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Lab-grown meat could be on store shelves by 2022, thanks to Future Meat Technologies

2019, October 11 - 3:18am

Are consumers ready for meat grown in a lab?

Companies like Memphis Meats, Aleph Farms, Higher Steaks, Mosa Meat and Meatable are all trying to bring to supermarkets around the world meat made from cultivated animal cells, but the problem has always been the cost. 

Now, Future Meat Technologies has raised $14 million in new financing to build its first pilot manufacturing facilities to bring the cost of production of a cell-made steak down to $10 per pound — or $4 if the meat is combined with plant-based meat substitutes.

The $10 price tag is a whole lot lower than the $50 target that experts from the Good Food Institute were talking about back in April of this year — and represents a significant cost reduction that makes lab-grown meat a potentially commercially viable option much sooner than anyone expected.

“With this investment, we’re thrilled to bring cultured meat from the lab to the factory floor and begin working with our industrial partners to bring our product to market,” said Rom Kshuk, the chief executive officer of Future Meat Technologies, in a statement. “We’re not only developing a global network of investors and advisors with expertise across the meat and ingredient supply chains, but also providing the company with sufficient runway to achieve commercially viable production costs within the next two years.”

Unlike its other competitors, Future Meat Technologies doesn’t have any interest in selling its products directly to consumers. Rather, the company wants to be the supplier of the hardware and cell lines that anyone would need to become a manufacturer of lab-grown meat.

In a way, it’s not much different to the approach that Tyson Foods — an investor in Future Meat through its venture capital arm — has taken with farmers. Tyson contracts with poultry farmers to raise the chickens that the company slaughters and processes, and provides them with the means to raise the chickens for slaughter.

Future Meat production tanks for meat and fat

The secret to Future Meat’s success is its use of undifferentiated fibroblast cells that can be triggered with small molecules to turn into either fat cells or muscle cells. Once the fat and muscle starts growing, they’re placed in a culture with a specific resin that removes waste materials that have been an impediment to growth at large scales, according to chief science officer and founder Yaakov Nahmias.

While Future Meat doesn’t rely on fetal bovine serum to grow its meat products, it does use small molecules derived from CHO cells (Chinese hamster ovaries), which are used in new medical research and drug manufacturing.

“We have a specific resin to remove the toxins from the media and that allows the cells to continue to grow,” says Nahmias. “It is essentially a new bioreactor design… you can increase the yield to 80%.. For every liter of medium you don’t get 100 grams of biomass you can get 800 grams of biomass… [and] you don’t talk about mega $100 million factories.” 

Nahmias says using a refrigerator-sized bioreactor, a manufacturer could get about half a ton of meat and fat in about 14 days. In about one month, growers can make an amount of meat equivalent of two cows’ worth of meat (a cow takes about 12 to 18 months to raise for slaughter).

The former Hebrew University of Jerusalem professor first began thinking about the lab-grown meat business while on sabbatical. “It was at a Peet’s Coffee right next to the Charles River in Cambridge,” Nahmias recalled. “Somebody asked me what I thought about cultured meat… They asked me what I thought about it and I told them it was the stupidest idea I had ever heard in my entire life.”

Growing cells is expensive, Nahmias said at the time, and the fact that the organisms basically grow in their own excrement means that they can’t reproduce effectively to reach any kind of large scale. That’s when Nahmias had his “Eureka” moment. “You need cells that grow without any growth factor at all,” says Nahmias. “The only cells that can do that are the least differentiated cells, which are fibroblasts.”

With the new financing from investors — including S2G Ventures, a Chicago-based venture firm (and an early investor in Beyond Meat); Emerald Technology Ventures, a Swiss investment firm; Tyson Ventures (one of the most active strategic investors); and Bits x Bites (a Chinese investor in food and agriculture startups) — Future Meat can now test its business model and manufacturing capabilities at scale.

Future Meat leadership, Dr. Moria Shimoni, EVP of R&D; Yaakov Nahmias, CTO and founder; and Rom Kshuk, CEO

“You’re either growing fat or you’re growing muscle of a specific species,” says Nahmias. “Imagine a large truck going to that facility. [It’s] replacing the meat packing plant. From there the biomass goes through a process like extrusion. You can have thousands of these mass producing units. [It’s] going to a central facility where the meat comes out at the end. What we are doing is looking for parity and cost.”

For Nahmias, the fat’s the thing that brings the flavor for everything. “The fat gives you the aroma and the distinct flavor of meat,” says Nahmias. “This is the missing ingredient in Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat .”

Nahmias envisions products that are made using a combination of Future Meat’s lab-grown products and plant proteins that can approximate the full flavors of beef, chicken or lamb (all meats that the company says it is working with).

All Nahmias wants is for Future Meat to get to market; the founder doesn’t care whether that’s under Tyson’s brand or anyone else’s. “I want to be the largest company you’ve never heard of,” says Nahmias. “I want to make a product that is more sustainable and more cost-efficient, and is better for everybody.”

Like all of the other companies pursuing alternatives to animal husbandry, Future Meat, which was only founded last year, has a mission to reduce the environmental impact of meat eating. The company argues that its manufacturing model will reduce land use by 99% and emit 80% less greenhouse gas than traditional meat production.

“This continues our investment in Future Meat Technologies, which is focused on disruptive technologies related to our core business,” said Amy Tu, president of Tyson Ventures, in a statement. “We are broadening our exposure to alternative ways of producing protein to feed a growing world population.”

Ultimately the goal is getting to cost parity with regular beef. The company thinks a hybrid product could be $3 to $4, while the 100% biomass product would be roughly $10.

“We’re taking a yes and ‘Yes and’ as opposed to an either-or approach to the space,” says Matthew Walker, a managing director at S2G Ventures. “You will have animal-based meat, plant-based meat and you will have hybrid products. It’s more about the supply chain and the technological products that would bring this product to market. We think there’s room in the market for somebody to play that role.”

Nahmias and Kshuk think that’s the role Future Meat Technologies was born to play.

Categories: Business News

Nexkey raises $6M Series A round to make your company’s doors smarter

2019, October 11 - 1:42am

Nexkey, a company that provides a mobile access control solution for commercial buildings and workspaces, today announced that it has raised a $6 million Series A round led by Upfront Ventures. K9 Ventures, Mark IV Capital and Anand Chandrasekaran, the former Head of Platform for Messenger at Facebook, also participated in the round. Upfront also led Nexkey’s $4.8 million seed round.

The company can turn your smartphone into your door key and replaces the badge you probably use at work to get in and out of buildings. Nexkey offers an end-to-end solution that includes the app, as well as hardware controllers and lock cylinders for your doors that can replace  There is also an API to allow its solutions to connect to other applications and devices inside a workspace.

In many ways, Nexkey is similar to Openpath, which raised $7 million in a seed round that was also led by Upfront Ventures.

“We launched our platform into the market a little over 9 months ago and brought over 8,500 active users on the platform the first 6 months after launch,” Nexkey CEO Eric Trabold told me. “We wanted to continue this great momentum and therefore felt that the time is right to raise more capital to enable us to do so.”

Trabold says the company will use the new funding to expand its overall sales efforts from its current focus on California to the rest of the United States. He noted that the company wanted to better understand its users’ needs before expanding to other geographies.

The company also realized that it sat on a lot of data that was valuable to its customers. “We currently expose this via an audit trail right in our App and are going to build out other, more visual ways to expose this data to our customers,” Trabold said. “We’re going to have advanced reports that can be accessed or downloaded through our Web Portal. Those will help our customers to optimize how they operate their spaces, which means that they can now properly staff during peak times, analyze overall space utilization or look for anomalies that can trigger security events.”

The new funding, the company says, will also allow it to apply more resources to help it provide more value to its users based on this data.

Among the other things it learned from its early customers is that many of its users don’t always want to have their doors locked at all times and instead often want to keep them open for anybody during business hours. The company’s users that run co-working spaces and gyms also asked the company for an easier onboarding process and the ability to apply access rules to different user types, something it is currently beta testing in its iOS app.

Categories: Business News

Getting more people to open your emails

2019, October 11 - 1:33am
Julian Shapiro Contributor Share on Twitter Julian Shapiro is the founder of BellCurve.com, the growth marketing team that trains startups in advanced growth, helps you hire senior growth marketers, and finds you vetted growth agencies. He also writes at Julian.com. More posts by this contributor

We’ve aggregated the world’s best growth marketers into one community. Twice a month, we ask them to share their most effective growth tactics, and we compile them into this Growth Report.

This is how you’re going stay up-to-date on growth marketing tactics — with advice you can’t get elsewhere.

Our community consists of 600 startup founders paired with VP’s of growth from later-stage companies. We have 300 YC founders plus senior marketers from companies including Medium, Docker, Invision, Intuit, Pinterest, Discord, Webflow, Lambda School, Perfect Keto, Typeform, Modern Fertility, Segment, Udemy, Puma, Cameo, and Ritual.

You can participate in our community by joining Demand Curve’s marketing webinars, Slack group, or marketing training program. See past growth reports here, here, here and here.

Without further ado, onto the advice.

Improving engagement for drip emails

Based on insights from Matt Sornson of Clearbit. Lightly edited with permission.

Personalizing your marketing emails increases conversion. But doing so at scale takes a lot of effort. Here’s how to get around that:

  • Run lead generation ads to your blog posts and to other long-form content on your site. Then tag users based on the posts they’ve read. Plus, prompt them to fill out useful quizzes. Store their quiz answers.
  • Push their engagement data into an automated emailing platform like Customer.io. And enrich their contact details with Clearbit to discover their job title and the industry they work in.
  • Now you can send automated yet personalized drip emails based on a person’s role, company, and interests. This results in higher conversion rates. Show recipients you know who they are and what they care about, and you’ll seem a whole lot less like spam.
Improving cold email response rates

Categories: Business News

Coinbase is launching Coinbase Pro mobile app

2019, October 11 - 1:00am

Cryptocurrency exchange company Coinbase is launching a mobile app for its advanced users today. You can now download the Coinbase Pro mobile app on iOS — the Android version is coming soon.

Coinbase Pro is the company’s exchange that lets you set up advanced order types, such as limit orders. Those are fairly standard features for a cryptocurrency exchange. But Coinbase set up a separate “pro” platform so that the main Coinbase.com exchange remains as simple and straightforward as possible.

And now, you can also use Coinbase Pro on your phone. I’ve been playing around with the app, and it features everything you’d expect. On the first tab, you can see a list of trading pairs.

If you tap on a pair, you can see real-time candles, the order book, your active orders as well as trade history for this specific pair. You can also set up an order to buy and sell cryptocurrencies from each trading pair page.

On the second tab, you can see your portfolio of crypto assets and its value in fiat currencies. You can deposit or withdraw cryptocurrencies from the mobile app. Unfortunately, if you want to deposit or withdraw fiat currencies (USD, EUR, GBP, etc.), the app tells you to head over to the website.

Finally, you can see your past and active orders, check your fees and limits.

Coinbase increased some of its trading fees on Coinbase Pro for low-volume accounts just last week. It is now more expensive to trade on Coinbase Pro if you trade less than the equivalent of $50,000 over 30 days. And if you trade less than $10,000 over 30 days, it now costs 0.50% in maker and taker fees.

Kraken charges 0.26% in taker fees if you trade less $50,000 in the past 30 days. Binance charges 0.1% in trading fees. With those new trading fees, it feels like Coinbase is indeed targeting pro users with Coinbase Pro.

Disclosure: I own small amounts of various cryptocurrencies.

Categories: Business News

Tiger Global values people management tool Lattice at ~$200M

2019, October 11 - 12:00am

The secretive New York-based hedge fund Tiger Global Management has led a $25 million Series C investment in Lattice, an employee performance and engagement management tool, with participation from the startup’s existing investors.

The round, which values Lattice in the ballpark of $200 million, says co-founder and chief executive officer Jack Altman, comes just six months after the business closed a $15 million Series B led by Shasta Ventures. The HR tool, founded in 2015 by Altman and Eric Koslow, is also backed by Thrive Capital, the Slack Fund, Khosla Ventures and Y Combinator.

Lattice, like many startups closing venture capital deals today, was not actively fundraising when approached by John Curtius of Tiger Global, a firm that invested in the likes of Spotify, Glassdoor and Flipkart. Rather than reject the sizable capital infusion that, according to Altman, included favorable terms, Lattice closed the deal and plans to invest additional cash in its sales and marketing efforts, among other opportunities.

“Tiger was excited by the vision to keep [expanding] this platform — to extend to the rest of people management,” Altman tells TechCrunch.

Lattice, which has raised a total of $49.2 million in venture capital funding to date, doubled its headcount this year as well as its paying user count, which has swelled to 160,000. The SaaS business has developed performance management software that allows employees to reflect on their performance and receive feedback from managers and peers. The tool also empowers employees and their managers to structure agendas for one-on-one sessions, send praise to other employees and draft goals and OKRs.

“In order to compete for talent today, you do need to build the type of company where people want to work — it’s not just a money thing,” said Altman.

Last fall, the San Francisco-based startup introduced Lattice Engagement, giving human resources teams a better idea of employees’ level of connection to their company. Last month, the company launched Lattice Pulse, which, in combination with Lattice Engagement and Lattice Performance, delivers real-time insight into employees and company culture.

“You can get away with not doing these things, but it doesn’t optimize this critical thing, which is how your people are,” explains Altman. “If you don’t pay attention to how your people are performing or how they are feeling, it would be like not listening to your customers. Your employees are like your internal customers. If you don’t care how they’re doing or how they’re feeling, you’re leaving unbelievably important information on the table.”

Lattice operates a SaaS business model, charging roughly $100 per user per year. The company sells primarily to small and medium-sized businesses, including Glossier and Asana and some 1,400 others. This year, Lattice struck a deal with Slack, one of its largest customers yet. Over time, the company plans to sell to larger enterprises.

“My hope is we can just keep on adding products and functionality to what we offer,” Altman said. “We have so many more ideas than we have people to build them.”

Categories: Business News

Parsley Health nabs $26 million Series B to launch telemedicine products

2019, October 10 - 11:39pm

Parsley Health, the NY-based service that focuses on the source of a medical issue rather than the symptoms, has today announced the close of a $26 million Series B round of funding led by White Star Capital, with participation from FirstMark Capital, Amplo, Alpha Edison, Arkitekt Ventures and Galaxy Digital. Flatiron Health founder Nat Turner and One Medical founder Tom Lee also participated in the round.

Parsley was founded in 2016 by Dr. Robin Berzin, who saw that the average American spends around 19 minutes/year with a physician. These visits are usually focused on symptoms, and resolving them, rather than understanding the core reasons why someone is struggling. After all, the CDC says that 70% of diseases in our country are chronic and lifestyle-driven.

Parsley Health offers a membership service that allows users to work with doctors to find the root of their issues and create lifestyle changes to resolve them.

The sign-up process includes a long survey that helps capture all kinds of information about the patient, from family health history to past procedures and lifestyle. The patient then schedules their first visit with a physician, which is meant to last 75 minutes to get the full scope of that patient’s health.

From there, users can see into their medical data and doctor’s notes through a web portal. They’re also given a health plan, which includes nutritional advice and access to their own health coach, and may be referred to a specialist, if needed.

One year of membership includes five annual visits with doctors (approximately four hours of doctor-patient time), along with five sessions with their health coach, who help patients stay on their plan with advice on how to get more sleep, eat better or get more physical exercise.

On the heels of the new funding, Parsley Health is launching a new telemedicine product, which is meant to give people across the country the same access to Parsley’s service as those who visit their brick-and-mortar locations. This includes diagnostic testing, personalized medical care from doctors who practice functional medicine, health coaching and 365-days-a-year access to their care team.

The first diagnostics product is called Comprehensive Hormone Care and is meant to help women dealing with PCOS, PMG, fatigue, weight gain, insomnia and anxiety to learn the root issue and create a care plan. This product will offer the option to get a one-time analysis with a health plan or to join as a full Parsley Health member and get coaching, re-testing and progress tracking.

To start, the telemedicine products will only be available in New York and California, but the company has plans to expand this product to all 50 states in the next six months.

Categories: Business News

India’s Vahdam Teas raises $11M to grow its tea-commerce business in the US and Europe

2019, October 10 - 10:28pm

Vahdam Teas, an India-based e-commerce startup that sells fresh tea in international markets, has closed a new financing round as it looks to expand its presence in the U.S. and Europe.

The three-year-old startup said it has raised $11 million in its Series C financing round. The round, which according to a person familiar with the matter valued the startup at about $40 million, was led by Sixth Sense Ventures. Existing investor Fireside Ventures, which has put money in a number of consumer-facing brands, also participated in the round.

Mankind Group Family office, Infosys co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan, SAR Group Family office, Zomato co-founder Pankaj Chaddah and Urmin Group family office also participated in the new financing round. The startup, headquartered in New Delhi and New York, has raised about $16 million to date.

The startup was founded by 28-year-old Bala Sarda, who comes from a tea industry family. Vahdam Teas operates an eponymous e-commerce platform, and also works with giants such as Amazon, to sell tea directly to consumers in the U.S., Europe and other international markets.

Vahdam Teas cuts the middlemen suppliers to reduce the time it takes to ship tea to consumers. “If you look at the supply chain for exporting from India, it’s completely broken. The goods go through distributors, then get sold to exporters. Somewhere in the middle, brokers show up, too. Then an importer imports the tea. It all takes months to get a supply cycle to reach consumers. Unlike wine or whiskey, tea is best when it is fresh. Its ingredients lose flavor with time,” he explained.

To address this, Vahdam Teas built a supply chain network to source tea directly from hundreds of gardens in India. It stores all the goods in its warehouses in New Delhi and then exports directly to its entities in different markets. The faster delivery of tea and better control of the supply chain is one of the key differentiating factors for Vahdam Teas.

Today about 99% of its sales comes from outside of India, said Sarda, who noted that with the new capital the startup would explore expanding its business in India, too.

But much of the fresh capital would be invested in bulking up its supply chain network and setting up additional offices in the U.S. and Europe, he said in an interview with TechCrunch earlier this week. The startup also plans to launch new products and enter new markets in South Asia and UAE.

Vahdam Teas also wants to have a presence in the offline (brick and mortar) market, and bring its tea to 500-700 stores in the U.S. in the coming months. “We have aspirations to become an omni-channel brand,” he said.

India controls about 25% of tea production worldwide. But Indian brands almost have a “negligible presence” on the world map, said Nikhil Vora, founder and chief executive of Sixth Sense Ventures. “Vahdam is an interesting example of how a traditional business like tea can get disrupted. We’re impressed with the way Bala has sought to target the global markets first and create a brand salience and market innovative ethnic Indian tea flavors,” he added.

Tea is one of the biggest industries for laborers in India. Sarda said the startup donates 1% of its revenue to help these workers educate their children.

Categories: Business News

Grammarly raises $90M at over $1B+ valuation for its AI-based grammar and writing tools

2019, October 10 - 10:00pm

While attention continues to be focused on the rise and growing sophistication of voice-based interfaces, a startup that is using artificial intelligence to improve how we communicate through the written word has raised a round of funding to capitalise on its already profitable growth. Grammarly — which provides a toolkit used today by 20 million people to correct their written grammar, suggest better ways to write things and moderate the tone of what they are saying depending on who will be doing the reading — has closed a $90 million round of funding.

Brad Hoover, the company’s CEO, confirmed to TechCrunch that the funding catapults the company’s valuation to more than $1 billion as it gears up to grow to more users by expanding Grammarly’s tools and bringing them to more platforms. Today, Grammarly can be used across a number of browsers via browser extensions, as a web app, through mobile and on desktop apps, and through specific apps such as Microsoft Office. But the area where we communicate via the written word is expanding all the time — consider, for example, how much we use chat and texting apps for leisure and for work — so expect that list to continue growing.

“The mountain of digital communication is increasing, and in the workplace we have more distributed teams,” he said, “pointing to the importance of people presenting themselves in consistent and compelling ways.”

This latest round is being led by General Catalyst, which had also helped lead its previous and only other round, for $110 million in 2017, with participation from previous investor IVP and other, unnamed backers. It brings the total raised by the startup to $200 million.

Grammarly today operates on a freemium model, where paid tiers give users more tools beyond grammar checks and conciseness to include things like “readability” detection, alternative vocabulary and tone suggestions (not to be confused with tone policing) and plagiarism checks, with tiers that are priced at $11.66, $19.98 and $29.95 per month. Hoover would not say how many of its users are taking paid tiers or how much the company makes from that, but he did confirm that, like others offering freemium, the majority of users are free ones.

(And like other free users, they are subject to cookies and the rest, but the company confirms to me that it doesn’t make any money from that, and only from its subscriptions revenues.

“We don’t sell or rent user data to third parties for any reason, including for them to deliver their ads. Period. Our business model is a freemium model, in which we offer a free version of our product as well as Grammarly Premium and Grammarly Business, which are paid upgrades,” a spokesperson said. “The only way Grammarly makes money is through its subscriptions.”

It notes that the lengthy privacy policy is going to be updated to make it shorter, but acknowledges the length can be off-putting.

“It is a fair critique to say that our privacy policy is longer and wordier than it needs to be. In an effort to comply with various disclosure requirements imposed by laws around the world, we have erred on the side of completeness and detail, sacrificing brevity in the process,” a spokesperson said. “Indeed, the sheer length of our privacy policy may be a barrier to users reading all the way through the document. The explicit statements we make about not selling or renting personal data and not sharing it for the purposes of advertising are contained toward the end.”

It’s worth noting that the company has been profitable almost from the start, when it was founded as a bootstrapped outfit in 2009 by Alex Shevchenko and Max Lytvyn, who continue to respectively work on product and revenue at the company (Hoover is the startup’s longtime CEO, having joined back in 2011).

Its singularity of focus and simple message — it’s only available in English and only for written communications, with no plans to expand currently into other languages or other mediums like audio — has partly been the reason why Grammarly has found interesting traction in the market, but it’s also a consequence of the endeavor itself. The company brings together not just a vast trove of data about proper grammar, but using AI techniques around machine learning and natural language processing it is constantly synthesizing new words and phrases and styles to improve the help that it provides to users, to solve what is essentially an everyday problem for many people: writing well.

“Grammarly is solving real challenges that people face every time they pick up a device to answer a text, answer a work email or cold email a potential client,” said Hemant Taneja, who led the investment for General Catalyst, in an interview.

“While there are large companies attempting to innovate in this space, creating intuitive AI that complements our natural communication abilities isn’t their primary focus. It’s not even their third, fourth or twentieth focus. For Grammarly, helping people communicate more effectively is their sole goal. And that’s why, despite any competition, they’ve got more than 20 million daily active users.” That 20 million figure is more than three times the number of users Grammarly had in 2017.

Nevertheless, a number of would-be competitors have emerged to provide similar tools or those that directly compete with slightly different propositions. Google, for example, today gives you prompts of what to say when responding to an email, in the form of stock sentences or cues while you are writing. Hoover says these are less of a worry to Grammarly for a couple of reasons. The first is its approach to be available around whatever you might be writing, and the second is it’s platform-agnostic state, which means it’s potentially wherever you are writing, too.

“We haven’t seen any impact from the rise of platform-based aids,” Hoover said.

Looking ahead, he added that while Grammarly will be making its way to more platforms, the company will be creating more tools specifically to better court enterprise customers and the use cases that are more specific to them.

While that will not (yet) extend to verbal communication or other languages beyond English, there will be more tools built on the concept of “style guides” for people in specific departments, such as customer service, to remain consistent in their language and how they speak for the company to the outside world.

“One of the reasons enterprises use Grammarly is to increase effectiveness both internally and externally,” Hoover said. “This isn’t a tool to write on behalf of users but to be used as a coach.” This is also where the tone tool fits into the spectrum, he added.

“We surveyed our users and the results suggested that a majority were concerned about the appropriate tone that they used in written communication,” he said. “That’s not surprising because unlike spoken or in-person communications, you can’t use non-verbal tones to get an idea across, so you can be misinterpreted.”

Categories: Business News

Clari snags $60M Series D on valuation of around $500M

2019, October 10 - 9:00pm

Clari uses AI to help companies find key information like the customers most likely to convert, the state of orders in the sales process or the next big sources of revenue. As its revenue management system continues to flourish, the company announced a $60 million Series D investment today.

Sapphire Ventures led the round with help from newcomer Madrona Venture Group and existing investors Sequoia Capital, Bain Capital Ventures and Tenaya Capital. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $135 million, according to the company.

The valuation, which CEO and co-founder Andy Byrne pegged at around a half a billion, appears to be a hefty raise from what the company was likely valued at in 2018 after its $35 million Series C. As TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden wrote at the time:

For some context, Clari, according to Pitchbook, had a relatively modest post-money valuation of $83.5 million in its last round in 2014, so my guess is that it’s now comfortably into hundred-million territory, once you add in this latest $35 million.

Byrne says the company wasn’t even really looking for a new round, but when investors came knocking, he couldn’t refuse. “On the fundraise side, what’s really interesting is how this whole thing went down. We weren’t out looking, but we had a massive amount of interest from a lot of firms. We decided to engage, and we got it done in less than three weeks, which the board was kind of blown away by,” Byrne told TechCrunch.

What’s motivating these companies to invest is that Clari is helping to define this revenue operations category, and has attracted companies like Okta, Zoom and Qualtrics as customers. What they are providing is this AI-fueled way to see where the best sales opportunities are to drive revenue, and that’s what every company is looking for. At the same time, Byrne says that he’s moving companies away from a spreadsheet-driven record keeping system, enabling them to see all of the data in one place.

“Clari is allowing a rep to really understand where they should spend time, automating a lot of things for them to close deals faster, while giving managers new insights they’ve never had before to allow them to drive more revenue. And then we’re getting them out of ‘Excel hell.’ They’re no longer in these spreadsheets. They’re in Clari, and have more predictability in their forecasting,” he said.

Clari was founded in 2012 and is headquartered in Sunnyvale, Calif. It has more than 300 customers and just passed the 200 employee mark, a number that should increase as the company uses this money to begin to accelerate growth and expand the product’s capabilities.

Clari platform aims to unify go-to-market operations data

Categories: Business News

Electric moped startup Revel raises $27.6 million as it eyes new markets

2019, October 10 - 7:00pm

In less than two years, Revel has gone from an idea to a shared electric vehicle startup with more than 1,400 mopeds across Washington, D.C., and Brooklyn and Queens, New York. Now, it’s ready to grow up — and beyond these three cities — with a fresh injection of $27.6 million in capital raised in a Series A round led by Ibex Investors.

The equity round included newcomer Toyota AI Ventures and further investments from Blue Collective, Launch Capital and Maniv Mobility.

The capital will, as it often does with startups, allow Revel to scale up. CEO and co-founder Frank Reig said this growth will extend to its fleet of scooters within the cities it currently operates as well as expand into new markets. Reig wouldn’t name where the New York-based startup will launch next, although he provided some hints. Large U.S. cities with the right population density and more temperate weather are at the top of the list.

Revel is targeting about 10 cities by mid-2020, Reig added.

How that growth occurs, and who is behind its operations, is what Reig believes differentiates Revel from other shared electric vehicle providers such as scooter startups that have had a record of deploying in cities before getting approval from local authorities.

Many startups in the shared industry, including Revel, talk up their focus on safety and desire to be responsible partners with cities. Revel’s choice of vehicle — along with a few other decisions — helps it stick to those promises.

“These mopeds are motor vehicles,” Reig noted. “This means there’s no regulatory gray area: you have to have a license plate. To get that license plate you have to register each vehicle with the Department of Motor Vehicles in each state and show third-party auto liability insurance. And then because it’s a motor vehicle, it’s clear that it rides in the street, so we’re completely off sidewalks.”

Revel caps the speed of its mopeds to 30 miles per hour. The company also provides two helmets — and single-use liners — on every ride and requires users to be licensed drivers aged 21 or older who pass an initial safe driving history check. About one out of every 12 applicants does not make it past this screening, according to Revel.

Any concerns about users bypassing the protective headgear are largely erased because both New York and Washington, D.C. have helmet laws, Reig said.

No gig workers

The company, unlike most on-demand mobility startups, does not have any gig economy workers, either. Revel only has full-time employees, said Reig, adding that it’s a decision he intends to stick with even as his company grows.

“We don’t use gig economy in anything we do and I see a ton of value in that,” Reig said. “We need a well-trained workforce that is really committed and cares about the vehicles, because if not it’s something we’re going to be throwing out every 60 days.”

Revel’s shared mopeds have a three-year asset life, Reig said, based on their in-house estimates. To ensure the mopeds last, which has become a key factor in the unit economics of shared mobility businesses, they remain on the street.

The mopeds are removed by employees for routine maintenance that occurs every four to six months. Otherwise, the mopeds aren’t loaded into vans by gig economy workers who make money by charging them up — a common practice with the small stand-up scooters that have inundated cities like San Diego and San Francisco. Instead, employees swap out the batteries on the mopeds, which have a range of about 50 miles.

20 months and 1,400 scooters

The idea for Revel was born out of Reig’s travels to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he witnessed locals on every form of two-wheeled vehicle.

“A sort of light bulb went off my head, and I asked myself, ‘why is it not a thing in the U.S?,’ ” Reig told TechCrunch in a recent interview. “I came back to New York, started studying the market more and saw all these electric moped operators had been popping up in Europe over the last few years and just realized that if I don’t do it, somebody else will.”

The company started with a small pilot of 68 mopeds in a few neighborhoods within Brooklyn. In May, after a nine-month pilot, Revel pulled the original mopeds it used in its limited pilot and replaced them with 1,000 new models built for two riders and equipped with kickstands for parking. With more mopeds in its fleet, Revel expanded the service to more than 20 neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens. In August, Revel launched its service in Washington, D.C., where there are now more than 400 mopeds.

Revel rides cost $1 per person to start, followed by $0.25 per minute to ride and $0.10 per minute while parked. Revel says it will cut the cost by 40% for eligible riders — and give them a $25 credit — through its Revel Access program. Riders who use public assistance programs like SNAP or live in NYCHA housing are eligible for the program.

Categories: Business News

Only two days left to save up to €600 on passes to Disrupt Berlin 2019

2019, October 10 - 5:16pm

We’re T-minus 48 hours and counting startup fans. You heard right — only 48 short hours stand between you and substantial savings on all passes to Disrupt Berlin 2019, which takes place 11-12 December.

Super early bird prices start at €345 + VAT and, depending on which pass you choose, you can save up to €600. But only if you beat the deadline, which strikes at 11:59 p.m. (CEST) on Friday, 11 October. Keep more euros in your wallet — buy your Disrupt Berlin passes today.

Disrupt Berlin offers awesome opportunities for startuppers of every persuasion — founders, investors, engineers, marketers — if you love tech startups, you’ll love the two program-packed days at Disrupt. It’s the crossroads of innovation and inspiration, and you just never know when you’ll meet the person who can move your business to the next level.

Here’s just a taste of the great speakers who will share their expertise from our various stages. Want to learn more about the European VC landscape? Don’t miss Tom Hulme, general partner for GV, the VC firm formerly known as Google Ventures.

Then there’s Oscar Pierre, the CEO of Glovo, a major player in the on-demand delivery app space. Talk about rapid growth. The service, which goes beyond ordering restaurant food to include groceries, pharmacy items, is live in 124 cities across 21 countries. Oh, and it employs more than 1,000 people and works with tens of thousands of independent delivery partners.

Creating enterprise software that helps automate repetitive tasks isn’t for the faint of heart, but Daniel Dines, founder and CEO of UiPath (currently valued at $7 billion) didn’t let that stop him. Listen in as he talks about his 15-year journey and, no doubt, a unique perspective on automation.

That’s just a sample of the Disrupt Berlin’s deep bench of expert speakers and, of course, there’s plenty of other startup goodness to experience. Don’t miss the always-epic Startup Battlefield pitch competition, explore and network with hundreds of stellar early-stage startups — including or hand-picked TC Top Picks — exhibiting the latest tech in Startup Alley. Check out the Hackathon to see which code-slinging team wins best overall hack.

It’s all waiting for you at Disrupt Berlin 2019, and it all starts with getting the best price possible. You have just 48 hours until the super early bird expires on Friday, 11 October at 11:59 p.m. (CEST). Don’t wait another minute. Go buy your pass right now, and we’ll see you in Berlin!

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

New Vector scores $8.5M to plug more users into its open, decentralized messaging Matrix

2019, October 10 - 5:00pm

New Vector, a European startup founded in 2017 by the creators of an open, decentralized communications standard called Matrix to drive adoption and grow an ecosystem around an alternative messaging protocol for instant messaging and VoIP apps, has raised an $8.5 million Series A funding round.

Investors in New Vector’s Series A round include enterprise tech specialists Notion Capital and Dawn Capital, along with European seed fund Firstminute Capital.

The team has been showing what’s possible when you think outside the proprietary silo of the usual (messaging giant) suspects for several years now — launching a Slack rival called Riot.IM back in 2016, which runs on Matrix — to offer an open, customizable and secure alternative. (Secure because unlike Slack Riot does offer end-to-end encryption. Though not yet everywhere — but expanding e2e encryption is part of the plan for the Series A.)

Users of Riot can also choose to run the app on their own server so they’re in full control of data hosting. And the app includes a bridging feature to integrate with mainstream chat app rivals like Slack . So it’s a ‘cake and eat it’ approach to modern messaging tech: Control plus interoperability and transparency.

“Slack and WhatsApp have shown just how important instant messaging is for workplace productivity but combining this convenience with total sovereignty and security over data is more valuable than ever,” said firstminute capital’s Brent Hoberman, commenting on the funding in a supporting statement.

“Over the last few years it feels like we have gone backwards with communication platforms like Slack and WhatsApp that are walled gardens where users have very understandable concerns over whether their data is secure and how it is being used,” added Notion Capital’s Jos White in another statement. “At last the market has an alternative with the New Vector services that are based off the Matrix protocol offering open standards and delivering complete data ownership and security.”

New Vector’s Series A fast follows $5M it raised last year — when the team took in a strategic investment from an Ethereum-based secure chat and crypto wallet app called Status.

Earlier dev work on the Matrix protocol was funded with support from a large multinational telecoms infrastructure company for whom the founding team had previously built messaging apps. But that funding dried up as of August 2017, which was when they started casting around for alternatives — initially pitching supporters for donations.

Fast forward a couple of years and with growing momentum for their approach — the Matrix network has expanded to more than 11M users and 40,000 deployments this year, growing daily active users 400% since 2018 — they’ve landed a big chunk of VC in the bank.

This isn’t so surprising when you see some of the users they’re able to name check. Such as the US government; the French government (which forked Riot to launch its own messaging app called Tchap earlier this year, and has chosen Matrix to be its official comms platform); Wikimedia; KDE; and RedHat, to name a few. It also says it’s working with the UK’s National Heath Service and with Mozilla.

The plan for the Series A is thus to step on the gas and scale their hosting platform, burnish the product experience and beef up the protocol to be able to support more governments and enterprises seeking digital sovereignty, messaging autonomy and strong encryption to keep their secrets in increasingly volatile geopolitical times.

Just last week officials from the US, UK and Australian governments leaned on Facebook publicly, calling on the company not to expand its use of end-to-end encryption — unless or until it can ensure access to decrypted comms on warranted demand.

WhatsApp’s e2e encryption is highly respected. But it’s also only as strong as Facebook’s implementation of it. Which isn’t exactly reassuring when the company is coming under high level pressure from its own government to backdoor its apps. So there’s both a security and privacy logic to wanting to eschew data centralization — even if it’s robustly encrypted.

Certainly for a certain type of highly security conscious enterprise and public sector user, which is where Matrix is intended to plug in.

If data is centralized it risks becoming a sitting duck for powerful interests to try to get at, as well as generating a wealth of metadata that the controlling commercial entity can absolutely data-mine. So a robust, decentralized messaging standard that doesn’t demand such trade offs will have obvious appeal to those with resources to custom fit and deploy their own apps.

(For the record, Matrix says its e2e encryption is based on the Double Ratchet Algorithm popularised by Signal but which has been extended to support encryption to chat rooms containing thousands of devices. It also says it uses Olm and Megolm cryptographic ratchets, which are specified as an open standard with implementations released under the Apache license, and which have been independently audited by NCC Group.)

New Vector CEO and Matrix co-founder Matthew Hodgson tells us that growth for Matrix is coming primary from the public sector and adjacent industries (which need to be able to communicate securely with government departments); from open source projects; cryptocurrencies; and activists and NGOs.

“The factors which drive decentralisation here are wanting to be able to have full autonomy and control over your conversations with zero dependencies on a megacorp like Facebook, Google or Slack… without wanting to create an isolated island, but participating in a wider global open Matrix network like the Web itself,” he says. “Also, developers wanting (at last!) an open platform to build communication apps on like the Web, rather than being locked into proprietary communication platforms from a big corp.”

Hodgson points out that governments are “highly decentralized” by nature (i.e. between different departments, ministries, citizens etc) — adding that they “really like end-to-end encryption, especially within a wider open network”.

Or, well, at least the bits of governments that aren’t calling for Facebook to backdoor its apps…

“We are the primary choice for an encrypted yet decentralised communication platform which can span multiple government departments — enforcing different security levels on different servers as needed, with zero vendor lock-in thanks to Matrix,” he continues. “It lets you get the entire public sector — be that academic, healthcare, military, citizens and their adjacent organisations (and adjacent countries!) on the same network, without surrendering control to Facebook, Google, Telegram or anyone else.”

“France and the US Department of Public Safety are already live, and several other countries are in the pipeline,” he adds on public sector deployments. “We expect Matrix to become the backbone for secure intra- and inter-governmental communication in the future.”

In France’s case the government has rolled Matrix out across all 16 ministries — to 5.5M users.

Talking of the future, the plan for the Series A is four-fold. Firstly: Invest in improving the user experience in Riot for the app to be, as Hodgson puts it, “properly mainstream” — aka: “a genuine alternative to WhatsApp and Slack for groups who need secure communication which is entirely within their control, rather than run by Facebook or Slack”.

Second, they’ll be turning on end-to-end encryption by default for all private conversations.

“Decentralised e2e encryption is Hard,” he says with emphasis. “But we are tantalisingly close to having the missing ingredients (cross-signed key verification; E2E-capable full text search; E2E-capable bots) finished — which means we can turn it on across the whole public network by default for private rooms. This is a huge deal, especially given the increasingly obvious risks of centralised end-to-end encryption (a la WhatsApp and Signal).”

Thirdly, the funding will go on building out their flagship Matrix hosting platform (Modular.im) and building it into Riot — “so that groups of users can easily hop onto their own self-sovereign servers”. 

“We already have folks like the Wikimedia Foundation, KDE and GNOME using Modular today (and hopefully Mozilla and NHSX in future), and we’ll be using the funding to get as many people on Modular as possible to help scale Matrix going forwards,” he adds. 

Finally they intend to work on combating abuse. As with any comms platform, there can be a dark side to the stuff people want to share. Throw in e2e encryption and decentralization and the question of how you moderate hateful communications could easily get overlooked. But New Vector is at least thinking about this problem.

“Matrix is a fascinating microcosm of the wider open internet, and the 11M addressable users spans the full spectrum of humanity,” says Hodgson. “We have some really interesting work going on here to empower users to filter out content they don’t want to see (rather than using centralised algorithms to do so), which could be applicable to the wider internet.”

“We’re hoping that the Matrix.org Foundation (the non-profit which control the Matrix protocol) will drive this work but it’s something which is very much on New Vector’s radar too,” he adds.

Asked about Matrix’s security and stability, Hodgson says this was the focus with the big 1.0 release in June — when the protocol exited beta.

“We launched a formal Security Disclosure Policy and hall of fame (https://matrix.org/security-disclosure-policy/) and the protocol has a pretty good security record — other than the drama over the launch of Tchap in France,” he says, referring to the security flaw that was found in the app immediately it launched.

“The researcher who found the flaw made an extremely loud noise about it, but in practice it wasn’t a flaw in the Matrix protocol itself — it was specific to the French deployment’s configuration, and was found prior to launch, and we addressed it within a few hours of being reported,” he adds. “Obviously it should have been spotted before being exposed to the internet, but subsequently France set up a successful bug bounty programme (https://yeswehack.com/programs/tchap) as well as a dedicated audit to avoid problems going forwards.

“Meanwhile we got our E2EE successfully audited by NCC Group back in 2016 (it hasn’t changed substantially since), and together with the E2EE-by-default work mentioned before, we’re continuing to focus on security & stability.”

Categories: Business News

GoCardless CEO Hiroki Takeuchi is coming to Disrupt Berlin

2019, October 10 - 5:00pm

GoCardless has been around for 8 years. But the company has experienced tremendous growth over the past couple of years. It now has a shot at becoming a global leader when it comes to payments via direct debit. Its co-founder and CEO Hiroki Takeuchi has become a fintech expert, and that’s why I’m excited to announce that Hiroki Takeuchi will join us at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin.

GoCardless has a pretty self-explanatory name. While many small and big companies still rely on credit cards and sometimes even (gasp) cheques, GoCardless wants to make it easier to switch to direct debit payments. The company’s API lets you get started and accept recurring payments in no time.

The advantages are obvious. First, card payments were never designed for recurring subscriptions. They expire and lead to churn. If you’re running a subscription business with card payments, you’re basically leaving money on the table.

Second, card payments can be expensive. Stripe charges 2.9% + 30 cents for each transaction in the U.S. for instance. GoCardless costs 1% per transaction.

If you’re a global company, GoCardless has been slowly expanding its footprint with many supported direct debit schemes, such as SEPA in Europe, Bacs direct debit in the U.K., ACH debit in the U.S. and many more.

But GoCardless doesn’t want to stop at consumer subscriptions. The company thinks direct debit payments could represent a big opportunity for B2B use cases. It’s cheaper and provides a lot more visibility than cheques.

While many startups also talk about resilience, Hiroki Takeuchi actually knows what resilience feels like on a personal and professional level. TechCrunch’s Steve O’Hear wrote a thoughtful interview with him shortly after a serious road accident that has left him paralyzed below his chest.

A few months ago, the company raised a $75 million Series E round with an impressive list of investors that included Adams Street Partners, GV, Salesforce Ventures, Accel Partners, Balderton Capital, Notion Capital and Passion Capital.

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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Hiroki is co-founder and CEO of GoCardless. Founded in 2011, GoCardless is a global leader in recurring payments. The business is on a mission to take the pain out of getting paid for recurring revenue businesses. More than 40,000 businesses around the world, from multinational corporations to SMBs, transact through GoCardless each month, and the business processes $10bn of payments a year.

Before starting GoCardless, Hiroki studied Mathematics at Oxford University and worked as a management consultant at McKinsey & Co.

Categories: Business News

SmileDirectClub’s former CEO is back with a new dental startup called Tend

2019, October 10 - 1:04pm

A growing number of newer dental brands has been attracting money from venture investors who are still kicking themselves for missing runaway hits. Most notable among these breakout companies is newly public SmileDirectClub, which sells teeth-straightening products directly to consumers and is beloved by analysts, even though its shares have slipped since its September IPO.

Among the many teeth-related startups to more recently attract private funding is Swift Health Systems, a five-year-old company that makes invisible braces under the brand INBRACE and just raised $45 million from VCs; Henry the Dentist, a two-year-old, mobile dental clinic that raised $10 million earlier this year; and Quip, a five-year-old maker of electric toothbrushes and oral care products that has garnered roughly $62 million from investors.

Still, a new company called Tend is especially notable, and not because it just raised $36 million in seed and Series A funding — which it did, led by Redpoint Ventures.

First and foremost, Tend sees an opportunity to reinvent the dentist’s office. How? Through tech-heavy dental “studios” that “prioritize” your comfort by featuring sleek waiting areas that it promises you’ll almost never need to use and by offering “Netflix in your chair” that you will enjoy while wearing the latest and greatest Bose headphones. (Tend says it will get your favorite show queued up before you arrive for your appointment, which you will breezily book online, and whose prices you can learn in advance, so you don’t suffer sticker shock later.)

A Fast Company reporter who visited the startup’s newly opened flagship space in Manhattan’s Flatiron neighborhood was even offered a selection of only the finest toothpastes, including that of Marvis, an Italian brand that comes in such distinct flavors as Amarelli licorice, cinnamon, ginger and jasmine — not to mention “classic strong,” “whitening” and “aquatic.”

It all sounds faintly ridiculous, but also fairly nice, especially contrasted with traditional dentist offices, which tend to be both highly antiseptic and astonishingly vague about pricing.

There’s also a kind of precedent for what it’s doing. Specifically, improving on the patient experience has worked out well for One Medical, a venture-backed, tech-driven chain of 70 clinics that has become one of the largest independent groups in the U.S. (It’s also reportedly prepping an IPO.)

Little wonder that one individual participant in Tend’s new funding is Tom Lee, the physician who created One Medical in 2007 and led it as CEO until 2017. Other individual investors include Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa of Warby Parker; Zach Weinberg of Flatiron Health; and Bradley Tusk of Tusk Ventures.

Meanwhile, Tend’s co-founder and CEO is also no slouch, seemingly. Doug Hudson was the CEO of SmileDirectClub for three-and-a-half years, beginning in 2013. Before that, he founded two medical care companies that were acquired: Hearing Planet and Simplex Healthcare.

Whether that pedigree is enough to get the company going will take some time to know, but certainly it’s chasing after a huge market that can very plainly be made better. In the U.S. alone, the dental market is now a $137 billion industry, according to the research group IBIS World, and as Hudson notes in a new Medium post about his latest startup, dentistry has a Net Promoter Score of 1, which is just two points higher than dreaded cable companies.

Consumers “don’t accept this level of service in any other aspect of our lives. Not when shopping for glasses. Not when exercising at home with a stationary bike,” he writes, and it’s true. If Tend can improve the experience even a little bit and its prices are competitive, we’d guess it has a shot.

Categories: Business News

3 days left to save on passes to Disrupt Berlin 2019

2019, October 9 - 6:07pm

What does Disrupt Berlin 2019 have in common with the movie “Three Days of the Condor?” Frankly, not much, except that there are only three days of the super early-bird special left before prices go up. The analogy may be a stretch, but the facts are real. Right now, you can save up to €600 depending on the pass you buy.

Remember, the super early-bird is an endangered species. Once the clock strikes 11:59 p.m. (CEST) on Friday, 11 October, the super early-bird pricing goes extinct. And who wants to pay more than necessary? Extinction will cost you, so don’t wait. Buy your passes to Disrupt Berlin today.

Once you secure your pass, you can start thinking about all the ways you want to experience Disrupt Berlin. Join an audience of thousands to watch some of the world’s top early-stage startups go head-to head in the Startup Battlefield. Between 15-20 teams will take the Main Stage to deliver a six-minute product pitch and demo to a panel of expert tech and VC judges.

It’s a fast, furious and epic pitch competition that culminates with one outstanding startup claiming the Disrupt Cup and the $50,000 equity-free prize. And all the participants get to bask in the warm, possibly life-changing spotlight of media and investor attention.

You’ll find even more early-stage startups exhibiting a wide range of technologies in Startup Alley, our expo floor and networking paradise. Among the hundreds of exhibitors, be sure to check out the TC Top Picks. TechCrunch editors hand-picked this cohort to find up to five of the best startups representing these tech categories: AI/Machine Learning, Biotech/Healthtech, Blockchain, Fintech, Mobility, Privacy/Security, Retail/E-commerce, Robotics/IoT/Hardware, CRM/Enterprise and Education.

Have you heard about our Extra Crunch Stage? That’s where you’ll find fireside chats and panel discussions focused on founder and investor success. Plus, it’s the place to go for practical insights and how-to content. We’re talking advice you can take home and put to work in your business — straight from the mouths of the people who’ve done the hard work and earned their success.

So much to do and see at Disrupt Berlin 2019 and just three days of the super early-bird pricing left. The savings go extinct at 11:59 p.m. (CEST) on Friday, 11 October. Buy your passes to Disrupt Berlin, save a bundle, and we’ll see you in December!

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

Tick-tock: Hurry and apply to TC Top Picks @ Disrupt Berlin 2019

2019, October 9 - 4:35pm

Early-stage startup founders know that M&Ms are essential ingredients for startup success. We’re not talking about the melt-in-your-mouth-not-in-your-hand confection; we’re talking money and media.

Apply to be a TC Top Pick at Disrupt Berlin 2019 and — if you make the cut — you’ll receive a free Startup Alley Exhibitor Package, the VIP treatment and plenty of exposure to both media and investors.

Don’t wait — the application deadline is 18 October at 12 p.m. (PT). Apply to be a TC Top Pick right now.

We’ll get into the details of how to apply in a moment, but here’s an example of why you should apply. Jana Rosenfelder, co-founder of Actijoy, found real value in her Top Pick experience at Disrupt SF 2018.

“Being a TC Top Pick was a door-opener, because the media paid so much attention. It made a big impression with people who visited our booth. Whenever I mentioned we were a Top Pick, it was like a trigger. It gave us more credibility, and everyone listened to us.”

You’re eligible to apply if your early-stage startup falls into one of the following tech categories: AI/Machine Learning, Biotech/Healthtech, Blockchain, Fintech, Mobility, Privacy/Security, Retail/E-commerce, Robotics/IoT/Hardware, CRM/Enterprise and Education.

TC Top Picks is a competitive process, and TechCrunch editors review the applications looking for interesting startups that show solid potential. They’ll choose up to five startups for each category.

All TC Top Pick startups receive a free Startup Alley Exhibitor Package, which includes one full day exhibiting in a dedicated space within Startup Alley — the Disrupt expo floor teeming with opportunity. Your package also includes access to the programming on all stages (including the Startup Battlefield competition), three Founder passes, the complete attendee list (via TC Events Mobile App), the list of attending press, use of the Startup Alley Exhibitor Lounge and CrunchMatch — our business networking platform.

Plus, a TechCrunch editor will interview each Top Pick live on our Showcase Stage, and we’ll promote that video across our social media platforms, which can help drive traffic to your site. It’s a marketing gift that keeps on giving.

As if that weren’t enough, you might pull a Legacy. Each exhibiting startup has a shot at being chosen as a Wild Card and competing in the Startup Battlefield. Last year, Legacy earned the Wild Card slot, and then went on to win the Startup Battlefield competition.

Disrupt Berlin 2019 takes place on 11-12 December, and this is your chance to bask in the attention of investors and global media. Apply to be a TC Top Pick before the clock runs out on 18 October at 12 p.m. (PT).

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

MIT is reviewing its relationship with AI startup SenseTime, one of the Chinese tech firms blacklisted by the U.S.

2019, October 9 - 4:16pm

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology said it is reviewing the university’s relationship with SenseTime, one of eight Chinese tech companies placed on the U.S. Entity List yesterday for their alleged role in human rights abuses against Muslim minority groups in China.

A MIT spokesperson told Bloomberg that “MIT has long had a robust export controls function that pays careful attention to export control regulations and compliance. MIT will review all existing relationships with organizations added to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Entity List, and modify any interactions, as necessary.”

A SenseTime representative told Bloomberg “We are deeply disappointed with this decision by the U.S. Department of Commerce. We will work closely with all relevant authorities to fully understand and resolve the situation.”

The companies placed on the blacklist included several of China’s top AI startups and companies that have supplied software to mass surveillance systems that may have been used by the Chinese government to persecute Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups.

Over one million Uyghurs are believed to currently be held in detention camps, where human rights observers report they have been subjected to forced labor and torture.

SenseTime, the world’s mostly highly-valued AI startup, provided software to the Chinese government for its national surveillance system, including CCTV cameras. It was the first company to join a MIT Intelligence Quest initiative launched last year with the goal of “driv[ing] technological breakthroughs in AI that have the potential to confront some of the world’s greatest challenges.” Since then, it has provided funding for 27 projects by MIT researchers.

Earlier this year, MIT ended its working relationships with Huawei and ZTE over alleged sanction violations.

Categories: Business News

Southeast Asian real estate portal 99.co agrees to joint venture with iProperty, as their rival PropertyGuru prepares for IPO

2019, October 9 - 3:46pm

Southeast Asian real estate portal 99.co has agreed to form a joint venture with iProperty. As part of the deal, iProperty owner REA Group will invest $8 million of working capital into the venture, expected to be finalized by the second quarter of 2020.

99.co and REA Group, a real estate-focused digital advertising conglomerate that is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX), say that the JV immediately makes 99.co the market leader in Indonesia and positions it to take the top spot in Singapore, as well. The deal also makes 99.co a more formidable rival to PropertyGuru. Backed by TPG Capital and KKR, PropertyGuru is expected to raise up to AUD $380.2 million (about USD $255.9 million) in an IPO on the ASX this month.

The joint venture is expected to be finalized by the second quarter of 2020 and 99.co will assume full control of REA Group brands iProperty.com.sg in Singapore and Rumah123.com in Indonesia. The JV will be led by 99.co’s management team, including co-founder and CEO Darius Cheung.

99.co’s last round of funding was a $15.2 million Series B, announced in August, that the company says took its valuation to over $100 million.

In a press statement, Cheung said “We are coming for market leadership. This is a key milestone that positions us instantly as number one in Indonesia, and well on our way to that in Singapore. Our innovative DNA plus REA’s unrivaled experience and resources makes this partnership a lethal combination Southeast Asia has not seen before.”

The company’s existing shareholders, including Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, Sequoia Capital, MindWorks Ventures, Allianz X, East Ventures and 500 Startups, will have a combined stake of 73%, with REA Group holding the remaining 27%.

Launched in 2014, 99.co was created to make real estate listings more navigable for renters and buyers in Singapore and other Southeast Asian markets. REA Group owns portals in Malaysia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore and China, and a property review site in Thailand. It is also a stakeholder in Move, the American real estate site, and Indian property portal PropTiger.

 

Categories: Business News

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