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Global Mobile <b>VOIP</b> (mVOIP) Market Expected to Reach Highest CAGR by 2025 Top Players ...

Google News - VoIP - 2020, July 1 - 4:30pm
Mobile VOIP (mVOIP) report studies the current state of the market to analyze the future opportunities and risks. This study covers following key players:
Categories: VoIP News

Global Session Initiation Protocol Trunking Market Size, Status And Forecast 2019-2025 , Analysis ...

Google News - VoIP - 2020, July 1 - 4:30pm
Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunking is an Internet-based service that permits Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) users to stay connected in local ...
Categories: VoIP News

Unified Communication as-a-Service in Energy Market: Size, Share, Demand and Outlook 2020 ...

Google News - VoIP - 2020, July 1 - 2:03pm
Service providers utilize VOIP and IP telephony technology to equip traditional business phone systems with instant messaging, video conferencing ...
Categories: VoIP News

<b>VoIP</b> Market Size by Global Industry Share, Growth, Regional Analysis, Upcoming Trends, Key ...

Google News - VoIP - 2020, July 1 - 2:03pm
This market research study determines the increase in changes and the aspects which are likely to have an impact on the growth of the Global VoIP ...
Categories: VoIP News

Telephony/<b>VOIP</b> Software Market Growth, Overview with Detailed Analysis 2020-2026| CrazyCall ...

Google News - VoIP - 2020, July 1 - 12:48pm
Find the complete Telephony/VOIP Software market analysis segmented by companies, region, type and applications in the report. The major players ...
Categories: VoIP News

Internet Protocol Private Branch Exchange (IP PBX) Market To Observe Exponential Growth By ...

Google News - VoIP - 2020, July 1 - 12:22pm
VoIP Phones IP PBX Servers VoIP Gateway. By Applications, Enterprise Government Others. By Regions and Countries, Asia Pacific: China, Japan, ...
Categories: VoIP News

Africom &amp; Satellite Service Provider Hellas Sat donates digital technologies to hospitals

Google News - VoIP - 2020, July 1 - 9:00am
In a statement, Africom said it is working out modalities with their Chinese partners for further supply of VOIP handsets, which enable ease of ...
Categories: VoIP News

TransferWise to offer investment products but has ‘no plans’ to become a bank

Startup News - 2020, July 1 - 8:01am

TransferWise, the London-headquartered international money transfer service recently valued at $3.5 billion, has secured an additional license with U.K. regulators to enable it to offer investment products in the future.

This will mean that U.K. customers who have money deposited in a TransferWise multi-currency or so-called “borderless” account will be given the option to make that money work harder on their behalf. Total deposits currently sit at £2 billion, so there is quite a lot of customer cash potentially idle.

However, the company isn’t revealing much detail on its future investments product, except to say that it will initially offer “simple, affordable funds from reputable providers” so that customers can earn a return on their balances. Up to £85,000 of money held as investments within a TransferWise account per customer will be protected under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. The new offering is still in development and will launch “in the next 12 months.”

Zooming out further, TransferWise says an increasing number of its 8 million customers are using the borderless account as an international banking solution. Around one million TransferWise debit cards have been issued since 2018, and the TransferWise account now also supports direct debits, instant international payments to friends, and Apple and Google Pay. With the addition of savings and investments, TransferWise says its vision is for the borderless account to replace “expensive, old-world international banking” for expats, freelancers and travelers.

“You and I have been talking since 2011, when you first reported that TransferWise was going live, and I think you’ll appreciate that over time we’ve expanded the features that TransferWise offers our customers, for sure,” co-founder and current CEO Kristo Käärmann tells me on a call. “We launched the borderless account to let people receive money in-roads and to hold money. We added the debit cards so that they can use that money that they hold in places where they can use the card. And this is, in some ways, no different.”

Sticking to broad brush strokes rather than specific product details (despite my persistent questioning), Käärmann says that after listening to customers TransferWise wants to help them hold their balance in a smarter way.

“Clearly they’ve already figured out that TransferWise works for them,” he says. “And not merely as a medium of sending money from one country to another but also to get paid internationally, to kind of run their international part of banking, if you like. For businesses, for freelancers, for ex-pats, for people that have just moved countries. So this is another feature along the same string of things that people want us to do for them.”

That, of course, begs the question: Does TransferWise have any plans to become an actual bank, with a full banking license, further adding to its existing permissions from regulators. Käärmann gives a pretty emphatic answer.

“No, we don’t have any plans to apply for a banking license,” he says. “We haven’t applied for any banking licenses anywhere in the world… The only thing that the banking license in Europe lets banks do is lend out the deposits that customers give them, and that’s not what our customers are asking for. They’re not asking us, you know, can you please lend out our deposits?”

In fact, Käärmann confesses to not being a huge fan of the predominant current account business model, which he believes serves the interests of banks, not account-holding customers. “I do think the way current accounts work with banks is not sustainable in the long term. That the money we keep in banks is being lent out to mortgages and business loans and overdrafts and so on, yet the customers holding that money, they’re not really getting much benefit from it. So why do it?” he asks, somewhat rhetorically.

Returning to the forthcoming investment product — and after a little more prodding from me — he says to expect it to have the same transparency as the company’s core money exchange offering, with clear pricing and working as hard for customers as possible. In line with TransferWise’s existing modus operandi, I would also expect it to be financially sustainable, rather than being cross-subsidised in order to pull customers in or grab easy headlines, which is common practice amongst many investments and savings products.

Adds the TransferWise CEO: “We want to be clear what the problem is we’re solving. [It] comes back to giving people a choice of where and how they hold their balances. And that might give you a hint of the product that we’re building. I can say now that we’re not building an active trading product, that’s not the goal. Our customers aren’t asking how can they speculate on the markets. There are tools for this, and they are increasingly [getting] better for this purpose. What we’re solving with the investments product is going to be a much more passive way of choosing where your balances sit.”

Categories: Business News

Telephony/ <b>VOIP</b> Software | Exploring the Aftereffects of the Covid-19 Pandemic Surrounding the ...

Google News - VoIP - 2020, July 1 - 4:41am
The latest report on “Telephony/ VOIP Software Market report” advocates for market segmentation that is based on reliable data sources. The report ...
Categories: VoIP News

Trending News: Fixed Business Voice Platforms and Services Market Development, Future ...

Google News - VoIP - 2020, July 1 - 4:30am
... Development, Future, Importance and Forecast Report 2020 to 2025: Unify Inc. (Atos Origin), Vodafone Limited, AltoTelecom Call Center VoIP.
Categories: VoIP News

Oculus co-founder and games industry vets form Mountaintop Studios

Startup News - 2020, July 1 - 4:18am

Oculus co-founder Nate Mitchell is heading up a new game development house called Mountaintop Studios, joined by colleagues from around the gaming industry. The company aims to leave the crunch and toxic culture pervasive in game studios behind and make one that’s “collaborative, anti-crunch, diverse and inclusive.”

The founding team includes Mitchell’s former colleague Mark Terrano, who was creative director at Oculus, Matt Hansen, former COO of Double Fine, and artist Rich Lyons, who worked at Naughty Dog and Vigil.

According to its webpage, Mountaintop will be creating “multiplayer games for players who crave a challenge,” though when I chatted with Mitchell and Hansen, they cited mostly single-player titles. The theme they came back to was growth and a journey: mystery, but also mastery.

As the company’s initial blog post puts it:

It isn’t just the thrill of victory. It’s looking back and seeing how far you’ve come. How you were forced to grow, adapt and improve. It’s the satisfaction of knowing you’re better than you were before. And sometimes, it’s sharing the joy of the climb with your friends.

While it’s too early for the team to reveal details on their first game, “We think we’re onto something,” Mitchell said. Considering the time and effort it takes to create a AAA game these days, and the fact that Mountaintop is currently only five full-timers, we can probably expect the first details no earlier than next year.

But the founders were clear that the company is also about getting away from the culture problems in game development.

“What we really want to do is have a studio that is people first,” Mitchell said. “There are so many folks across the industry who have just been burnt out by endless crunch. And the expectations around hours don’t allow for any sort of work-life balance. We want Mountaintop to be a place where people can come and still have that.”

But it isn’t just labor issues of crunch and overtime plaguing gaming. Racism and sexism that are endemic and evident in both the final products and companies themselves. And it must be said that the founders themselves follow one of the most common and unfortunate trends in the industry: All four are white men.

Mitchell and Hansen declined to make any specific commitments as far as diversity and inclusion go, despite those values being central to the new studio. They did, at least, acknowledge the difficulty and complexity of this pursuit.

“There’s no silver bullet for inclusivity, a lot of it is long-term work,” Mitchell said. “Because it’s a fresh studio, a fresh culture, we can start from scratch with the right foundation. We never thought when we kicked off the studio that we’d be launching in the middle of not just a pandemic, but a global conversation about institutionalized racism, police violence and injustice. So talking about that stuff internally, where we stand as individuals and as a company, that informs how we act as a company.”

“One of the earliest conversations we had was around getting the culture right. Our founders are all aligned in this,” added Hansen.

“There’s a bunch of micro things we can do every day,” continued Mitchell. “Setting our cultural values, making sure people understand those, driving toward inclusivity and diversity training, excellent hiring practices, working with community groups and integrating and supporting them, maybe recruiting from there.”

It’s a lot of promises and few concrete commitments, a common theme in tech and gaming these days. Having one’s heart in the right place is nice, but what the industries need is action. Hopefully the promises are preludes to lasting decisions, but only time (plus real and sustained effort on Mountaintop’s part) will tell.

Categories: Business News

Dear Sophie: Is immigration happening? Who can I hire?

Startup News - 2020, July 1 - 4:11am
Sophie Alcorn Contributor Share on Twitter Sophie Alcorn is the founder of Alcorn Immigration Law in Silicon Valley and 2019 Global Law Experts Awards’ “Law Firm of the Year in California for Entrepreneur Immigration Services.” She connects people with the businesses and opportunities that expand their lives. More posts by this contributor

Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”

“Dear Sophie” columns are accessible for Extra Crunch subscribers; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.

Dear Sophie:

What is going on with recent USCIS furloughs and Trump’s H-1B ban?

I handle recruitment for several tech companies. Is immigration happening? Who can I hire?

—Frustrated in Fremont

Dear Fremont:

Immigration is still possible and I will explain how below. The administration continues to miss the mark with immigration policy. Trump’s U.S. unemployment “solution” of cutting off the stream of global talent to the U.S. is short-sighted. The administration is shooting America in the foot by walling off the promise of post-COVID economic revitalization and job-creation for Americans through the talent of immigrant entrepreneurs, investors and talent.

USCIS just provided a 30-day furlough notice to more than 70% of its employees. Reporters have been reaching out to me every day requesting stories of affected immigrants and HR professionals; please sign up to share your immigration story with journalists.

Categories: Business News

To promote diversity, rewire your broken corporate culture

Startup News - 2020, July 1 - 3:54am
Travis Montaque Contributor Share on Twitter Travis Montaque is CEO of Holler and made Entrepreneur Magazine's 2018 Most Daring Entrepreneur's list for his work in branding consumer conversations. He was also named as one of Forbes’ 30 under 30 in 2016.

We have a problem. In tech, our companies are not diverse.

This is something we’ve known for a long time, but in an industry where we’ve innovated and solved some of the world’s most challenging problems, we have continued to fail here. I am one of few Black tech CEOs and I too have historically not done as much as I should have to harness the power of diversity in my business. I have been fast at work to change this, but I’ve learned that it requires rewriting the entire playbook.

To better approach the lack of diversity in tech, one-dimensional diversity agendas will not cut it. Company cultures across the board need to be rewired at their core. Change has to happen at every level, from leadership to individual employees — even how a corporation behaves as an entity.

Diversity is advantageous both for employees and the bottom line, but static, siloed diversity programs will not create systemic change. Shifting the company mindset around diversity means creating excitement around our differences, changing the idea that diversity is a zero-sum game and approaching diversity like every other challenge we face.

It can be tempting to introduce a diversity agenda and say you’ve solved the problem. A step beyond this involves diversity and inclusion initiatives that aim to get more people in the door and create support networks within the company walls. It’s not just about meeting D&I standards; the goal is to foster a sense of belonging for all employees.

Everyone should feel that their individuality, sexual orientation, gender and heritage are celebrated within the workplace, not just tolerated. Through diverse viewpoints, ideas can be challenged and made better. Without this level of acceptance and genuine excitement at every level of the organization, diversity initiatives will continue to fall flat.

When thinking about diversity, inclusion and belonging, leaders must consider ways to engage the full group instead of creating support groups for small portions of your staff. True diversity in the workplace requires a holistic approach where the entire team is participating and engaged.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that on the most basic level, people want to feel seen and appreciated. Personally, I’ve always leaned into diverse cultural experiences. I would go to my friend’s Passover even though I am not Jewish. My friends and other guests didn’t care that I didn’t know what was about to happen — they appreciated that I was there and willing to learn. I’m trying to take this same emotional interaction and apply it to Holler’s culture. We need to look for ways to acknowledge that we are here and ready to learn about experiences other than our own. And remember — we don’t have to have all the answers.

To address this, we’ve recently started to create holidays (or as we call them, Hollerdays) where we as a company will acknowledge and honor the holidays from various heritages, races and religions that our employees celebrate. This is not just a free day off. This is an opportunity for all of us to learn and celebrate cultures outside of our own.

Education is the key element in diversity-focused activities having real impact. We need to create normalcy around educational opportunities. Through education, opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate diverse life experiences begins to be baked into the company culture.

When introducing new educational opportunities, we must show that they are beneficial for everyone, not just catered to minority groups or hosted in order to meet a diversity standard. Corporate diversity can often feel like a box that can be checked by hiring more ethnically diverse candidates or implementing a program to help those individuals assimilate. What’s worse is that anything beyond these initiatives is perceived as special treatment or a chore to the full team. If an educational moment feels like a negative to employees, the outcome will be negative and mass adoption of equitable and inclusive company cultures will be slow.

To introduce new educational programs at Holler, we recently asked one of the BLM founders, Opal Tometi, to speak with our employees in a live Q&A. This was during work hours and highly encouraged, but not required. It was a communal activity where we were able to discuss different perspectives and continue thinking about how we can each do better on an individual level. We created excitement around it and reinforced that these types of discussions are a company priority.

The language we use around diversity also has a hand in creating real change. We need to focus on diversity as a way of lifting the entire ship and creating an equitable society. In tech specifically, team members who can think outside of their own lived experiences have a stronger sense of emotional intelligence. They can build algorithms or projects that address a larger collective — mitigating issues like biased machine learning solutions. They become more competitive as employees.

A community focused on diversity, inclusion, and belonging will have a competitive advantage. Frankly, it’s the morally right thing to do. Business leaders should monitor the execution of diversity and inclusion programs to ensure equity and belonging are a part of the conversation as well.

We as leaders in technology need to treat diversity and inclusion the same way we do any other tech challenge — with agility and openness to iteration. Many companies use agile methodology to yield the best results. To solve complex problems, agile practices encourage adaptability and promote continuous improvement, flexibility, collaboration and high quality. We must do the same for diversity.

With so much pressure to change and do better, it is tempting to implement new policies and say that you are automatically diversity focused. Immediately stating how your company will “fix the problem” is a band-aid approach that often misses the larger task at hand. It also does not involve enough follow through. Rewiring your company culture to be more inclusive and diverse requires continuous effort, a commitment to hearing feedback and evolving as you learn.

As a CEO, I’m trying to understand how each and every person within my company views diversity. Yes, this even includes white males. We need the perspectives of everyone in order to foster a sense of belonging and create company cultures that systematically embrace diverse backgrounds. We all need to be a part of the conversation and willing to grow.

I’m also continuing to speak and listen to other business leaders to hear how they are approaching change. Not a single one of us has the answer, but through sharing ideas and really listening to what is working (and what’s not), we can start to make sustainable change.

Think of diversity as an industry-wide open-source project. We cannot work in silos. Isolation will lead to furthering our fragmented industry and leave us without a standard for how all humans should be treated within the tech community.

Sharing ideas and progress can be intimidating, but it’s okay to fail. The agile methodology promotes the idea of failure as an outcome and empowers iteration. We need to allow companies to miss the mark sometimes, as long as they are trying and iterating. Businesses inevitably won’t get this right every time.

I’ve heard from white male executives that one of their biggest fears is rolling out well-intentioned initiatives and getting “canceled” when it doesn’t work out perfectly. If we do not allow today’s business leaders to make mistakes, we’ll suffocate progress. We need to focus on the good intent and keep moving forward.

We each have to take on the responsibility to make change happen — at a corporate and an individual level. Once we learn to celebrate everyone at our companies for who they truly are, shift the rhetoric away from who wins and who loses in the fight for equity, and evolve our approach to problem solving, we can begin to make systemic changes to our company cultures. The process is only beginning and it is going to take all of us doing our part to fundamentally alter how we approach corporate diversity conversations.

We must take our next steps together.

Categories: Business News

Health class is outdated, so Lessonbee wants to fix it

Startup News - 2020, July 1 - 3:27am

Sex education in the United States is complicated.

One example: For decades, the United States invested billions into abstinence-only programs. Eventually, schools rejected government funding for these programs and pushed a more comprehensive and medically accurate agenda. Even with progress, schools across the country continue to reckon with a legacy of inaccuracy. And the government is still funding abstinence-only programs.

It’s bad news for students, and for founder of Lessonbee Reva McPollom, a change is long overdue. She can personally vouch for how non-comprehensive education in health classes can isolate students.

As a child, McPollom said she was called a tomboy and felt confused because she identified as a female. There was no lesson teaching the danger of gender stereotypes and norms.

“I felt wrong for liking sports, for wanting to play drums, I felt wrong for everything that I loved or liked or attached myself too as part of my identity,” she said.

The silent suffering, she says, continued through high school: “If you look at my senior yearbook, like I’m not even in it, I just totally erased myself by that point.”

Reva McPollom, the founder of Lessonbee (Image Source: Lessonbee)

After working as a journalist, digital marketer and a software engineer, McPollom returned to her past with a new idea. She founded Lessonbee, a more comprehensive health education curriculum provider to express diverse scenarios in schools. The company’s goal is to help students avoid what she had to go through: missing out on the joy of education and feeling worthy enough to learn.

The company sells a curriculum that covers a range of topics, from sex education to race to mental health, that integrates into existing K-12 school districts as a separate standalone course. The topics themselves then break down into smaller focus areas. For example, with the race unit launching soon Lessonbee will tackle the effects of race and ethnicity on quality of care, maternal health and food insecurity.

Lessonbee has hundreds of educational videos and interactive lessons created by teachers and the company, updated regularly. Each lesson also comes with a downloadable guide that describes content, objectives and recommendations for homework and quizzes. Lessonbee gives a guide for how to create culturally inclusive education, in line with standards put out by National Health Education and National Sexuality Education.

Image Source: Lessonbee

“It needs to meet all types of kids, regardless of where they’re at,” McPollom said.

One example scenario in the curriculum includes a student who starts having sex and then misses her period. Learners are then responsible for choosing what to do next, who to talk to and what they should do next time. It’s a “choose your adventure”-style learning experience.

Students can log onto the platform and take self-paced classes on different health units, ranging from sex education to mental health and racism. The lessons are taught through text-message scenarios or gamified situations to make sure students are actively engaging with the content, McPollom tells TechCrunch.

Image Source: Lessonbee

State policy regarding education is often a nightmare of intricacies and politics. This is part of the reason so few startups try to solve it. If Lessonbee were to pull off its goal, it would initiate bigger conversations around racism and health into a kid’s day-to-day.

McPollom is currently pitching the service to school districts, which have tight budgets, and venture capitalists, who say they are open for business. So far, the company has 600 registered schools on its platform.

“It’s a non-core academic subject so it’s the last priority, and there’s just inequity all over the place,” she said. “There’s a mismatch of privacy policies across the United States handled differently and it kind of dictates the quality of health education that you’re going to receive.”

Lessonbee subscription is priced low to be more accessible, starting at $16 per learner annually. Individual courses start at $8 per learner annually.

Today, McPollom announced that she has raised $920,000 in financing.

As for the future, McPollom views her go-to market health class strategy as Lessonbee’s “Trojan horse.” She wants to integrate the culturally diverse curriculum into social studies or science classes, and cover how interconnected the subjects are and their ties to inequity and health.

McPollam says the team is developing an anti-racism course to introduce for the fall in the wake of the recent protests against police brutality. Topics in the anti-racism course include the effect of race and ethnicity on quality of care, ways racism impacts maternal health and structural racism and food insecurity.

“We’re hoping to evolve to this idea of health across the curriculum,” she said. “For health to be effective, for you to actually move the needle, health needs to be holistic.”

Categories: Business News

<b>VoIP</b> Market COVID 19 Impacted In-Depth Analysis including key players NTT, Comcast, Orange ...

Google News - VoIP - 2020, July 1 - 2:37am
JCMR recently introduced Global VoIP Market study with focused approach on market size & volumes by Application, Industry particular process, ...
Categories: VoIP News

<b>VoIP</b> Market to Witness Huge Growth By 2025 | Cablevision, Verizon, AT &amp; T

Google News - VoIP - 2020, July 1 - 2:15am
VoIP Market Research Study – The exploration report comprised with market data derived from primary as well as secondary research techniques.
Categories: VoIP News

USA Digital Receives Policy Administrator Authorization

Google News - VoIP - 2020, July 1 - 1:41am
The FCC has mandated all VoIP providers be functional with STIR/SHAKEN by June 2021. USAD is well ahead of that timeline and is gaining ...
Categories: VoIP News

Tune-up your pitch tomorrow at Pitchers & Pitches

Startup News - 2020, July 1 - 1:32am

Ready to breathe some life into your 60-second pitch? Turn your internet dial to our next Pitchers & Pitches webinar tomorrow, July 1 at 4 p.m. EDT/1 p.m. PDT. It’s free for everyone, and all you need to do is register right here.

Tune in as five early-stage startup founders (all of whom you’ll find exhibiting in Digital Startup Alley during Disrupt 2020) step to the mound to bring the heat. Translation: They’ll deliver their best 60-second elevator pitch to a panel of judges — and benefit from real-time critique, feedback and advice from industry experts who know how to craft a winning pitch.

Judging this session we have pitch-savvy TechCrunch editors, Jordan Crook and Kirsten Korosec, plus two VCs — Matthew Hartman of Betaworks Ventures and Dayna Grayson of Construct Capital. Yes, essential feedback from startup investors — the very people founders need to impress most.

Not only will the five pitching founders come away with a stronger presentation, one of them will walk away with a pretty cool prize. The viewing audience (that would be you) decides who wins a consulting session with cela, a company that connects early-stage startups to accelerators and incubators that can help scale their businesses.

Note: Only companies that purchase a Disrupt Digital Startup Alley Package are eligible to pitch. You’ll still learn valuable tips and strategies — even if you’re not facing the judges. Watch, listen and apply the expert tips and strategies to power up your pitch — your handshake to the startup world. This is your chance to make it firm and impressive.

Here are the startups we randomly selected to compete tomorrow:

Cognidna — provides DNA insights on cognitive traits, helping parents make more informed educational decisions for their children.

Munch — a digital platform for restaurants designed to create better customer experiences.

Flexlane — an online wholesale marketplace that transforms the way local retailers in Asia buy for their stores.

Bitsensing — aims to design future safety in the era of autonomous vehicles.

Evertracker — a neutral platform that provides end-to-end visibility and predictability along global supply chains on an item level.

Don’t miss this masterclass. Register for Pitches & Pitchers and tune in tomorrow, July 1 at 4 p.m. EDT/1 p.m. PDT. If you want a shot at pitching during the Pitchers & Pitches session scheduled on July 22, be sure to buy your Disrupt Digital Startup Alley Package first to be eligible.

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

Categories: Business News

E-scooter firms get the green light to start trials of up to one year on UK streets

Startup News - 2020, July 1 - 1:21am

In light of COVID-19 and social distancing regulations, the U.K. has been working on making it easier for people to get from point A to B in cities without resorting to buses and trains or bringing more cars to congested roads, and today that strategy took an interesting leap forward.

The country’s Department for Transport today announced that it would start allowing e-scooters, by way of e-scooter rental companies, to legally operate across the country initially in a trial phase starting no later than August. Councils and other authorities, including across London and other major cities, are working on putting together trials that could run for as long as 12 months under guidelines provided by the government.

The regulations come into force on July 4, the DfT said, with the first trials expected to begin a week later.

“As we emerge from lockdown, we have a unique opportunity in transport to build back in a greener, more sustainable way that could lead to cleaner air and healthier communities across Great Britain,” said Transport Minister Rachel Maclean in a statement. “E-scooters may offer the potential for convenient, clean and cost-effective travel that may also help ease the burden on the transport network, provide another green alternative to get around and allow for social distancing. The trials will allow us to test whether they do these things.”

There are some restrictions in place: E-scooters will not be able to go faster than 15.5 miles per hour, and they will only be able to use roads and cycle lanes, not sidewalks or other areas reserved for pedestrians. Users will need a drivers license (full or provisional). The scooters themselves will not need to be registered as vehicles but will need insurance. As with bicycles, users will be recommended — but not required — to wear helmets.

It seems that privately owned e-scooters will not be included in the rule relaxation, but it’s not clear what steps regulators will take — if any — to avoid the cluttering that we have seen in some cities overrun with too many dockless scooters crowding sidewalks.

The list of e-scooter hopefuls is long. From the word go, those that are looking to operate in the U.K. include Bird, Bolt (the ridesharing startup out of Estonia), Tier, Neuron Mobility, Lime, Voi and Zipp Mobility.

We’re contacting the DfT with our questions and will update this post as we learn more.

Electric scooters will now join the ranks of other shared transportation options that include bikes and e-bikes, as a complement to mass transit and of course walking or using your own nonautomotive wheels as an alternative to using cars. E-scooters have been seen both as an alternative for short distances (between 1 and 5 miles) but also as a last-mile solution in combination with other transport modes aimed at longer distances, like buses and trains.

The news today lifts restrictions that had previously been in place that classified e-scooters as motor vehicles and therefore required the e-scooters to be licensed and taxed, and for operators to have licenses to use them.

Those rules also meant that the e-scooters were illegal to use on sidewalks, with the only exception to all that being legal usage across select (and very limited) campuses on private land.

The moves come on the heels of a consultation in March to pilot e-scooter use in three regions of the U.K., along with a number of other initiatives including e-cargo carriers and using drones to transport medical supplies — the aim being to explore in quick order a number of new technologies to expand transportation options available to consumers, as well as essential businesses and the people who work in them.

The bigger trend has seen other cities also looking to relax rules to improve transportation options to people who wish to socially distance but still need to get around urban areas in ways that are quicker than walking. New York City is also expected to unveil its own roadmap for e-scooter pilots in the near future.

The news made official today had been something of a badly kept secret, specifically among transportation startups whose businesses have been in a holding pattern waiting for the regulator to ease up on restrictions that had been in place.

Just about all of those startups have been sending out alerts to journalists for over a week now with comments on the government’s widely expected announcements.

“We welcome the DfT’s announcement and are excited to be one step closer to the starting of e-scooter trials,” said Zachary Wang, CEO of Neuron Mobility, in a statement. “We are already in discussions with quite a few councils, as no two towns or cities are the same we look forward to partnering with them to safely introduce e-scooters in a way that best suits their individual needs. COVID-19 has led to a fundamental rethink of the way we travel and e-scooters have the potential to radically improve how we get around our towns and cities. We are delighted that people in the U.K. will soon be able to benefit from shared e-scooters. They will allow people to continue social distancing while also providing a more efficient travel option than gas-guzzling alternatives.”

Some have been waiting for a chance to operate for some time.

“We welcome today’s announcement from the government as it looks to get cities moving again safely and in an environmentally friendly way,” said Roger Hassan, COO of TIER Mobility, in a statement. “We already have more than 1,000 of our industry leading scooters in our U.K. warehouse, ready to be deployed and we will be shipping more over very soon. Everyone at TIER is looking forward to working with the government and with local authorities to make e-scooters in the U.K. a huge success story.”

While there had been restrictions in place before now, I should point out that they were often badly enforced: In London there have always been some private e-scooter owners zooming around alongside bikes and cars on the roads, and I’ve even stopped at red lights on my bike, with an e-scooter on one side of me and a police officer on the other, and not a word gets exchanged, just a simple shrug of “What can you do?” So decriminalising, as it has done in other industries, will hopefully mean better oversight, alongside better choice for users.

Categories: Business News

R&D tax credits are due July 15. Neo.tax wants to help startups apply and raised $3M to do it

Startup News - 2020, July 1 - 1:00am

All founders love “free” money, but with the pandemic going on, the necessity of free money has taken on a whole new meaning this year. First, there was the scramble to secure PPP loans a few weeks back for U.S.-based startups, and then the second wave of PPP loans when Congress offered a second tranche of funding. Two weeks ago, I covered a company called MainStreet, which is helping startups apply for local economic development credits that cities offer to businesses relocating to their regions.

Free money for startups? It’s possible with MainStreet’s platform for economic development incentives

In the same vein, neo.tax wants to help startups secure R&D research credits from the federal government — which tend to be fairly easy to acquire for most software-based startups given the current IRS rules for what qualifies as “research.”

The free money is good, but what sets this startup apart is its ambitious vision to bring machine learning to company accounting — making it easier to track expenses and ultimately save on costs.

It’s a vision that has attracted top seed investors to the startup. Neo.tax announced today that it raised $3 million in seed funding from Andy McLoughlin at Uncork Capital and Mike Maples at Floodgate, with Michael Ma at Liquid 2 Ventures and Deena Shakir at Lux Capital participating. The round closed last week.

Neo.tax was founded by Firas Abuzaid, who spent the past few years focused on a Ph.D in computer science from Stanford, where he conducted research in machine learning. He’s joined by Ahmad Ibrahim, who most recently was at Intuit launching small business accounting products; and Stephen Yarbrough, who was head of tax at Kruze Consulting, a popular consultancy for startups on accounting and financial issues. Leonardo De La Rocha, who was creative director of Facebook Ads for nearly five years and currently works at Intuit, is an official advisor to the company.

Neo.tax’s co-founders Stephen Yarbrough, Firas Abuzaid and Ahmad Ibrahim. Image Credits: Neo.tax

Or in short, a perfect quad of folks to tackle small business accounting issues.

Neo.tax wants to automate everything about accounting, and that requires careful application of ML techniques to an absolutely byzantine problem. Abuzaid explained that AI is in some ways a perfect fit for these challenges. “There’s a very clearly defined data model, there’s a large set of constraints that are also clearly defined. There’s an obvious objective function, and there’s a finite search space,” he said. “But if you wanted to develop a machine-learning-based solution to automate this, you have to make sure you collect the right data, and you have to make sure that you can handle all of the numerous edge cases that are going to pop up in the 80,000 page U.S. tax code.“

That’s where neo.tax’s approach comes in. The software product is designed to ingest data about accounting, payroll and other financial functions within an organization and starts to categorize and pattern match transactions in a bid to take out much of the drudgery of modern-day accounting.

One insight is that rather than creating a single model for all small businesses, neo.tax tries to match similar businesses with each other, specializing its AI system to the particular client using it. “For example, let’s train a model that can target early-stage startups and then another model that can target Shopify businesses, another one that can target restaurants using Clover, or pizzerias or nail salons, or ice cream parlors,” Abuzaid said. “The idea here is that you can specialize to a particular domain and train a cascade of models that handle these different, individual subdomains that makes it a much more scalable solution.”

While neo.tax has a big vision long term to make accounting effortless, it wanted to find a beachhead that would allow it to work with small businesses and start to solve their problems for them. The team eventually settled on the R&D tax credit.

“That data from the R&D credit basically gives us the beginnings of the training data for building tax automation,” Ibrahim explained. “Automating tax vertical-by-vertical basically allows us to be this data layer for small businesses, and you can build lots of really great products and services on top of that data layer.“

So it’s a big long-term vision, with a focused upfront product to get there that launched about two months ago.

For startups that make less than $5 million in revenue (i.e., all early-stage startups), the R&D tax credit offers up to a quarter million dollars per year in refunds from the government for startups who either apply by July 15 (the new tax date this year due to the novel coronavirus) or who apply for an extension.

Neo.tax will take a 5% cut of the tax value generated from its product, which it will only take when the refund is actually received from the government. In this way, the team believes that it is better incentive-aligned with founders and business owners than traditional accounting firms, which charge professional services fees up front and often take a higher percentage of the rebate.

Ibrahim said that the company made about $100,000 in revenue in its first month after launch.

The startup is entering what has become a quickly crowded field led by the likes of Pilot, which has raised tens of millions of dollars from prominent investors to use a human and AI hybrid approach to bookkeeping. Pilot was last valued at $355 million when it announced its round in April 2019, although it has almost certainly raised more funding in the interim.

Index Ventures, Stripe back bookkeeping service Pilot with $40M

Ultimately, neo.tax is betting that a deeper technical infrastructure and a hyperfocus on artificial intelligence will allow it to catch up and compete with both Pilot and incumbent accounting firms, given the speed and ease of accounting and tax preparation when everything is automated.

Categories: Business News

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