giant. Following its latest founding round, the company is now valued at $5.5 billion. That’s why I’m excited to announce that Klarna co-founder and CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski will join us at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin.

If you live in Europe and regularly purchase stuff online, chances are you’ve used Klarna already. The company offers a simple way to pay for e-commerce purchases over multiple installments.

And it’s been massively successful in Europe. You could think as Klarna as a sort of credit card-alternative payment method. Even if you don’t have a credit card, you can choose to purchase something right now, pay after 30 days or pay over 3 or 4 installments without any interest.

This way, expensive payments become slightly easier for customers. And if there’s a problem with your purchase, Klarna ensures that you don’t have to pay or get your money back — your money never left your bank account in the first place.

Just like using a PayPal account, if you pay on another site that uses Klarna, you don’t have to enter your payment information again. Merchants that leverage Klarna gets paid instantly after a purchase, even if clients choose to pay later.

Klarna is also building a marketplace of stores. You can download the mobile app and search for products across multiple stores. This could become a great alternative to e-commerce giants like Amazon.

Up next, Klarna wants to grow its presence in the U.S. While it already has millions of customers and thousands of merchants, the company thinks there’s still a ton of potential in the U.S.

If you want to know how a Swedish startup plans to disrupt the credit card industry in the U.S., buy your ticket to Disrupt Berlin to listen to this discussion — and many others. The conference will take place December 11-12.

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

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In 2005, Sebastian Siemiatkowski co-founded Klarna in order to provide safe and smooth online payments. He currently serves as its Chief Executive Officer. Over the past decade, he has overseen the company’s rapid growth across Europe and more recently into North America. Klarna is a now fully licensed bank with 60mn consumer and 170,000 merchant user base.

Sebastian has received multiple awards for his leadership, including runner up in the 2015 global EY Entrepreneur of the Year award, Leader of the Year by Adecco, and European Entrepreneur of the Year Award by TechTour. He holds a master’s degree from the Stockholm School of Economics.

Categories: Business News

Autonomous trucking startup Einride eyes US market with $25 million in new funding

2019, October 11 - 6:08am

Einride, the Swedish autonomous vehicle startup known for its futuristic pods designed to haul freight, has raised $25 million in a Series A round that will be used to fund its expansion into the United States.

The round was co-led by EQT Ventures and NordicNinja VC, a fund backed by Panasonic, Honda, Omron and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation. Other investors joining the round include Ericsson Ventures, Norrsken Foundation, Plum Alley Investments and Plug and Play Ventures. The startup has raised $32 million to date.

Einride’s self-driving vehicle isn’t quite a truck, although it’s meant to perform the same freight-hauling tasks. The company’s T-Pod electric vehicle, which was unveiled in 2017, has been running on public roads since May of this year.

Einride, which was founded in 2016, has landed several customer contracts, including logistics provider DB Schenker and supermarket chain Lidl. Einride has a commercial pilot with DB Schenker. The startup said it has also signed on “large U.S.-based retail companies,” without naming them.

The funds will be used to hire more people, invest in its software platform and expand internationally, notably the U.S., according to the company. Einride plans to open a U.S. office next year.

“Our ambition is to disrupt the transport industry and closing our series A brings us one step closer to that goal,” Einride co-founder and CEO Robert Falck. “The funding will allow us to start expanding in the U.S., deliver on our technology road map and to meet rapidly increasing customer demand.”

Categories: Business News

Top VCs, founders share how to build a successful SaaS company

2019, October 11 - 5:11am

Last week at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco, we hosted a panel on the Extra Crunch stage on “How to build a billion-dollar SaaS company.” A better title probably would have been “How to build a successful SaaS company.”

We spoke to Whitney Bouck, COO at HelloSign; Jyoti Bansal, CEO and founder at Harness, and Neeraj Agrawal, a partner at Battery Ventures to get their view on how to move through the various stages to build that successful SaaS company.

While there is no magic formula, we covered a lot of ground, including finding a product-market fit, generating early revenue, the importance of building a team, what to do when growth slows and finally, how to resolve the tension between growth and profitability.

Finding product-market fit

Neeraj Agrawal: When we’re talking to the market, what we’re really looking for is a repeatable pattern of use cases. So when we’re talking to prospects — the words they use, the pain point they use — are very similar from call to call to call? Once we see that pattern, we know we have product-market fit, and then we can replicate that.

Jyoti Bansal: Revenue is one measure of product-market fit. Are customers adopting it and getting value out of it and renewing? Until you start getting a first set of renewals and a first set of expansions and happy successful customers, you don’t really have product-market fit. So that’s the only way you can know if the product is really working or not.

Whitney Bouck: It isn’t just about revenue — the measures of success at all phases have to somewhat morph. You’ve got to be looking at usage, at adoption, value renewals, expansion, and of course, the corollary, churn, to give you good health indicators about how you’re doing with product-market fit.

Generating early revenue

Jyoti Bansal: As founders we’ve realized, getting from idea to early revenue is one of the hardest things to do. The first million in revenue is all about street fighting. Founders have to go out there and win business and do whatever it takes to get to revenue.

As your revenue grows, what you focus on as a company changes. Zero to $1 million, your goal is to find the product-market fit, do whatever it takes to get early customers. One million to $10 million, you start scaling it. Ten million to $75 million is all about sales, execution, and [at] $75 million plus, the story changes to how do you go into new markets and things like that.

Whitney Bouck: You really do have to get that poll from the market to be able to really start the momentum and growth. The freemium model is one of the ways that we start to engage people — getting visibility into the product, getting exposure to the product, really getting people thinking about, and frankly, spreading the word about how this product can provide value.

Photo: Kimberly White/Getty Images for TechCrunch

 

Categories: Business News

To beat Amazon Go, Standard Cognition buys cashierless DeepMagic

2019, October 11 - 3:48am

Valued at $535 million, autonomous retail startup Standard Cognition has emerged as a soon-to-be tech giant and the best hope for merchants to compete with Amazon Go. Cashierless checkout is poised to transform brick-and-mortar commerce, and shop owners fear having to battle Amazon’s technology alone or partner with it, exposing data it could use against them.

The $86 million-funded Standard Cognition is racing to equip storefronts with an independent alternative using cameras to track what customers grab and charge them. But Amazon’s early start in the space poses a risk that it could patent troll the startup. So today, Standard Cognition announced it has acquired DeepMagic, a pioneer in autonomous retail kiosks.

“We’re not an aggressive company by any mean. My personal stance on patents is that maybe they’re not the way the world should work” says Standard Cognition CEO Jordan Fisher. “But given the larger player in the space, I think it’s the right thing to do so we have coverage and can protect ourselves.”

DeepMagic let customers swipe a payment card when entering a smaller kiosk or store, pick up items that are detected by cameras, and simply walk out while having their card charged. The idea is that businesses could operate satellite micro-storefronts in malls, apartment buildings and more without staff. DeepMagic was easier to deploy since the kiosks were built from the ground up to eliminate annoying checkout lines.

Standard Cognition CEO and co-founder Jordan Fisher

Standard Cognition meanwhile focuses on retrofitting full-sized grocers and other stores like one in minor league baseball team the Worcester Red Sox’s upcoming stadium and others it hasn’t announced. It currently has one experimental shop of its own in San Francisco. Roll outs with partners are more challenging because the startup doesn’t design the building form factor or inventory but is addressing a much bigger market of existing storefronts. It claims it can grow profit margins for shops by up to 100%.

Standard Cognition sees the smaller footprint spots outfitted by DeepMagic as a crucial piece of the autonomous retail landscape. So it’s acquiring DeepMagic’s technology, and bringing co-founder and CEO Bernd Schoner on as a consultant. Standard Cognition won’t pick up DeepMagic’s X staffers or pilot contracts, but it’s considering how to integrate the technology as ramped up its own deployments. “We were both tackling this problem with a strong focus on the power of computer vision, so it made sense to align ourselves with Standard.” Schoner tells TechCrunch. “We think Standard is in the best position to win this race.”

DeepMagic was mostly founder-funded, but the 5-employee company had raised $150,000 from angel investors since starting in New York in 2017. Yet Standard Cognition, which was founded a few months later, raised a $35 million Series B in July from EQT Ventures and Initialized. It has become a center of gravity in cashierless tech, having pulled in half the total $118 million invested in the space in 2018. Now it’s consolidating the space with the DeepMagic buy and its acquisition of retail mapping startup Explorer.ai in January.

The purpose of the buying spree is getting to market first. “Every day, the thing is speed. I think this is going to be a very fast market. Every day counts. One of my biggest jobs is to keep everybody as motivated today as they will be in 5 years” says Fisher. “6 months today will translate to 20% market share in 5 years. That’s crazy and it’s a huge motivating factor. Moving fast enough that we can get the lion share of the market is what keeps me up at night.”

The company also has to outpace fellow startups like direct competitor Zippin, Trigo, and Grabango. Along the way, Standard Cognition been focused on developing unbiased anti-theft technology that doesn’t care what a person looks like, just what items disappear from shelves. Fisher says it’s also looking into how it can make sure it doesn’t unabashedly grow unemployment. “We’re creating more jobs than we’re displacing right now” Fisher claims, saying it needs people for data labeling to train its artificial intelligence.

Standard Cognition’s co-founder and CEO hopes Amazon will find it just as challenging if it tries to move from running its own 18 or so Go stores to equipping other businesses. The startup also hopes to capitalize on fears about how Amazon might use partners’ data the way it does in ecommerce. “I don’t think that’s minor at all. Do they get the insights? Can they leverage that to have a better offering on Amazon.com and in their brick-and-mortar stores?” Fisher asks. “Our product offering has none of those strings attached. There’s no ulterior motives.”

Categories: Business News

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