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, 39

Joined: 08 January 2014

Interests: No data

David

David

Joined: 05 August 2014

Interests: No data

David Markham

David Markham, 63

Joined: 13 November 2014

Interests: No data

Michelle Li

Michelle Li, 39

Joined: 13 August 2014

Interests: No data

Max Almenas

Max Almenas, 51

Joined: 10 August 2014

Interests: No data

29Jan

29Jan, 30

Joined: 29 January 2014

Interests: No data

s82 s82

s82 s82, 25

Joined: 16 April 2014

Interests: No data

Wicca

Wicca, 35

Joined: 18 June 2014

Interests: No data

Phebe Paul

Phebe Paul, 25

Joined: 08 September 2014

Interests: No data

Артем 007

Артем 007, 40

Joined: 29 January 2014

About myself: Таки да!

Interests: Норвегия и Исландия

Alexey Geno

Alexey Geno, 7

Joined: 25 June 2015

About myself: Хай

Interests: Интерес1daasdfasf

Verg Matthews

Verg Matthews, 66

Joined: 25 June 2015

Interests: No data

CHEMICALS 4 WORLD DEVEN DHELARIYA

CHEMICALS 4 WORLD…, 32

Joined: 22 December 2014

Interests: No data



Main article: Europe

<< Back Forward >>
Topics from 1 to 10 | in all: 1875

Are scooter startups really worth billions?

20:05 | 23 June

It’s been hard to miss the scooter startup wars opening fresh, techno-fueled rifts in Valley society in recent months. Another flavor of ride-sharing steed which sprouted seemingly overnight to clutter up sidewalks — drawing rapid-fire ire from city regulators apparently far more forgiving of traffic congestion if it’s delivered in the traditional, car-shaped capsule.

Even in their best, most-groomed PR shots, the dockless carelessness of these slimline electrified scooters hums with an air of insouciance and privilege. As if to say: Why yes, we turned a kids’ toy into a battery-powered kidult transporter — what u gonna do about it?

An earlier batch of electric scooter sharing startups — offering full-fat, on-road mopeds that most definitely do need a license to ride (and, unless you’re crazy, a helmet for your head) — just can’t compete with that. Last mile does not haul.

But a short-walk replacement tool that’s so seamlessly manhandled is also of course easily vandalized. Or misappropriated. Or both. And there have been a plethora of scooter dismemberment/kidnap horror stories coming out of California, judging by reports from the scooter wars front line. Hanging scooters in trees is presumably a protest thing.

Scooter brand Lime struck an especially tone-deaf tech note trying to fix this problem after an update added a security alarm  that bellowed robotic threats to call the cops on anyone who fumbled to unlock them. Safe to say, littering abusive scooters in public spaces isn’t a way to win friends and influence people.

Even when functioning ‘correctly’, i.e. as intended, scooter rides can ooze a kind of brash entitlement. The sweatless convenience looks like it might be mostly enabling another advance in tech-fueled douche behavior as a t-shirt wearing alpha nerd zips past barking into AirPods and inhaling a takeaway latte while cutting up the patience of pedestrians.

None of this fast-seeded societal friction has put the brakes on e-scooter startup momentum, though. Au contraire. They’ve been raising massive amounts of investment on rapidly inflating valuations ($2BN is the latest valuation for Bird).

But buying lots of e-scooters and leaving them at the mercy of human whim is an expensive business to try scaling. Hence big funding rounds are necessary if you’re going to replace all the canal-dunked duds and keep scooting fast enough for the competition.

At the same time, there isn’t a great deal to differentiate one e-scooter experience over another — beyond price and proximity. Branding might do it but then you have to scramble even harder and faster to create a slick experience and inflate a brand that sticks. (And it goes without saying that a scooter sticky with fecal-matter is absolutely not that.)

The still fledgling startups are certainly scrambling to scale, with some also already pushing into international markets. Lime just scattered ~200 e-scooters in Paris, for example. It’s also been testing the waters more quietly in Zurich. While Bird has its beady eye on European territory too.

The idea underpinning some very obese valuations for these fledgling startups is that scooters will be a key piece of a reworked, multi-modal transport mix for urban mobility, fueled by app-based convenience and city buy-in to greener transport options with emissions-free benefits. (Albeit scooters’ greenness depends on what they’re displacing; Great if it’s gas-guzzling cars, less compelling if it’s people walking or peddling.)

And while investors are buying in to the vision that lots of city dwellers are going to be scooting the last mile in future, and betting big on sizable value being captured by a few plucky scooter startups — more than half a billion dollars has been funneled into just two of these slimline scooter brands, Bird and Lime, since February — there are skeptical notes being sounded too.

Asking whether the scooter model really justifies such huge raises and heady valuations. Wondering if it isn’t a bit crazy for a fledgling Bird to be 2x a unicorn already.

Shared bike and scooter fleets are paving the way to a revolution in urban mobility but will only capture little value in the long term. Investors are highly overestimating the virtue of these businesses.

— Thibaud Elziere (@tiboel)

The bear case for these slimline e-scooters says they’re really only fixing a pretty limited urban mobility problem. Too spindly and unsafe to go the distance, too sedate of pace (and challenged for sidewalk space) to feel worthwhile if you don’t have far to go anyway. And of course you’re not going to be able to cart your kids and/or much baggage on a stand-up two wheeler. So they’re useless for families.

Meanwhile scooter invasions are illegal in some places and, where they are possible, are fast inviting public and regulatory frisson and friction — by contributing to congestion and peril on already crowded pavements.

After taking one of Lime’s just-landed e-scooters for a spin in Paris this week, Willy Braun, VC at early stage European fund Daphni, came away unimpressed. “I didn’t feel I was really saving time in a short distance, since there is always many people in our narrow sidewalks,” he tells us. “And it isn’t comfortable enough for me to imagine a longer distance. Also it’s quite expensive ($1 per use and $.15/min).

“Lastly: Before renting it I read two news media that told me I had to use it only on the sidewalks and they tell us that we should only use it on the road during the onboarding — and that wearing an helmet is mandatory without providing it). As a comparison, I’d rather use e-bikes (or emoto-bikes) for longer journey without hesitation.”

“Give us Jump instead of Lime!” he adds, namechecking the electric bike startup that’s been lodged under Uber’s umbrella since April, adding a greener string to its urban mobility bow — and which is also heading over to Europe as part of the ride-hailing giant’s ongoing efforts to revitalize its regionally battered brand.

“Uber stands ready to help address some of the biggest challenges facing German cities: tackling air pollution, reducing congestion and increasing access to cleaner transportation solutions,” said CEO Dara Khosrowshahi wheeling a bright red Jump bike on stage at the Noah conference in Berlin earlier this month. Uber’s Jump e-bikes will launch in Germany this summer.

E-bikes do seem to offer more urban mobility versatility than e-scooters. Though a scooter is arguably a more accessible type of wheeled steed vs a bike, given you can just stand on it and be moved.

But in Europe’s dense and dynamic urban environments — which, unlike the US, tend to be replete with public transit options (typically at a spectrum of price-points) — individual transport choices tend to be based firstly on economics. After which it’s essentially a matter of personal taste and/or the weather.

Urban transport horses for courses — depending on your risk, convenience and comfort thresholds, thanks to a publicly funded luxury of choice. So scooters have loads of already embedded competition.

TechCrunch’s resident Parisienne, Romain Dillet — a regular user of on-demand bike services in the city (of which there are many), and prior to that the city’s own dock-based bike rental scheme — also went for a test spin on a Lime scooter this week. And also came away feeling underwhelmed.

“This is bad,” he said after his ride. “It’s slow and you need to brake constantly. BUT the worst part is that it feels waaaaaay more dangerous than a bike. Basically you can’t brake abruptly because you’re just standing there.”

Index Venture’s Martin Mignot was also in Paris this week and he took the chance to take a Lime scooter for a spin too — checking out the competition in his case, given the European VC firm is a Bird backer. So what did he think?

“The experience is pretty cool. It’s slightly faster than a bike, there’s no sweating. The weather was just amazing and very hot in Paris so it was pretty amazing in terms of speed and lack of effort,” he says, rolling out the positively spun, vested view on scooter sharing. “Especially going up hill to go to Gare du Nord.

“And the lack of friction — just to get on board and get started. So in general I think it’s a great experience and I think it feels a really interesting niche between walking and on-demand bikes… In Paris you’ve also got the mopeds. So that kind of ‘in between offering’. I think there’s a big market there. I think it’s going to work pretty well in Paris.”

Mignot is a tad disparaging about the quality of Lime’s scooters vs the model being deployed by Bird — a scooter model he also personally owns. But again, as you’d expect given his vested interests.

“Obviously I’m biased but I would say that the Xiaomi scooter/Ninebot scooter is higher quality than the one that Lime are using,” he tells us. “I thought that the Lime one, the handlebar is a little bit too high. The braking is a little bit too soft. Maybe it was the one I used, I don’t know.”

Talking generally about scooter startups, he says investors’ excitement boils down to trip frequency — thanks exactly to journeys being these itty-bitty last mile links.

But it’s also then about the potential for all that last mile hopping to be a shortcut for winning a prized slot on smartphone users’ homescreens — and thus the underlying game being played looks like a jockeying for prime position in the urban mobility race.

Lime, for example, started out with bike rentals before jumping into scooters and going multi-modal. So scooter sharing starts to look like a strategy for mobility startups to scoot to the top of the attention foodchain — where they’re then positioned to offer a full mix and capture more value.

So really scooters might mostly be a tool for catching people’s app attention. Think of that next time you see one lying on a sidewalk.

“What’s very interesting if you look at the trip distribution, most of the trips are short. So the vast majority of trips if you’re walking, obviously, are less than three miles. So that’s actually where the bulk of the mobility happens. And scooters play really well in that field. So in terms of sheer number of trips I think it’s going to dwarf any other type of transportation. And especially ride-hailing,” says Mignot.

“If you look at how often do people use Uber or Lyft or Taxify… it’s going to be much less frequent than the scooter users. And I think that’s what makes it such an interesting asset… The frequency will be much higher — and so the apps that power the scooters will tend to be on the homescreen. And kind of on top of the foodchain, so to speak. So I think that’s what makes it super interesting.”

Scooters also get a big investor tick on merit of the lack of friction standing in the way of riding vs other available urban options such as bikes (or, well, non-electric scooters, skateboards, roller blades, public transport, and so on and on) — in both onboarding (getting going) and propulsion (i.e. the lack of sweat required to ride) terms.

“That’s what’s so brilliant with these devices, you just snap the QR code and off you go,” he says. “The difference with bikes is that you don’t have to produce any effort. I think there are cases where obviously bikes are better. But I think there are a lot of cases where people will want something where you don’t sweat.

“Where you don’t wrinkle your clothes. Which goes a little bit faster. Without going all the way to the moped experience where you need to put the helmet, which is a bit more dangerous, which a lot of people, especially women, are not super familiar with. So I think what’s exciting with scooters as a form factor is it’s actually very mainstream.

“Anyone can ride them. It’s very simple to manoeuvre. It’s not super fast, it’s not too dangerous. It doesn’t require any muscular effort — so for older people or for people who just don’t want to sweat because they’re going to a meeting or something. It’s just a fantastic option.”

Index has also invested in an e-bike startup (Cowboy) and the firm is fully signed up to the notion that urban mobility will be multimodal. So if e-scooters valuations are a bit overcooked Index is not going to be too concerned. People in cities are clearly going to be riding something. And backing a mix is a smart way to hedge the risk of any one option ending up more passing fad than staple urban steed.

Mostly Index is betting that people will keep on riding robotic horses for urban courses. And whatever they ride it’s a fairly safe bet that an app is going to be involved in the process of finding (docklessness is therefore another attention play) or unlocking (scan that QR code!) the mobility device — opening up the possibility that a single app could house multiple mobility options and thus capture more overall value.

“It’s not a one-size fits all. They’re all complementing each other,” says Mignot of the urban mobility options in play. “I would say e-bikes are probably a little bit more great for little bit longer trips because you’re sitting down. But again it takes a little bit longer, because you have to adjust the saddle, you need to start peddling. There’s a bit more friction both on the onboading and on the riding. But they’re a bit better for slightly longer distances. I would say for shorter distances there’s nothing better than the scooter.”

He also points out that scooters are both cheaper and less bulky than e-bikes. And because they take up less street space they can — at least in theory — be more densely stacked, thereby generating the claimed convenience by having them sitting near enough to convince someone not to bother walking 10 minutes to the café or gym — and just scoot instead. So scooters’ slimline physique is also especially exciting to investors. (Even if, ironically, it’s being deployed to urge people to walk less.)

“I think we will end up with more density of scooters. Which is super important,” he continues. “People will, in the end, tend to take the vehicle that they can find where they are. And I think it’s more likely, eventually, that they will get a scooter than an e-bike. Just simply because they take less space and they are less expensive.”

But why wouldn’t people who do get won over to the sweatless perks of last mile scooting just buy and own their own ride — rather than shelling out on an ongoing basis to share?

Unlike bikes, scooters are mobile enough to be picked up and moved around fairly easily. Which means they can go with you into your home, office, even a restaurant — disruptively reducing theft risk. Whereas talk to any bike owner and they’ll almost invariably have at least one tale of theft woe, which is a key part of what makes bike sharing so attractive: It erases theft worry.

Add to that, you can find e-scooters on sale in European electronics shops for as little as €140. So if you’re going to be a regular scooterer, the purely economic argument to just own your own looks pretty compelling.

And people zipping around on e-scooters is a pretty common sight in another dense European city, Barcelona, which has very scooter-friendly weather but no scooter startups (yet). But unless it’s a tourist weaving along the seafront most of these riders are not shared: People just popped into their local electronics shop and walked out with a scooter in a box.

So the rides aren’t generating repeat revenue for anyone except the electricity companies.

 

Asked why people who do want to scoot won’t just buy, rather than rent Mignot talks up the hassle of ownership — undermined slightly by the fact he is also a scooter owner (despite the claimed faff from problems such as frequent flat tires and the chore of the nightly charge).

“The thing you notice very rapidly: There are two things, one is the maintenance,” he says. “The models that exist today are not super robust. Maybe in a very flat, very smooth roads, maybe Santa Monica, maybe it’s a little bit less true but I would say in Europe the maintenance that is required is fairly high… I have to do something on mine every week.

“The other thing is it takes a little bit of space. If you have to bring it to a restaurant or whatever type of crowded place, a movie theatre or wherever you’re going, to an office, to a meeting room, it’s a little bit on the heavy side, and it’s a little bit inconvenient. So certainly some people will buy them… But I also think that there are a lot of cases where you’d rather have it just on-demand.”

Unlike Mignot and Index, Tom Bradley, of UK focused VC firm Oxford Capital, is not so convinced by the on-demand scooter craze.

The firm has not made any e-scooter investments itself, though mobility is a “core theme”, with the portfolio including an on-demand coach travel startup (Sn-ap), and technology plays such as Morpheus Labs (machine learning for driverless cars) and UltraSoc (complex circuits for automotive parts, which sells to the likes of Tesla).

But it’s just not been sold on scooter startups. Bradley describes it as an “open question” whether scooters end up being “an important part of how people move around the cities of the future”. He also points to theft problems with dockless bike share schemes that have not played out well in the UK.

“We’re not convinced that this is a fundamental part of the picture,” he says of scooter sharing. “It may be a part of the picture but I personally am not yet convinced that it’s as big a part of the picture that people seem to be prepared to pay for.”

“I keep thinking of the Segway example,” he adds. “It’s an absolutely delightful product. It’s brilliant. It’s absolutely brilliant. In a way that these electric scooters are not. But obviously it was much more expensive. And it made people feel a bit weird. But it was supposed to be the answer — and it’s not the answer. Before its time, perhaps.”

Of course he also accepts that capital is “being used as a weapon”, as he puts it, to scoot full-pelt towards a future where shared electric scooters are the norm on city streets by waging a “marketing war” to get there.

“Venture capital valuations are what someone is prepared to pay. And in this case people are valuing potential rather than valuing the business… so the valuations [of Bird and Lime] are being driven more than anything by the amount of money being raised,” he says. “So you decide a rule of thumb about what is acceptable dilution, and if you’re going to raise $400M or whatever then the valuation’s got to be somewhere between $1.6BN and $2BN to make that sort of raise make sense — and leave enough equity for the previous investors and founders. So there’s an element of this where the valuations are being driven by the amount of capital being raised.”

Oxford Capital’s bearish view on scooter sharing is also bounded by the fund only investing in UK-based startups. And while Bradley says it sees lots of local mobility strengths — especially in the automotive market — he admits it’s more of a mental leap to imagine a world leading scooter startup sprouting from the country’s green and pleasant lands. Not least because it’s not legal to use them on UK public roads or pavements.

“If you look at places like Amsterdam, Berlin, they’re sort of built for bikes. London’s getting towards being built for bikes… Cycling’s been one of the big success stories in London. Is [scooter sharing] going to replace cycling? I don’t know. Not so convinced… It’s obviously easy for anyone to get on and off these things, young and old. So that’s good, it’s inclusive. But it feels a little bit like a solution looking for a problem, the sorts of journeys people talk about for these things — on campus, short urban journeys. A lot of these are walkable or cycle journeys in a lot of cities. So is there a mass need?

“Is this Segway 2 or is this bike hire 2… it’s hard to tell. And we’re coming down on the former. We’re not convinced this is going to be a fundamental part of the transport space. It will be a feature but not a huge part.”

But for Mignot the early days of the urban mobility attention wars mean there’s much to play for — and much that can be favorably reshaped to fit scooters into the mix.

“The whole thing, even on-demand bikes, it’s a two year old phenomenon really,” he says. “So I think everyone is just trying to learn and figure out and adapt to this new reality, whether it’s users or companies or cities. I think it’s very similar to when cars were first introduced. There were no parking spaces at the time and there were no rules on the road. And fast forward 100 years and it looks very different.

“If you look at the amount of infrastructure and effort and spend that has been put into making — and I would argue way more than should have — into making a city car-friendly, if you only do a 100th of the same amount of effort and spend into making some space for bicycles and light two-wheel vehicles I think we’ll be fine.

“That’s the beauty of this model. If you compare the space of the tech and if you look at the efficiency of moving people around vs the space, the scooters are simply the most efficient because their footprint on the ground is just so small.”

He even makes the case for scooters working well in London — arguing the sprawl of the city amps up the utility because there are so many tedious last mile trips that people have to make.

Even more so than in denser European cities like Paris, where he admits that hopping on a scooter might just be more of a “nice to have”, given shorter distances and all the other available options. So, really, where urban mobility is concerned, it can actually be courses for horses.

Yet, the reality is London is off-limits to the likes of Bird and Lime for now — thanks to UK laws barring this type of unlicensed personal electric vehicle from public roads and spaces.

You can buy e-scooters for use on private land in the UK but any scooter startups that tried their usual playbook in London would be scooting straight for legal hot water.

It’s not just the British weather that’s inclement.

“I’m really hoping that TfL [Transport for London] and the Department for Transport are going to make it possible,” says Mignot on that. “I think any city should welcome this with open arms. Some cities are, by the way. And I think over time once they see the success stories in other parts of the world I think they all will. But I wish London was one of those cutting edge cities that would welcome new innovation with open arms. I think right now, unfortunately, it’s not there.

“There’s a lot of talk about air quality, and so on, but actually, when push comes to shove… you have a lot of resistance and a lot of pushback… So it’s a little bit disappointing. But, you know, we’ll get there eventually.”

 


0

Beamery closes $28M Series B to stoke support for its ‘talent CRM’

19:30 | 20 June

Beamery, a London-based startup that offers self-styled “talent CRM”– aka ‘candidate relationship management’ — and recruitment marketing software targeted at fast-growing companies, has closed a $28M Series B funding round, led by EQT Ventures.

Also participating in the round are M12, Microsoft’s venture fund, and existing investors Index Ventures, Edenred Capital Partners and Angelpad Fund. Beamery last raised a $5M Series A, in April 2017, led by Index.

Its pitch centers on the notion of helping businesses win a ‘talent war’ by taking a more strategic and pro-active approach to future hires vs just maintaining a spreadsheet of potential candidates.

Its platform aims to help the target enterprises build and manage a talent pool of people they might want to hire in future to get out ahead of the competition in HR terms, including providing tools for customized marketing aimed at nurture relations with possible future hires.

Customer numbers for Beamery’s software have stepped up from around 50 in April 2017 to 100 using it now — including the likes of Facebook (which is using it globally), Continental, VMware, Zalando, Grab and Balfour Beatty.

It says the new funding will be going towards supporting customer growth, including by ramping up hiring in its offices in London (HQ), Austin and San Francisco.

It also wants to expand into more markets. “We’re focusing on some of the world’s biggest global businesses that need support in multiple timezones and geographies so really it’s a global approach,” said a spokesman on that.

“Companies adopting the system are large enterprises doing talent at scale, that are innovative in terms of being proactive about recruiting, candidate experience and employer brand,” he added.

A “significant” portion of the Series B funds will also go towards R&D and produce development focused on its HR tech niche.

“Across all sectors, there’s a shift towards proactive recruitment through technology, and Beamery is emerging as the category leader,” added Tom Mendoza, venture lead and investment advisor at EQT, in a supporting statement.

“Beamery has a fantastic product, world-class high-ambition founders, and an outstanding analytics-driven team. They’ve been relentless about building the best talent CRM and marketing platform and gaining a deep understanding of the industry-wide problems.”

 


0

Blinkist raises $18.8M for its condensed reading platform for non-fiction books

16:07 | 20 June

We are living in the information age, but that doesn’t mean that we have all the time in the world to ingest everything that we want. A startup that is aiming to help with that has raised a round of funding to grow its business. Blinkist, a Berlin-based startup that presents condensed versions of non-fiction literature — each title can be read or listened to in about 15 minutes — has raised $18.8 million in funding led by Insight Venture Partners (a firm that is leading no less than three investments on this very day: see here and here).

Holger Seim, the company’s co-founder and CEO, told TechCrunch that the funding will be used to continue to expand the product. That will include localising content into more languages beyond English and German; adding more titles — there are now 2,500 titles with a rate of about 40 being added each month; and perhaps moving into more delivery formats beyond text and audio, which are the two ways you can consume a “Blink” — as its content is called — today.

The company has around 6 million users today and notes that they are equally consuming written and audio formats, although audio is growing faster. From what we’ve heard, it has also spoken informally with potential buyers, including a certain Seattle-based e-commerce leviathan that made its name in books, so the interest in its platform ranges beyond that of consumers, which may have also been some of the motivation behind this round of funding, a substantial round by Berlin and European startup standards.

While Blinkist has plans for how it will grow and evolve, one area will be holding fast on in its expansion is a commitment to human-powered content. That is, there are no plans to use all of the advances in artificial intelligence to produce Blinks in place of humans doing the condensing, a la Summly or others that have tried this approach.

“We believe the human element is always important and it is here to stay,” Seim said. The company uses a network of editors today to summarize and narrate those summaries for its users. Seim added that the company is “digging into AI,” but mainly for the purpose of seeing how it could help with recommendations of titles to readers, and also making recommendations to Blinkist itself: one challenge is to figure out what content it should add to the platform and what might prove most popular.

Having popular content is key for Blinkist’s business model: the app is free for 30 days but then costs $79.99/year or $12.99/month to use — meaning, it needs to have something that will lure people back again, and again. Currently, Blinkist doesn’t really make a lot of money from referrals, since on iOS as one example, it cannot link to Amazon purchasing (only iTunes), which cuts out one of the most popular platforms for buying books.

That will potentially be something Blinkist might try to figure out how to work around, since as Seim describes it, the purpose is not to replace reading the actual book or other work, but to get enough information about it to see whether you would like to buy it.

“Everyone likes to make the comparison to Cliffs Notes,” he said, referring to those yellow-covered books that many a student in the US used and uses to work around reading turgid texts, or at least to help understand them. Although Blinkist lacks substantial referral data — again because of platform limitations for its apps — “we do survey our users frequently and we are used by avid book readers, not by people who want to read books less.”

He said that almost 50 percent of its users say they read more books thanks to Blinkist and only nine percent say they read less.

Although there are obvious competitive threats to Blinkist, the most obvious of these — Amazon — is not a worry at this point, Seim noted. “W are not worried about Amazon,” he said. “It is a big player in the book space for reading, and listening also with Audible, so we are watching themn, but so far we are in a different business. We’re trying to inspire people and make it easier to take the first step and engaging in literature. We are a complementary business in that regard.”

That is how the investors see it, too. “As a concept and an investment opportunity, Blinkist offers something genuinely unique. The company presents an exciting model which is defining and spearheading a whole new category of self-development.” comments Harley Miller, Vice President at Insight Venture Partners. “We only want to work with the brightest and most ambitious teams, and we know that Blinkist and its founders share our vision for making a positive, global impact.”

You can read more about Blinkist in our interview with them here.

 


0

Italian grocery delivery service Supermercato24 picks up €13M Series B

11:00 | 20 June

Supermercato24, an Italian same-day grocery delivery service, has raised €13 million in Series B funding. Leading the round is FII Tech Growth, with participation from new investor Endeavor Catalyst, and current investors 360 Capital Partners, and Innogest.

Similar to Instacart in the U.S. and claiming to the leader in Italy, Supermercato24 lets customers order from local supermarkets for delivery. The startup uses gig economy-styled personal shoppers who go into the store and ‘pick’ the products ordered and then deliver them same-day, or for an added cost within an hour.

The company charges a delivery fee to consumers, but also generates revenue from fees charged to partnering merchants, and, notably, through advertising. Supermercato24 says it has more than 15 partnerships with merchants, and has more than 50 consumer packaged goods customers (CPGs) advertising on its platform.

“Our customers represent that increasing share of the population that would love to spend their time differently rather than doing grocery shopping,” says Supermercato24 CEO Federico Sargenti, who was previously an Amazon Executive and launched the Amazon FMCG Business in Italy and Spain.

“Going to the store, pushing a cart through the alleys, queuing up, checking out and lifting heavy grocery shopping bags from the store’s register all the way up to your apartment can take lots of energy and up to 3 hours every week. Plenty of people would prefer to do all of that in a few minutes”.

Specifically, Sargenti says that Supermercato24’s customers span “hip youngsters to elderly people, single professionals to parents and working couples,” and that more than 65 percent of customers are women. “Customers have high expectations on their groceries, because they are used to choose from a wide product range at supermarkets, with competitive prices and qualitative fresh products; plus, they expect a comfortable, convenient and same-day delivery. And that’s what we offer them,” he adds.

The company’s grocery ordering and delivery service is active in more than 23 Italian cities, and Supermercato24 says a number of cities are already profitable at contribution margin level. That said, Sargenti concedes it is still early days in terms of the switch from offline grocery shopping to online. He also says that Southern Europe has been historically limited by a lack of supply and that the way to address this is a collaboration between traditional grocery retailers and tech companies like Supermercato24, a model that he insists can scale in both big and small cities.

The Italian grocery market is particularly fragmented, too, with the top 5 retailers owning less than 40 percent of the national grocery market, apparently. This arguably makes it more ripe for a marketplace rather than traditional e-grocery delivery model. One challenge is that the majority of people in Italy don’t live in large cities or other high population density areas of the country. It is Supermercato24’s ability to scale in low density areas — or so it claims — that gives it an edge.

Meanwhile, I’m told the new funding will be used to improve operations and product both for customers and for merchants, as well as to expand the service to new markets. “In Europe, Supermercato24 is already the biggest on-demand e-grocery marketplace in terms of revenues and it’s already in discussion with current and prospect retailers to expand the service across Europe to successfully replicate Instacart’s case,” says the company, unashamedly.

 


0

Talentry scores €6M for its ‘social recruitment and marketing’ platform

11:00 | 19 June

Talentry, a startup based in Munich that has developed a “social recruitment and marketing platform,” has closed €6 million in Series A funding.

Leading the round is Nauta Capital, the pan-European VC focused on SaaS, with participation from Rocket Internet’s GFC, Allgeier SE, and number of angel investors. I also understand that GFC previously backed Talentry’s €2 million seed round.

Relatively low-key to date, Talentry offers a SaaS to enable companies to utilise their employees’ social networks to help with recruitment. The platform powers employee referral and employee advocacy programs, including the ability for employees to easily share job openings and corporate content. The premise is that, although social recruitment is as old as recruitment itself, simply having employees post job openings on various social channels alone, is no longer going to cut it.

Instead, explained Talentry CEO Carl Hoffmann on a call last week, social recruitment combined with content marketing works much more effectively. For example, employees could share a company blog post about an upcoming product, which would also include relevant job postings. The landing pages generated by Talentry are personalised, too, so that the employee who shared the content is clearly signposted and the recruitment-related content can be further adapted for their audience accordingly.

More broadly, Hoffmann says that fierce competition for talent is changing the way companies recruit. This is seeing a marketing strategy comparable to winning customers. “To do this successfully — attracting candidates, building talent pools and nurturing them long-term — companies need the right technology,” he explains.

Talentry says it serves over 150 clients across all industries, including Henkel, Swiss Post, Vodafone, Axel Springer, and Universal Music Group. Meanwhile, the new funding will be used to develop further product features, such as a more powerful CRM for tracking recruitment leads, and to grow the team. Hoffmann says the company also plans to launch in international markets, including the U.K. and U.S., adding to the German-speaking countries it currently targets.

Guillem Sagué, who led the investment at Nauta Capital, says: “At Nauta we invest in capital-efficient global disruptors in the software space, and we believe Talentry has the potential to create a new software category focused on building and nurturing relationships with talented potential candidates at scale. As this is the first investment we made in Germany from our current €155 million fund this investment is the first building block of our German operations”.

 


0

Veriff raises $7.7M Series A to become the ‘Stripe for identity’

07:00 | 19 June

Veriff, the Estonian startup that wants to become something akin to the ‘Stripe for identity’, has raised $7.7 million in Series A funding.

Leading the round is Mosaic Ventures, joining an impressive list of backers that include Taavet Hinrikus, Ashton Kutcher, Paul Buchheit, Elad Gil, SV Angel, ACE Ventures, and Superangel. Mosaic’s Simon Levene, and Hinrikus, who co-founded and is chairman of TransferWise, have joined the Veriff board.

Founded by 23 year old Kaarel Kotkas — who is now on his third startup and has garnered quite a bit of publicity in his home country — Veriff has developed a SaaS and underlying technology to make it easy for companies, such as banks and fintechs, to easily verify a person’s identity online. In fact, Kotkas previously spent some time at TransferWise, where he solidified the idea, before founding the startup and going through Silicon Valley’s Y Combinator as part of its W18 batch.

Offered as a developer-friendly API — hence the Stripe comparison — Veriff says its solution can be implemented “in minutes”. It costs €49 per month, plus €2 per verification.

The aim, says Kotkas, is to make premium identity verification available to smaller companies and not just large corporations that can easily absorb high integration costs of incumbent offerings. However, what really sets Veriff apart from a number of competitors is its use of live video to verify you are who you say you are.

“Veriff has created an online identity verification service that is more secure than physical face to face verification and now we’re making it available to everyone,” he tells me. “We’re the first ones that understood that pictures never do them justice. It’s all about building up trust online and our service uses a unique video based approach to make sure the verification is done in real-time and voluntarily by the right person”.

Off the record, Kotkas divulged some of Veriff’s “secret sauce,” which — understandably — he wants to keep secret. The startup uses hundreds of data points collected through analysing the live video feed, including frame by frame, and from a user’s device and network. It then uses machine learning to sift through this data and, individually and in aggregate, spot patterns and anomalies that might otherwise be missed by a human.

“We know that pictures never do the justice so instead of analysing only pictures we record everything as a video and analyse frames from the video. Our fraud prevention has been built up combining device information, user behaviour, document validation & face comparison,” he says.

As a result of its video-based approach, Kotkas claims that Veriff has the highest conversion rate on the market, without compromising security. “We’ve created an online verification flow that is all about building up trust, so honest users can go through the flow conveniently, but fraudsters will drop”.

To that end, Kotkas says Veriff remains at least two steps ahead of fraudsters. Then, after an uncomfortably long pause and following prodding from me, he attempts to explain how the startup comes up with new techniques and tests them in the wild, again without disclosing too much information. “It’s a good question but a hard one to answer!” he says knowingly.

Meanwhile, Veriff says it has over 40 paying customers globally. They include financial enterprises, marketplaces, sharing economy companies and e-commerce sites. The company has its development and customer service team based in Tallinn, Estonia, and will soon move sales and marketing operations to the U.S.

 


0

Prisma co-founders raise $1M to build a social app called Capture

21:00 | 18 June

Two of the co-founders of the art filter app Prisma have left to build a new social app.

Prisma, as you may recall, had a viral moment back in 2016 when selfie takers went crazy for the fine art spin the app’s AI put on photos — in just a few seconds of processing.

Downloads leapt, art selfies flooded Instagram, and similar arty effects soon found their way into all sorts of rival apps and platforms. Then, after dipping a toe into social waters with the launch of a feed of its own, the company shifted focus to b2b developer tools — and we understand it’s since become profitable.

But two of Prisma’s co-founders, Aleksey Moiseyenkov and Aram Hardy, got itchy feet when they had an idea for another app business. And they’ve both now left to set up a new startup, called Capture Technologies.

The plan is to launch the app — which will be called Capture — in Q4, with a beta planned for September or October, according to Hardy (who’s taking the CMO role).

They’ve also raised a $1M seed for Capture, led by US VC firm General Catalyst . Also investing are KPCB, Social Capital, Dream Machine VC (the seed fund of former TechCrunch co-editor, Alexia Bonatsos), Paul Heydon, and Russian Internet giant, Mail.Ru Group.

Josh Elman from Greylock Partners is also involved as an advisor.

Hardy says they had the luxury of being able to choose their seed investors, after getting a warmer reception for Capture than they’d perhaps expected — thinking it might be tough to raise funding for a new social app given how that very crowded space has also been monopolized by a handful of major platforms… (hi Facebook, hey Snap!)

But they also believe they’ve identified overlooked territory — where they can offer something fresh to help people interact with others in real-time.

They’re not disclosing further details about the idea or how the Capture app will work at this stage, as they’re busy building and Hardy says certain elements could change and evolve before launch day.

What they will say is that the app will involve AI, and will put the emphasis for social interactions squarely on the smartphone camera.

Speed will also be a vital ingredient, as it was with Prisma — literally fueling the app’s virality. “We see a huge move to everything which is happening right now, which is really real-time,” Hardy tells TechCrunch. “Even when we started Prisma there were lots of similar products which were just processing one photo for five, ten, 15 minutes, and people were not using it because it takes time.

“People want everything right now. Right here. So this is a trend which is taking place right now. People just want everything right now, right here. So we’re trying to give it to them.”

“Our team’s mission is to bring an absolutely new and unique experience to how people interact with each other. We would like to come up with something unique and really fresh,” adds Moiseyenkov, Capture’s CEO (pictured above left, with Hardy).

“We see a huge potential in new social apps despite the fact that there are too many huge players.”

Having heard the full Capture pitch from Hardy I can say it certainly seems like an intriguing idea. Though how exactly they go about selectively introducing the concept will be key to building the momentum needed to power their big vision for the app. But really that’s true of any social product.

Their idea has also hooked a strong line up of seed investors, doubtless helped by the pair’s prior success with Prisma. (If there’s one thing investors love more than a timely, interesting idea, it’s a team with pedigree — and these two certainly have that.)

“I’m happy to have such an amazing and experienced team,” adds Moiseyenkov, repaying the compliment to Capture’s investors.

“Your first investors are your team. You have to ask lots of questions like you do when you decide whether this or that person is a perfect fit for your team. Because investors and the team are those people with whom you’re going to build a great product. At the same time, investors ask lots of questions to you.”

Capture’s investors were evidently pleased enough with the answers their questions elicited to cut Capture its founding checks. And the startup’s team is already ten-strong — and hard at work to get a beta launched in fall.

The business is based in the US and Europe, with one office in Moscow, where Hardy says they’ve managed to poach some relevant tech talent from Russian social media giant vk.com; and another slated to be opening in a couple of weeks time, on Snap’s home turf of LA. 

“We’ll be their neighbors in Venice beach,” he confirms, though he stresses there will still be clear blue water between the two companies’ respective social apps, adding: “Snapchat is really a different product.”

 


0

Oval Money app launches its investment products for millennials

19:57 | 18 June

Back in April Oval Money launched with the idea of combining expense tracking, saving, and investing into one app, while also adding a social element by enabling its community of users to share tips and suggestions to one another. The idea is to to help users grow their savings in less time by teaching them to monitor spending habits and make saving virtually automatic. The company has raised €1.2M in funding, largely from Italian investors.

The startup is to now launch a raft of investment products for socially-conscious savers.

Beginning with three funds – supporting gender diversity in boardrooms, flexible working and the brands that millennials trust – the investments marketplace will be available to customers in the smartphone app this summer.

The “Women at the Table” fund will allow investors to support companies that ensure that at least 20% of board members are women, while a “Belong but Work Remote” fund promotes the growing flexible jobs economy.

“Generation Millennials” will track the leading consumer brands that millennials are into most.

The three are the first of 20 cause-themed products to be released in the marketplace.

Oval co-founder Benedetta Arese Lucini said: “Young people want to invest in the causes they care about. We’ve been listening to millennials for a long time, and these products will mean not only can we help people start to save towards their futures, but we can provide them with the opportunity to invest in companies which are really making a difference in the world.”

Oval Money uses machine learning to review the individual spending habits of its users, and adjusts saving automatically.

A beta-test of the marketplace begins today. By updating the app, Ovalers will be able to go through an initial set of questions about what type of investor they are and will be encouraged to share with friends. The users that share the most will get a privileged access to the beta

The firm will also launch opportunities to invest in cryptocurrency, insurance and other alternative finance products over the rest of the year.

Also today, it has launched its product to 20,000 tobacconists across Italy via Intesa SanPaolo Group’s bank Banca 5, reaching a so-far-unserved demographic of immigrants and young people. Banca 5, which already provides a physical banking experience through tobacconists, will now be able to offer consumers new, online services through Oval Money’s app.

 


0

WearableX’s ‘smart’ new Yoga pant is aimed at the guys

15:20 | 18 June

A lot has been said about the coming future of wearables, but, it turned out, not a heck of a lot took off. It seemed most of us were happy with ‘wearing’ a smartwatch and leaving it at that. In fact, Apple’s recent announcements around the iWatch show that ‘wearables’ are not really about just wearing something with electronics embedded, but really about health.

Now, we know that the home fitness market and wellness market is not going anywhere. And yet we still have an obesity issue in the world. What if what we wore could help us with that, while we exercise?

That’s the idea behind Wearable X, the New York-based startup which launched last year with the “Nadi X”. This is a collection of smart yoga apparel with woven-in technology. They claim this can identify the various yoga poses and provide users with real-time feedback via gentle vibrations. Nadi X comes with a companion iPhone app and device, called The Pulse. The Pulse is where the battery and Bluetooth module clips behind the upper left knee so as not to interfere with your yoga practice.

The company is now launching a Kickstarter campaign for four new designs, including a menswear line and redesigned user-friendly app with enhanced features.

Founder & CEO Billie Whitehouse says: “With Nadi X you not only have convenience but haptics increase reaction time and make you feel more accountable not only through the instant reaction but also through the progress tracking. Our data is more sophisticated than most because we have 5 data points. Most only have one. Single data is what I call ‘dirty data’. It’s just not a thorough look at the true movements that are taking place.”

The new features include progress tracking, customizable playlist “yoga flows” whereby the user can create a truly personalized practice and yoga practice incentives. It’s notable that last year yoga pants outsold denim worldwide.

 


0

Blockchain startups woo Enterprises with a private chain audit trail

14:55 | 18 June

By placing all the information about services or complex manufacturing and assembly processes on a private, permissioned blockchain, the idea is that a company can create an “immutable” audit trail of data. When you think about it, currently this involves a labor-intensive combination of paper and networks. But initial trials with private blockchains in the last couple of years have shown there is potential to reduce the identification process of a data trail from several days to minutes.

Indications that this is becoming a hot issue amongst startups arrives today in two pieces of news.

Firstly, London-based “Gospel”(yes, that really is their name…) has raised £1.4m in seed funding from investors led by European-focused LocalGlobe.

The blockchain startup says it has been working with an unnamed “aerospace and defence manufacturer” to develop a proof of concept to improve record keeping for its supply chain. What’s the betting it’s British Aerospace? They aren’t saying.

At any rate, Gospel says it has developed a way of securely distributing data across decentralised infrastructures, offering companies the potential to automate records for complex products that usually require significant manual management. The idea is that is shares only the information it needs to, securely, with other partners in its supply chain, potentially leading to improved efficiency and lower costs of information recall.

Founded in December 2016 by entrepreneur Ian Smith, Gospel uses a private blockchain that requires users to set up a network of “nodes” within their ecosystem. Each party controls their own node and all the nodes must agree before any transaction can be processed and put on the blockchain. The node network acts as a consensus and provides a mechanism of trust.

Smith says: “For manufacturers and other businesses dealing with critical data there is a problem of trust in data systems, particularly when there is a need to share that data outside the organization. With Gospel technology we can provide an immutable record store so that trust can be fully automated between systems of forward-thinking businesses.”

Prior to this seed round, Gospel was backed by a number of angel investors including Gumtree co-founder Michael Pennington and Vivek Kundra, the Chief Information Officer for the US Government during Barack Obama’s administration.

Secondly, Russia-based startup Waves, which has issued its own cryptocurrency, is getting into the space with the launch of Vostok, a universal blockchain solution for scalable digital infrastructure.

The idea is that public institutions and large enterprises can use the platform to enhance security, data storage, transparency and stability of their systems.

Vostok, which is named after the craft that carried Yuri Gagarin into space, claims to be significantly faster and cheaper than existing blockchain solutions, claiming 10,000 transactions per second (TPS) at only $0.000001 per a transaction. This is compared to Bitcoin which has transactional processing capacity of 3-6TPS and costs $0.951 per transaction. Vostok also uses a closed operational node set and Proof-of-Stake.

Sasha Ivanov, CEO and Founder of Vostok and Waves Platform, said: “Vostok is a multi- purpose solution, quite simple, but at the same time non-trivial. It will allow any large organisation to gain the benefits of blockchain without having to create new systems from scratch or retrain their staff.”

 


0
<< Back Forward >>
Topics from 1 to 10 | in all: 1875

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