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Bolt, the European on-demand transport company, raises $109M on a $1.9B valuation

2020, May 26 - 6:37pm

Bolt, a rival to Uber and others providing on-demand ridesharing, scooters and other transportation services across some 150 cities in Europe and Africa, is today announcing another capital raise as it weathers a difficult market climate where, because of COVID-19, many are staying in place and avoiding modes of transport that put them into contact with others.

The Estonia-based company is today announcing that it has picked up an additional €100 million ($109 million) in a convertible note. Bolt also confirmed that is now valued at €1.7 billion (or nearly $1.9 billion at today’s rates).

The money is coming from a single investor, Naya Capital Management, which was also a major backer of the company in its last round, a $67 million Series C in July 2019.

The funding is one more example of how investors are continuing to support their most promising, and/or most capitalised, portfolio companies as they face drastic losses of business during the COVID-19 pandemic, which can only be more complicated for a startup built on a business model that — even in the best of times — is very capital-intensive.

Before this round, in April we were hearing that Bolt was running out of runway and that they were in discussion also with the Estonian government — a big supporter of the country’s tech industry — to underwrite debt in the company.

Bolt has confirmed that this whole funding is in the form of a convertible note (that is, debt), with no additional equity at this point. “We have no plans that we can discuss at the moment,” a spokesperson said, so it sounds like a further equity round is something it’s working on regardless, given these take more time to close.

Bolt — which says it has 30 million users in over 35 countries globally — says that the worst of the lull in business was two months ago and that it’s been slowly recovering since. A spokesperson said that the company was closing in on breakeven at the end of last year, and it was preparing an equity round “mostly for food delivery and micromobility.”

Now, the picture is somewhat different, with ride-hailing and recovery measures putting more financial need into the business model.

Altogether, however, the company is still on the relatively smaller side when it comes to capital raise for its on-demand transportation model. Bolt has now raised over €300 million including debt and equity, with other investors including Nordic Ninja — a new fund out of Helsinki backed by a number of Japanese LPs to invest in Northern European startups (Bolt is based out of Tallinn) — Creandum, G Squared, Invenfin (a fund out of South Africa backed by investment holding company Remgro) and Superangel, a fund out of Estonia that has been backing the startup since its earliest days, as well as Didi (and, by association, SoftBank and Uber), Daimler, Korelya Capital and Spring Capital.

Formerly known as Taxify, Bolt rebranded last year as it expanded beyond private car rides into other areas like electric scooters and food delivery — and the plan will be to use this funding to expand all three business areas in the coming months, along with newer product categories like Business Delivery in-city same-day courier services and Bolt Protect for people to continue to use its ride-hailing services by kitting out cars with plastic sheeting between driver and passenger seats.

Uber, Bolt’s publicly traded business rival, has laid bare just how painful the pandemic has been for business. The company, which had raised billions of dollars as a privately-backed startup, has laid off nearly 7,000 employees in recent weeks, and while we currently have little visibility of the impact this has had on the contractors Uber engages to move people, food and other items in its network, its next quarterly earnings (which will cover the full brunt of the pandemic) should more clearly spell out the drop-off in overall business.

Bolt notes that so far, it hasn’t had to let people to as Uber and others have, and while it doesn’t go into financial details, it does acknowledge that business is not business as usual.

“Even though the crisis has temporarily changed how we move, the long-term trends that drive on-demand mobility such as declining personal car ownership or the shift towards greener transportation continue to grow,” said Markus Villig, CEO and co-founder, in a statement.

“We are happy to be backed by investors that look past the typical Silicon Valley hype and support our long term view. I am more confident than ever that our efficiency and localisation are a fundamental advantage in the on-demand industry. These enable us to continue offering affordable transportation to millions of customers and the best earnings for our partners in the post-COVID world.”

A lot of people have talked about how fundraising has become more complicated in the current climate. Not only are founders and investors not able to meet in person and get more embedded in evaluating an opportunity, but many are unable to see what the future will hold in terms of market demand and the overall economy, making the bets all the more laden with risk.

That’s left a lot of the activity spread between startups that are seeing business lift precisely because of present circumstances; startups that have businesses that are continuing to enjoy a lot of trade despite present circumstances; and startups that are strong enough (or already so highly capitalised) that investors want to support them to make sure they don’t go under. More typically, startups that are securing funding are falling into more than one of the above categories, as is the case with Bolt.

“We are delighted to have the opportunity to invest in Bolt at this stage in the company’s growth story,” Masroor Siddiqui, managing partner, CIO and founder of Naya Capital Management, said in a statement. “Under Markus’ leadership, Bolt has established itself as one of the most competitive and innovative players in global mobility. We believe that Bolt is helping drive a fundamental change in how consumers interact with the transport infrastructure of their cities and look forward to the company’s continued execution on its strategic vision.”

Update: Bolt confirmed after we published that this is actually all in the form of a convertible note, so this is not a Series D. Also updated with more information about the state of the business.

Categories: Business News

R&D Roundup: ‘Twisted light’ lasers, prosthetic vision advances and robot-trained dogs

2020, May 25 - 12:15am

I see far more research articles than I could possibly write up. This column collects the most interesting of those papers and advances, along with notes on why they may prove important in the world of tech and startups.

In this edition: a new type of laser emitter that uses metamaterials, robot-trained dogs, a breakthrough in neurological research that may advance prosthetic vision and other cutting-edge technology.

Twisted laser-starters

We think of lasers as going “straight” because that’s simpler than understanding their nature as groups of like-minded photons. But there are more exotic qualities for lasers beyond wavelengths and intensity, ones scientists have been trying to exploit for years. One such quality is… well, there are a couple names for it: Chirality, vorticality, spirality and so on — the quality of a beam having a corkscrew motion to it. Applying this quality effectively could improve optical data throughput speeds by an order of magnitude.

The trouble with such “twisted light” is that it’s very difficult to control and detect. Researchers have been making progress on this for a couple of years, but the last couple weeks brought some new advances.

First, from the University of the Witwatersrand, is a laser emitter that can produce twisted light of record purity and angular momentum — a measure of just how twisted it is. It’s also compact and uses metamaterials — always a plus.

The second is a pair of matched (and very multi-institutional) experiments that yielded both a transmitter that can send vortex lasers and, crucially, a receiver that can detect and classify them. It’s remarkably hard to determine the orbital angular momentum of an incoming photon, and hardware to do so is clumsy. The new detector is chip-scale and together they can use five pre-set vortex modes, potentially increasing the width of a laser-based data channel by a corresponding factor. Vorticality is definitely on the roadmap for next-generation network infrastructure, so you can expect startups in this space soon as universities spin out these projects.

Tracing letters on the brain-palm
Categories: Business News

This Week in Apps: Facebook takes on Shopify, Tinder considers its future, contact-tracing tech goes live

2020, May 24 - 12:15am

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the Extra Crunch series that recaps the latest OS news, the applications they support and the money that flows through it all.

The app industry is as hot as ever, with a record 204 billion downloads and $120 billion in consumer spending in 2019. People are now spending three hours and 40 minutes per day using apps, rivaling TV. Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus.

In this Extra Crunch series, we help you keep up with the latest news from the world of apps, delivered on a weekly basis.

This week we’re continuing to look at how the coronavirus outbreak is impacting the world of mobile applications. Notably, we saw the launch of the Apple/Google exposure-notification API with the latest version of iOS out this week. The pandemic is also inspiring other new apps and features, including upcoming additions to Apple’s Schoolwork, which focus on distance learning, as well as Facebook’s new Shops feature designed to help small business shift their operations online in the wake of physical retail closures.

Tinder, meanwhile, seems to be toying with the idea of pivoting to a global friend finder and online hangout in the wake of social distancing, with its test of a feature that allows users to match with others worldwide — meaning, with no intention of in-person dating.

Headlines COVID-19 apps in the news
  • Fitbit app: The fitness tracker app launched a COVID-19 early detection study aimed at determining whether wearables can help detect COVID-19 or the flu. The study will ask volunteers questions about their health, including whether they had COVID-19, then pair that with activity data to see if there are any clues that could be used to build an early warning algorithm of sorts.
  • U.K. contact-tracing app: The app won’t be ready in mid-May as promised, as the government mulls the use of the Apple/Google API. In testing, the existing app drains the phone battery too quickly. In addition, researchers have recently identified seven security flaws in the app, which is currently being trialed on the Isle of Wight.
Apple launches iOS/iPadOS 13.5 with Face ID tweak and contact-tracing API

Apple this week released the latest version of iOS/iPadOS with two new features related to the pandemic. The first is an update to Face ID which will now be able to tell when the user is wearing a mask. In those cases, Face ID will instead switch to the Passcode field so you can type in your code to unlock your phone, or authenticate with apps like the App Store, Apple Books, Apple Pay, iTunes and others.

Technology can help health officials rapidly tell someone they may have been exposed to COVID-19. Today the Exposure Notification API we created with @Google is available to help public health agencies make their COVID-19 apps effective while protecting user privacy.

— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) May 20, 2020

The other new feature is the launch of the exposure-notification API jointly developed by Apple and Google. The API allows for the development of apps from public health organizations and governments that can help determine if someone has been exposed by COVID-19. The apps that support the API have yet to launch, but some 22 countries have requested API access.

Categories: Business News

3 views on the life and death of college towns, remote work and the future of startup hubs

2020, May 23 - 4:00am

The global pandemic has halted travel, shunted schools online and shut down many cities, but the future of college-town America is an area of deep concern for the startup world.

College towns have done exceedingly well with the rise of the knowledge economy and concentrating students and talent in dense social webs. That confluence of ideas and skill fueled the rise of a whole set of startup clusters outside major geos like the Bay Area, but with COVID-19 bearing down on these ecosystems and many tech workers considering remote work, what does the future look like for these cradles of innovation?

We have three angles on this topic from the Equity podcast crew:

  • Danny Crichton sees the death of college towns, and looks at whether remote tools can substitute for in-person connections when building a startup.
  • Natasha Mascarenhas believes connecting with other students is critical for developing one’s sense of self, and the decline of colleges will negatively impact students and their ability to trial and error their way to their first job.
  • Alex Wilhelm looks at whether residential colleges are about to be disrupted — or whether tradition will prevail. His is (surprise!) a more sanguine look at the future of college towns.
Startup hubs are going to disintegrate as college towns are decimated by coronavirus

Danny Crichton: One of the few urban success stories outside the big global cities like New York, Tokyo, Paris and London has been a small set of cities that have used a mix of their proximity to power (state capitals), knowledge (universities) and finance (local big companies) to build innovative economies. That includes places like Austin, Columbus, Chattanooga, Ann Arbor, Urbana, Denver, Atlanta and Minneapolis, among many others.

Over the past two decades, there was an almost magical economic alchemy underway in these locales. Universities attracted large numbers of bright and ambitious students, capitals and state government offices offered a financial base to the regional economy and local big companies offered the jobs and stability that allow innovation to flourish.

All that has disappeared, leading to some critics, like Noah Smith, to ask whether “Coronavirus Will End the Golden Age for College Towns”?

Categories: Business News

Startup Battlefield is going virtual with TechCrunch Disrupt 2020

2020, May 23 - 2:05am

You read that right. The big announcement came yesterday — TechCrunch Disrupt is now fully virtual. What does this mean for Startup Battlefield? More opportunity. The best companies from across the globe, an even bigger launch platform, the eyes of more investors from around the world and press exposure at the biggest conference TechCrunch has held to date. The conference will be available globally, spanning five days — September 14-18. Founders. This. Is. Your. Shot. Applications will close June 19th, so get your app in ASAP.

Successful startup founders face challenging circumstances with determination and persistence — and they grab hold of every opportunity to pave a path forward. Are you ready to pave your path? And a chance to win the $100,000 equity-free prize and the Disrupt Cup?

The virtual Startup Battlefield works much like last year’s onsite battle, but with a few twists and added benefits.

Apply. You’re eligible — no matter where you are around the world — if your company meets these criteria: it’s early-stage; you have an MVP that includes a tech component (software, hardware or platform); your company has not received much, if any, major media coverage. Here’s good news: It won’t cost you a thing to apply or participate in the Battlefield. And TechCrunch does not take any equity.

The TechCrunch editorial team will review every application, looking for innovative, game-changing startups from verticals spanning the tech spectrum. They’ll select a cadre of startups to compete virtually in front of influencers who have to power to change the course of your business.

Prepare for battle. All competing teams go through a free weeks-long training with the TechCrunch team. That coaching will whip your pitch into fighting trim, cut the fat from your business models, sharpen your presentation skills and fine-tune your demo. You’ll also hear from industry experts on developing various aspects of your business — from go-to-market strategy to executive communications.

Compete. When game day arrives, each team presents a six-minute pitch to a bevy of judges consisting of top VCs and technologists. An intense Q&A follows each presentation, but with all that coaching under your belt you won’t break a sweat. The judges will select teams to move into the finals — and those founders will pitch yet again to a fresh panel of judges on the final day of the virtual conference.

From that impressive lot, the judges will choose one stellar startup to claim the Disrupt Cup and the $100,000 prize. The whole event takes place online in front of a huge global audience — they can watch all the action with a free Disrupt Digital pass.

Network and grow your business. Although only one startup wins the cash, all Startup Battlefield competitors gain invaluable exposure to investors, media and potential customers — and they join the ranks of the Startup Battlefield Alumni. That impressive cohort has collectively raised $9 billion and generated 115 exits. We’re talking companies like Vurb, Dropbox, GetAround, Mint, Yammer, Fitbit and many more. Talk about prime networking.

Startup Battlefield competitors also get to exhibit in Digital Startup Alley and enjoy these added benefits:

  • Leading Voices Webinars: Top industry minds will share their thoughts and strategies on adapting and thriving during and after this pandemic. Startup Alley exhibitors get exclusive access to this webinar series.
  • A launch article posted on TechCrunch.com.
  • A YouTube video promoted on TechCrunch.com.
  • Free subscription to Extra Crunch.
  • Free passes to future TechCrunch events.

Plus, you’ll receive loads of press and investor attention and use of CrunchMatch, our AI-powered networking platform, to set up virtual meetings. Keep checking back, because we’re not quite finished adding extra perks.

You’re determined. You’re persistent. Apply to compete in Startup Battlefield at Disrupt 2020 for an opportunity to pave your path to success.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt 2020? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Categories: Business News

Steve Case and Clara Sieg on how the COVID-19 crisis differs from the dot-com bust

2020, May 23 - 1:33am

Steve Case and Clara Sieg of Revolution recently spoke on TechCrunch’s new series, Extra Crunch Live. Throughout the hour-long chat, we touched on numerous subjects, including how diverse founders can take advantage during this downturn and how remote work may lead to growth outside Silicon Valley. The two have a unique vantage point, with Steve Case, co-founder and former CEO of AOL turned VC, and Clara Sieg, a Stanford-educated VC heading up Revolution’s Silicon Valley office.

Together, Case and Sieg laid out how the current crisis is different from the dot-com bust of the late nineties. Because of the differences, their outlook is bullish on the tech sector’s ability to pull through.

And for everyone who couldn’t join us live, the full video replay is embedded below. (You can get access here if you need it.)

Case said that during the run-up to the dot-com bust, it was a different environment.

“When we got started at AOL, which was back in 1985, the internet didn’t exist yet,” Case said. “I think 3% of people were online or online an hour a week. And it took us a decade to get going. By the year 2000, which is sort of the peak of AOL’s success, we had about half of all the U.S. internet traffic, and the market value soared. That’s when suddenly, when any company with a dot-com name was getting funded. Many were going public without even having much in the way of revenues. That’s not we’re dealing with now.”

Categories: Business News

Thriva raises £4M from Target in an era when at-home blood testing is more crucial than ever

2020, May 23 - 1:32am

Thriva emerged in 2016 as an at-home blood-testing startup allowing people to check, for instance, cholesterol levels. In the era of a pandemic, however, at-home blood testing is about to become quite a big deal, alongside the general trend toward people proactively taking control of their health.

It has secured a £4 million extension to its Series A funding round from Berlin-based VC Target Global . The investment takes Thriva’s total funding to £11 million. The investment comes from Target Global’s new Early Stage Fund II and will top up the £6 million Series A raised in 2019. Existing investors include Guinness Asset Management and Pembroke VCT.

Thriva has processed more than 115,000 at-home blood tests since 2016. Interestingly, these customers actually use the information to improve their health, with 76% of Thriva users achieving an improvement in at least one of their biomarkers between tests.

The startup has also launched personalized health plans and high-quality supplements, scaling up its partnerships with hospitals and other healthcare providers.

Founded by Hamish Grierson, Eliot Brooks and Tom Livesey, it claims to be growing 100% year-on-year and has expanded its team to 50 members in the company’s London headquarters.

In a statement Grierson said: “As the world faces unprecedented challenges posed by the coronavirus crisis, we have all been forced to view our health, and our mortality, in a new light.”

Speaking to TechCrunch he added: “While there are other at-home testing companies, we don’t see them as directly competitive. Thriva isn’t a testing company. Our at-home blood tests are an important data point but they’re just the beginning of the long-term relationships we’re creating with our customers. To deliver on our mission of putting better health in your hands, we not only help people to keep track of what’s really happening inside their bodies, we actually help them to make positive changes that they can see the effects of over time.”

Dr. Ricardo Schäfer, partner at Target Global said: “When we first met the team behind Thriva, we were immediately hooked by their mission to allow people to take health into their own hands.”

Categories: Business News

Strategies for surviving the COVID-19 Series B squeeze

2020, May 23 - 12:24am
Mikael Johnsson Contributor Share on Twitter Mikael Johnsson is a co-founder and general partner of Oxx, a venture capital firm investing in European SaaS companies at growth stage.

A generation of companies now needs to forget what it has learned. The world has changed for everyone, and nowhere is this more true than in fundraising.

I’ve been investing in technology companies for over twenty years, and I’ve seen how venture capitalists respond in bull and bear markets. I’ve supported companies through the downturns that followed the dot-com bubble and the global financial crisis, and witnessed how founders adapt to the new environment. This current pandemic is no different.

A growth company that only a few months ago was shopping for a $20 million, $30 million, or even $40 million Series B, with a choice of potential investors, must now acknowledge that the shelves may well have emptied.

VCs who were assessing potential new deals at the beginning of the year have had to abruptly adjust their focus: Q1 venture activity in Europe was under its 2019 average, and the figures for the coming months are likely to be much worse as the pipeline empties of deals that were already in progress.

The simple reason for this is that VCs are having to rapidly reallocate their two principal assets: time and capital. More time has to be spent stitching together deals for portfolio companies in need of fresh funding, with little support from outside money. As a result, funds will be putting more capital behind their existing companies, reducing the pool for new investments.

Added to those factors is uncertainty about pricing. VCs take their lead on valuation from the public markets, which have plummeted in tech, as elsewhere. The SEG index of listed SaaS stocks was down 26% year-to-date as of late March. With more pain likely ahead, few investors are going to commit to valuations that founders will accept until there is more certainty that the worst is behind us. A gap will open between newly cautious investors and founders unwilling to bear haircuts up to 50%, dramatic increases in dilution and even the prospect of down rounds. It will likely take quarters — not weeks — for that gulf to be bridged and for many deals to become possible again.

Categories: Business News

Statespace, the platform that trains gamers, raises $15 million

2020, May 22 - 11:00pm

Statespace has today raised a $15 million Series A financing round led by Khosla, with partner Samir Kaul joining the board. Existing investors, such as FirstMark Capital, Lux and Expa, also participated in the round, as well as newcomer June Fund.

Statespace launched out of stealth in 2017 with a product called Aim Lab, which recreates the physics of popular FPS games to help players practice their aim and work on their weaknesses. Statespace was founded by neuroscientists from New York University, and goes beyond the mechanics of aim itself to understand and measure several parts of a player’s game, from visual acuity across the quadrants of the screen to reaction time.

Anyone from an average gamer to a professional can use Aim Lab to improve. But the company has other offerings, too. The company is working on the Academy, which will launch in Q3 of this year, and was built in partnership with MasterClass and a number of top streamers. Users can get advanced tutorials from these streamers, which include KingGeorge (Rainbox Six Siege), SypherPK (Fortnite), Valkia (Overwatch), Drift0r (CoD) and Launders (CS:GO).

Statespace has also partnered with the Pro Football Hall of Fame to develop the “Cognitive Combine.” Just like the NFL Combine measures general skills and abilities, such as speed, strength, agility, etc., the Cognitive Combine is meant to give a general assessment of a player’s skill in a game-agnostic manner.

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The company also works directly with esports teams such as 100 Thieves and Philadelphia Fusion, building custom data dashboards and products so those teams can get a deeper look at their metrics and build practice regimes around their weaknesses.

Statespace is also sprinting to make its products more available to a broader user base, including launching a mobile version of Aim Lab and introducing Aim Lab on Xbox, with plans to launch PlayStation support soon. The company also plans to launch support for 400 games next month.

Interestingly, the technology behind Statespace, which lets the company measure well beyond the kill:death ratio and look at cognitive ability, can be used for many other applications. The company has applied for a grant alongside several universities to work on a commercial application for stroke rehabilitation.

Statespace will use the funding to continue growing the team, which has doubled since raising $2.5 million in August of 2019. The company has also brought on a few notable hires from bigger companies, including new VP of Engineering Scott Raymond (formerly of Gowalla, Facebook and Airbnb), Jenna Hannon as VP of Marketing (formerly of Uber, Uber Eats) and Phil Charm as VP of Growth (formerly of Checkr, Gainsight).

According to founder and CEO Wayne Mackey, Statespace has 2 million registered users and 500,000 monthly active users, up 400% from January.

Categories: Business News

API startups are so hot right now

2020, May 22 - 10:28pm

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

A cluster of related companies recently caught our eye by raising capital in rapid-fire fashion. TechCrunch covered a few of them, and I read coverage of others. Looking back through my notes and the media cycles that they generated, it feels safe to say that API -based startups are hot right now.

What’s fun about this trend is that the startups we’re considering are all relatively early-stage, so they aren’t limping unicorns staring down a closed IPO window. Instead, we’re taking a peek at startups that mostly haven’t raised material external capital — yet. They have lots of room to grow.

And the group is somewhat easy to understand. Sure, I don’t fully grok their underlying tech — that’s a bit of the point with API startups; they take something complex and offer it in an easy-to-consume fashion — but I do get how they make money. Not only are their business models fairly easy to understand, there are public companies that monetized in similar ways for us to use as a framework as the startups themselves scale.

This morning let’s look at FalconX and Treasury Prime and Spruce and Daily.co and Skyflow and Evervault, all API-focused startups to one degree or another, to see what’s up.

What’s an API-based startup?

Simply: a high-growth company that delivers its main service via an application programming interface, or API.

APIs help services communicate with other apps, allowing them to execute tasks or request information quickly and easily. These services are sometimes highly valuable because they can offer something complex and difficult, easily and simply.

Categories: Business News

Clubhouse proves that time is a flat circle

2020, May 22 - 10:00pm

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

First, a big thanks to everyone who took part in the Equity survey, we really appreciated your notes and thoughts. The crew is chewing over what you said, and we’ll roll up the best feedback into show tweaks in the future.

Today, though, we’ve got Danny and Natasha and Chris and Alex back again for our regular news dive. This week we had to leave the Vroom IPO filing, Danny’s group project on The Future of Work and a handwashing startup (?) from Natasha to get to the very biggest stories:

  • Brex’s $150 million raise: Natasha covered the latest huge round from corporate charge-card behemoth Brex. The party’s over in Silicon Valley for a little while, so Brex is turning down your favorite startup’s credit limit while it stacks cash for the downturn.
  • Spruce raises a $29 million Series B: Led by Scale Venture Partners, Spruce is taking on the world of real estate transactions with digital tooling and an API. As Danny notes, it’s a huge market and one that could find a boost from the pandemic.
  • MasterClass raises $100 million: Somewhere between education and entertainment, MasterClass has found its niche. The startup’s $180 yearly subscription product appears to be performing well, given that the company just stacked nine-figures into its checking account. What’s it worth? The company would only tell Natasha that it was more than $800 million.
  • Clubhouse does, well, you know. Clubhouse happened. So we talked about it.
  • SoftBank dropped its earnings lately, which gave Danny time to break out his pocket calculator and figure out how much money it spent daily, and Alex time to parse the comedy that its slideshow entailed. Here’s our favorites from the mix. (Source materials are here.)

And at the end, we got Danny to explain what the flying frack is going on over at Luckin. It’s somewhere between tragedy and farce, we reckon. That’s it for today, more Tuesday after the holiday!

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

Categories: Business News

M17 sells its online dating assets to focus on live streaming

2020, May 22 - 4:52pm

M17 Entertainment announced today that it has sold its online dating assets to focus on its core live streaming business in Asia and other markets. Paktor Pte, which operates Paktor dating app and other services, was acquired by Kollective Ventures, a venture capital advisory firm. The value of the deal was undisclosed.

In its announcement, Taipei-based M17 said the sale will allow it to focus on expanding its live streaming business in markets including Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong.

Earlier this month, the company said it had raised a $26.5 million Series D that will be used for growth in Japan, where M17 claims a 60% share of the live streaming market, and expansion into new places like the United States and the Middle East. Its live streaming apps include 17LIVE (an English-language version is called Livit), Meme Live and live-streaming e-commerce platforms HandsUP and FBBuy.

In a statement, M17 CFO Shang Koo said, “As our Japan live streaming business has skyrocketed, we found we were unable to devote the same level of internal resources to our dating business in Southeast Asia. Becoming independent will allow Paktor to control its own destiny as M17 focuses heavily on the future of its streaming services in our largest market, Japan.”

Paktor will operate independently of M17 after the sale, but Koo said “we hope to continue working with Paktor on future business cooperation and will always value the synergy and teamwork between M17 and Paktor.”

M17 was formed in April 2017 when Paktor merged with 17 Media. A year later, M17 was supposed to go public, but cancelled its initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange on the same day it was supposed to start trading, citing “issues related to the settlement” of shares that CEO Joseph Phua later explained in detail to Tech in Asia.

Categories: Business News

Virtual events startup Run The World just nabbed $10.8 million from a16z and Founders Fund

2020, May 22 - 6:06am

Run The World, a year-old startup that’s based in Mountain View, Calif., and has small teams both in China and Taiwan, just nabbed $10.8 million in Series A funding co-led by earlier backer Andreessen Horowitz and new backer Founders Fund.

It’s easy to understand the firms’ interest in the company, whose platform features every functionality that a conference organizer might need in a time of a pandemic and even afterward, given that many outfits are rethinking more permanently how to produce events that include far-flung participants. Think video conferencing, ticketing, interactivity and networking.

We’d written about the startup a few months ago as it was launching with $4.3 million in seed funding led by Andreessen partner Connie Chan, who was joined by a slew of other seed-stage backers, including Pear Ventures, GSR Ventures and Unanimous Capital. Perhaps unsurprisingly given the current climate, Run The World has received a fair amount of traction since, according to co-founder and CEO Xiaoyin Qu, who’d previously led products for both Facebook and Instagram.

“Since we launched in February — and waived all set-up fees for events impacted by the coronavirus — we are receiving hundreds of inbound event requests each day,” Qu says. More specifically, she says the startup has doubled the size of its core team to 30 employees and enabled organizers from a wide variety of countries to oversee more than 2,000 events at this point.

Qu says that a lot of event planners who’ve used Zoom to run webinars are now choosing Run The World instead because of its focus on engagement and social features. For example, attendees to an event on the platform are invited to create a video profile akin to an Instagram Story that can help inform other attendees about who they are. It also organizes related “cocktail parties,” where it can match attendees for several minutes at a time, and attendees can choose who they want to follow up with afterward.

That heavy focus on social networking isn’t accidental. Qu met her co-founder, Xuan Jiang, at Facebook, where Jiang was a technical lead for Facebook events, ads and stories.

Of course, Run The World — which takes 25% of ticket sales in exchange for everything from the templates used, to ticket sales, to payment processing and streaming and so forth — still has very stiff competition in Zoom. The nine-year-old company has seen adoption by consumers soar since February, with 300 million daily meeting participants using the service as of April’s end.

Not only is it hard to overcome that kind of network effect, but Run The World is hardly alone in trying to steer event organizers its way. Earlier this week, for example, Bevy, an events software business co-founded by the founder of the events series Startup Grind, announced it has raised $15 million in Series B funding led by Accel. Other young online events platforms to similarly raise venture backing in recent months include London-based Hopin (whose recent round was also led by Accel, interestingly) and Paris-based Eventmaker.

Still, the fresh funding should help. While Run The World has grown “entirely organically through word of mouth” to date, says Qu, the startup plans to grow its team and will presumably start spending at least a bit on marketing.

It could well get a boost on this last front by its social media-savvy investors.

In addition to a16z and Founders Fund, numerous other backers in its Series A include Will Smith’s Dreamers VC and Kevin Hart’s Hartbeat Capital.

Categories: Business News

Extra Crunch Live: Join Box CEO Aaron Levie May 28th at noon PT/3 pm ET/7 pm GMT

2020, May 22 - 4:30am

We’ve been on a roll with our Extra Crunch Live Series for Extra Crunch members, where we’re talking to some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley about business, investment and the startup community. Recent interviews include Kirsten Green from Forerunner Ventures, Charles Hudson from Precursor Ventures and investor Mark Cuban.

Next week, we’re pleased to welcome Box CEO Aaron Levie. He is a well-known advocate of digital transformation, often a years-long process that many companies have compressed into a few months because of the pandemic, as he has pointed out lately.

As the head of an enterprise SaaS company that started out to help users manage information online, he has a unique perspective on what’s happening in this period as companies move employees home and implement cloud services to ease the transition.

Levie started his company 15 years ago while still an undergrad in the proverbial dorm room and has matured from those early days into a public company executive, guiding his employees, customers and investors through the current crisis. This is not the first economic downturn he has faced as CEO at Box; when it was still an early-stage startup, he saw it through the 2008 financial crisis. Presumably, he’s taking the lessons he learned then and applying them now to a much more mature organization.

Please join TechCrunch writers Ron Miller and Jon Shieber as we chat with Levie about how he’s handling the COVID-19 crisis, moving employees offsite and what advice he has for companies that are accelerating their digital transformation. After he’s shared his wisdom for startups seeking survival strategies, we’ll discuss what life might look like for Box and other companies in a post-pandemic environment.

During the call, audience members are encouraged to ask questions. We’ll get to as many as we can, but you can only participate if you’re an Extra Crunch member, so please subscribe here.

Extra Crunch subscribers can find the Zoom link below (with YouTube to follow) as well as a calendar invite so you won’t miss this conversation.

Categories: Business News

PathSpot sells a scanner that fact checks your handwashing efficacy

2020, May 22 - 2:16am

The novel coronavirus disease has reminded millions that handwashing is a great way to avoid preventable diseases. Christine Schindler, the CEO and co-founder of PathSpot, has been preparing for the past three months for the past three years.

“I’ve been obsessed with handwashing,” Schindler said, who has a background in biomedical engineering and public health. Combine that obsession with her experience building low-cost resources in hospitals atop Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and PathSpot was born.

Christine Schindler, CEO of PathSpot

PathSpot sells handwashing hygiene machinery to any place “where food is served, handled or stored,” according to Schindler. Its customers range from restaurants and packing facilities to cafeterias and farms.

PathSpot sells a scanner that mounts on a wall next to handwashing sinks. An individual can come to the hand hygiene machine, place their hands in it and get a green or red light depending on if their hands are clean.

Technology-wise, the company does not compete with Purell, but instead fact checks it to an extent. PathSpot uses visible light fluorescent spectral imaging to identify specific contaminants on someone’s hand that can carry bacteria and potentially make them sick. It shines a specific wavelength onto the hand, takes an image, and sends that image through a series of filters and algorithms to identify if unwanted contaminants are present.

Schindler says that the scanner takes less than two seconds to do a whole scan of someone’s hands.

It is looking for the most common transmission vectors, like fecal matter, for food-borne illnesses, like e.coli.

“It’s not identifying if your hand is washed or not in terms of whether it has water droplets,” she said. “Because most of the time people fail a wash, they wash their hands, but they didn’t wash for the full 20 seconds or didn’t use soap in the proper areas.”

But would it save someone from the coronavirus? Schindler says that the coronavirus is transmitted predominantly through respiratory droplets and fecal matter, as of now. PathSpot covers the latter, she said.

However, according to the CDC, it is still unclear if the virus found in feces can cause COVID-19. There has not been any confirmed report of the virus spreading from feces to a person, and scientists believe the risk is low.

So PathSpot can’t specifically detect the coronavirus right now, but instead can detect every-day and potentially infectious contaminants. Overall sentiment around sanitation has increased since COVID-19 began in the United States. Schindler said that usage of the machine has gone up 500% across their hundreds of customer

PathSpot’s second product is a live dashboard to help restaurants better manage and train their staff around sanitation. “We can tell if the hot spots were right under their right pinky fingernail, or underneath their jewelry,” she said. “We can see where all the hot spots are.”

Efficacy wise, a study shows that the scanner was found to have sensitivity and specificity of 100% and 99%, respectively, during nominal use within a food service environment. Restaurants that use PathSpot see handwashing rates increase by more than 150% in one month of using the product, PathSpot said.

PathSpot charges a monthly subscription fee that includes the device itself and the data dashboard, as well as consultancy from its team to the customer regarding actionable insights. The pricing ranges based on size and number of devices, but on average it starts at $175 a month, Schindler said.

Competitors to PathSpot include FoodLogiQ, which has raised $31.8 million in funding to date; Nima Sensor, which has raised $13.2 million in funding to date; Impact Vision, which has raised $2.8 million in funding to date; and CoInspect, which has raised $5.2 million in funding to date. Schindler insisted that competitors focus more on the food and sourcing itself versus the individual handling of it.

Today, the startup announced it has raised $6.5 million in a Series A round led by Valor Siren Ventures, which is a fund formed by Starbucks and Valor Equity Partners . Existing investors FIKA Ventures and Walden Venture Capital also participated.

The new financing brings PathSpot’s total known venture capital to $10.5 million. Richard Tait, a partner at VSV, will take a seat on PathSpot’s board of directors.

PathSpot is raising during a time when its product is more palatable to the general public. Yet its main customer, restaurants, are reeling from the pandemic and are barely able to complete payroll for their entire staff. PathSpot, therefore, targets the next generation of restaurants that rise after the pandemic — the ones that have no choice but to be digitally enabled and adopt technology to keep sanitation in check.

Categories: Business News

The Trash app’s new features can create AI-edited music videos and more

2020, May 22 - 1:30am

The team behind Trash, an app that uses artificial intelligence to edit your video footage, launched a number of new features this week that should make it more useful for anyone — but especially independent musicians.

I wrote about the startup last summer, when CEO Hannah Donovan told me that her work as Vine’s general manager convinced her that most people will never feel like they have the technical skills to edit a good-looking video.

That’s why she and her co-founder Genevieve Patterson (the startup’s chief scientist) created technology that can analyze multiple video clips, identifying the most interesting shots and stitching it all together into a fun video.

Since then, Trash brought on more creators before opening up to a general audience last fall. Donovan explained that while she’d expected users to create “hyper-polished influencer videos,” the opposite has been true.

“The content on Trash is very personal, very authentic, very real,” she said. “For lack of better words, it’s what you’d see in your [Snapchat or Instagram] Stories.”

Trash is giving users more capabilities this week with the launch of Styles. This allows them to identify the type of video they want to create — whether it’s a recap (vacation recaps are big right now), a narrative video or something more artsy. The results are tailored accordingly, and then the user still has the option to further tweak things, for example by moving clips around.

Image Credits: Okayceci for TrashThere’s also a style for music videos. Many Trash videos already combine videos and music, but Donovan said this style is specifically designed for independent musicians who may not have editing skills, but who still need to create music videos — especially as YouTube has become one of the main ways people discover new music.

“The music video is more important than it’s ever been,” she argued.

Trash can’t give those musicians professional, studio-quality footage, but currently, everyone — no matter how famous — is largely limited to shooting themselves at home on smartphones right now. And even after the pandemic, Donovan expects the trend to continue.

“You’re seeing that in commercial videos as well, incorporating elements like text messaging,” she said. “What we’re seeing now is just this huge blend where it doesn’t matter [and you can mix] real life and virtual life, this hyper-polished, big-budget stuff and a super DIY, shot-on-an-iPhone aesthetic.”

To check it out, you can watch a playlist of some of the initial music videos created on Trash. The startup has also launched Trash for Artists, where musicians can upload their songs to create music videos and promo videos, while also offering them up as a soundtrack for other Trash users.

In addition to launching the new features, Trash also graduated last week from Snap’s Yellow accelerator program. (Other investors include the National Science Foundation, Japan’s Digital Garage and Dream Machine, the fund created by former TechCrunch Editor Alexia Bonatsos.)

Trash uses AI to edit your footage into a fun, short videos

Categories: Business News

Skyflow raises $7.5M to build its privacy API business

2020, May 22 - 1:00am

Skyflow, a Mountain View-based privacy API company, announced this morning that it has closed a $7.5 million round of capital it describes as a seed investment. Foundation Capital’s Ashu Garg led the round, with the company touting smaller checks from Jeff Immelt (former GE CEO) and Jonathan Bush (former AthenaHealth CEO).

For Skyflow, founded in 2019, the capital raise and its constituent announcement mark an exit from quasi-stealth mode.

TechCrunch knew a little about Skyflow before it announced its seed round because one if its co-founders, Anshu Sharma is a former Salesforce executive and former venture partner at Storm Ventures, a venture capital firm that focuses on enterprise SaaS businesses. That he left the venture world to eventually found something new caught our eye.

Sharma co-founded the company with Prakash Khot, another former Salesforce denizen.

So what is Skyflow? In a sense it’s the nexus between two trends, namely the growing importance of data security (privacy, in other words), and API -based companies. Skyflow’s product is an API that allows its customers — businesses, not individuals — to store sensitive user information, like Social Security numbers, securely.

Chatting with Sharma in advance of the funding, the CEO told TechCrunch that many providers of cybersecurity solutions today sell products that raise a company’s walls a little higher against certain threats. Once breached, however, the data stored inside is loose. Skyflow wants to make sure that its customers cannot lose your personal information.

Sharma likened Skyflow to other API companies that work to take complex services — Twilio’s telephony API, Stripe’s payments API, and so forth — and provide a simple endpoint for companies to hook into, giving them access to something hard with ease.

Comparing his company’s product to privacy-focused solutions like Apple Pay, the CEO said in a release that “Skyflow has taken a similar approach to all the sensitive data so companies can run their workflows, analytics and machine learning to serve the customer, but do so without exposing the data as a result of a potential theft or breach.”

It’s an interesting idea. If the technology works as promised, Skyflow could help a host of companies that either can’t afford, or simply can’t be bothered, to properly protect your data that they have collected.

If you are not still furious with Equifax, a company that decided that it was a fine idea to collect your personal information so it could grade you and then lost “hundreds of millions of customer records,” Skyflow might not excite you. But if the law is willing to let firms leak your data with little punishment, tooling to help companies be a bit less awful concerning data security is welcome.

Skyflow is not the only API-based company that has raised recently. Daily.co picked up funds recently for its video-chatting API, FalconX raised money for its crypto pricing and trading API, and CNBC reported today that another privacy-focused API company called Evervault has also taken on capital.

Skyflow’s model, however, may differ a little from how other API-built companies have priced themselves. Given that the data it will store for customers isn’t accessed as often, say, as a customer might ping Twilio’s API, Skyflow won’t charge usage rates for its product. After discussing the topic with Sharma, our impression is that Skyflow — once it formally launches its service commercially– will look something like a SaaS business.

The cloud isn’t coming, it’s here. And companies are awful at cybersecurity. Skyflow is betting it’s engineering-heavy team can make that better, while making money. Let’s see.

Categories: Business News

Extra Crunch Live: Discuss work and raising cash in a downturn with Revolution’s Steve Case and Clara Sieg right now

2020, May 22 - 12:52am

This afternoon, we’re chatting with Steve Case and Clara Sieg of Revolution as part of our new interview series, Extra Crunch Live.

Topping our agenda, we will talk about jobs — in Silicon Valley, on the coasts and in the heartland. The technology sector is suffering through a contraction caused by the COVID-19 global health crisis, and layoffs are hitting nearly every company.

We hope you’ll join the conversation. During our hour-long chat, Extra Crunch members can submit questions directly in the Zoom Q&A.

Steve Case has a unique vantage point. He co-founded AOL and steered the company through the first dot-com bubble, where AOL emerged as a dominant force. Later, during the 2008 economic crisis, Case led investments with his then-new firm Revolution.

Likewise, Clara Sieg has managed Revolution’s Silicon Valley efforts for the last eight years and can directly speak to the current upheaval. While at Revolution, she helped the firm raise two significant funds, including its $450 million Growth fund and its first institutional fund of $200 million.

Together, Case and Sieg are well-qualified to offer advice on negotiating the current climate.

Since its inception, Revolution has strived to invest in startups in and out of Silicon Valley. With the COVID-19 crisis, this model is relevant more than ever. We’re curious to hear the pair’s take on companies experimenting with permanent work-from-home policies and what this means for real estate prices in hubs like San Francisco and New York. Do they think the pandemic will create a lasting effect on the technology sector’s workforce?

This chat is the latest in our ongoing series of discussions with notable investors, entrepreneurs and technologists. Previously, TechCrunch staff sat down (virtually, of course) with Cowboy Ventures’ Aileen Lee and Ted Wang, Sequoia’s Roelof Botha and Mark Cuban, to name a few.

Join us today at 3:00 p.m. EDT. It’s going to be a good time.

Details are below for Extra Crunch subscribers. If you need a pass, you can get an inexpensive trial here.

Details

Here’s the information you’ll need:

Categories: Business News

The future of flight can be energy-efficient

2020, May 22 - 12:30am
Damon Vander Lind Contributor Share on Twitter Damon Vander Lind is general manager for Heaviside at Kitty Hawk, a company whose mission is to free the world from traffic with eVTOL vehicles.

We are at the dawn of a new era in transportation.

At the turn of the 20th century, cars began to replace horses. Now, a century later, we would like to see mobility move to the sky. Kitty Hawk has built several prototype vehicles that are electrically powered, take off and land vertically and fly in between like a fixed-wing plane. Collectively, these are called eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft.

eVTOLs — such as the ones built by Project Heaviside — show great potential for everyday transportation. With that as an eventual use case, a common question that comes up is: can eVTOL vehicles be green? Specifically, can eVTOL vehicles be more energy-efficient than cars?

Under the EPA’s standard freeway driving test, a 2020 Nissan Leaf Plus uses about 275 Watt-hours per mile when it averages 50 miles per hour. It can comfortably seat four, but its average occupancy is somewhere around 1.6. Thus, the Leaf’s energy consumption is about 171Wh per passenger mile across all trips.

Our current Heaviside prototype uses about 120Wh per passenger mile, and does so at twice the speed of the Leaf: 100 miles per hour (of course, we can fly much faster, if we choose). We can save another 15% of energy because while roads are not straight, flight paths usually are. All together, Heaviside requires 61% as much energy to go a mile.

Why is Heaviside this efficient — doesn’t it take more energy to go faster? Yes, and it makes the high efficiency we’ve achieved even more dramatic. The answer is that Heaviside can take advantage of slim and low-drag aerodynamic forms that are just not practical on cars.

The difference in drag between a clean, aerodynamic shape like the wing section below, and a bluff body like the cylinder, is vast. So vast in fact that the two shapes drawn will have about the same amount of drag.

Image Credits: Kitty Hawk (opens in a new window)

                                              The cylinder can be hard to see, it’s over here  ↑ 

What is probably less obvious is that clean shapes like wings must make lift when they are put at an angle to the wind. This is not just observation, but can be mathematically proven.

Car manufacturers put tremendous effort into designing shapes that minimize drag, but will not make lift or side force in wind, which would result in poor and squirrelly handling — remember the last time you drove over a bridge in high winds, or in the opposite direction of a large truck on a narrow country road.

Image Credits: NASA (opens in a new window)

When a car drives by, it takes quite a bit of air along with it.

Image Credits: Kitty Hawk

Project Heaviside, in contrast, leaves a small disturbance in the air it passes through.

So, Heaviside is quite energy-efficient. But what if people choose to travel farther when this option exists? What I find personally surprising about the ranges we have been able to achieve is that Heaviside is a vehicle that, because of the extremely low power consumption, is more efficient than a car traveling for an equal amount of time.

This leaves out the most important element of eVTOL aircraft, which is that they are fully electric, and the cars we would like to see them replace are nearly all gas and diesel-powered. While it may be a hard sell to convince the average consumer to switch to an electric car simply because of emissions, it is likely to be much easier to convince them to use a device that gives them time back.

To put this another way, if your commute is the U.S. average of 16 miles, and if you commuted in a Heaviside-type vehicle, three standard rooftop solar panels would power your commute both ways.

While we have a significant road ahead of us in developing and fielding our aircraft commercially, and we cannot be sure the final products will be as efficient as our prototypes, we are still very excited to demonstrate that efficiency and personal flight need not be at odds.

Categories: Business News

VergeSense grabs $9M for its people-counting sensor tech as offices eye COVID changes

2020, May 22 - 12:30am

Facilities management looks to be having a bit of a moment, amid the coronavirus pandemic.

VergeSense, a U.S. startup that sells a “sensor as a system” platform targeted at offices — supporting features such as real-time occupant counts and foot-traffic-triggered cleaning notifications — has closed a $9 million strategic investment led by Allegion Ventures, a corporate VC fund of security giant Allegion.

JLL Spark, Metaprop, Y Combinator, Pathbreaker Ventures and West Ventures also participated in the round, which brings the total funding raised by the 2017-founded startup to $10.6 million, including an earlier seed round.

VergeSense tells TechCrunch it’s seen accelerated demand in recent weeks as office owners and managers try to figure out how to make workspaces safe in the age of COVID-19 — claiming bookings are “on track” to be up 500% quarter over quarter. (Though it admits business did also take a hit earlier in the year, saying there was “aftershock” once the coronavirus hit.)

So while, prior to the pandemic, VergeSense customers likely wanted to encourage so called “workplace collisions” — i.e. close encounters between office staff in the hopes of encouraging idea sharing and collaboration — right now the opposite is the case, with social distancing and looming limits on room occupancy rates looking like a must-have for any reopening offices.

Luckily for VergeSense, its machine learning platform and sensor-packed hardware can derive useful measurements just the same.

It has worked with customers to come up with relevant features, such as a new Social Distancing Score and daily occupancy reports. It already had a Smart Cleaning Planner feature, which it reckons will now be in high demand. It also envisages customers being able to plug into its open API to power features in their own office apps that could help to reassure staff it’s okay to come back in to work, such as indicating quiet zones or times where there are fewer office occupants on site.

Of course plenty of offices may remain closed for some considerable time or even for good — Twitter, for example, has told staff they can work remotely forever — with home working a viable job for much office work. But VergeSense and its investors believe the office will prevail in some form, but with smart sensor tech that can (for example) detect the distance between people becoming a basic requirement.

“I think it’s going to be less overall office space,” says VergeSense co-founder Dan Ryan, discussing how he sees the office being changed by COVID-19. “A lot of customers are rethinking the need to have tonnes of smaller, regional offices. They’re thinking about still maintaining their big hubs, but maybe what those hubs actually look like is different.

“Maybe post-COVID, instead of people coming into the office five days a week… for people that don’t necessarily need to be in the office to do their work everyday maybe three days a week or two days a week. And that probably means a different type of office, right. Different layout, different type of desks etc.”

“That trend was already in motion, but a lot of companies were reluctant to experiment with remote work because they weren’t sure about the impact on productivity and that sort of thing, there was a lot of cultural friction associated with that. But now we all got thrust into that simultaneously and it’s happening all at once — and we think that’s going to stick,” he adds. “We’ve heard that feedback consistently from basically all of our customers.”

“A lot of our existing customers are pulling forward adoption of the product. Usually the way we roll out is customers will do a couple of buildings to get started and it’ll be phased rollout plan from there. But now that the use-case for this data is more connected to safety and compliance, with COVID-19, around occupancy management — there’s CDC guidelines [related to building occupancy levels] — now to have a tool that can measure and report against that is viewed as more of a mission-critical type thing.”

VergeSense is processing some 6 million sensor reports per day at this point for nearly 70 customers, including 40 FORTUNE 1000 companies. In total it says it provides its sensor hardware plus SaaS across 20 million square feet in 250 office buildings in 15 countries.

“There’s an extreme bear case here — that the office is going to disappear,” Ryan adds. “That’s something that we don’t see happening because the office does have a purpose, rooted in — primarily — human social interaction and physical collaboration.

“As much as we love Zoom and the efficiency of that, there is a lot that gets lost without that physical collaboration, connection, all the social elements that are built around work.”

VergeSense’s new funding will go on scaling up to meet the increased demand it’s seeing due to COVID and for scaling its software analytics platform.

It’s also going to be spending on product development, per Ryan, with alternative sensor hardware form factors in the works — including “smaller, better, faster” sensor hardware and “some additional data feeds.”

“Right now it’s primarily people counting, but there’s a lot of interest in other data about the built environment beyond that — more environmental types of stuff,” he says of the additional data feeds it’s looking to add. “We’re more interested in other types of ambient data about the environment. What’s the air quality on this floor? Temperature, humidity. General environmental data that’s getting even more interest frankly from customers now.

“There is a fair amount of interest in wellness of buildings. Historically that’s been more of a nice to have thing. But now there’s huge interest in what is the air quality of this space — are the environmental conditions appropriate? I think the expectations from employees are going to be much higher. When you walk into an office building you want the air to be good, you want it to look nicer — and that’s why I think the acceleration [of smart spaces], that’s a trend that was already in motion but people are going to double down and want it to accelerate even faster.”

Commenting on the funding in a statement, Rob Martens, president of Allegion Ventures, added: “In the midst of a world crisis, [the VergeSense team] have quickly positioned themselves to help senior business leaders ensure safer workspaces through social distancing, while at the same time still driving productivity, engagement and cost efficiency. VergeSense is on the leading edge of creating data-driven workspaces when it matters most to the global business community and their employees.”

How companies get back to the office

Categories: Business News

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