Прогноз погоды

People

John Smith

John Smith, 47

Joined: 28 January 2014

Interests: No data

Jonnathan Coleman

Jonnathan Coleman, 31

Joined: 18 June 2014

About myself: You may say I'm a dreamer

Interests: Snowboarding, Cycling, Beer

Andrey II

Andrey II, 40

Joined: 08 January 2014

Interests: No data

David

David

Joined: 05 August 2014

Interests: No data

David Markham

David Markham, 64

Joined: 13 November 2014

Interests: No data

Michelle Li

Michelle Li, 40

Joined: 13 August 2014

Interests: No data

Max Almenas

Max Almenas, 52

Joined: 10 August 2014

Interests: No data

29Jan

29Jan, 31

Joined: 29 January 2014

Interests: No data

s82 s82

s82 s82, 25

Joined: 16 April 2014

Interests: No data

Wicca

Wicca, 36

Joined: 18 June 2014

Interests: No data

Phebe Paul

Phebe Paul, 26

Joined: 08 September 2014

Interests: No data

Артем 007

Артем 007, 40

Joined: 29 January 2014

About myself: Таки да!

Interests: Норвегия и Исландия

NAKA

NAKA

Joined: 17 January 2019

Interests: No data

VINOD KUMAR JAIN

VINOD KUMAR JAIN

Joined: 16 January 2019

Interests: No data

Roman

Roman, 30

Joined: 16 January 2019

Interests: No data



Main article: Fundings Exits

<< Back Forward >>
Topics from 1 to 10 | in all: 6000

VCs give us their predictions for startups and tech in Southeast Asia in 2019

08:00 | 23 January

The new year is well underway and, before January is out, we polled VCs in Southeast Asia to get their thoughts on what to expect in 2019.

The number of VCs in the region has increased massively in recent years, in no small part due to forecasts of growth in the tech space as internet access continues to shoot up among Southeast Asia’s cumulative population of more than 600 million consumers.

There are other factors, including economic growth and emerging middle classes, but with more than 3.8 million people becoming first-time internet users each month — thanks to smartphones — Southeast Asia’s ‘digital economy’ is tipped to more than triple to reach $240 billion by 2025. That leaves plenty of opportunity for tech and online businesses and, by extension, venture capitalists.

With a VC corpus that now numbers dozens of investment firms, TechCrunch asked the people who write the checks what is on the horizon for 2019.

The only rule was no more than three predictions — below, in no particular order, is what they told us.


Alberty Shyy, Burda

Funds will continue to invest aggressively in Southeast Asia in the first half of this year but capital will tighten up by Q4 as funds and companies prepare for a possible recession. I think we will see a lot of companies opportunistically go out to fundraise in Q1/Q2 to take advantage of a bull market.

We will see two to three newly-minted unicorns from the region this year, after a relative lull last year.

This will (finally) be the year that we start to see some consolidation in the e-commerce scene


Dmitry Levit, Centro

A significant portion of capital returned by upcoming U.S. IPOs to institutional investors will be directed to growth markets outside of China, with India and Southeast Asia being the likeliest beneficiaries. Alternative assets such as venture and subsets of private equity in emerging markets will enter their golden age.

The withdrawal of Chinese strategic players held back by weakened domestic economy, prudent M&A by local strategics and ongoing caution among Japanese, Korean and global corporates, combined with ongoing valuations exuberance by late-stage investors allocating funds to Southeast Asia, will continue holding back large liquidity events. Save perhaps for a roll-up of a local champion or two into a global IPO. Fundraising will get more troublesome for some of Southeast Asia’s larger unprofitable market leaders. Lack of marquee liquidity events and curtailed access to late-stage capital for some will lead to a few visible failures (our money is on the subsidy-heavy wallets!) and a temporary burst of short-term skepticism around Southeast Asia as an investment destination towards the end of 2019.

The trend towards the emergence of value-chain specific funds and fund managers will continue, as digitalization is reaching ever further into numerous industry sectors and as Southeast Asia hosts an increasing portion of global supply chains. We foresee at least dozen new venture firms and vehicles emerging in 2019 with clear sector-led investment thesis around the place of Southeast Asian economies in the global value chains of fashion industry, agriculture and food; labour, healthcare services; manufacturing, construction tech and so on, with investment teams that have the necessary expertise to unravel this increasing complexity.


Willson Cuaca, East Ventures

Jakarta becomes Southeast Asia’s startup capital surpassing Singapore in terms of the number of deals and investment amount.

As Indonesia’s startup scene heats up, regional seed and series A funds move away from Indonesia and target Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines (in market priority order).

Southeast gets two new unicorns.


Rachel Lau, RHL Ventures

North Asian companies will provide well-needed liquidity as they withdraw capital from developed American and European markets due to the Federal Reserve’s actions. The FED raised interest rates and reduced the size of its balance sheet (by not replacing the bonds that were maturing at a rate of $50 billion a month). This has been seen in the recent fundraising exercise by Southeast Asian unicorns. Grab has recently seen an impressive list of North Asian investors such as Mirae, Toyota and Yamaha . A recent stat stated that 85 percent of the funding of Southeast Asia startups have gone to billion dollar unicorn such as Grab and Gojek, bypassing the early stage startups that are more in need for funding, this trend is expected to continue. Therefore, we will see early-stage companies and venture capitalists becoming more focused on generating cash flow from operating operations instead as fundraising activities become more difficult.

A growth in urbanization in Southeast will create new job opportunities in small/medium businesses, as evident in China. Currently, only 12 percent of Asia’s urban population live in megacities, while four percent live in towns of fewer than 300,000 inhabitants. New companies will see the blurred lines between brick and mortar businesses vs pure online businesses. In the past year or so, we have seen more and more offline businesses going online and more online businesses going offline.

Fertility rates in the Philippines, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia and Vietnam exceed 2.1 births per woman — the level that sustains a population — but rates below 1.5 in Singapore and Thailand mean their populations will decline without immigration. As we see more startup activities coming to Southeast Asian countries, we expect to see more qualified foreign talent moving to the region vs staying in low growth American and European countries.


Kay-Mok Ku, Gobi Ventures

First Chinese “Seaward” Unicorn in Southeast Asia. In recent years, a growing number of Chinese startups are targeting overseas markets from the get go (known as Chuhai 出海 or “Seaward”). These Chinese entrepreneurs typically bring with them best practices in consumer marketing and product development honed by a hyper-competitive home market, supported by strong, dedicated technical team based out of China and increasingly capitalized by Chinese VCs which have raised billion-dollar funds.

Consolidation among ASEAN Unicorns. While ASEAN now boasts 10 unicorns, they are duplicative in the sense that more than one exists in a particular category, which is unsustainable for winner-takes-all markets. For example, in the ASEAN ride-hailing space, while one unicorn is busy with regional geographic expansion, the other simply co-exists by staying focused on scope expansion within its home market. This will never happen in a single country market like China but now that the ASEAN ride hailing unicorns are finally locking horns, the stage may be set for a Didi-Kuadi like scenario to unfold.

ASEAN jumps on Chinese 5G bandwagon. The tech world in the future will likely bifurcate into American and Chinese-led platforms. As it is, emerging markets are adopting Chinese business models based on bite-sized payment and have embraced Chinese mobile apps often bundled with cheap Chinese smartphones. Looking ahead, 5G will be a game changer as its impact goes beyond smartphones to generic IoT devices, having strategic implications for industries such as autonomous driving. As a result, the US-China Trade War will likely evolve into a Tech War and ASEAN will be forced to choose side.


Darren Tan, Golden Equator Capital

We are excited by growth in the AI and deep tech sectors. The focus has generally been on consumer-focused tech in Southeast Asia as an emerging market, but we are starting to see proprietary solutions emerge for industries such as medtech and fintech. AI also has great applicability across a wide range of consumer sectors in reducing reliance on manpower and creating cost savings.

Data analytics to uncover organizational efficiencies and customer trends will continue to be even more widely used, but there will also be greater emphasis on securing such data especially confidential information in light of multiple high-profile data breaches in 2018. Tools enabling the collection, storage, safe-keeping and analysis of data will be essential.

We are seeing the emergence of more institutional funds from North Asia. So far it has predominantly been Chinese tech giants like Tencent and Alibaba, now we are starting to see Korean and Japanese institutions placing greater emphasis on investment in the Southeast Asian region.


Vinnie Lauria, Golden Gate Ventures

Even more capital flowing from U.S. and China into Southeast Asia, with VCs from both locations soon to open offices in the region

A fresh wave of Series A investments into Vietnam.

Ten exits over $100 million.

 


Amit Anand, Jungle Ventures

The emergence of a financial services super app, think the Meituan or WeChat but only for financial services: The Southeast Asian millennial is one of the most underserved customer from a financial services perspective whether it is payments, consumer goods loans, personal loans, personal finance management, investments or other financial services. We will see the emergence of digital platforms that will aggregate all these related services and provide a one stop financial services shop for this digitally native consumer.

Digitisation of SMEs will be new fintech: Southeast Asia is home to over 100 million SMEs that are at the cusp of digital transformation. Generational change in ownership, local governments push for digitization and increased globalization have created a perfect storm for these SMEs to adopt cloud and other digital technologies at neck-breaking pace. Startups focussing on this segment will get mainstream attention from the venture community over the next few years as they look for new industries that are getting enabled or disrupted by technology.


Kuo-Yi Lim and Peng Ong, Monk’s Hill Ventures

Lyft and Uber go public and show the path to profitability for other rideshare businesses. This has positive effect for the regional rideshare players but also puts pressure on them to demonstrate the same economics in ridesharing. Regional rideshare players double down on super-app positioning instead, to demonstrate value in other ways as rideshare business alone may not reach profitability — ever.

The trade war between China and the US reaches a truce, but a general sense of uncertainty lingers. This is now the new norm — things are less certain and companies have to plan for more adverse scenarios. In the short term, Southeast Asia benefits. Companies — Chinese, American etc — see Southeast Asia as the neutral ground. Investment pours in, creating jobs across industries. Acquisition of local champions intensifies as foreign players jostle for the lead positions.

“Solve the problem” – tech companies will become more prominent… tech companies that are real-estate brokers, recruiters, healthcare providers, food suppliers, logistics… why: many industries are very inefficient.


Hian Goh, Openspace Ventures

Fight to quality will happen. Fundraising across all stages from seed to Series C and beyond will be challenging if you don’t have the metrics. Investors will want to see a path to profitability, or an ability to turn profitable if the environment becomes worse. This will mean Saas companies with stable cash flows, vertical e-commerce with strong metrics will be attractive investment opportunities.

Investor selection will become critical, as investors take a wait and see approach. Existing or new investors into companies will be judged upon their dry powder in their funds and their ability to fund further rounds

The regulatory risk for fintech lenders will be higher this year, rising compliance cost and uncertainty on licensing, which would lead to consolidation in the market.


Heang Chhor, Qualgro

Southeast Asia: an intensifying battlefield for tech investments

There has never been so much VC money in Southeast Asia chasing interesting startups, at all life cycle stages. The 10 most active local and regional VCs have raised their second or third funds recently, amassing at least two times more money than a few years ago, probably reaching a total amount close to $1 billion. In addition, international VCs have also doubled down on their allocation into the region, while top Chinese VCs have visibly stated their intent not to miss the dynamic momentum. Several growth funds have recently built a local presence in order to target Southeast Asia tech companies at Series C and beyond. Not counting the amount going to the unicorns, there might be now more than $3-4 billion available for seed to growth stages, which may be 3-4 times the amount of three years ago. There are, of course, many more good startups coming up to invest into. But the most promising startups will be in a very favorable position to negotiate higher valuation and better terms. However, they should not forget that, eventually, what creates value is how they make a difference with their tech capabilities or their business model, how they acquire and retain the best talent, with the funds raised, not only how much money they will be able to raise. Most local and regional corporate VCs are likely to lose in this more intense investment game.

Significant VC money investing into so-called ‘AI-based startups’, but are there really much (deep) Artificial Intelligence capabilities around?

A good portion of the SEA startups claim they have ‘something-AI’. Investors are overwhelmed, if not confused, by the ‘AI claim’ that they find in most startup pitches. While there is no doubt that Southeast Asia will grow its own strong AI-competence pool in the future, unfortunately today most ‘AI-based’ business models from the region would still be just ‘good algorithms or machine learning’ that can process some amount of data to come up with good-enough outcomes, that do not always generate substantial business value to users/customers. The significant budget that some of the very-well-funded Southeast Asia unicorns are putting into their ‘AI-based apps’ or ‘AI platform’ is unlikely to make a real difference for the consumers, for lack of deep AI competences in the region. 2019 may be another year of AI-promise, not realized. Hopefully, public and private research labs, universities and startups will continue to be (much more) strongly supported (especially by governments) to significantly build bigger AI talent pool, which means growing and attracting AI talent into the region.

Bigger Series A and Series B rounds to fuel more convincing growth trajectory, towards growth-stage fundraising.

Although situations vary a lot: typical Series A in Southeast Asia used to be around $5 million, and Series B around $10-15 million. Investors tended to accept that normally companies would raise money after 18 months or so, between A and B, and between B and C. There has been an increasing number of larger raises at A and B recently, and very likely this trend will accelerate. The fact that VCs now have much more money to deploy into each investment will contribute to this trend. However, the required milestones for raising Series C have become much more around: minimum scale and very solid growth (and profit) drivers. Therefore, entrepreneurs will have to look for getting as much funding reserve as possible, irrespective of time between raises, to build growth engines that take their companies past the milestones of the next Series, be it B or C. In the future, we will see more Series A of $10 million and more Series B of well-above $20 million. Compelling businesses will not have too much difficulties for doing so, but most Southeast Asia entrepreneurs would be wise to learn to more effectively master fundraising skills for capturing much bigger amounts than in the past. Of course, this assumes that their businesses are compelling enough in the eyes of investors.


Vicknesh Pillay, TNB Aura

Out-sized valuations will be less commonplace in 2019 as Southeast Asian investors learn from experience and become more sophisticated. Therefore, we do see opportunities at Series A/B for undervalued deals due to lack of early-stage funding while we expect to continue to see the trend of the majority of venture capital investments going into later stage companies (Series C and beyond) due to lower risk appetite and ‘herd’ mentality.

2018 has also seen the rapid emergence of many corporate venture capital funds and innovation programs. But, 2019 will see large corporations cutting back on their allocation towards startup investing which would be the easiest option for them in case of adverse news to the jittery public markets in 2019.

With the growth of AI, the need for API connections and increased thought leadership to embrace tech, Southeast Asia is going to see an upsurge in SaaS startups and existing startups moving to a Saas business model. Hence, we expect increased investments into Saas companies focused on IoT and cybersecurity as hardware data and software are moved onto the cloud.


Chua Kee Lock, Vertex Ventures

Southeast Asia VC investment pace has grown steadily and significantly since 2010 where it started from less than $100 million in VC investment in the region. For the first eight months of 2018, the region’s VC investment was over $5.4 billion. For the whole of 2018, it will likely end around $8 billion. For 2019, we expect the VC investment pace to surpass 2018 level and record between $9-10 billion. Southeast Asia will continue to attract more VC investments because:

(1) Governments in Southeast Asia, especially ASEAN, continue their support policy to encourage startups.

(2) young demographics and the fast technology adoption in Southeast Asia give rise to more innovative and disruptive ideas.

(3) global investors looking for a better return and will naturally focus on growing emerging market like Southeast Asia.

The trend towards gig economy will begin to have an impact in the region. In developed economies like the U.S, gig economy is expected to reach over 40 percent by 2020. The young population will look for more freelance opportunities as a way to increase income levels while still maintaining flexibility. This will include white-collar work like computer programming, accounting, customer service, etc. and also blue-collar work like delivery services, ride-sharing, home services, etc. We believe that the gig economy will grow to over 15 percent in Southeast Asia by 2019.

AI-heavy or -driven startups will begin to make inroads into Southeast Asia.


Victor Chua, Vynn Capital

The BIG convergence — there will more integration between industries and sectors. Traveloka went into car rental, Blibli went into travel business and these are only some examples. There is a lot of synergistic value between travel startups and food startups or between property startups and automotive startups. Imagine a future where you travel to a city where you stay in an apartment you rented through a marketplace (like Travelio, my portfolio company), and when you need to book a restaurant you can make the reservation through a platform that is integrated with the property manager, and when you need to move around you go down to the car park to drive a car you rent from an automotive marketplace. There is clear synergy between selective industries and this leads to an overall convergence between companies, between industries.

More channels to raise Series B/C, early-stage companies find fundraising more challenging — We have seen a number of VC funds raising or already raised growth funds, this means that there are now more channels for Series A or B companies to raise growth rounds. As the market matures, there will be more competition for investments amongst growth funds as there is considerably more growth in the number of growth funds than companies that are raising at growth-stage. On the flip side, the feel is that there is a consistent growth in the number of early-stage companies, yet the amount of capital in early-stage funds is not growing as much as more VCs prefer bigger and later stages, due to the maturity of their existing portfolio companies.

Newcomers gaining weight — there will be at least 10 companies that will hit a valuation of at least $100 million. These valuations will not be based on a single market exposure. Companies that raise larger rounds will need to show that they are regional.


Thanks to all the VCs who took part, I certainly felt like the class teacher collecting assignments.

 


0

To rebuild satellite communications, Ubiquitilink starts at ground level

23:36 | 22 January

Communications satellites are multiplying year by year as more companies vie to create an orbital network that brings high-speed internet to the globe. Ubiquitilink, a new company headed by Nanoracks co-founder Charles Miller, is taking a different tack: reinventing the Earthbound side of the technology stack.

Miller’s intuition, backed by approval and funding from a number of investors and communications giants, is that people are competing to solve the wrong problem in the comsat world. Driving down the cost of satellites isn’t going to create the revolution they hope. Instead, he thinks the way forward lies in completely rebuilding the “user terminal,” usually a ground station or large antenna.

“If you’re focused on bridging the digital divide, say you have to build a thousand satellites and a hundred million user terminals,” he said, “which should you optimize for cost?”

Of course dropping the price of satellites has plenty of benefits on its own, but he does have a point. What happens when a satellite network is in place to cover most of the planet but the only devices that can access it cost thousands of dollars or have to be in proximity to some subsidized high-tech hub?

There are billions of phones on the planet, he points out, yet only 10 percent of the world has anything like a mobile connection. Serving the hundreds of millions who at any given moment have no signal, he suggests, is a no-brainer. And you’re not going to do it by adding more towers; if that was a valid business proposition, telecoms would have done it years ago.

Instead, Miller’s plan is to outfit phones with a new hardware-software stack that will offer a baseline level of communication whenever a phone would otherwise lapse into “no service.” And he claims it’ll be possible for less than $5 per person.

He was coy about the exact nature of this tech, but I didn’t get the sense that it’s vaporware or anything like that. Miller and his team are seasoned space and telecoms people, and of course you don’t generally launch a satellite to test vaporware.

But Ubiquitilink does have a bird in the air, with testing of their tech set to start next month and two more launches planned. The stack already been proven on the ground, Miller said, and has garnered serious interest.

“We’ve been in stealth for several years and have signed up 22 partners — 20 are multi-billion dollar companies,” he said, adding that the latter are mainly communications companies, though he declined to name them. The company has also gotten regulatory clearance to test in five countries, including the US.

Miller self-funded the company at the outset, but soon raised a pre-seed round led by Blazar Ventures (and indirectly, telecoms infrastructure standby Neustar). Unshackled led the seed round, along with RRE Ventures, Rise of the Rest, and One Way Ventures. All told the company is working with a total $6.5 million, which it will use to finance its launches and tests; once they’ve taken place it will be safer to dispel a bit of the mystery around the tech.

“UbiquitiLink represents one of the largest opportunities in telecommunications,” Unshackled founding partner Manan Mehta said, calling the company’s team “maniacally focused.”

I’m more than a little interested to find out more about this stealth attempt, three years in the making so far, to rebuild satellite communications from the ground up. Some skepticism is warranted, but the pedigree here is difficult to doubt; we’ll know more once orbital testing commences in the next few months.

 


0

Just Eat acquires restaurant software platform Flyt for £22M

14:31 | 22 January

Just Eat, the takeout marketplace and food delivery service, has acquired Flyt, a startup that offers software for restaurants and restaurant suppliers. The acquisition price is £22 million, which Just Eat says it has financed from cash reserves.

“A further cash consideration may also be payable subject to certain operational and financial criteria being met over the next three years,” discloses the company.

Notably, Just Eat was already one of Flyt’s investors, but this deal sees the takeout behemoth become a majority owner. Existing investors, including Time Out and Entree Capital, have exited. The company is thought to have raised close to £12 million since being founded in 2013.

Described as a leading software platform that helps restaurant groups and restaurant suppliers integrate their point of sale (POS) systems with third-party services, Flyt has obvious synergies with Just Eat, providing technology that helps improve the experience of ordering online.

Better POS integration with various third-party services can help improve a restaurant’s customer experience and its operational efficiency. Specifically, Flyt says its technology platform removes the need for manual restaurant processes, reduces driver wait times in restaurants, and eliminates human error in order processing.

To that end, Flyt currently works with over 3,000 quick service and branded restaurants, including some of the U.K. and world’s largest brands such as KFC, Tim Hortons, Mitchells and Butlers, Pizza Express and Nando’s.

Despite now being owned by Just Eat, the company says it will continue to operate as a standalone platform and brand. Founders Tom Weaver and Chris Evans will continue to lead the business.

As a footnote, prior to the acquisition, Just Eat owned an 8 percent stake. The takeout marketplace says the acquisition will enable it to accelerate the development of Flyt’s technology and offer Flyt’s services to more of its restaurant partners globally.

Peter Duffy, Interim CEO of Just Eat comments: “Bringing Flyt into our Group will accelerate the take-up of these services around the world and allow the Flyt team to innovate with new and exciting technology solutions for the industry. We’ve admired Flyt for some time and are hugely impressed by their technology – integration between Just Eat and our restaurant partners is a critical component to providing world-class food delivery services”.

 


0

TaxScouts, the UK startup that helps prepare your taxes, picks up £1.2M led by SpeedInvest

12:00 | 22 January

TaxScouts, the U.K. “tax preparation” startup founded by TransferWise and Marketinvoice alumni, has created some new paperwork of its own. The London-based company has raised £1.2 million in seed funding.

Leading the new round is SpeedInvest, with participation from Finch Capital and SeedCamp. It adds to £300,000 in pre-seed investment that TaxScouts announced six months ago.

Combining “automation” with a network of human accountants, TaxScouts’ service is designed to support you through your annual tax filing preparation and submission. However, the headline draw is that the company charges a flat fee of £99 if you pay in advance, and promises a turn-around of just 24 hours.

To achieve this, the web app walks you through your tax status, income and expenses without assuming too much prior knowledge. This includes asking you to upload or take a photo of any required documents, such as invoices or dividend certificates. The idea is that all of the admin is captured digitally and packaged up ready for an assigned accountant to check.

Last year, I took the service for a spin, the first time in years that I haven’t left my tax return to the last minute. The accountant assigned to me was helpful and his advice seemed quite good. Most importantly, the communication was speedy, both over text and in a call we needed to have to talk through the pros and cons of two alternative ways to expense a car for work.

Meanwhile, I’m told accountants like the service, too, as it potentially enables small practices to scale and therefore take on more clients. Powering this is TaxScouts’ client management system for accountants, which the startup claims is saving 3-5 days of work per month for its accounting partners.

To that end, TaxScouts says it hopes to quadruple its network of accountant partners by the end of 2019. Its longer term aim is reduce the workload of accountants by 80 percent through further “process automation and digital data processing”.

“With an ever increasing amount of people in the UK experiencing non-standard income and with late fines amounting to billions last tax season alone, the time is better than ever to fundamentally redefine the experience,” says Anthony Danon, Principal at SpeedInvest.

“TaxScouts has built automation that brings simplicity, speed and convenience through a unique approach that creates shared value across taxpayers and accountants. We are excited to be backing such a product-minded team that has led product and engineering in some of U.K.’s best fintech startup stories”.

 


0

Digital Garage teams up with Blockstream to develop blockchain financial services in Japan

09:09 | 22 January

The global crypto market may have tanked last year, but notable names have joined forces to develop Bitcoin and blockchain financial services in Japan, which has emerged as one of the world’s most crypto-friendly markets.

Blockstream, a blockchain startup founded by Bitcoin contributors, announced this week that it has launched a joint venture in Japan alongside Digital Garage, an early-stage investor/incubator that’s backed local launches from Twitter, Square and others, and financial services firm Tokyo Tanshi.

Crypto Garage — as the new venture is called — is “is dedicated to building Bitcoin and blockchain solutions for the Japanese institutional market.” The venture was first unveiled last year, and it looks like Blockstream recently came onboard through an undisclosed investment. The startup said it is providing “technical expertise” for the effort.

That’s about all the color on the venture for now, although it has released its first product, “SETTLENET.” That is described as a platform that uses Liquid Network, Blockstream’s blockchain that is designed for exchanges and brokers with a focus on speed and security.

Settlenet — because nobody likes all-caps product names — is said to have already gotten clearance from the Japanese Financial Services Agency (FSA), which regulates exchanges and crypto projects, and its first launch will be a stablecoin for the Japanese Yen. The goal is very much to arm exchanges with liquidity and, as such, the stablecoin will be tradable for Bitcoin pegged to the Liquid sidechain using atomic swaps.

The companies have collaborated for some time already. An existing investor in Blockstream, Digital Garage has plowed a further $10 million into the business in what is its third investment since 2016. That deal takes Blockstream to around $110 million raised to date.

Tokyo Tanshi, meanwhile, is a brokerage firm that was founded over 100 years ago. It has worked with Digital Garage on crypto projects since last year, when the two companies first announced Crypto Garage and a broader goal to operate blockchain financial services in Japan.

Note: The author owns a small amount of cryptocurrency. Enough to gain an understanding, not enough to change a life.

 


0

Roger Dickey ditches $32M-funded Gigster to start Untitled Labs

01:36 | 22 January

Most founders don’t walk away from their startup after raising $32 million and reaching 1000 clients. But Roger Dickey’s heart is in consumer tech, and his company Gigster had pivoted to doing outsourced app development for enterprises instead of scrappy entrepreneurs.

So today Dickey announced that he’d left his role as Gigster CEO, with former VMware VP Christopher Keane who’d sold it his startup WaveMaker coming in to lead Gigster in October. Now, Dickey is launching Untitled Labs, a “search lab” designed to test multiple consumer tech ideas in “social and professional networking, mobility, personal finance, premium services, health & wellness, travel, photography, and dating” before building out one

Untitled Labs is starting off with $2.8 million in seed funding from early Gigster investors and other angels including Founders Fund, Felicia Ventures, Caffeinated Capital, Joe Montana’s Liquid Ventures, Ashton Kutcher, Nikita Bier of TBH (acquired by Facebook), and Zynga co-founder Justin Waldron.

Investors lined up after seeing the success of Dickey’s last two search labs. In 2007, his Curiosoft lab revamped classic DOS game Drugwars as a Facebook game called Dopewars and sold it to Zynga where it became the wildly popular Mafia Wars. He did it again in 2014, building Gigster out of Liquid Labs and eventually raising $32 million for it in rounds led by Andreessen Horowitz and Redpoint. Dickey had proven he wasn’t just dicking around and his search labs could experiment their way to an A-grade startup.

“I loved learning about B2B but over the years I realized my true passions were in consumer and I kinda got the itch to try something new” Dickey tells me. “These things happen in the life-cycle of a company. The person who starts it isn’t always the same person to take it to an IPO. Gigster’s doing incredibly well. It was just a really vanilla separation in the best interest of all parties.”

Gigster co-founders (from left): Debo Olaosebikan and Roger Dickey

Gigster’s remaining co-founder and CTO Debo Olaosebikan will stay with the startup, but tells me he’ll be “moving away from a lot of the day-to-day management.” He’ll be in a more public facing role, evangelizing the vision of digital transformation to big clients hoping Gigster can equip them with the apps their customers demand. “We’ve gotten to a really good place on the backs of the founders and to get it to the next level inside of enterprise, having people who’ve done this, lived this, worked in enterprise for a long time makes sense for the company.”

Olaosebikan and Dickey both confirm there was no misconduct or other funny business that triggered the CEO’s departure, and he’ll stay on the Gigster board. Dickey tells me that Gigster’s business managing teams of freelance product managers, engineers, and designers to handle product development for big clients has grown revenue every quarter. It now has 1200 clients including almost 10% of Fortune 500 companies. Olaosebikan says “We have a great repeatable sales model. We can grow profitably and then we can figure out financing. We’re not in a hurry to raise money.”

Since leaving Gigster, Dickey has been meeting with investors and entrepreneurs to noodle on what’s in their “idea shelf” — the product and company concepts these techies imagine but are too busy to implement themselves. Meanwhile, he’s seeking a few elite engineers and designers to work through Untitled’s prospects.

Dickey said he came up with the “search labs” definition since he and others had found success with the strategy that no one had formalized. The search labs model contrasts with three other ways people typically form startups:

  • Traditional Startup: Founders come up with one idea and raise from venture firms to build it into a company that’s quick to start and lets them keep a lot of equity, but these startups often fail because they lack product market fit. Examples: Facebook, SpaceX.
  • Startup Accelerators and Incubators: Founders come up with one idea and enter an accelerator or incubator that provides funding and education for lots of startups in exchange for a small slice of equity. Founders sometimes learn their idea won’t work and pivot during the program, which is why accelerators seek to fund great teams, but otherwise operate traditionally. Examples: Y Combinator, 500 Startups.
  • Startup Studio: The studios’ founders work with entrepreneurs to come up with a small number of ideas while keeping a significant of the equity. The entrepreneurs operate semi-autonomously but with the advantage of shared resources. Examples: Expa, Betaworks.
  • Search Lab: Founders conceptualize and experiment with a small number of startup ideas, then focus the company around the most promising prototype. Examples: Untitled Labs, Midnight Labs (turned into TBH)

Dickey tells me that after 80 angel investments, going to every recent Y Combinator Demo Day, and talking with key players across the industry, the search lab method was the best way to hone in on his best idea rather than just going on a hunch. Given that approach, he went with “Untitled” so he could save the branding work for when the right product emerges. Dickey concludes “We’re trying to keep it really barebones. We don’t have an office, don’t have a logo, and we’re not going to make swag. We’re just going to find the next business as efficiently as possible.”

 


0

Kaia Health gets $10M support for AI-powered management of chronic pain

17:24 | 21 January

Kaia Health, a self-styled digital therapeutics” startup, has pulled in $10 million in Series A funding for an app-based approach to chronic pain management.

The idea is to offer an alternative to painkillers, using mobile technology to deliver what the founder describes as multimodal, “mind body therapy” for musculoskeletal (MSK) disorders — comprised of guided physical exercises, psychological techniques and on tap medical education.

“Once you fall into this category of you’re a chronic pain patient, and not just you have acute pain for two or three days, then this is the best therapy to do,” says co-founder and CEO Konstantin Mehl. “But at the moment because this therapy is so expensive only 2% of the patients who should get access to it actually get access to it and the other 98% of patients are treated with treatments against acute pain, like painkillers and surgery… This is why there’s this crazy cost explosion when you look at the costs in the healthcare systems.”

The 2015-founded startup has developed a personal trainer app that uses computer vision technology so it can act as a fully autonomous exercise coach. The app works by visually monitoring the user as they perform exercises (via their smartphone’s camera), enabling it to keep track of repetitions and also provide vocal feedback — to correct posture and motion.

The idea is to offer a more accessible and less expensive alternative to the one-on-one in person physiotherapy which a person suffering chronic pain from a MSK disorder might otherwise use to manage their pain — such as by visiting a dedicated pain center for weeks of guided treatment. However as Mehl notes that can be prohibitively expensive and also entail long wait times to get seen.

Kaia’s first focus has been on back pain which Mehl knows plenty about — having suffered himself for two years. His struggles to find effective and affordable pain management were the inspiration for setting up the company, he tells us.

The goal he’s shooting for with Kaia is to democratize access to proven multimodal therapies and reduce reliance on pharmaceuticals — pointing to rising use of opioid-based painkillers, including in the U.S., where reliance on the drug has been driven by over-prescription leading to an epidemic of addiction and rising numbers of overdose deaths.

“Most treatments against chronic back pain are just crazy expensive and crazy ineffective. Which is a weird combination,” he says. “There’s a lot of people out there who don’t know how to cope with their pain.”

Kaia’s approach addresses “the root causes of chronic pain”, according to Mehl, though he concedes it cannot claim the digital therapy will cure everybody, saying: “That’s just not realistic.”

Though he emphasizes “you can definitely reverse chronic pain when you have a low or medium chronification level” via therapies Kaia’s app is designed to deliver digitally — as happened in his own case, albeit in person at a pain center.

He also suggests digital therapeutics can provide greater support than even a dedicated pain center can because many patients don’t feel comfortable or safe carrying on doing exercises at home. Whereas an app coach offers an “opportunity to control yourself all the time, 24/7”, which is really what chronic pain patients need.

“We track every point on your body. And that’s the cool thing about us — that we can give you feedback on a millimeter basis of what movements you do wrong if you want,” he adds, talking up the advantages of using computer vision rather than wearable sensors to monitor physical exercise. “At the moment we have more of a problem that we give too much feedback; that people complain about the app never stops correcting me!”

Last summer another startup, Hinge Health, announced a $26M Series B round for another drug-free platform-based approach to managing musculoskeletal disorders. Though its approach involves not just an app but wearable sensors and also some one-to-one health coaching — delivered remotely but by an actual human, rather than Kaia’s fully automated, sensor-free AI coach.

Mehl says it experimented with wearable sensors but found many users were reluctant to use them so decided to focus fully on a system of visual monitoring, feeding user data into continued training of the machine learning algorithms — getting to a level with the motion control that it’s very happy with around two months ago.

“We had one exercise already one year ago — a squat — so we released a standalone app which we called the Squat Challenge, just to see how people are able to use this technology. And then the challenge was to just track all different body positions. So that took another six months to add all body positions. And now recently, since six weeks, we are able to track all body positions. And now we can basically correct any exercise.”

“We are a very scalable solution,” he adds. “That’s so important for us because [Hinge Health] charge a lot of money per patient, so they maximize the dollars per patient, which is a typically thing you do in the pharma industry. Which I’m totally against. Because then we repeat the mistakes of pharma companies to artificially limit the access again, right. So we want to democratize the access to this best in class therapy and not build these artificial barriers to access.”

The Series A round was led by Balderton Capital which says it’s excited by the potential for Kaia to build a platform for a family of pain intervention tools — flagging the startup’s research around conditions such as the lung disease COPD, and potentially even Parkinson’s.

In a blog about the investment, Balderton partner James Wise writes: “The platform Kaia Health is building has the potential to extend well beyond back pain. By combining clinical levels of research with longitudinal tracking and computer vision expertise, they are becoming a platform for any intervention where pain can be relieved through regular clinical observation and guidance.

“Rather than just giving patients another way to connect to a carer, Kaia Health has utilised the most powerful and prevalent tools we have to provide clinically effective health treatments, at a fraction of the cost, and freeing up physiotherapists time for more meaningful interactions. It’s an exciting antidote to the Baumol cost disease, and one we hope will change many people’s lives.”

Kaia has around 250,000 users at this stage, via a b2c solution as well as organizations in Europe and the U.S. which make its app available (such as via medical insurance).

The new funding will be put towards scaling up in the U.S. especially with a new office for New York City, with Mehl saying they want to flip the current usage ratio of 80% Europe; 20% U.S.

It also plans to fund further clinical studies — including longer follow up studies, running to 24 months (vs the three, six and twelve month studies it has already done).

A peer-reviewed, random controlled trial study of Kaia’s approach is also pending being published in a leading journal, according to Mehl.

 


0

Zwipe tops up with $14M to bring biometric payment cards to market this year

13:26 | 21 January

Biometric payment card startup Zwipe has swiped $14M to add to an earlier Series B round as it continues to work towards commercializing technology that embeds a fingerprint reader in payment plastic for an added layer of security.

“We are not commercially rolled out yet, we expect that to happen in the second half of this year, starting first in Europe and potentially in the Middle East,” a spokesman told us, saying the financing will be used to scale up the company to prepare for a commercial rollout of a biometric payment card solution in the second half of 2019.

He said it’s also eyeing additional form factors such as wearables down the line, penciling in 2020 for expanding into other devices and verticals.

Although it has yet to push its tech past the pilot stage with payment cards.

“Our technology is currently deployed in pilot programs in Italy, with Intesa Sanpaolo Bank and with 10 different banks across the Middle East,” the spokesman told us. “We have active partnerships globally. In APAC, specifically China and the Philippines, we expect to launch further trials in the near term. In Europe we have piloted with the Bank of Cyprus and expect to launch several more trials in Europe in the first half of 2019.”

Back in 2014, working with MasterCard, it showed off a credit card with an embedded fingerprint reader, seemingly taking a leaf out of Apple’s approach with Touch ID.

The new funding was raised via an offering of 6M new shares, from around 2,300 investors, ahead of a planned listing of the company on Merkur Market, Oslo Børs. Zwipe says the share offer was substantially over-subscribed, and it expects trading to commence on or around January 28. The pre-money valuation of the company is stated as NOK 189 million ($22M).

Commenting on the raise in a statement, CEO Andre Løvestam said: “Zwipe is at the forefront of a global shift towards more secure and convenient contactless payments and the market is primed for growth. We are confident that our industry leading technology and partnerships will secure a strong market position both in the short and long-term. Thanks to the new funding received, we can intensify our efforts to support our customers and partners in ‘making convenience secure’.”

 


0

Warung Pintar raises $27.5M to digitize Indonesia’s street vendors

12:46 | 21 January

The digital revolution in Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest economy, continues to attract big money from investors. Hot on the heels of a $50 million round for Bukalapak, a billion-dollar company helping street stall traders to tap the internet, so Warung Pintar, another startup helping digitize the country’s vendors, has pulled in $27.5 million for growth.

Bukalapak is one of Indonesia’s largest e-commerce services and it began catering to local merchants, those who sell product via road-side kiosks, last year, but eighteen-month-old Warung Pintar is focused exclusively on those vendors.

Bukalapak helps them to gain scale through online orders — it claims to have a base of 50 million registered users in Indonesia — but Warung Pintar digitizes kiosk vendors to the very core. At the most basic level, that means aesthetics; so all Warung Pintar vendors get a bright and colorfully-designed kiosk. They also get access to technology that includes a digital POS, free Wi-Fi for customers, an LCD screen for displays, power bank chargers and more.

It’s a ‘smart kiosk’ concept, essentially.

The project was founded in 2007 by East Ventures, a prolific early-stage investor that has backed unicorns like Tokopedia, Traveloka and Mercari. This new money means that Warung Pintar has now raised just over $35 million from investors to date.

The round — which is a Series B — included participation from existing backers SMDV, Vertex, Pavilion Capital, Line Ventures, Digital Garage, Agaeti, Triputra, Jerry Ng, and EV Growth — the joint fund from East Ventures and Yahoo. They were joined by OVO — a payment firm jointly owned by Indonesian mega-conglomerate Lippo — which has signed on as a new investor and is sure to be highly strategic in nature. OVO works with the likes of Grab, and it is battling to gain a foothold in Indonesia’s fledgling digital payments space, which is tipped to boom among the country’s 260 million population.

A Warung Pintar kiosk in Jakarta, Indonesia

These investors are all betting that Warung Pintar can take off and provide greater functionality for street vendors and consumers alike.

The startup is in growth mode right now so it isn’t fully focused on monetization. The only fee is $5,000 from the vendor, which covers the cost of a new prefab kiosk, while all the tech appliances are provided without fee to help kiosk owners engage with the local community. For example, East Ventures noticed that drivers for Go-Jek or Grab tended to hang around the kiosk store near the VC firm’s office and they were curious how to grow engagement to benefit both parties.

“There are going to be a lot of ways to charge and make money,” East Ventures co-founder and managing partner Willson Cuaca told TechCrunch in an interview. “Once we have built enough, we can manage the supply chain and then figure out of how to make money.”

Indeed, monetization might not be via fees to the kiosk owners themselves, explained Cuaca — who is president of Warung Pintar. Since the company maintains touch points with consumers, it is a commodity that can appeal to brands, manufacturers and others when it reaches nationwide scale.

While there has been promising progress and product market fit in Jakarta, Cuaca and his team see significant growth potential still to be realized.

When we spoke to Warung Pintar just under a year ago, it had just raised a seed round and had been in operation for under six months. Today, the business counts 1,150 kiosks in Jakarta. However, it recently opened up in Banyuwangi, East Java, which, alongside other planned expansions, is aimed to increase its reach to 5,000 kiosks before the end of this year, Cuaca said.

The business and model is fascinating but it is conceived and executed in Indonesia, that’s to say it isn’t a problem that could be identified, mapped and solved from the U.S, China or other markets. It’s the type of tech and startup that is helping change daily lives in Indonesia, the world’s fourth largest country by population. Home-grown solutions have been rare in Southeast Asia, but there are increasing opportunities that only local players can cater to and now the region’s VC corpus is substantial enough to provide the capital needed.

 


0

Flexciton is using AI to help factories optimise production lines

12:00 | 21 January

Flexciton, the London-based startup that is using AI to help factories optimise production lines, has raised £2.5 million in funding, in a round led by Backed VC. Also participating is Join Capital and company builder Entrepreneur First. The young company pitched at EF’s 6th London demo day in 2016.

Riding the so-called “Industry 4.0” wave, Flexciton has developed an AI-driven solution to optimise the way manufacturers plan and schedule “multi-step production lines,” which it says is a complex mathematical task faced by all manufacturers. It’s also traditionally quite a manual one, with existing software solutions still leaving a lot of the heavy lifting to humans.

“Running every factory in the world is a plan for that factory’s production,” explains Flexciton co-founder Jamie Potter. “This plan dictates everything which goes on in the factory. Plan well and a factory can be very profitable but plan badly and the same factory could deliver late on customer orders, overspend on equipment and materials and have its margins destroyed”.

Potter says that typically a human manually creates a plan based on their past experience, which isn’t always optimal. “The difference between an Ok plan and the optimal plan is huge for a factory, planning well can save a single factory many millions of pounds per year. The problem is, finding that optimal plan is one of the hardest mathematical problems that exists in the real world”.

Which, of course, is where more machines can help. Flexciton’s AI technology learns from a factory’s data, and Potter says it can understand exactly how that factory works. “It can then search through the trillions of different options to find the most efficient production plan. The results can be staggering too as our technology has shown time and again that it is capable of double-digit performance gains to a factory!” he says.

Already revenue-generating, Flexciton has customers in the textiles, food, automotive and semiconductor sectors. “We love to work with particularly complicated factories. Here the planning problem is the hardest and this is where we add the most value,” says Potter.

To back this up, Flexciton has recruited a number of experts in the field of industrial optimisation and AI. The current Flexciton team has published over 140 peer-reviewed academic papers, which focus on the practical application of this technology in eight different industrial use cases. To boot, Flexciton’s senior optimisation scientist, Dr. Giorgos Kopanos, has even published a book on the subject.

 


0
<< Back Forward >>
Topics from 1 to 10 | in all: 6000

Site search


Last comments

Walmart retreats from its UK Asda business to hone its focus on competing with Amazon
Peter Short
Good luck
Peter Short

Evolve Foundation launches a $100 million fund to find startups working to relieve human suffering
Peter Short
Money will give hope
Peter Short

Boeing will build DARPA’s XS-1 experimental spaceplane
Peter Short
Great
Peter Short

Is a “robot tax” really an “innovation penalty”?
Peter Short
It need to be taxed also any organic substance ie food than is used as a calorie transfer needs tax…
Peter Short

Twitter Is Testing A Dedicated GIF Button On Mobile
Peter Short
Sounds great Facebook got a button a few years ago
Then it disappeared Twitter needs a bottom maybe…
Peter Short

Apple’s Next iPhone Rumored To Debut On September 9th
Peter Short
Looks like a nice cycle of a round year;)
Peter Short

AncestryDNA And Google’s Calico Team Up To Study Genetic Longevity
Peter Short
I'm still fascinated by DNA though I favour pure chemistry what could be
Offered is for future gen…
Peter Short

U.K. Push For Better Broadband For Startups
Verg Matthews
There has to an email option icon to send to the clowns in MTNL ... the govt of India's service pro…
Verg Matthews

CrunchWeek: Apple Makes Music, Oculus Aims For Mainstream, Twitter CEO Shakeup
Peter Short
Noted Google maybe grooming Twitter as a partner in Social Media but with whistle blowing coming to…
Peter Short

CrunchWeek: Apple Makes Music, Oculus Aims For Mainstream, Twitter CEO Shakeup
Peter Short
Noted Google maybe grooming Twitter as a partner in Social Media but with whistle blowing coming to…
Peter Short