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Main article: Startups

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Soci raises $12M to help big brands manage local marketing

15:00 | 10 December

According to CEO Afif Khoury, we’re in the middle of “the third wave of social” — a shift back to local interactions. And Khoury’s startup Soci (pronounced soh-shee) has raised $12 million in Series C funding to help companies navigate that shift.

Soci works with customers like Ace Hardware and Sport Clips to help them manage the online presence of hundreds or thousands of stores. It allows marketers to post content and share assets across all those pages, respond to reviews and comments, manage ad campaigns, and provide guidance around how to stay on-brand.

It sounds like most of these interactions are happening on Facebook. Khoury told me that Soci integrates with “40 different APIs where businesses are having conversations with their customers,” but he added, “Facebook was and continues to be the most prominent conversation center.”

Khoury and CTO Alo Sarv founded Soci back in 2012. Khoury said they spent the first two years building the product, and have subsequently raised around $30 million in total funding.

“What we weren’t building was a point solution,” he said. “What we were building was a massive platform … It took us 18 months to two years to really build it in the way we thought was going to be meaningful for the marketplace.”

Soci has also incorporated artificial intelligence to power chatbots that Khoury said “take that engagement happening on social and move it downstream to a call or a sale or something relevant to the local business.”

The new round was led by Vertical Venture Partners, with participation from Grayhawk Capital and Ankona Capital. Khoury said the money will allow Soci to continue developing its AI technology and to build out its sales and marketing team.

“Ours is a very consultative sale,” he said. “It’s a complicated world that you’re living in, and we really want to partner and have a local presence with our customers.”

 


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Last chance to save: Late registration to Disrupt Berlin 2019 ends tonight

14:23 | 10 December

The countdown status to Disrupt Berlin 2019 stands at T-minus 24 hours. Yep, the doors to prolific opportunity open tomorrow at Arena Berlin. It’s not too late to join thousands of your startup colleagues, but today’s the last day you can save money on the price of admission.

Our late registration for Disrupt Berlin closes tonight at 11:59 p.m. (CEST). Don’t miss your last chance to save up to €200 over the onsite ticket price. Beat the clock and buy your pass right here, right now.

Let’s highlight just some of the events and happenings that await you at Disrupt Berlin.

Come ready to network and head straight to Startup Alley. The expo hall features hundreds of innovative early-stage companies eager to demo and discuss their products, platforms and services that span the tech spectrum.

It’s also where you’ll find a special cadre of companies — the TC Top Picks. TechCrunch editors hand-picked up to five startups in each of the following categories: AI/Machine Learning, Biotech/Healthtech, Blockchain, Fintech, Mobility, Privacy/Security, Retail/E-commerce, Robotics/IoT/Hardware, and CRM/Enterprise. See why they made the grade.

Want to make the most of your limited time at the show? Use CrunchMatch, our free business-matching platform that makes networking much more efficient. It’s curated and automated, and it connects you to people who align with your business goals.

Bear witness to the Startup Battlefield as founders of early-stage  startups launch on a world stage and vie for the Disrupt Cup, intense media and investor love and a $50,000 cash prize. Who knows? You might see the birth of a future unicorn.

Between all the networking and the Battlefield, be sure to take in the world-class speakers, panel discussions, Q&A Sessions and workshops. As usual, top players, technologists, researchers and investors will share insights on the current and future states of startups. Check out the full Disrupt Berlin agenda here and plan accordingly.

We’re only one day away from Disrupt Berlin, and we can’t wait to meet all of you creative founders, investors, makers and entrepreneurs. Prolific opportunity awaits you. Buy your pass to Disrupt Berlin and save up to €200 before late registration ends tonight at 10 December at 11:59 p.m. (CEST).

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

 


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User’s Guide to Disrupt Berlin 2019

11:25 | 10 December

Heiliger Strohsack — or holy smokes as we say here in the States! We’re just hours away from kicking off Disrupt Berlin 2019 (11-12 December). We have a stellar event planned with an all-star lineup that only TechCrunch can assemble, and we’re expecting our largest number of attendees yet. Seriously, have you read the star-packed agenda?

Of course, with any event of this size we have a few vital logistical items to share so that your Disrupt experience is seamless and productive. Ready? Here’s what you need to know.

Pre-Event Badge Pick Up

Skip the morning rush by picking up your badge early on Tuesday 10 December from 4pm – 7pm at betahaus Kreuzberg. The first 500 people to pick up their badge will receive a pair of TC socks! Have your Universe ticket confirmation email and a government-issued photo ID on you.

Event Registration & Badge Pick Up

Registration opens at 8:30 am Wednesday (8:00am for Startup Alley exhibitors) and 8:00am on Thursday (7:30am for Startup Alley exhibitors). Universe is the official ticketing platform of Disrupt. If you’re signed up for Disrupt, you used Universe. We love them and we think you will, too. If you haven’t purchased your pass, please go do that here.

Please bring your government-issued photo ID each day of the conference.

Lost Badge Fee

Don’t forget your badge every day – there is a €75 reprint fee for lost or misplaced badges.

TechCrunch Events App

The TechCrunch Events app is now available for you to download in the Apple iTunes and Google Play stores.You will also be able to access CrunchMatch through the app.

With the TechCrunch Events app you can:

  • View agenda sessions and create your calendar
  • Sort by category, view and favorite Startup Alley exhibitors and sponsors
  • Get recommendations on sessions, exhibitors and sponsors you should meet
  • Message and connect with other opted-in attendees
  • Easily find your way around the event with interactive venue maps
  • Get access to the CrunchMatch platform to discover and set up meetings with the attendees you most want to meet

How to access the app:

  • Download the TechCrunch Event app from the Apple iTunes Store or Google Play Store.
  • Once downloaded, select the Disrupt Berlin 2019 event and you’ll be prompted to enter the email address associated with your registration. Your password is the last 6 digits of the number above the QR code on your Universe ticket (case-sensitive). If you do not have access to your Universe ticket, you can select “forgot password” so you can reset your password.

Having problems logging in? Email events@techcrunch.com for assistance.

Women of Disrupt Lunch

All women who are registered for Disrupt Berlin are invited to the Women of Disrupt lunch on Thursday from 12-2pm. Your badge is all you need for entry into the breakfast.

Investor Lunch

Catch-up with colleagues and other Disrupt Berlin investors over a delicious lunch. Exclusively for registered Disrupt Berlin 2019 Investor Pass holders only. Must have investor badge to enter.

11 December, 2019 | 12:00pm – 2:00pm

The Reception Room at Disrupt Berlin

Book a Semi-Private Room at Disrupt

TechCrunch is offering semi-private meeting rooms at €40/55 minutes at Disrupt Berlin. These rooms are great for taking meetings of up to 4 people or catching up on some work. Meeting spaces can only be used by registered Disrupt Berlin ticket holders. Each meeting room comes with a table, 4 chairs, and power. Book your time here.

CrunchMatch

All pass holders attending Disrupt Berlin will receive login instructions to access CrunchMatch via email and you can access it via the TechCrunch Events App – so make sure you download it! CrunchMatch is TechCrunch’s matching service connecting people at the event based on mutual interests. There are already several hundred meetings scheduled and we anticipate holding at least 2500 meetings during Disrupt Berlin.

On-site Nursing Suite

TechCrunch is providing a private nursing room on-site at Disrupt Berlin on the second floor of the conference. Ask for more information at the Help Desk table in the registration area.

Competitions

Disrupt is world-famous for its startup competition, Startup Battlefield. This year there are a few additional opportunities for startups to grab some limelight, with TechCrunch’s Custom Disruptor Award program, where Disrupt partners can select exhibiting startups to highlight and award a prize.

Samsung Innovation Center, Extreme Tech Challenge [XTC]

At the regional competition, 10 startups will be selected to present to leading VCs including Samsung Catalyst Fund, Speedinvest, and Deutsch Telecom on December 11. The top three startups will be recognized on the main stage of the event on December 12 with the Custom Disruptor Award — and receive invitations to the XTC Global Finals at VIVATechnology – Paris in June 2020.

Disrupt would not be able to exist without the help of our sponsors. You can see these breakout sessions at Disrupt Berlin.

11 December | Breakout Room

Opening Remarks by WeChat Developer Challenge

10:00 – 12:50 | See description in agenda

Sponsored by WDC

Build Different With The Other Location Platform

14:00 – 14:50 | See description in agenda

Sponsored by TomTom

Coming Soon!

15:00 – 15:50

Bain & Company

WDC Berlin Top Teams Presentations and Awards

16:00 – 18:00 | See description in agenda

Sponsored by WDC

12 December | Breakout Room

European Innovation Council (EIC) workshop – Funding Breakthrough Innovation from idea to market

11:00 – 12:00 | See description in agenda

Sponsored by European Innovation Council

There you have it — all the info you need to ensure your time at Disrupt Berlin 2019 remains productive and fun. Looking forward to seeing you all on Wednesday!

 


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How to avoid the startup trap of the parasitic consultant

21:01 | 9 December

Early-stage startups have a massive problem: there are way, way too many things to do, and never enough people to do them. Whether it’s growth marketing, or product design, or software engineering or a myriad list of other tasks, something somewhere isn’t going to get done by the founding team and early employees.

And so it is only natural to seek outside help to assist with those tasks, part-timers (and sometimes full-timers) who can add their talent and experience to a company’s early success.

There’s just one problem: consultants are horrifyingly misaligned with startups, as a recent discussion about how to be a great consultant attests. And so if you are going to work with consultants as a founder, there are massive traps you must avoid in order to make effective use of these people.

I’m a big fan of The Browser, an email newsletter by Robert Cottrell which curates a list of five articles a day across the web that Cottrell thinks are the best of the day. One of his selections in a recent issue was part two of a four part series on being a great consultant written by Tom Critchlow, who is adapting lessons from the theater world into the work of being a consultant.

 


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Airbnb invests as Zeus corporate housing raises $55M at $205M

19:35 | 9 December

As Airbnb absorbs more and more of the demand for housing, it’s exploring how to monetize opportunities beyond vacation rentals. A marketplace for longer term corporate housing could be a huge business, but rather than build that itself, Airbnb is making a strategic investment in one of the market leaders called Zeus Living and will list its homes on the Airbnb site.

In just four years of redecorating landlords’ homes and renting them for 30+ day stays to relocated workers, Zeus Living has grown to a $100 million revenue run rate. It boosted revenue 300% in 2019, and now has 250 employees and over 2000 homes under management. Zeus make money by charging landlords one free month of usage, and marking up the rent charged to customers. It could rent out a $4,000 per month home for $5,000 plus take the extra month to earn $16,000 in a year.

Zeus CEO and co-founder Kulveer Taggar tells me “I fundamentally believe that a lot of human potential is bound by location. At Zeus, we’re deeply committed to making it easier for people to live where opportunity takes them.” It’s already hosted 27,000 residents for a total of 650,000 nights.

Strong margins, swift momentum, and that megatrend of more mobile workforces have earned Zeus Living a new $55 million Series B round it’s announcing on TechCrunch today. The funding comes from Airbnb, Comcast, CEAS Investments, and TI Platform Management, plus existing investors Alumni Ventures Group, Initialized Capital, NFX, and Spike Ventures. The funding comes at a $205 million post-money valuation.

“The opportunity here is huge, consumer spend is going toward housing and everyone needs to stay somewhere. But it’s Kulveer and Zeus’ go-to-market strategy that is impressive” says Initialized co-founder and managing partner Garry Tan. “Zeus decided to start with corporate rentals, which we believe is the best go-to-market since it is the highest margin, and capital efficiency wins in a space with many competitors. Corporate needs are longer term, consistent and predictable, and partnering with Airbnb strengthens this approach as they expand to build a platform for every city.”

Zeus co-founder and CEO Kulveer Taggar

Zeus had previously raised a $2.5 million seed and then an $11.5 million Series A led by Initialized, as well as $10 million in debt to cover taking on properties in the San Francisco Bay, Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, and D.C. Now that it’s scaling up, Zeus could add a sizable debt facility to cover the risk of filling apartments with employees from clients like Brex, Disney, ServiceTitan, and Samsara.

Push-Button Housing

Instead of moving into a bland corporate housing block, struggling to find a place themselves, or ending up in expensive long-term Airbnbs, workers moving to new cities can go to Zeus. It takes over apartments, handles maintenance, and fills them with branded comforts like Parachute bedding and Helix mattresses that Zeus gets at bulk rates. The startup is betting that as workers move between jobs and cities more frequently, fewer will own furniture and instead look for furnished homes like those Zeus offers.

Thanks to the premium stays it provides, Zeus charge can clients a lucrative rate while Taggar claims his service is still about half the price of standard corporate housing. For property owners, Zeus makes it easy to get a consistent rent paycheck with none of the traditional landlord work. Zeus takes care of cleaning and key exchanges so owners don’t need to do any chores like if they were running an Airbnb. Its goal is to get the first renters in within 10 days of taking on a property.

The new funding will help Zeus expand to more neighborhoods and cities while retaining a focus on breadth within each market so clients have plenty of homes to pick from. The startup will be revamping its booking and invoicing tools for enterprise partners, and improving how it sources real estate. Meanwhile it will be investing in customer care to maintain its high 70s NPS scores so relocated workers brag to their colleagues about how nice their new place is.

“Finding housing is stressful and time-consuming for both individuals and employers. As someone who has moved countries four times, I’ve lived through that tension” says Taggar. Zeus Living has built technology to remove complexity from housing, turning it into a service that enables a more mobile world.”

Taggar had gotten into the real estate business early, remortgaging his mom’s house to buy a condo in Mumbai to rent out. After moving to the US, he built and sold Y Combinator-backed auction tool Auctomatic with co-founder and future Stripe starter Patrick Collison. It was while working on NFC-triggered task launcher Tagstand that Taggar recognized the hassle of both finding new corporate housing and reliably renting out one’s home. With Uber, Stripe, and more startups growing huge by simplifying processes that move a lot of money around, he was inspired to do the same with Zeus Living.

The PropertyTech Wars

“Modern professionals travel more frequently, stay longer, and seek accommodations that feel like home. As more companies look to Airbnb for Work for extended-stay and relocation solutions, this segment remains a key focus for Airbnb,” says David Holyoke, Global Head of Airbnb For Work.

“We have great alignment with the Airbnb team in terms of serving the changing needs of business travelers that want the comforts of home when traveling for extended 30-day stays for work or a project” Taggar follows. Airbnb can help Zeus drive demand thanks to all its inbound traffic, while Zeus offers Airbnb more supply for customers seeking longer stays.

Zeus Living’s co-founders

Zeus’ biggest threat is that it could get overextended, misjudge demand, and end up on the hook to pay rent for two-year leases it can’t fill. And now with more funding, there will be added scrutiny regarding its margins, especially in the wake of the WeWork implosion.

Taggar recognizes these threats. “This is a business where we have to be focused on maximizing the gross profit we generate for the investments we make, with the least amount of risk. At Zeus Living, we’re continuously improving the ways we predict and secure demand.” He’s also building out teams on the ground in different markets to ensure regulatory compliance and push for more conducive laws around 30+ day rental stays.

Property tech has become a heated space, though, so Zeus will have heavy competition. There are traditional corporate housing providers, pure marketplaces that don’t deal with logistics, and direct competitors like $66 million-funded Domio, and juggernaut Sonder which has raised a whopping $360 million. Zeus might also see its model copied abroad before it can get there. Over time, landlords and real estate investment trusts like Blackstone could force Zeus, Sonder, and others to compete to pay them the most for leases, eating into all the startups’ margins.

At least with Airbnb as an investor, Zeus won’t have to fear a bitter battle with the tech giant over corporate housing. Instead, Airbnb could keep investing to coin off this adjacent market while listing Zeus properties, or potentially acquired the startup one day. For now though, Taggar just wants to prove startups can be accountable in the real world, acknowledging that taking over people’s homes is “a lot of responsibility! Our homes represent hundreds of millions of dollars of assets we manage and we take that very seriously.”

 


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US VC investment in female founders hits all-time high

19:06 | 9 December

Venture capital investment in all-female founding teams hit $3.3 billion in 2019, representing 2.8% of capital invested across the entire U.S. startup ecosystem this year, according to the latest data collected by PitchBook.

While that number may seem insubstantial, it’s a step up from last year’s total. In 2018, venture capitalists struck 580 deals worth $3 billion — up from just $2.1 billion in 2017 — for all-female teams, or only 2.2% of all U.S. deal activity. So far, female-founded and mixed-gender teams have raised a total of $17.2 billion, with roughly three weeks remaining in 2019. That’s 11.5% of all venture capital investment, an increase from 10.6% last year, when those groups attracted $17 billion across some 2,000 deals.

Crunchbase, another organization focused on tracking and analyzing fundraising data, reported in October that $20 billion in global capital was invested in female-founded and female co-founded startups so far this year. Three percent of global venture dollar volume was funneled toward female teams, Crunchbase said, and 10% toward teams of women and men.

Despite efforts from female founders, venture capitalists and diversity advocates in Silicon Valley and beyond, female entrepreneurs continue to struggle to raise as much capital as their male counterparts. The lack of equity in VC is in part caused by the lack of women on the other side of the table; venture capital funds still employ very few women.

Although dozens of firms have made concerted efforts to diversify their ranks, fewer than 10% of decision-makers at U.S. VC firms are women, according to a 2019 Axios analysis, which determined just 105 investors out of 1,088 were female. While the study noted an increase from the previous year’s 8.93% and 2017’s 7%, it proved venture capital is still very much a male-dominated industry.

Carta, a venture-backed company that provides startups tools to manage their equity, released its second annual gender equity gap study last month, noting that male founders and employees still receive significantly more equity wealth than women. Men have 64% of all startup equity, according to Carta’s findings, and represent 80% of cap table millionaires. Carta used data from 320,000 employees, some 10,000 companies and 25,000 founders to determine these results, which paint a disappointing picture for women at startups.

Another venture-backed company, Tide, conducted its own study around female founders this year. The study focused on entrepreneurs in the U.K. and U.S., which both struggle with diversity in entrepreneurship. Tide determined that of the 403 degrees obtained from universities in the U.K. by female founders, roughly a quarter were from the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford, the country’s top schools. Of the American entrepreneurs included in the study, most went to Stanford University, MIT or Harvard University. The conclusion? Of the female founders who ultimately succeed in raising funding from private investors, most are graduates of elite universities, suggesting a certain socio-economic status. Of course, accessing capital is even more difficult for entrepreneurs who do not attend top universities and who therefore struggle to gain access to investor-friendly networks.

The diversity issue in VC expands beyond women. While several funds have cropped up with a mission to back female founders exclusively, including Female Founders Fund, BBG Ventures, Halogen Ventures, Jane VC, Cleo Capital, accelerator program Ready Set Raise or XFactor Ventures, minority entrepreneurs, including men of color, struggle to secure financing. And while companies like PitchBook and Crunchbase track gender, they do not track race, making it difficult to understand the size and scale of the race funding gap.

On a mission to close that gap, firms like Harlem Capital invest in minority entrepreneurs and organizations like BLCK VC seek to provide community for black venture investors. The New York-based team behind Harlem Capital announced a $40 million debut fundraise last month, one of the largest-ever pools of capital for a fund with a diversity mandate. Harlem, similar to BLCK VC, hopes to attract more minorities to venture capital, where the vast majority of deal makers are white or Asian men.

“You need diversity funds like ourselves to get this market anywhere close to parity,” Harlem Capital managing partner Jarrid Tingle told TechCrunch last month.

Other efforts focused on women in VC and technology include All Raise, which hired its first chief executive officer in Pam Kostka earlier this year. 2019 has been a banner year for the nonprofit organization focused on increasing representation across the entire tech ecosystem. Not only did it bring its first official leader and several employees, it announced new chapters in Los Angeles and Boston, launched a program called VC Cohorts and hosted its annual conference, several in-person and virtual fundraising workshops and networking sessions.

“Women are hungry for the support and guidance we provide,” All Raise’s Kostka told TechCrunch in October. “I think the movement is just gathering momentum.”

Large and growing “unicorn” startups founded by women have also helped move the needle this year, proving companies led by women can gain support from Silicon Valley’s elite. PitchBook notes Glossier and Rent the Runway, two companies founded and led by women, as examples of new entrants to the unicorn club (companies with valuations of $1 billion or larger).

Glossier landed a $100 million Series D led by Sequoia Capital, with participation from Tiger Global and Spark Capital in March. The round valued Emily Weiss’ business at a whopping $1.2 billion. News of Rent the Runway’s $125 million round led by Franklin Templeton Investments and Bain Capital Ventures came just a couple of days later. The deal valued the clothing rental company at $1 billion.

The newest data may indicate progress, but all-male teams still raised more than 85% of all U.S. venture capital dollars in 2019, while decision makers at venture capital firms were still more than 90% male. The venture capital industry, as it stands, is still a boy’s club.

 


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Instacart shoppers plan a series of actions in protest of company’s wage practices

17:00 | 9 December

Instacart shoppers are continuing to hold the grocery startup accountable with their latest set of actions. Kicking off next Monday, Instacart shoppers plan to take one action per day, for six days in protest of Instacart.

“We’re still just trying to get this one tiny thing: double the default tip percentage,” Instacart shopper and protest organizer Sarah (pseudonym) told TechCrunch. “We’ve tried endlessly to get them to raise the base guarantee pay. But we feel like, fine, at least give us the higher default tip.”

Instacart currently suggests a default tip of 5% but workers want Instacart to increase it to 10%. Next week, Instacart shoppers plan to take a number of actions. including filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor as well as filing a wage claim.

Sarah, who has been an Instacart shopper for four years in California, says shoppers have become furious because it’s clear Instacart does not respect them.

“We’re trying to continuously show them that we do have power,” Sarah said. “I believe this protest of seven days is going to be the most powerful thing we’ve ever done because it has the ability to really fuck them up.”

The full schedule is as follows:

  • December 16: File complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor, asking the department to audit Instacart’s previous practice of misappropriating tips
  • December 17: Contact federal legislators and ask them to hold Instacart accountable to minimum wage laws and more
  • December 18: File a wage claim regarding Instacart’s classification of shoppers as 1099 independent contractors
  • December 19: Hand-deliver binders, filled with a letter and personal notes from workers, to CEOs of six partner stores. Workers want partner stores to help ensure minimum standards and earnings.
  • December 20: Contact the Occupational Safety and Health Administration regarding how Instacart shoppers sometimes have to fulfill heavy orders, which can lead to injuries on the job.
  • December 21: Contact state legislators

This comes after Instacart shoppers organized a nationwide protest where they went on strike for 72 hours in demand of a better tip and fee structure. Following that protest, Instacart got rid of the $3 quality bonus.

“When we did the walk-off, that required people to take off several days from work,” Sarah said. “We don’t want people to miss out on money so we’re doing something that will take less time.”

So far, more than 300 workers have signed up to participate in the seven days of action. This upcoming action follows years’ worth of protesting. Back in 2016, Instacart removed the option to tip in favor of guaranteeing its workers higher delivery commissions. About a month later, following pressure from its workers, the company reintroduced tipping. Then, in April 2018, Instacart began suggesting a 5% default tip and reduced its service fee from a 10% waivable fee to a 5% fixed fee.

Instacart has previously said it’s committed to providing its shoppers with an earnings structure that offers upfront pay and guaranteed minimums.

“We respect the voices of all shoppers and take the feedback of our community very seriously,” an Instacart spokesperson previously said in a statement. “We will continue to listen and engage with shoppers to improve their experience.”

 


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Late registration savings to Disrupt Berlin ends tomorrow

16:10 | 9 December

Just two more days to go until Disrupt Berlin opens its doors to thousands of the top international early-stage startup founders, investors, movers and shakers. And we have good news for all you last-minute decision makers.

You can attend Disrupt — and still save money — by taking advantage of our late registration pricing. Depending on which pass you buy, you can keep up to €200 in your wallet. But don’t put off this decision any longer. The late registration ends tomorrow, 10 December at 11:59 p.m. (CEST). Buy your Disrupt Berlin pass now and save.

Attending Disrupt Berlin is a terrific investment of money, time and energy. Connect with like-minded startuppers, learn about the newest tech trends and come away revitalized and inspired to take your slice of the startup world to the next level.

We’ve packed the Disrupt Berlin agenda with presentations, workshops and Q&As featuring conversations with the top players in the startup world. Here’s just a taste of what’s to come.

Investing in 2020: Nothing changes quite as rapidly as investment trends. Carolina Brochado (Softbank Investment Advisors) will offer perspective from her experience both on the ground in Europe and from 50,000 feet to talk about what 2020 has in store for startups.

The Top Three Immigration Mistakes Startups Make: Learn how to troubleshoot the many snags that can affect startups trying to bring international talent into their organizations, with top Silicon Valley immigration expert Sophie Alcorn.

Mobilizing Emerging Markets: As the mobility industry evolves rapidly, a huge opportunity lies in emerging markets. Sujay Tyle, serial entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Frontier Car Group, is looking to capitalize on that opportunity with its investments in used-car marketplaces.

Don’t miss Startup Battlefield — our epic pitch competition returns with an outstanding cadre of early-stage startup founders from around the world. They’ll deliver a high-speed pitch to expert judges and compete for the Battlefield Cup, investor and media exposure and a $50,000 cash infusion.

Kick your networking into high gear and use CrunchMatch to navigate the hundreds of early-stage startups exhibiting in Startup Alley — including the TC Top Picks. Our business-matching platform helps you find the people and startups most aligned with your business goals. You spend less time looking and more time connecting with the right people.

This year, we’re holding the TC Hackathon finals on the Extra Crunch stage. Come on over and see the products 10 dedicated teams designed and built in 24 hours. Whether you’re looking for skilled coders or just appreciate the artistry, don’t miss this event.

The countdown is on, people. Disrupt Berlin 2019 starts in just two days, and late registration pricing ends tomorrow, 10 December at 11:59 p.m. (CEST). If you want in on the action — and save up to €200 — go buy your pass before the deadline hits.

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

 


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French e-grocery app Jow raises $7M additional funding

13:02 | 9 December

Jow, the French e-grocery app — which combines recipes, recommendations and online grocery ordering — has raised $7 million in new funding.

The round is led by Stride.VC, alongside Caterina Fake and Jyri Engeström from Yes VC, and Shan-Lyn Ma, the co-founder and CEO of Zola. Previous seed backers, DST global partners and eVentures, also participated.

Launched in 2018 and now supporting five of France’s leading grocery retailers (Monoprix, Carrefour, Auchan, Chronodrive, and E.Leclerc), Jow’s app claims to let you complete your weekly online food shop in as little as a minute (once you’ve been on-boarded, of course).

It does this by creating customised menus, tailored to each user and household, and then automatically fills your online shopping cart with the required ingredients. The idea is to answer the question: “what’s for dinner tonight?” while providing a more cost-effective alternative to recipe kits such as Blue Apron or Hellofresh, and less reliance on take-outs from the likes of Deliveroo or Uber Eats.

“Doing your weekly shopping online can take you up to one hour,” says Jow co-founder and CEO Jacques-Edouard Sabatier. “You waste a lot of time looking for the right product category, sub category, scrolling through hundreds of references, you finally find your product, put it in your cart, and repeat this process up to 40 times (the number of items in your cart)! It’s a horrendous experience, with no added value at all for the customer”.

That’s in contrast to brick ‘n’ mortar grocery shopping, argues Sabatier, where there is an opportunity to “feel, taste and smell the products”. He says it’s the terrible user experience of grocery shopping online that has limited its e-grocery growth. Jow aims to change that.

“Jow creates a customised menu, just for you, with simple and delicious recipes,” explains Sabatier. “Our food recommendation engine considers your tastes, your kitchen appliances, whether or not you have children and checks the availability of the ingredients in your supermarket. Jow then automatically fills your cart with all the ingredients you need to cook the meals”.

In addition, Jow offers a customised list of your repeat purchases, and its recommendation engine claims to help you choose the exact quantities needed to avoid waste. You can also check out with a single click, and the app will synchronise with your chosen supermarket delivery or pick up service.

Noteworthy is that the app’s recipe to cart feature represents on average 75% of the products Jow users add to their cart. Staple products such as toilet paper, beverages, toothpaste etc. make up the remaining 25%.

The app is free for end users, seeing the Paris and New York-based startup generate affiliate revenue from supermarkets that want to use the service to acquire younger, mobile-first customers. The business model is asset light, too, since Jow is largely built on top of the existing infrastructure and capabilities of larger supermarkets.

“Apart from the 50x improvement on the e-grocery funnel, it’s unbelievable to see that to date, in a world where you have tailored and recommended experiences around music, video etc., you have no strong recommendation engine or experiences around food,” adds Sabatier.

In addition, the startup believes that more broadly it has created a mobile e-grocery experience that actually works. “E-grocery is one of the only e-commerce segments where desktop still prevails,” says Sabatier. “[Bucking this trend], 90% of Jow’s customers shop using their mobile devices, the experience is so smooth and fast that you can do your weekly shopping in just one minute on the subway or the bus”.

 


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By Miles, the UK pay-by-mile car insurance app, adds ‘connected car’ policy for Tesla drivers

13:00 | 9 December

By Miles, the U.K. pay-by-mile car insurance provider, is launching a “connected car” insurance policy specifically for Tesla drivers.

The new insurance product pulls real-time mileage information directly from a car owner’s Tesla account and uses the distance they have driven to price their insurance each month. It claims to be the first car insurance policy to take data from a car without the need for a “black box” or aftermarket device.

The new policy — created in partnership with digital insurer La Parisienne Assurances (backed by Swiss Re) — offers lower mileage Tesla owners in the U.K. (those that drive under 7,000 miles a year) the opportunity to save significantly on their annual car insurance, according to By Miles.

More broadly, the insurtech says it is bucking the trend of car insurance not keeping pace with changes in technology, including the move to connected and electric cars. It cites industry figures that suggest 1 in 10 new cars sold in the U.K. are now electric.

James Blackham, co-founder of By Miles, says the insurance industry needs to “catch up and launch policies as smart as the cars themselves”.

To activate the pay-per-mile Tesla policy, drivers simply connect their Tesla with their By Miles account, with no need to install a separate so-called “black box”. Via the By Miles app, they are then able to instantly see the cost of each day’s miles and pay for what they’ve driven monthly.

The new policy also claims to provide electric-first policy coverage, including covering items often not included on insurance policies as standard, such as “damage or theft of charging cables and accessories as well as electric car batteries”.

Meanwhile, in other ways the By Miles connected car policy isn’t so much of a deviation from the company’s existing By Miles coverage. It first launched a pay-by-mile policy in July 2018 enabled by its “Miles Tracker” device that plugs into your car to count mileage, and now claims over 10,000 policyholders.

 


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