Dutch court finds Uber drivers are employees

Uber has lost another legal challenge in Europe over the employment status of drivers: The Court of Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, has ruled that drivers for Uber are employed, rather than self employed contractors.

The court also found drivers are covered by an existing collective labor agreement in the country — which pertains to taxi drivers — meaning Uber faces increased costs to comply with the agreement which sets pay requirements and covers benefits like sick pay. (And it may be liable for paying driver back pay in some cases.)

The court also ordered Uber to pay €50,000 in costs.

The ride hailing giant has some 4,000 drivers working on its platform in the Dutch capital.

The Amsterdam court rejected Uber’s customary defence that it’s just a technology platform that connects passengers with taxi service providers — finding instead that drivers are only self employed ‘on paper’.

The judges highlighted the nature of the service being provided by drivers and the fact Uber exerts controls over how they can work and earn through its app and algorithms.

Europe’s top court already ruled back in 2017 that Uber is a transport provider and must comply with local transport laws — so you’d be forgiven for deja vu.

The Dutch lawsuit was filed by the national trade union center, FNV, last year — with the hearing kicking off at the end of June.

In a statement today, the FNV’s VP, Zakaria Boufangacha, said: “This statement shows what we have been saying for years: Uber is an employer and the drivers are employees, so Uber must adhere to the collective labor agreement for Taxi Transport. It is also a signal to The Hague that these types of constructions are illegal and that the law must therefore be enforced.”

Uber has been contacted for a response to the ruling.

At the time of writing the company had not responded — but, per Reuters, Uber said it intends to appeal and “has no plans to employ drivers in the Netherlands”.

In the UK, Uber lost a string of tribunal rulings over its employment classification over a number of years — going on to lose in front of the UK supreme court this February.

Following that Uber said it would treat drivers in the UK as workers, although disputes remain (such as over its definition of working time). In May, Uber also said it would recognize a UK trade union for the first time.

Elsewhere in Europe, however, the company continues to fight employment lawsuits — and to lobby European Union lawmakers to deregulate platform work…

The EU has said it wants to find a way to improve platform work. However it’s not yet clear what any pan-EU ‘reform’ may look like. 

The Commission has been contacted with questions on its platform work initiative.

“Digital labour platforms are clearly worried, evident through investing heavily on their lobbying power and throwing more resources on the EU level. These companies — including Uber of course — have also recently come together to create a new funding lobby group that specifically targeting to influence policies on platform work,” said Jill Toh, a PhD researcher in data rights at the University of Amsterdam, talking to TechCrunch after the Amsterdam ruling.

“We saw how Uber wielded and amended laws in their Prop 22 campaign in California, and together with other companies in Europe, they’re attempting to do so again. It’s disheartening to see that the Commission in its two consultations on platform worker regulation has only been talking to tech companies and has held no meetings with trade unions or other platform work representatives.”

“All of this is incredibly problematic and concerning especially if the EC consultations result in a directive on platform work. Overall, the wins in the courts are important for workers, but there remains the issue of corporate power and influence in Brussels, as well as the lack of public enforcement to these court decisions,” she added.

#amsterdam, #ec, #europe, #european-union, #gig-economy, #labor, #netherlands, #platform-worker-rights, #tc, #transportation, #uber

Dutch startup hub Utrecht emerges from Amsterdam’s shadow

While Amsterdam garners the lion’s share of attention in the Netherlands tech ecosystem, the not-so-far-away region around Utrecht has its fair share of tech startups and investors, as is evidenced by our latest survey of locals, below.

Area ecosystem wranglers such as StartupUtrecht, UtrechtInc, Holland Startup, Utrecht Community and others bring startups, scaleups, corporates, angels, VCs, local government, banks and universities together to build the local startup ecosystem. They also benefit from the formidable Netherlands tech advocate initiative StartupDelta and The Netherlands Enterprise Agency, which promote the Netherlands more widely.

Utrecht is the fourth-largest city in the Netherlands, with 350,000 inhabitants. Its offices and co-working spaces include Dotslash Utrecht, De Stadstuin, MindSpace and Tribes; as well as accelerator programs like Startupbootcamp and Techleap.

Notable startups from the region include Distimo (acquired by AppAnnie), unicorn GitLab, MoneyMonk and StuComm. Plus there are newer ones such as SnappCar, Blendle, Merus, Nibblr, United Wardrobe, Näpp, Lalaland, 2DAYSMOOD and Remind2Change.

Our survey respondents think the ecosystem is strong in sustainable energy, medtech, food tech, life sciences, marketplaces, deep tech, gaming and media. However, they seem to think it’s weaker in design, hardware, fintech, robotics and agritech.

Notable startups named by our respondents include Channable, Pepscope, Goin’ Connect, Fundsup, Tover, Faqta, Sensorfact, SODAQ, Picnic, Neurolytics, De Clique, Solease, BikeFlip, Packaly, DiManEx, Trunkrs, DialogueTrainer, EatMyRide, CART-Tech, Prolira, among many, many others. It just goes to show the region has a strong and growing ecosystem.

The investment scene is described variously as focusing on software, clean tech, life sciences, biotech, organoids, 3D bioprinting, AI and VR/AR. One says: “In Amsterdam it’s ok. Utrecht is a bit lagging.” Another said, “The investor scene focuses on early-stage, scalable tech in healthcare, sustainability and education. [There are] many local informal investors and nationally operating VCs.”

With the shift to remote working, many respondents think people will “preferably move out of the city center toward the villages nearby” as there is “a lot of nature/space around.” That said, Utrecht is “a growing hub” and many will “stay in the city. But fewer people will move in, and remote working is there to stay.” It’s also easy to work remotely in the Netherlands given its proximity to other big European cities, so it may attract new digital nomads, “thanks to the central position of Utrecht in the middle of the country and the attractiveness of the ecosystem.”

We surveyed:


Jorg Kop, investment manager, ROM Utrecht Region

What industry sectors is your tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What is it weak in?
Digital, gaming, e-health, edtech, sustainability.

Which are the most interesting startups in your city?
Channable, Pandora Intelligence, Sensorfact, SnappCar, Faqta, StuComm, DiManEx, Prolira, CART-Tech.

What are the tech investors like? What is the investment scene like in your city? What’s their focus?
Many local informal investors and national operating VCs.

With the shift to remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic, will people stay in your city, move out, or will others move in?
Others will be moving in, thanks to the central position of Utrecht in the middle of the country and the attractiveness of the ecosystem.

Who are the key startup people in your city (e.g., investors, founders, lawyers, designers, etc.)? 
Sjoerd Mol (Benvalor), Erik Stam (Utrecht University), Robbert-Jan Hanse (Holland Startup), Heerd Jan Hoogeveen (Startup Utrecht), Jorg Kop (UtrechtInc and ROM), Edgard Creemers (ROM).

Where do you see your city’s tech scene in five years’ time?
Part of the greater Amsterdam region from an international brand perspective, closely working together with all other key startup regions in NL.

Stefan Braam, incubation lead, UtrechtInc

What industry sectors is your tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What is it weak in?
Strong: AI, health, sustainability and learning. Weak: robotics, engineering, ag.

Which are the most interesting startups in your city?
Solease, SnappCar, BikeFlip, Packaly, Sensorfact, DiManEx, Näpp, Trunkrs, StuComm, Faqta, DialogueTrainer, EatMyRide, CART-Tech, Prolira, MRIguidance, Redgrasp, SyncVR, DigiDok, Learned.io, 2DAYSMOOD, Hooray and Goin’ Connect.

What are the tech investors like? What is the investment scene like in your city? What’s their focus?
Good access to funding. Investor scene focuses on early-stage, scalable tech in healthcare, sustainability and education.

With the shift to remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic, will people stay in your city, move out, or will others move in?
We see an increase in startups coming to the city, due to livability in the lovely city and the facilities for flex working.

Who are the key startup people in your city (e.g., investors, founders, lawyers, designers, etc.)? 
Jorg Kop (director of UtrechtInc startup incubator), Heerd Jan Hoogeveen (director of StartupUtrecht), Arjan Van Den Born (director, ROM Utrecht).

Where do you see your city’s tech scene in five years’ time?
Growing fast, in top five in Europe in five years.

Irene Van de Poll, investment manager, ROM Utrecht Region

What industry sectors is your tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What is it weak in?
The Utrecht region is strong in life sciences, medtech, software (smart services), gaming and media.

Which are the most interesting startups in your city?
Channable, Faqta, Sensorfact, SODAQ, Picnic, Neurolytics, De Clique.

What are the tech investors like? What is the investment scene like in your city? What’s their focus?
A lot of focus is on life sciences, biotech, as there is a lot of research at the Utrecht science park and also spin-offs. At the science park, organoids, 3D bioprinting, organ on a chip, medtech are areas of interest. Also a number of the VCs in the area are health focused. IT/software/data/AI and VR/AR are also important focus areas for investors.

With the shift to remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic, will people stay in your city, move out, or will others move in?
I think they will stay as Utrecht is very centrally located in the Netherlands and Europe. It’s easy to work remotely in the Netherlands, internet speed is no problem.

Who are the key startup people in your city (e.g., investors, founders, lawyers, designers, etc.)? 
Jorg Kop, director of UtrechtInc; Bas van Abel, founder De Clique and Fairphone; Michiel Muller, CEO Picnic; Robbert Jan Hanse, founder Holland Startup; and Heerd Jan Hoogeveen, director StartupUtrecht.

Where do you see your city’s tech scene in five years’ time?
More startups that have evolved into successful scaleups. More money invested in general in innovative new companies. International talent sees Utrecht as the place to be beside Amsterdam. At the forefront of green and sustainable solutions.

Arthur Tolsma, co-founder and CEO, Codean

What industry sectors is your tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What is it weak in?
Strong: tech development in general, specifically software, clean tech, marketplace, deep tech. Less in large scale commercialization.

Which are the most interesting startups in your city?
Channable, Tover.

What are the tech investors like? What is the investment scene like in your city? What’s their focus?
Focus on software and clean tech.

With the shift to remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic, will people stay in your city, move out, or will others move in?
Stay in the city. But less people will move in, and remote working is there to stay.

Who are the key startup people in your city (e.g., investors, founders, lawyers, designers, etc.)? 
UtrechtInc.

Where do you see your city’s tech scene in five years’ time?
Improving step by step.

Paul Mignot, founder and CEO, Withthegrid

What industry sectors is your tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What is it weak in?
Clean tech.

Which are the most interesting startups in your city?
iwell.

What are the tech investors like? What is the investment scene like in your city? What’s their focus?
Clean tech focus. Growing in momentum.

With the shift to remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic, will people stay in your city, move out, or will others move in?
Move in.

Where do you see your city’s tech scene in five years’ time?
Grown significantly. Amsterdam is pricing itself out and becoming too expensive to live in.

Marcel Merkx, founder and CEO, CargoSnap

What industry sectors is your tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What is it weak in?
Strong universities in the marketing and medical space. We could do with a bit stronger IT education (developers!).

Which are the most interesting startups in your city?
SnappCar.

With the shift to remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic, will people stay in your city, move out, or will others move in?
Stay and move in. Utrecht is a growing hub.

Who are the key startup people in your city (e.g., investors, founders, lawyers, designers, etc.)? 
StartupUtrecht — the team.

Where do you see your city’s tech scene in five years’ time?
Well … still lagging Amsterdam, but leveraging the central place in the Netherlands (easy to get to), it will be a good runner-up in terms of attracting talent interested in joining this scene.

Jasper Voorendonk, marketer/founder, AgnostiPay

What industry sectors is your tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What is it weak in?
Health tech/edtech — most exited: the DLT/blockchain/fintech/open-source space in Utrecht.  Weak: Hardware-based startups (better in Delft/Eindhoven).

Which are the most interesting startups in your city?
GitLab, Channable, Pepscope, Goin’ Connect, Fundsup.

What are the tech investors like? What is the investment scene like in your city? What’s their focus?
Focus on health tech.

With the shift to remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic, will people stay in your city, move out, or will others move in?
Stay: a lot of nature/space around.

Who are the key startup people in your city (e.g., investors, founders, lawyers, designers, etc.)? 
Jorg Kop, Stefan Braam, Jasper Voorendonk.

Where do you see your city’s tech scene in five years’ time?
Utrecht, as the Dutch vibrant hub for early-stage, highly scalable tech startups.

Menno Vergeer, co-founder and CEO, Redgrasp

What industry sectors is your tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What is it weak in?
Strong in life sciences.

Which are the most interesting startups in your city?
Channable, Redgrasp, Trunkrs.

With the shift to remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic, will people stay in your city, move out, or will others move in?
People will preferably move out of the city center toward the villages nearby (all within a range of 10-20 km).

Where do you see your city’s tech scene in five years’ time?
It will grow at a rate similar to the global tech scene.

Roelof Reineman, entrepreneur

What industry sectors is your tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What is it weak in?
Strong: IT, digital, sustainable energy, medical, food. Weaker: design, hardware, fintech.

Which are the most interesting startups in your city?
KokeRoo.

What are the tech investors like? What is the investment scene like in your city? What’s their focus?
A focus on building a better world and a profit, not just the profit.

With the shift to remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic, will people stay in your city, move out, or will others move in?
Stay. Tt is a lush, green city with plenty of room to live and breathe.

Who are the key startup people in your city (e.g., investors, founders, lawyers, designers, etc.)? 
Utrecht Inc (Jasper Voorendonk). Dotslash (Jelle Drijver). StartupUtrecht (Heerd Jan Hoogeveen).

Where do you see your city’s tech scene in five years’ time?
Thriving and still growing.

Luuk Post, partner, De Contentkalender

What industry sectors is your tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What is it weak in?

We’re strong in public affairs. We’re weak in the for-profit sector.

Which are the most interesting startups in your city?
Moveshelf.

With the shift to remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic, will people stay in your city, move out, or will others move in?
The city of Utrecht is ever-expanding; people will always move in.

Leon Brunenberg, managing partner, Arches Capital

What industry sectors is your tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What is it weak in?
SAAS, software, B2B.

What are the tech investors like? What is the investment scene like in your city? What’s their focus?
In Amsterdam it’s ok. Utrecht is a bit lagging.

With the shift to remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic, will people stay in your city, move out, or will others move in?
Stay.

Where do you see your city’s tech scene in five years’ time?
In Holland, second after Amsterdam.

Erik Stam, co-founder, Stichting Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Observatory

What industry sectors is your tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What is it weak in?
Strong: health, edtech, IT.

Which are the most interesting startups in your city?
Channable, Tover, De Clique, Bittiq, Neurolytics.

What are the tech investors like? What is the investment scene like in your city? What’s their focus?
IT, health, edtech, travel.

With the shift to remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic, will people stay in your city, move out, or will others move in?
Stay.

Who are the key startup people in your city (e.g., investors, founders, lawyers, designers, etc.)? 
Jorg Kop, Heerd Jan Hoogeveen, Robbert Jan Hanse.

Where do you see your city’s tech scene in five years’ time?
Expanding.

#agnostipay, #amsterdam, #arches-capital, #arthur-tolsma, #cargosnap, #codean, #de-contentkalender, #ec-investor-survey, #erik-stam, #europe, #irene-van-de-poll, #jasper-voorendonk, #jorg-kop, #leon-brunenberg, #luuk-post, #marcel-merkx, #menno-vergeer, #netherlands, #paul-mignot, #redgrasp, #roelof-reineman, #rom-utrecht-region, #startups, #stefan-braam, #stichting-entrepreneurial-ecosystem-observatory, #tc, #utrecht, #utrechtinc, #withthegrid

Dutch court will hear another Facebook privacy lawsuit

Privacy litigation that’s being brought against Facebook by two not-for-profits in the Netherlands can go ahead, an Amsterdam court has ruled. The case will be heard in October.

Since 2019, the Amsterdam-based Data Privacy Foundation (DPS) has been seeking to bring a case against Facebook over its rampant collection of Internet users’ data — arguing the company does not have a proper legal basis for the processing.

It has been joined in the action by the Dutch consumer protection not-for-profit, Consumentenbond.

The pair are seeking redress for Facebook users in the Netherlands for alleged violations of their privacy rights — both by suing for compensation for individuals; and calling for Facebook to end the privacy-hostile practices.

European Union law allows for collective redress across a number of areas, including data protection rights, enabling qualified entities to bring representative actions on behalf of rights holders. And the provision looks like an increasingly important tool for furthering privacy enforcement in the bloc, given how European data protection regulators’ have continued to lack uniform vigor in upholding rights set out in legislation such as the General Data Protection Regulation (which, despite coming into application in 2018, has yet to be seriously applied against platform giants like Facebook).

Returning to the Dutch litigation, Facebook denies any abuse and claims it respects user privacy and provides people with “meaningful control” over how their data gets exploited.

But it has fought the litigation by seeking to block it on procedural grounds — arguing for the suit to be tossed by claiming the DPS does not fit the criteria for bringing a privacy claim on behalf of others and that the Amsterdam court has no jurisdiction as its European business is subject to Irish, rather than Dutch, law.

However the Amsterdam District Court rejected its arguments, clearing the way for the litigation to proceed.

Contacted for comment on the ruling, a Facebook spokesperson told us:

“We are currently reviewing the Court’s decision. The ruling was about the procedural part of the case, not a finding on the merits of the action, and we will continue to defend our position in court. We care about our users in the Netherlands and protecting their privacy is important to us. We build products to help people connect with people and content they care about while honoring their privacy choices. Users have meaningful control over the data that they share on Facebook and we provide transparency around how their data is used. We also offer people tools to access, download, and delete their information and we are committed to the principles of GDPR.”

In a statement today, the Consumentenbond‘s director, Sandra Molenaar, described the ruling as “a big boost for the more than 10 million victims” of Facebook’s practices in the country.

“Facebook has tried to throw up all kinds of legal hurdles and to delay this case as much as possible but fortunately the company has not succeeded. Now we can really get to work and ensure that consumers get what they are entitled to,” she added in the written remarks (translated from Dutch with Google Translate).

In another supporting statement, Dick Bouma, chairman of DPS, added: “This is a nice and important first step for the court. The ruling shows that it pays to take a collective stand against tech giants that violate privacy rights.”

The two not-for-profits are urging Facebook users in the Netherlands to sign up to be part of the representative action (and potentially receive compensation) — saying more than 185,000 people have registered so far.

The suit argues that Facebook users are ‘paying’ for the ‘free’ service with their data — contending the tech giant does not have a valid legal basis to process people’s information because it has not provided users with comprehensive information about the data it is gathering from and on them, nor what it does with it.

So — in essence — the argument is that Facebook’s tracking and targeting is in breach of EU privacy law.

The legal challenge follows an earlier investigation (back in 2014) of Facebook’s business by the Dutch data protection authority which identified problems with its privacy policy and — in a 2017 report — found the company to be processing users’ data without their knowledge or consent.

However, since 2018, Europe’s GDPR has been in application and a ‘one-stop-shop’ mechanism baked into the regulation — to streamline the handling of cross-border cases — has meant complaints against Facebook have been funnelled through Ireland’s Data Protection Commission. The Irish DPC has yet to issue a single decision against Facebook despite receiving scores of complaints. (And it’s notable that  ‘forced consent‘ complaints were filed against Facebook the day GDPR begun being applied — yet still remain undecided by Ireland.)

The GDPR’s enforcement bottleneck makes collective redress actions, such as this one in the Netherlands a potentially important route for Europeans to get rights relief against powerful platforms which seek to shrink the risk of regulatory enforcement via forum shopping.

Although national rules — and courts’ interpretations of them — can vary. So the chance of litigation succeeding is not uniform.

In this case, the Amsterdam court allowed the suit to proceed on the grounds that the Facebook data subjects in question reside in the Netherlands.

It also took the view that a local Facebook corporate entity in the Netherlands is an establishment of Facebook Ireland, among other reasons for rejecting Facebook’s arguments.

How Facebook will seek to press a case against the substance of the Dutch privacy litigation remains to be seen. It may well have other procedural strategies up its sleeve.

The tech giant has used similar stalling tactics against far longer-running privacy litigation in Austria, for example.

In that case, brought by privacy campaigner Max Schrems and his not-for-profit noyb, Facebook has sought to claim that the GDPR’s consent requirements do not apply to its advertising business because it now includes “personalized advertising” in its T&Cs — and therefore has a ‘duty’ to provide privacy-hostile ads to users — seeking to bypass the GDPR by claiming it must process users’ data because it’s “necessary for the performance of a contract”, as noyb explains here.

A court in Vienna accepted this “GDPR consent bypass” sleight-of-hand, dealing a blow to European privacy campaigners.

But an appeal reached the Austrian Supreme Court in March — and a referral could be made to Europe’s top court.

If that happens it would then be up to the CJEU to weigh in whether such a massive loophole in the EU’s flagship data protection framework should really be allowed to stand. But that process could still take over a year or longer.

In the short term, the result is yet more delay for Europeans trying to exercise their rights against platform giants and their in-house armies of lawyers.

In a more positive development for privacy rights, a recent ruling by the CJEU bolstered the case for data protection agencies across the EU to bring actions against tech giants if they see an urgent threat to users — and believe a lead supervisor is failing to act.

That ruling could help unblock some GDPR enforcement against the most powerful tech companies at the regulatory level, potentially reducing the blockages created by bottlenecks such as Ireland.

Facebook’s EU-to-US data flows are also now facing the possibility of a suspension order in a matter of months — related to another piece of litigation brought by Schrems which hinges on the conflict between EU fundamental rights and US surveillance law.

The CJEU weighed in on that last summer with a judgement that requires regulators like Ireland to act when user data is at risk. (And Germany’s federal data protection commissioner, for instance, has warned government bodies to shut their official Facebook pages ahead of planned enforcement action at the start of next year.)

So while Facebook has been spectacularly successful at kicking Europe’s privacy rights claims down the road, for well over a decade, its strategy of legal delay tactics to shield a privacy-hostile business model could finally hit a geopolitical brick wall.

The tech giant has sought to lobby against this threat to its business by suggesting it might switch off its service in Europe if the regulator follows through on a preliminary suspension order last year.

But it has also publicly denied it would actually follow through and close service in Europe.

How might Facebook actually comply if ordered to cut off EU data flows? Schrems has argued it may need to federate its service and store European users’ data inside the EU in order to comply with the eponymous Schrems II CJEU ruling.

Albeit, Facebook has certainly shown itself adept at exploiting the gaps between Europeans’ on-paper rights, national case law and the various EU and Member State institutions involved in oversight and enforcement as a tactic to defend its commercial priorities — playing different players and pushing agendas to further its business interests. So whether any single piece of EU privacy litigation will prove to be the silver bullet that forces a reboot of its privacy-hostile business model very much remains to be seen.

A perhaps more likely scenario is that each of these cases further erodes user trust in Facebook’s services — reducing people’s appetite to use its apps and expanding opportunities for rights-respecting competitors to poach custom by offering something better. 

 

#amsterdam, #austria, #data-protection, #data-protection-commission, #digital-rights, #europe, #european-union, #facebook, #general-data-protection-regulation, #germany, #human-rights, #ireland, #lawsuit, #max-schrems, #netherlands, #noyb, #privacy, #surveillance-law, #vienna

Fintech giant Klarna raises $639M at a $45.6B valuation amid ‘massive momentum’ in the US

Just over three months after its last funding round, European fintech giant Klarna is announcing today that it has raised another $639 million at a staggering post-money valuation of $45.6 billion.

Rumors swirled in recent weeks that Klarna had raised more money at a valuation north of $40 billion. But the Swedish buy now, pay later behemoth and upstart bank declined to comment until now.

SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2 led the latest round, which also included participation from existing investors Adit Ventures, Honeycomb Asset Management and WestCap Group. The new valuation represents a 47.3% increase over Klarna’s post-money valuation of $31 billion in early March, when it raised $1 billion, and a 330% increase over its $10.6 billion valuation at the time of its $650 million raise last September. Previous backers include Sequoia Capital, SilverLake, Dragoneer and Ant Group, among others.

The latest financing cements 16-year-old Klarna’s position as the highest-valued private fintech in Europe.

In an exclusive interview with TechCrunch, Klarna CEO and founder Sebastian Siemiatkowski said the company has seen explosive growth in the U.S. and plans to use its new capital in part to continue to grow there and globally.

In particular, over the past year, the fintech has seen “massive momentum” in the country, with more than 18 million American consumers now using Klarna, he said. That’s up from 10 million at the end of last year’s third quarter, and up 118% year over year. Klara is now live with 24 of the top 100 U.S. retailers, which it says is “more than any of its competitors.”

Overall, Klarna is live in 20 markets, has more than 90 million global active users and more than 2 million transactions a day conducted on its platform. The company’s momentum can be seen in its impressive financial results. In the first quarter, Klarna notched $18.1 billion in volume compared to $9.9 billion in the prior year first quarter. In all of 2020, it processed $53 billion in volume. To put that into context; Affirm’s financial report in May projected it would process $8.04 billion in volume for the entire fiscal year of 2021 and Afterpay is projecting $16 billion in volume for its entire fiscal year. 

March 2021 also represented a record month for global shopping volume with $6.9 billion of purchases made through the Klarna platform.

Meanwhile, in 2020, Klara hit over a billion in revenue. While the company was profitable for its first 14 years of life, it has not been profitable the last two, according to Siemiatkowski, and that’s been by design.

“We’ve scaled up so massively in investments in our growth and technology, but running on a loss is very odd for us,” he told TechCrunch. “We will get back to profitability soon.”

Klarna has entered six new markets this year alone, including New Zealand and France, where it just launched this week. It is planning to expand into a number of new markets this year. The company has about 4,000 employees with several hundred in the U.S. in markets such as New York and Los Angeles. It also has offices in Stockholm, London, Manchester, Berlin, Madrid and Amsterdam. 

While Klarna is partnered with over 250,000 retailers around the world (including Macy’s, Ikea, Nike, Saks), its buy now, pay later feature is also available direct to consumers via its shopping app. This means that consumers can use Klarna’s app to pay immediately or later, as well as manage spending and view available balances. They can also do things like initiate refunds, track deliveries and get price-drop notifications.

“Our shopping browser allows users to use Klarna everywhere,” Siemiatkowski said. “No one else is offering that, and are rather limited to integrating with merchants.”

Image Credits: Klarna

Other things the company plans to do with its new capital is focus on acquisitions, particularly acqui-hires, according to Siemiatkowski. According to Crunchbase, the company has made nine known acquisitions over time — most recently picking up Los Gatos-based content creation services provider Toplooks.ai.

“We’re the market leader in this space and we want to find new partners that want to support us in this,” Siemiatkowski told TechCrunch. “That gives us better prerequisites to be successful going forward. Now we have more cash and money available to invest further in the long term.”

Klarna has long been rumored to be going public via a direct listing. Siemiatkowski said that the company in many ways already acts like a public company in that it offers stock to all its employees, and reports financials — giving the impression that the company is not in a hurry to go the public route.

“We report quarterly to national authorities and are a fully regulated bank so do all the things you expect to see from public companies such as risk control and compliance,” he told TechCrunch. “We’re reaching a point for it to be a natural evolution for the company to IPO. But we’re not preparing to IPO anytime soon.”

At the time of its last funding round, Klarna announced its GiveOne initiative to support planet health. With this round, the company is again giving 1% of the equity raised back to the planet.

Naturally, its investors are bullish on what the company is doing and its market position. Yanni Pipilis, managing partner for SoftBank Investment Advisers, said the company’s growth isfounded on a deep understanding of how the purchasing behaviors of consumers are changing,” an evolution SoftBank believes is only accelerating. 

Eric Munson, founder and CIO of Adit Ventures, said his firm believes the “best is yet to come as Klarna multiplies their addressable market through global expansion.” 

For Siemiatkowski, what Klarna is trying to achieve is to compete with the $1 trillion-plus credit card industry.

We really see right now all the signs are there. True competition is coming to this space, this decade,” he said. “This is an opportunity to genuinely disrupt the retail banking space.”

 

#amsterdam, #ant-group, #apps, #bank, #berlin, #bnpl, #buy-now-pay-later, #europe, #finance, #fintech, #france, #funding, #fundings-exits, #ikea, #klarna, #london, #los-angeles, #macys, #madrid, #manchester, #market-leader, #money, #new-york, #new-zealand, #nike, #payments, #recent-funding, #sebastian-siemiatkowski, #sequoia-capital, #softbank-investment-advisers, #softbank-vision-fund-2, #stockholm, #united-states, #venture-capital

StuDocu raises $50M as its note-sharing network for college students passes 15M users

Whether learning online or taking a class in person, every student knows all too well how important it is to have good notes from your classes as a key way to remember and apply what you’ve been taught. Now, an Amsterdam-based startup called StuDocu, which has built a big and profitable business by way of a platform to help source and share the best student-created class notes, is announcing $50 million in funding on the heels of huge growth — a sign of demand and opportunity in the space.

The Series B is coming from Partech, the French VC, and it comes as StuDocu is gaining some critical mass: the startup says it now reaches 15 million users across 2,000 universities in 60 countries. What’s notable about that scale is not just the size but the fact that it had been achieved while the company was previously largely bootstrapped: Both PitchBook and Crunchbase note only about $1.5 million raised before now, but in fact CEO Marnix Broer tells me that it had quietly raised just under $10 million before now with previous investors including Piton Capital, Peak Capital and Point Nine Capital.

A lot of the focus in edtech in the last year of Covid-19 living has been on technology that helps people learn remotely as well (or maybe even better) than they might have done in more traditional, physical environments: improved streaming experiences, better approaches for teaching via a screen, tools for managing the experience, and so on. StuDocu both fits that mold, but also, in a way, is a throwback to the more basic approach we associate with learning: sitting in a class and taking notes during the lessons.

That was the environment in which four students came together and first formed StuDocu.

In the Netherlands, where StuDocu is based, a large amount of one’s evaluation in an undergraduate class is based on how you do in the final exams, and so the notes have perhaps even more disproportionate value.

CEO Marnix Broer, along with his friends Jacques Huppes, Lucas van den Houten and Sander Kuijk, saw an opportunity while still students back in 2013 to leverage the power of the internet and crowdsourcing, to make it easier for people who were studying the same course at university to connect together online and help each other by uploading notes from their courses and exchanging them with each other — the power of many being one way of better covering your bases in the knowledge department.

(Huppes has stepped away from the company in an active role but remains an advisor, the other two are still there, Broer said.)

Initially the product was “completely free,” he said, and was organically a popular enough concept that it not only picked up users at their university in Delft, but also a number of other schools. Then, as the founders approached graduation, “we decided we needed to earn some money,” and with the concept still going strong, they turned their attention to making their tool into a business.

Through a couple of iterations, “We finally came up with trying to keep as much free as we can in a freemium model,” Broer said. In StuDocu’s case, using the data they had amassed about how much certain documents were viewed, downloaded and recommended over others, they created a top 20% of all documents, which were labelled premium, “so you either upload your own docs or pay a small subscription fee to access them.” Conversely, this also means that 80% of documents on the site are all still free.

StuDocu also built a few pieces of technology into its platform to help fight against scammers or people trying to game it: the only users who it now measures to determine what is premium content are premium users themselves, who do not get any indication of what is premium content on the site and what is not, and are more likely more serious and heavier users of StuDocu.

“We want the best quality documents to stay up and the rest to drift down the pile, so that our users only experience great notes,” he said. “But we know if a few upload garbage we haven’t lost money on it. We just gave access for free and should not have. At the end of the day, it’s a community and we believe that will ensure the quality stays high.” They also incentivise people to review documents with lottery tickets and other rewards.

And it has increasingly been adding in more ways of scanning materials to determine that what people are submitting are actual notes about the subject at hand, rather than blank documents or random unrelated writing. A recent search partnership with Algolia, Broer said, should also help with more granualar document searches, rather than simply searching by university and course to find materials.

It’s a compelling business model that helps square the issue that a lot of user-generated content sites have, which is that the vast majority are consumers rather than creators. Broer said that currently some 15% of its users pay for the service, 15% access it by uploading content, and 70% of its base are using it free and not uploading anything.

Through its gradual building up of a business from a tool that they built to help themselves, StuDocu went, Broer said, from “working in a squat“, to taking a small and cheap space with interns, to what Broer describes “a normal office.”

There are a number of other edtech companies that have identified the potential of providing platforms for students to help each other with learning. Brainly, another big one out of Europe (specifically Poland) built its concept not around notes but students helping each other answer homework questions, similar to Chegg. NexusNotes out of Australia also has built a platform aimed at amassing notes; Academia includes not just notes but also research papers; Docsity also focuses on both class notes and papers. StudySmarter also out of Europe also brings in notes but also applies AI to shape a person’s learning progress.

Perhaps the most similar and StuDocu’s biggest competitor of all is Course Hero out of the U.S., which is now valued at around $1.1 billion (a notable number here too, since StuDocu is not disclosing valuation).

“We consider ourselves the leading global player,” Broer noted, with more than 30 local languages supported across its catalog of courses and notes.

“We help millions of students and have millions of documents, but at the same time we consider ourselves a hyper-local marketplace,” he added. “Three hundred people who are on the same law course can now communicate and share knowledge with each other.”

This funding will be an interesting test of both extending that hyper-local concept to more places, but also tapping into opportunities where the help that might come could have a much bigger impact.

In the UK, for example, going down another age bracket younger than university to students of high school age (14 and up), the majority of them are studying to prepare for two sets of tests, GCSEs that you take in year 11 (aged 16/17 usually) and A-Levels you take in year 13 (18/19 years old), both based around very specific subjects and thus based on very particular curriculums that literally the whole country studies together. That is to say, even if individual schools or teachers might have different approaches or teach better or worse, at the end of the day, all the students will be taking the same examinations in their specified subjects.

This presents an interesting opportunity to a company like StuDocu, which could build a much bigger network of users as a result on an even smaller proportion of contributed, strong notes (since more of the users will all be needing the same materials). This is also a model used in other places, and Broer said StuDocu is well on its way to testing and slowly expanding in specifically these kinds of markets at the moment.

And you could argue that even if standardized tests were not a part of the equation, students will want better notes to use for other kinds of coursework, such as essay writing, or simply to help retain knowledge as they continue to learn. With some 200 million people currently in university education, there are a lot of opportunities to find variations on the premise.

There might also be possibilities down the line to work more closely also with universities to build out the course materials — also a big area considering that a lot of professors already provide notes for their lectures to students — although Broer said that for now its focus is remaining on students and their needs, since in many cases professors still do not do this.

It’s for all of these reasons that investors are there for StuDocu’s funding.

“StuDocu is a platform already helping millions of students around the world, and we’re excited to partner with this talented team in their mission to make education more accessible to all.” comments Bruno Crémel, a general partner at Partech, in a statement. “When we met the team at StuDocu, we were wildly impressed with their data-driven culture and by how much students really love using their services. We look forward to working closely with Marnix and his team as they accelerate StuDocu’s global expansion and develop even more innovative ways to support students in meeting their learning goals.”

#amsterdam, #education, #europe, #funding, #notes, #studocu, #university

The TechCrunch Survey of Dutch tech hubs: Calling Delft, Eindhoven, Rotterdam, Utrecht

TechCrunch is embarking on a major new project to survey European founders and investors in cities outside the larger European capitals.

Over the next few weeks, we will ask entrepreneurs in these cities to talk about their ecosystems, in their own words.

This is your chance to put Delft, Eindhoven, Rotterdam, Utrecht on the Techcrunch Map!. We covered Amsterdam here.

If you are a tech startup founder or investor in one of these cities please fill out the survey form here.

We are particularly interested in hearing from women founders and investors.

This is the follow-up to the huge survey of investors (see also below) we’ve done over the last six or more months, largely in capital cities.

These formed part of a broader series of surveys we’re doing regularly for ExtraCrunch, our subscription service that unpacks key issues for startups and investors.

In the first wave of surveys, the cities we wrote about were largely capitals. You can see them listed here.

This time, we will be surveying founders and investors in Europe’s other cities to capture how European hubs are growing, from the perspective of the people on the ground.

We’d like to know how your city’s startup scene is evolving, how the tech sector is being impacted by COVID-19, and generally how your city will evolve.

We leave submissions mostly unedited and are generally looking for at least one or two paragraphs in answers to the questions.

So if you are a tech startup founder or investor in one of these cities please fill out our survey form here.

Thank you for participating. If you have questions you can email mike@techcrunch.com and/or reply on Twitter to @mikebutcher.

#amsterdam, #business, #companies, #economy, #europe, #startup-company, #tc, #techcrunch, #verizon-media

Bux, a European Robinhood, raises $80M to expand its neo-broker platform

A new wave of apps have democratized the concept of investing, bringing the concept of trading stocks and currencies to a wider pool of users who can use these platforms to make incremental, or much larger, bets in the hopes of growing their money at a time when interest rates are low. In the latest development, Bux — a startup form Amsterdam that lets people invest in shares and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) without paying commissions (its pricing is based on flat €1 fees for certain services, no fees for others) — has picked up some investment of its own, a $80 million round that it.

Alongside this, the company is announcing a new CEO. Founder Nick Bortot is stepping away and Yorick Naeff, an early employee of the company who had been the COO, is taking over. Bortot will remain a shareholder and involved with the company, which will be using to expand its geographical footprint and expand its tech platform and services to users, said Naeff in an interview.

“Since we started, Bux has been trying to make investments affordable and intuitive, and that will still be the case,” he said. The average age of a Bux customer is 30, so while affordable and intuitive are definitely priorities to capture younger users, it also means that if Bux can earn their loyalty and show positive returns, they have the potential to keep them for a long time to come.

The funding is coming from an interesting group of investors. Jointly led by Prosus Ventures and Tencent (in which Prosus, the tech division of Naspers, is a major investor), it also included ABN Amro Ventures, Citius, Optiver, and Endeit Capital — all new investors — as well as previous backers HV Capital and Velocity Capital Fintech Ventures.

Naeff said in an interview that Bux isn’t disclosing its valuation with this round. But for some context, he confirmed that the startup has around 500,000 customers across the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, France and Belgium, using not just its main Bux Zero app, but also Bux Crypto and Bux X (a contracts for difference (CFDs) app).

Crypto remains a niche but extremely active part of the wider investment market and Naeff described Bux Crypo — formed out of Bux acquiring Blockport last year — as “very profitable.” The company had only raised about $35 million before this round, and it’s been around since 2014, so while he wouldn’t comment on wider profitability, you can draw some conclusions from that.

For some further valuation context, another big player in trading in Europe, eToro, in March announced it was going public by way of a SPAC valuing it at $10 billion. (Note: eToro is significantly bigger, adding 5 million users last year alone.)

Others in the wider competitive landscape include Robinhood out of the US, which had plans but appeared to have stalled in its entry into Europe; Trade Republic out of Germany, which raised $67 million a year ago from the likes of Accel and Founders Fund; and Revolut, which has been running a trading app for some time.

The opportunity that Bux is targeting is a very simple one: technology, and specifically innovations in banking and apps, have opened the door to making it significantly easier for the average consumer to engage in a new set of financial services.

At the same time, some of the more traditional ways of “growing” one’s capital, by way of buying and selling property or opening savings accounts, are not as strong these days as they were in the past, with the housing market being too expensive to enter for younger people, and interest rates very low, leading those consumers to considering other options open to them. Social media is also playing a major role here, opening up conversations around investing that have been traditionally run between professionals in the industry.

“We’re looking for industries that solve big societal needs and fintech continues to be one of them,” said Sandeep Bakshi, who heads up investments for Prosus in Europe, in an interview. “Interest rates being what they are, there are no opportunities for individuals to save and that represents a massive opportunity, and we’re happy to partner and be a part of the journey.”

Although there is a wave of so-called neo-brokers in the market today, Bux’s unique selling point, Naeff said, is the company’s tech stack.

In comparison to others providing trading apps, he said Bux is the first and only one of them to have built a full-stack system of its own.

“It’s not on top of existing broker, which makes it a nimble and modular,” he said. “This is especially critical because fintech is a game of scale, but every market is completely different when you consider tax, payment systems and the ID documents that one needs in order to fill KYC requirements.”

And that is before you consider that doing business in Europe means doing business in a number of different languages.

“Our system is here to scale across Europe,” he said. “The fact that we are live in five countries, and the only neo-broker doing that, shows that this modular system is working.”

Indeed, the scaling opportunity is one of the reasons why China’s tech giant Tencent, owner of WeChat and a vast gaming empire, has come on board.

“We are excited about backing BUX as they are the leading neo-broker in Europe and have been able to build a platform that is sustainable and scalable. BUX is the only neo-broker in Europe that offers zero commission investing without being dependent on kickbacks or payments for order flow. This ensures that its interests are fully aligned with its customers. We will support BUX in its journey of pursuing consistent growth for the years to come”, said Alex Leung, Assistant GM at Tencent, Strategic Development, in a statement.

#amsterdam, #bux, #europe, #finance, #funding, #neo-broker, #netherlands, #prosus, #tencent, #trading

Pale Blue Dot aims to be Europe’s premier early-stage climate investor and has $100 million to prove it

When Hampus Jakobsson, Heidi Lindvall, and Joel Larsson, all well-known players in the European venture ecosystem, began talking about their new firm Pale Blue Dot, they began by looking at the problems with venture capital.

For the three entrepreneurs and investors, whose resumes included co-founding companies and accelerators like The Astonishing Tribe (Jakobsson) and Fast Track Malmö (Lindvall and Larsson) and working as a venture partner at BlueYard Capital (Jakobsson again), the problems were clear.

Their first thesis was that all investment funds should be impact funds, and be taking into account ways to effect positive change; their second thesis was that since all funds should be impact funds, what would be their point of differentiation — that is, where could they provide the most impact.

The three young investors hit on climate change as the core mission and ran with it.

As it was closing on €53 million ($63.3 million) last year, the firm also made its first investments in Phytoform, a London headquartered company creating new crops using computational biology and synbio; Patch, a San Francisco-based carbon-offsetting platform that finances both traditional and frontier “carbon sequestration” methods; and 20tree.ai, an Amsterdam-based startup, using machine learning and satellite data to understand trees to lower the risk of forest fires and power outages.

Now they’ve raised another €34 million and seven more investments on their path to doing between 30 and 35 deals.

These investments primarily focus on Europe and include Veat, a European vegetarian prepared meal company; Madefrom, a still-in-stealth company angling to make everyday products more sustainable; HackYourCloset, a clothing rental company leveraging fast fashion to avoid landfilling clothes; Hier, a fresh food delivery service; Cirplus, a marketplace for recycled plastics trading; and Overstory, which aims to prevent wildfires by giving utilities a view into vegetation around their assets. 

The team expects to be primarily focused on Europe, with a few opportunistic investments in the U.S., and intends to invest in companies that are looking to change systems rather than directly affect consumer behavior. For instance, a Pale Blue Dot investment likely wouldn’t include e-commerce filters for more sustainable shopping, but potentially could include investments in sustainable consumer products companies.

The size of the firm’s commitments will range up to €1 million and will look to commit to a lot of investments. That’s by design, said Jakobsson. “Climate is so many different fields that we didn’t want to do 50% of the fund in food or 50% of the fund in materials,” he said. Also, the founders know their skillsets, which are primarily helping early stage entrepreneurs scale and making the right connections to other investors that can add value.

“In every deal we’ve gotten in co-investors that add particular, amazing, value while we still try to be the shepherds and managers and sherpas,” Jakobsson said. “We’re the ones that are going to protect the founder from the hell-rain of investor opinions.”

Another point of differentiation for the firm are its limited partners. Jakobsson said they rejected capital from oil companies in favor of founders and investors from the tech community that could add value. These include Prima Materia, the investment vehicle for Spotify founder Daniel Ek; the founders of Supercell, Zendesk, TransferWise and DeliveryHero are also backing the firm. So too, is Albert Wenger, a managing partner at Union Square Ventures.

The goal, simply, is to be the best early stage climate fund in Europe.

“We want to be the European climate fund,” Lindvall said. “This is where we can make most of the difference.” 

#albert-wenger, #amsterdam, #blueyard-capital, #corporate-finance, #daniel-ek, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #finance, #food, #hampus-jakobsson, #heidi-lindvall, #investment, #joel-larsson, #london, #machine-learning, #managing-partner, #money, #oil, #pale-blue-dot, #partner, #private-equity, #san-francisco, #spotify, #supercell, #tc, #transferwise, #union-square-ventures, #united-states, #venture-capital, #zendesk

Bill Gates wants Western countries to eat “synthetic meat”; Meatable has raised $47 million to make it

In a recent interview discussing Bill Gates’ recent book “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster“, the Microsoft and Breakthrough Energy founder (and the world’s third wealthiest man) advocated for citizens of the richest countries in the world to switch to diets consisting entirely of what he called synthetic meat in an effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Gates’ call is being met by startups and public companies hailing from everywhere from Amsterdam to Tel Aviv, London to Los Angeles, and Berkeley to… um… Chicago.

Indeed, two of the best funded companies in the lab-grown meat market hail from The Netherlands, where Mosa Meat is being challenged by a newer upstart, Meatable, which just announced $47 million in new financing.

The company aims to have its first product approved by European regulators by 2023 and notching commercial sales by 2025.

Meatable has a long road ahead of it, because, as Gates acknowledged in his interview with MIT Technology Review (ed. note: I’m available for a call, too, Bill), “the people like Memphis Meats who do it at a cellular level—I don’t know that that will ever be economical.”

Beyond the economics, there’s also the open question of whether consumers will be willing to make the switch to lab grown meat. Some companies, like the San Francisco-based Just Foods and Tel Aviv’s Supermeat are already selling chicken patties and nuggets made from cultured cells at select restaurants.

These products don’t get at the full potential for cellular technology according to Daan Luining, Meatable’s chief technology officer. “We have seen the nugget and the chicken burger, but we’re working on whole muscle tissue,” Luining said.

The sheer number of entrants in the category — and the capital they’ve raised — points to the opportunity for several winners if companies can walk the tightrope balancing cost at scale and quality replacements for free range food.

“The mission of the company is to be a global leader in providing proteins for the planet. Pork and beef and regularly eaten cuts have on environmental and land management,” Luining said. “The technology that we are using allows us to go into different species. First we’re focused on the animals that have the biggest impact on climate change and planetary health.”

For Meatable right now, price remains an issue. The company is currently producing meat at roughly $10,000 per pound, but, unlike its competitors, the company said it is producing whole meat. That’s including the fat and connective tissue that makes meat… well… meat.

Now with 35 employees and new financing, the company is trying to shift from research and development into a food production company. Strategic investors like DSM, one of the largest food biotech companies in Europe should help. So should angel investors like Dr. Jeffrey Leiden, the executive chairman of Vertex Pharmaceuticals; and Dr. Rick Klausner, the former executive director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and a founder of Juno Therapeutics, GRAIL, and Mindstrong Health, after leaving Illumina where he served as chief medical officer.

Institutional investors in the company’s latest round include Google Ventures founder Bill Maris’ new fund, Section 32,  and existing investors like: BlueYard Capital, Agronomics, Humboldt, and Taavet Hinrikus. 

The company’s first commercial offering will likely be a lab-grown pork product, but with expanded facilities in Delft, the location of one of the top universities in The Netherlands, a beef product may not be far behind.

“[Meatable has] a great team and game-changing technology that can address the challenges around the global food insecurity issues our planet is facing,” said Klausner. “They have all the right ingredients to become the leading choice for sustainably and efficiently produced meat.”


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#amsterdam, #articles, #bill-gates, #bill-maris, #blueyard-capital, #cellular-agriculture, #chicago, #chief-technology-officer, #cultured-meat, #eat-just, #europe, #food-and-drink, #food-production, #founder, #google-ventures, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #illumina, #juno-therapeutics, #london, #los-angeles, #meat, #meatable, #memphis, #memphis-meats, #mit, #netherlands, #san-francisco, #tc, #tel-aviv

Court overturns Amsterdam’s three-district ban on Airbnb rentals

A ban by Amsterdam authorities on housing owners offering their properties for vacation rentals in three central districts of the popular tourist city has been overturned after a court ruled it has no basis in law.

City authorities had been responding to concerns over the impact of tourist platforms like Airbnb on quality of life for residents.

An update to the city’s website notes that, from tomorrow, it will be possible for property owners to apply for a holiday rental permit in the three neighborhoods where vacation rentals had been entirely banned from July 1 last year.

City authorities write that they are studying the court ruling and will update the page “as soon as more is known”.

Amsterdam’s authorities took the step of prohibiting vacation rentals in the Burgwallen-Oude Zijde, Burgwallen-Nieuwe Zijde and Grachtengordel-Zuid districts last summer after a consultation process found widespread support among residents for a ban.

Authorities said strong growth in tourist rentals was impacting quality of life for residents.

It has also previously introduced a permit system to control vacation rentals in other districts of the city — which limits rentals to (currently) a maximum of 30 nights per year and for a maximum of four people per rental.

A further condition of the permit states that: “Your guests [must] not cause any inconvenience.”

Following the court ruling that permit system will operate in the three central districts too.

The city’s ban on vacation rentals in the central districts was challenged by an association that represents the interests of homeowners who rent their properties through Airbnb and other platforms. They had argued that the Housing Act 2014 did not provide a legal basis for a prohibition on holiday rental. 

The Court of Amsterdam agreed, writing in its judgement that “a system of permits cannot contain a total prohibition”.

“Anyone who meets the conditions of the permit is in principle eligible for a permit. A total ban is a major infringement of the right to property and the free movement of services and will only be seen as a justified measure in very exceptional circumstances,” it further emphasized. 

However the court’s verdict leaves room for the city to amend legislation to add new conditions to the permit system which could include a ‘quality of life’ consideration (which it does not currently).

The court also suggests the possibility of a quota system with a night criterion being introduced under existing legislation, as another means of using the permit system to manage quality of life. It further suggests city authorities could enforce residential (rather than touristic) purposes for houses via a zoning plan. So there are alternative avenues for Amsterdam’s officials to explore as a policy tool to limit activity on Airbnb et al.

At the same time the court ruling underlines the challenges European cities face in trying to regulate the impacts of rental platforms on areas like housing availability (and affordability) and wider quality of life issues for residents dealing with over-tourism (not currently an issue, of course, given ongoing travel restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic).

In recent years a number of major tourist cities in Europe have expressed public frustration over vacation rental platforms — penning an open letter to the European Commission back in 2019 that called for “strong legal obligations for platforms to cooperate with us in registration-schemes and in supplying rental-data per house that is advertised on their platforms”.

“Cities must protect the public interest and eliminate the adverse effects of short term holiday rental in various ways. More nuisances, feelings of insecurity and a ‘touristification’ of their neighbourhoods is not what our residents want. Therefore (local) governments should have the possibility to introduce their own regulations depending on the local situation,” they also wrote, urging EU policymakers to support a rethink of the rules.

Since then the Commission has announced a limited data-sharing arrangement with the leading vacation rental platforms, saying it wants to encourage “balanced” development of peer-to-peer rentals.

Last year the Dutch government pressed the Commission to go further over data access to vacation rental platforms — pushing for a provision to be included in a major planned update to pan-EU rules wrapping digital services, aka the Digital Services Act (DSA).

The DSA proposal, which is now going through the EU’s co-legislative process, is broadly targeted at standardizing processes for tackling illegal goods and services — so it could have implications for vacation platforms in areas like data-sharing where it relates to illegal vacation rentals (i.e. where a property is advertised without a required permit).

 

#airbnb, #amsterdam, #digital-services-act, #eu, #europe, #lawsuit, #platform-regulation, #policy, #vacation-rentals

Amsterdam’s Crisp, an online-only supermarket, raises €30M Series B led by Target Global

Crisp, an Amsterdam-based, online-only supermarket focused on fresh produce, has raised €30 million in a Series B financing led by leading Target Global and joined by Keen Venture Partners and the co-founders of Adyen and Takeaway.com. Crisp has now raised a total of €42.5 million to date. It plans to use the money to expand in the Netherlands, and eventually across Europe.

Crisp says its USP is seasonal products sourced directly from 600+ small and high-quality producers at an affordable price in the Netherlands. Customers order through a smartphone app and deliveries are the next day within a 1-hour time slot. It also uses a 100% electric fleet serving big cities and suburbs, and its model is to have zero food waste.

The European grocery market is currently worth €2 trillion, but access to customers for high-quality, smaller producers is still tricky and blocked by incumbents. Crisp is taking advantage of consumers moving online, and wanting fresher food.

Tom Peeters, CEO and co-founder of Crisp, told my via online interview that “the differentiation on our model is that we offer quality and convenience. So, fish is super fresh fruits and produce is super fresh, etc. We basically stay away from the standard supermarket proposition that everything is always there, and you manage long shelf life. We’d rather build a very short chain sourcing directly at the source and bringing it in a very convenient way to you.”

He said it’s not a 15 minute delivery but the next day in order to ensure freshness. “The typical customer is a young family. An average order is 45 products and rather than offering all the brands, we on-boarded the long-tail of food producers in our digital marketplace, so we sourced from over 600 sources of food.”

He said: “Food in Holland is 40 billion euros, in Germany it is 200 billion. I think Europe combined it’s over two or 3 trillion. So that means basically we don’t need to spread thin over many countries in order to build a healthy business, not just healthy products, so we make money on every customer order.”

Founded in 2018, by serial entrepreneurs Tom Peeters, Michiel Roodenburg and Eric Klaassen Crisp claims to be now one of the fastest-growing supermarkets in the Netherlands, with a seven-fold in sales in 2020 and more than 85% of sales coming from repeat customers, it says.

Bao-Y van Cong, Investment Director at Target Global, headquartered in Berlin, said: “Crisp is building a world-class technology platform that is of value to both consumers and producers. The way we buy our food has not changed a lot since the 1950’s, creating inefficiencies in quality, affordability, and convenience. Crisp reflects the changing relationship that consumers today have with food: The European market for grocery shopping is starting to move online fast, super-accelerated by the pandemic. At the same time, we see a massive surge in demand for fresh and transparently sourced food.”

#adyen, #amsterdam, #berlin, #europe, #food, #food-waste, #germany, #grocery-store, #netherlands, #retailers, #shopping, #smartphone, #supermarkets, #takeaway-com, #target-global, #tc

Miami-based Ironhack raises $20 million for its coding bootcamps as demand for coders continues

Ironhack, a company offering programming bootcamps across Europe and North and South America, has raised $20 million in its latest round of funding.

The Miami-based company with locations in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Lisbon, Madrid, Mexico City, Miami, Paris and Sao Paulo said it will use the money to build out more virtual offerings to compliment the company’s campuses.

Over the next five years, 13 million jobs will be added to the tech industry in the U.S., according to Ironhack co-founder Ariel Quiñones. That’s in addition to another 20 million jobs that Quiñones expects to come from the growth of the technology sector in the EU.

Ironhack isn’t the only bootcamp to benefit from this growth. Last year, Lambda School raised $74 million for its coding education program.

Ironhack’s raised its latest round from Endeavor Catalyst, a fund that invests in entrepreneurs from emerging and underserved markets; Lumos Capital, which was formed by investors with a long history in education technology; Creas Capital, a Spanish impact investment firm; and Brighteye, a European edtech investor.

Prices for the company’s classes vary by country. In the U.S. an Ironhack bootcamp costs $12,000, while that figure is more like $3,000 for classes in Mexico City.

The company offers classes in subjects ranging from web development to UX/UI design and data analytics to cybersecurity, according to a statement. 

“We believe that practical skills training, a supportive global community and career development programs can give everyone, regardless of their education or employment history, the ability to write their stories through technology,” said Ariel Quiñones, co-founder of Ironhack.

Since its launch in 2013, the company has graduated more than 8,000 students, with a job placement rate of 89%, according to data collected as of July 2020. Companies who have employed Ironhack graudates include Capgemini, Siemens, and Santander, the company said.

 

#amsterdam, #barcelona, #berlin, #capgemini, #co-founder, #companies, #education-technology, #europe, #european-union, #ironhack, #lambda-school, #lisbon, #madrid, #mexico-city, #miami, #north-america, #paris, #santander, #sao-paulo, #siemens, #south-america, #tc, #united-states, #web-development

5 top investors in Dutch startups discuss trends, hopes and 2020 opportunities

The Netherlands’ ecosystem has been flourishing; more than $85 million was invested in regional startups in 2019 alone. The nation’s proximity to the U.K., Belgium, France and Germany makes Amsterdam a natural gateway to those markets. Long ago the savvy Dutch realized this, and built up Schiphol to become the world’s twelfth-busiest airport. Indeed, Amsterdam’s logistical and social connectedness is ranked number one in DHL’s Global Connectedness Index.

Plenty of good funding rounds, a highly skilled workforce and a strong entrepreneurial culture have given Amsterdam a booming startup ecosystem. And Brexit is helping: The Dutch are highly proficient in English and Dutch law is similar to English law, which means U.K.-based tech founders are welcomed with open arms.

In 2020, the venture industry continued to invest in startups, despite the COVID-19 crisis. According to a study by KPMG and and NL Times, startups raised $591.2 million in the third quarter, more than double the $252.4 million raised in the quarter before.

For obvious reasons, this year has seen more cash go into companies that were able to adapt to the pandemic. KPMG found that while the total amount of investment increased in the past six months, the number of overall investments decreased. New startups pulled in fewer investments, KPMG sees this trend continuing and likely leading to consolidation amongst startups in similar sectors.

According to a report by Dealroom.co and StartupAmsterdam, there are 1,661 tech companies in Amsterdam, while the city ranked fifteenth in Startup Genome’s 2019 report “Global Startup Ecosystem Report,” moving up four places since 2017. The median seed round is $500,000 (above the global average of $494,000) and a median Series A round for a startup is $2.4 million. The average salary for a software engineer is around €54,000.

Amsterdam has tech industry “schools” such as Growth Tribe, The Talent Institute and THNK for educational courses, as well as accelerators like Rockstart, Startupbootcamp and Fashion for Good. Co-working is well-catered for with TQ, Startup Village and B.Amsterdam, and workers can cycle everywhere in minutes.

While taxes are high, entrepreneurs won’t find the staggering income inequality so often seen in cities like San Francisco and New York. In Amsterdam, rich people take public transport, not private buses.

During COVID-19, the Dutch government has also announced support packages such as tax deferrals, temporary employment bridging schemes and other initiatives. It also launched a national program, TechLeap.NL, to boost the ecosystem with more international investor visibility. StartupDelta, a Dutch startup lobby group, keeps the pressure on the politicians.

The Netherlands’ most famous unicorns include Booking.com, Adyen, Virtuagym, MessageBird, Swapfiets, Backbase, Picnic and Takeaway, among several others.

Adyen launched in 2006, and in June 2018, it was listed as one of Europe’s largest tech IPOs with a value of €7 billion. Booking.com started in 1996 and was later acquired by Priceline Group (now called Booking Holdings) in 2005. Elastic, the provider of subscription-based data search software used by Dell, Netflix, The New York Times and others, was another gangbuster IPO in 2018.

For this survey, we interviewed the following Amsterdam-focused investors:

• Janneke Niessen, partner, CapitalT VC

• Stefan van Duin, partner, Borski Fund

• Nick Kalliagkopoulos, partner, Prime Ventures

• Bas Godska, founder, Acrobator Ventures

• Renaat Berckmoes, partner, Fortino

Janneke Niessen, partner, CapitalT VC

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
Digital health, education, B2B SaaS.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
Wizenoze.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
More overlooked founders than opportunities.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
A great team.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
Delivery, taxis, scooters.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
Less.

Which industries in your city and region seem well-positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
NL seems well-positioned for fintech, deep tech. I am really excited about Tracy Chou and Diane Janknegt, two incredible founders.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
Very positive. Lots of innovation, great infrastructure, good talent.
Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
I think startups have always been there, investors just don’t tend to look at them. I think the opportunity is more that they now will.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
None. We look at digital health, education and SaaS and they all thrive in this climate. Of course an economic crisis will have an impact on spending in general.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
It has confirmed our approach. We have a data-driven approach to teams, which is great when people cannot meet.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
We invest so early that companies are growing regardless.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
When I explained to my little boy what racism is and he answered: Mummy that is just really weird. That gives me hope that the generations after us might do better.

Stefan van Duin, partner, Borski Fund

#amsterdam, #deep-tech, #europe, #european-union, #startups, #tc, #unicorn, #vc-survey

Uber refused permission to dismiss 11 staff at its EMEA HQ

Uber has been refused permission to dismiss 11 people at its EMEA headquarters in Amsterdam by the Dutch Employee Insurance Agency (UWV), the ride hailing company has confirmed.

The affected individuals did not take up an earlier severance offer as part of wider Uber layoffs earlier this year.

Uber announced major global layoffs of around 15% of its workforce in May — which included around 200 staff based in Amsterdam — blaming the cuts on changes to demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Late last week, Dutch newspaper NRC reported that Uber had been refused permission to fire the staff as the UWV had found there were no grounds for dismissal.

Per its report, affected Uber employees had faced pressure to accept Uber’s severance offer — saying they were disconnected from its internal systems the day after being informed of termination via Zoom video call and were then sent daily reminders to accept dismissal with Uber telling them ‘their position was ceasing to exist’.

Dutch law requires employers to obtain approval from the UWV for planned redundancies. But the majority of the affected staff in this instance accepted its severance offer before the agency had made a decision. Local press reports suggest many of those affected were expats — who may have been unaware of their labor rights under Dutch law.

We reached out to Uber with questions — and a company spokesperson sent us this statement:

Earlier this year we made the difficult decision to reduce our global headcount due to the dramatic impact of the pandemic, and the unpredictable nature of any eventual recovery. The headcount reductions in our EMEA Headquarters in Amsterdam are part of those efforts.

Uber also told us it does not agree with the UWV’s decision to refuse permission for it to dismiss the 11 employees who had not accepted severance, adding that it will review the decision before determining how to proceed.

It said the severance packages offered to the ~200 affected employees included at least 2.5 months of salary, health benefits to the end of the year, outplacement/recruitment support and additional support for Uber-sponsored visa holders.

#amsterdam, #coronavirus, #europe, #layoffs, #ride-hailing, #transportation, #uber

Calling Amsterdam VCs: Be featured in The Great TechCrunch Survey of European VC

TechCrunch is embarking on a major new project to survey the venture capital investors of Europe, and their cities.

Our <a href=”https://forms.gle/k4Ji2Ch7zdrn7o2p6”>survey of VCs in Amsterdam will capture how the city is faring, and what changes are being wrought amongst investors by the coronavirus pandemic. (Please note, if you have filled the survey out already, there is no need to do it again).

We’d like to know how Amsterdam’s startup scene is evolving, how the tech sector is being impacted by COVID-19, and, generally, how your thinking will evolve from here.

Our survey will only be about investors, and only the contributions of VC investors will be included. More than one partner is welcome to fill out the survey.

The shortlist of questions will require only brief responses, but the more you can add, the better.

You can fill out the survey here.

Obviously, investors who contribute will be featured in the final surveys, with links to their companies and profiles.

What kinds of things do we want to know? Questions include: Which trends are you most excited by? What startup do you wish someone would create? Where are the overlooked opportunities? What are you looking for in your next investment, in general? How is your local ecosystem going? And how has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy?

This survey is part of a broader series of surveys we’re doing to help founders find the right investors.

https://techcrunch.com/extra-crunch/investor-surveys/

For example, here is the recent survey of London.

You are not in Amsterdam, but would like to take part? Or you are in another part of the country? That’s fine! Any European VC investor can STILL fill out the survey, as we probably will be putting a call out to your city next anyway! And we will use the data for future surveys on vertical topics.

The survey is covering almost every European country on the continent of Europe (not just EU members, btw), so just look for your country and city on the survey and please participate (if you’re a venture capital investor).

Thank you for participating. If you have questions you can email mike@techcrunch.com

#amsterdam, #corporate-finance, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #european-union, #finance, #london, #money, #private-equity, #startup-company, #tc, #venture-capital

Google Maps gets improved Live View AR directions

Google today announced a few updates to Live View, the augmented reality walking directions in its Google Maps app that officially launched last year. Live View uses your phone’s camera and GPS to tell you exactly where to go, making it a nice addition to the standard map-centric directions in similar applications.

The new features Google is introducing today include the ability to invoke Live View from the transit tab in Google Maps when you’re on a journey that includes multiple modes of transportations. Until now, the only way to see Live View was when were asking for pure walking directions.

 

Image Credits: Google

 

 

If you’re like me and perpetually disoriented after you exit a subway station in a new city (remember 2019, when we could still travel?), this is a godsend. And I admit that I often forget Live View exists. Adding it to multi-model directions may just get me to try it out more often since it is now more clearly highlighted in the app.

Google Maps can now also identify landmarks around you to give you better guidance and a clearer idea of where you are in a city. Think the Empire State Building in New York, for example.

Image Credits: Google

These new landmarks will be coming to Amsterdam, Bangkok, Barcelona, Berlin, Budapest, Dubai, Florence, Istanbul, Kuala Lumpur, Kyoto, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Milan, Munich, New York, Osaka, Paris, Prague, Rome, San Francisco, Sydney, Tokyo and Vienna, with more to follow.

If you’re a regular Live View user, you’ll know that the actual pin locations in this mode can sometimes be off. In hilly areas, the pin can often be hovering high above your destination, for example. Now, Google promises to fix this by using a combination of machine learning and better topographical maps to place the pin exactly where it’s supposed to be.

Also new is the ability to use Live View in combination with Google Maps’ location sharing feature. So when a friend shares their location with you, you can now see exactly where they are in Live View, too, and get directions to meet them.

#amsterdam, #artificial-intelligence, #augmented-reality, #bangkok, #barcelona, #berlin, #budapest, #dubai, #florence, #google, #google-maps, #gps, #istanbul, #kuala-lumpur, #kyoto, #london, #los-angeles, #machine-learning, #madrid, #milan, #munich, #new-york, #osaka, #paris, #prague, #rome, #san-francisco, #software, #sydney, #tokyo, #vienna

Peer Medical allows lung cancer patients to anonymously share treatments with each other

Peer Medical has a big mission. After his father died of lung cancer, serial entrepreneur Ed Spiegel vowed to create a better way for lung cancer patients to deal with their disease. The startup has so far raised a $1.2M seed funding round for its ground-breaking approach and is onboarding patients at a rate of knots.

Peer Medical allows lung cancer patients to anonymously share their treatments with each other. This helps survivors find others like them and see which treatments and procedures work best. Users can search by biomarker, stage, age, or gender and review verified treatments and journeys of similar patients.

The funding round was led by Amsterdam-based ‘Partners in Equity’ (PiE), best known for investing seed capital into Adyen the Dutch payments unicorn; and London’s Seedcamp, alongside Angel investors. Peer Medical is now able to sign up patients’ electronic health records inside a minute. Its advisers include Dr. David Jablons, Head of Thoracic Oncology at UCSF, and Dr. Geoffrey Ginsburg, Head of Applied Genomics and Precision Medicine at Duke University .

Spiegel’s RentMineOnline was one of the first-ever ‘share economy’ startups to appear 10 years ago, and also Seedcamp’s first investment, and its first exit.

Indeed, the idea for Peer Medical came to Spiegel 10 years ago as the sole care-giver during his father’s three-year battle with lung cancer.

Spiegal told me he came up with the idea after meeting a buddy of his from his college who had also seen his father pass away from lung cancer. Comparing notes, Spiegal realized he could have had so much more information if they’ve been able to share treatment information.

“It’s like: ‘God I wish I would have known that back then!’. It’s just such a terrible experience. Unfortunately for me, I lived the experience, but I could have really used a sort of ‘electronic caregiver’ essentially to help my Dad through it.”

Participating in online forums, Spiegel found patients willing to help but realized the need for a centralized, searchable database that contained the knowledge these people possessed. There were over 1.7 million new cancer cases diagnosed in the US last year alone. The information for the patients is often disorganized, incomplete, or out of date. Medical record portability is growing in adoption and will be crucial in aiding treatments.

“It’s a little like you as a driver using Waze to crowdsource information from other drivers to get to the perfect route because you’re learning from all the other people,” commented Spiegal. “The future is certainly electronic health records, although it’s still kind of like using a credit card in 1999 online, it’s coming in a big way. You will have your records, and wonder ‘who else is just like me?’”

There are already big players making it happen such as Apple Health, and online hospital portal growth driven by companies like Epic and Cerner.

Peer Medical doesn’t really have ‘competitors’ in the traditional sense, other than Facebook support groups for patients, which are not anonymous and chaotic, and Google searches. PatientsLikeMe, founded in the early 2000s, doesn’t leverage the medical records aspect and sold in 2019 to United Health Care for 2017 after raising $100M.

Commenting, Reshma Sohoni, co-founder of Seedcamp said: “Ed was a part of Seedcamp’s first cohort of companies and returned our first successful exit. We’re thrilled to back Ed and his team for a second time and bring what we hope will be another successful venture to our portfolio. Unfortunately, I’ve also lost a parent to cancer and can relate to how important a tool like this can be to navigate such difficult times. We really like that the patient retains anonymity but is still able to learn from others.”

Carlos Eduardo Espinal, Seedcamp Managing Partner added: “At Seedcamp, this is exactly the type of community that we like to invest in. People, in this case, patients and caregivers, bound together by a common goal to fight cancer. We’re thrilled to help Ed and the Peer Medical team build this community that pools verified and anonymized medical records and uses them to optimize individual treatment paths.”

RentMineOnline, which did referrals for apartments on Facebook, was successfully sold to a publicly-traded property management software firm, Real Page (NASDAQ: RP).

#adyen, #amsterdam, #cancer, #carlos-eduardo-espinal, #cerner, #co-founder, #crowdsourcing, #data-mining, #disease, #driver, #duke-university, #epic, #europe, #genomics, #google, #head, #london, #managing-partner, #online-forums, #patientslikeme, #reshma-sohoni, #seedcamp, #serial-entrepreneur, #tc, #united-states, #waze

Amsterdam ejects Airbnb et al from three central districts in latest p2p platform limits

Another brick in the wall for vacation rental platforms: Amsterdam is booting Airbnb and other such platforms from three districts in the city’s old center from July 1, further tightening its rules for such services.

In other districts in the famous city of canals, vacation rentals will only be permitted with a permit from next Wednesday, still for a maximum of 30 nights per year.

The latest tightening of the city’s rules on Airbnb and similar platforms comes after a period of consultation with residents and organizations which city authorities say drew 780 responses — a full 75% of which supported banning the platforms from operating in the three central districts.

The three districts where vacation rentals on platforms such as Airbnb are prohibited from next Wednesday are: Burgwallen-Oude Zijde, Burgwallen-Nieuwe Zijde and the Grachtengordel-Zuid.

“This [consultation] indicates that the subject is very much alive among Amsterdammers. What is striking is that no less than 75% are in favor of a ban on holiday rentals in the three districts, said deputy mayor Laurens Ivens in a press release [translated from Dutch using DeepL].

Furthermore, Ivens said the consultation exercise showed some support for a citywide ban on such platforms. However current pan-EU rules — notable the European Services Directive — limit how cities can respond to public sentiment against such services. Hence Amsterdam applying the ban to specific districts where it has been able to confirm tourism leads to major disruption.

The legal cover afforded to vacation platforms operating in the region by the European Services Directive has show itself to be robust to challenge, after Europe’s top court ruled in December that Airbnb is an online intermediation service. A French tourism association had sought to argue the platform should rather be required to comply with real estate regulations.

Ivens said Amsterdam will conduct another tourism review in two years — and may add more districts to the ban list if it finds similar problems have migrated there.

These are by no means the first restrictions the city has put on vacation rental platforms. Back in 2018 it tightened a cap on the number of nights properties can be rented, squeezing it from 60 nights to 30 per year.

Yet despite such restrictions city authorities note tourist rental of homes has experienced “strong growth” in recent years, with 1 in 15 homes in Amsterdam being offered online. It also said that the supply of homes on the various platforms has increased fivefold — amounting to around 25,000 advertisements per month.

Due to this increase, tourist rental has an increasingly negative impact on the quality of life in various Amsterdam neighborhoods, the council writes in a press release.

The permit system which is also being brought in is intended to aid enforcement of tighter rules — with stipulations that a house must be inhabited; and that the maximum of 30 nights per year can only be rented to a maximum of four people. The council has also made it mandatory for those renting homes on vacation rental platforms to report to the municipality every time the house is rented, so will be building up its own dataset on how these platforms are being used.

Additional changes to Amsterdam’s housing regulations also include higher fines for repeat offender landlords, such as if they rent a property without a permit or violate the maximum number of nights for holiday rentals.

The city has also put limits on conversions, stipulating that only properties larger than 100 m2 may be converted into two or more smaller homes — a provision that seems aimed at landlords who try to maximize holiday rental income by turning a single larger property into two or more smaller flats, and thereby reducing suitable housing stock for larger families.

After early skirmishes between cities and vacation rental platforms related to the collection of tourist taxes, access to data remains an ongoing bone of contention — with cities pressing platforms to share data in order that they can enforce tighter regulations. Platforms, meanwhile, have a clear commercial incentive to avoid such transparency.

In 2018, for example, city officials in Amsterdam called for Airbnb to share “specific rental data with authorities — who is renting out for how long, and to how many people”.

We’ve asked Airbnb to confirm what data it shares with the city now.

The European Commission has sought to play a mediating role here, announcing earlier this year it had secured agreement with p2p rental platforms Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia Group and Tripadvisor to share limited pan-EU data — and saying it wanted to encourage “balanced” development of the sector while noting concerns that such platforms put unsustainable pressure on local communities.

The initial pan-EU data points the platforms agreed to share are number of nights booked and number of guests, aggregated at the level of “municipalities.” A second phase of the arrangement will see platforms share data on the number of properties rented and the proportion that are full property rentals vs rooms in occupied properties.

However the Commission is also in the process of updating the rules around digital services, via the forthcoming Digital Services Act. So it’s possible it could propose specific data access obligations on vacation rental platforms.

We reached out to the Commission to ask if it’s considering updates in this area and will update this report with any response.

Ten EU cities — including Amsterdam — penned an open letter last year, calling on the Commission to introduce “strong legal obligations for platforms to cooperate with us in registration-schemes and in supplying rental-data per house that is advertised on their platforms”. So the regional pressure for better platform governance is loud and clear.

#airbnb, #amsterdam, #collaborative-consumption, #europe, #platforms, #vacation-rentals

Spin scooters head to Europe, starting with Germany

Spin has launched its scooter sharing business to Germany, the first step in the U.S. company’s plans to expand to Europe.

The company, which was acquired by Ford in 2018 for about $100 million, has launched in Cologne and plans to open up in German cities Dortmund and Essen in the coming weeks. Spin said it’s also expanding its footprint in the U.S., starting with Atlanta. Other U.S. cities will follow, Spin said without providing more details. 

Spin’s Europe expansion is part of a trend that was emerging in the beginning of the year before COVID-19 upended the economy. In early 2020, it looked like Europe would become a summertime battleground for e-scooter companies. European and U.S.-based companies, including Lime, Bird, Circ, Swedish startup Voi and German startup Tier, were vying for market share. Voi was in about 40 cities in Europe and Tier had expanded to roughly 56. Amsterdam-based Dott was also in the mix. Spin announced in February plans to expand to Europe.

COVID-19 spread throughout Europe and then North America soon after, putting the brakes on micromobility. The pandemic prompted a number of scooter and bike share companies to pause operations or even pull out of cities altogether.

E-scooter startups are now coming back to Europe, where adoption rates and unit economics have been rosier than in some U.S cities.

Spin is starting with Germany in part because a recent survey conducted by the company and YouGov suggests e-scooters are poised to become a favored mode of transit in the country. Nearly 50% of those surveyed in Germany indicated they are already using or planning to use a solo transportation option for commuting to and from work and for taking trips within their immediate vicinity, Spin said.

“We are seeing heavier adoption of micromobility all around the world especially as the need for people to commute in less crowded conditions increases,” CEO and co-founder Derrick Ko said in a statement.

Spin said it plans to expand beyond Germany. The company has applied for permits in Lyon and Paris in France and submitted a proposal for rental e-scooter pilot in several U.K. cities, including Birmingham, Liverpool, London and Manchester.

Spin continued operating in some U.S. cities where it was allowed and provided free rides for healthcare workers during the pandemic. The company has resumed operations in 14 cities this month. It is now operating in 25 U.S. cities.

“Spin scooters are being used now more than ever as a utility rather than for leisurely activities,” president and co-founder Euwyn Poon said in a statement. “As public transit is cutting services, Spin is stepping in to help.”

Since April, new daily active users have increased an average 34% week over week, according to Poon. Trip duration has also increased 44%, reaching a peak of 24 minutes per trip, in May, Poon added.

 

#amsterdam, #atlanta, #automotive, #bird, #circ, #cologne, #derrick-ko, #dott, #e-scooters, #electric-scooters, #europe, #euwyn-poon, #ford, #france, #germany, #liverpool, #london, #manchester, #micromobility, #north-america, #paris, #sharing-economy, #spin, #tier, #transportation, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #voi, #yougov

Partners at B2B European VC henQ discuss remote work’s biggest advantages

HenQ, an Amsterdam-based VC that invests in European B2B software startups typically at seed and Series A, recently disclosed the first close of its fourth fund at €70 million. The final close is expected to top out at between €75-€85 million later this year, and the firm has already begun backing companies out of the new fund.

However, what sets henQ apart from many VC firms isn’t just its pure focus on B2B software but that its team is fully remote. Primarily investing in the Nordics and Benelux, henQ doesn’t have any official offices, with the team working from different temporary locations. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, henQ closed deals remotely.

Successes from its previous funds include Mendix (acquired by Siemens) and SEOshop (acquired by Lightspeed).

I spoke to partners Jan Andriessen, Mick Mackaay and Jelmer de Jong to learn more about henQ, what it’s like to be a fully remote VC and how the firm envisions the post-pandemic era.

TechCrunch: Can you be more specific regarding the size of check you write and the types of companies, geographies, technologies and business models you are focusing on?

Jan Andriessen: Our main focus is seed rounds, in which we often are the lead investor. We also invest in Series A rounds, often as a co-investor. Initial check sizes vary from €500,000 to €3.5 million.

A typical seed investment has a product and perhaps a few pilot customers. The key here is not revenue (which is OK to be zero), but there is proof of the actual need for the product.

Most of our recent deals were in the Nordics and Benelux, the areas where we spent the majority of our time. But we have also invested in the Baltics, Czech Republic and the UK. For henQ 4, we expect this to be the same: the bulk of our investments will be in the Nordics and Benelux, with an occasional deal in broader Europe.

In terms of technology and business trends, one of the things we firmly believe in is the consumerization of enterprise software: successful startups are centered around their customers and focus on the job to be done. More generally, we have always been focused on startups with staying power: companies that have a right to exist over time, not just now, as they deliver a product that touches the core processes of their customers and operate at the heart of their customer’s business.

For example, looking at our portfolio, Zivver delivers secure communication solutions for hospitals and governments. Stravito works deep in the research departments of FMCGs, delivering a knowledge management platform. Mews runs the full operations of hotels with their property management system, and Orderchamp enables retailers to digitize their buying process.

We see the business model of a company as a means, not an end. Most of the startups we invest in charge a SaaS plus implementation fee, and have a more enterprise-sales driven business model. We are not afraid to invest in startups that have a more complex and longer sales cycle, and are not per se looking for SaaS ‘by-the-book.’

#amsterdam, #business-incubators, #cloud, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #ecommerce, #enterprise-software, #europe, #extra-crunch, #knowledge-management, #mendix, #saas, #siemens, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital, #work

#Interview – “Hört nicht zu sehr auf die Ratschläge anderer Leute”


Wie starten ganz normale Gründerinnen und Gründer so in einen ganz normalen Startup-Arbeitsalltag? Wie schalten junge Unternehmerinnen und Unternehmer nach der Arbeit mal so richtig ab und was hätten die aufstrebenden Firmenlenker gerne gewusst bevor sie ihr Startup gegründet haben? Wir haben genau diese Sachen abgefragt. Heute antwortet Adriaan Mol, Gründer von Mollie, einem Payment-Startup aus Amsterdam. Etwa 65.000 Kunden wickeln ihren Online-Zahlungsverkehr derzeit u?ber die cloudbasierte Mollie-Plattform ab.

Wie startest Du in einen ganz normalen Startup-Arbeitsalltag?
Morgens checke meist zuerst meine E-Mails und schaue, ob irgendwas Dringendes reingekommen ist. Dafür nehme ich mir Zeit, bevor ich mich anderen Aufgaben widme, um tagsüber möglichst wenig von reinkommenden E-Mails abgelenkt zu werden. Diese Einteilung gibt mir die Möglichkeit mich besser um meine Hauptaufgabe, die Entwicklung unseres Produkts, aber auch um die Mitarbeiter zu kümmern.

Wie schaltest du nach der Arbeit ab?
Das ist eine schwierige Frage, denn für mich endet die Arbeit nicht automatisch, wenn ich nach Hause gehe. Aber ich versuche Sport zu machen oder verbringe Zeit mit meiner Familie und Freunden. Vor einiger Zeit habe ich mir zudem angewöhnt, mein Telefon fast durchgehend auf lautlos zu stellen. Das hilft mir sehr beim Abschalten.

Was über das Gründer-Dasein hättest du gerne vor der Gründung gewusst?
Ich habe sehr jung gegründet – damals war ich 16 Jahre alt. Deswegen ist es schwierig diese Frage zu beantworten, weil ich kaum weiß, wie ein anderes Leben aussieht. Was ich gerne gewusst hätte, dass gut gemeinte Tipps anderer mehr Filter kreieren, die eine Idee durchschnittlicher und weniger authentisch machen. Und damit die ursprüngliche Geschäftsidee verändern. Deswegen lautet mein Motto: Mach dein Ding, anstatt auf das zu hören, was alle anderen sagen.

Was waren die größten Hürden, die Du auf dem Weg zur Gründung überwinden musstet?
Eine der größten Herausforderungen für mich war und ist es auch nach wie vor, die richtige Balance zwischen kreativem Arbeiten und operativen Aufgaben zu finden. Denn manchmal wird Mollie größer als ich selbst. Sprich das operative Geschäft nimmt so viel Platz ein, dass mir kaum noch Zeit und Ruhe für Kreativität und die Entwicklung unseres Produkts bleiben.

Was waren die größten Fehler, die Du bisher gemacht hast – und was hast Du aus diesen gelernt?
Zu lange zu klein gedacht zu haben. Hinsichtlich der Zukunft von Mollie hätten wir bereits vor drei Jahren viel selbstbewusster sein sollen – und entsprechend mehr in das Wachstum investieren sollen. Wir haben immer auf Bootstrapping und organisches Wachstum gesetzt, was natürlich gesund ist. Rückblickend denke ich aber, dass wir uns doch noch stärker auf das potenzielle Wachstum hätten fokussieren sollen. In dieser Hinsicht treten wir heute viel selbstbewusster auf.

Wie findet man die passenden Mitarbeiter für sein Startup?
Als ich das Unternehmen vor 15 Jahren gegründet habe, war das Internet noch nicht so stark verbreitet wie heute. Es war vor allem eine Spielwiese für Nerds, die Sachen programmiert haben und sich in Diskussionsforen trafen, um sich über technische Fragestellungen auszutauschen. Aber genau in einem dieser Online-Foren habe ich den ersten Mitarbeiter für Mollie gefunden, der genau das Skillset mitbrachte, das für die Aufbau unseres Start-ups nötig war. Aber das verdeutlicht sehr gut, wie ich über das Einstellen denke: wir brauchen Mitarbeiter, die zusammenarbeiten und ein Team bilden. Daher stellen wir immer sicher, dass neue Kollegen zu unseren Unternehmenswerten passen. Wir suchen Menschen, die leidenschaftlich, mutig und authentisch sind. 

Welchen Tipp hast Du für andere Gründer?
Was ich anderen Gründern empfehlen würde: Hört nicht zu sehr auf die Ratschläge anderer Leute. Natürlich kann der Input von erfahrenen Gründern durchaus hilfreich sein. Doch je mehr Input man sich einholt, desto größer ist die Gefahr am Ende eine Idee zu haben, die weniger authentisch ist. 

Ohne welches externe Tool würde dein Startup quasi nicht mehr existieren?
Bei Mollie steht vor allem die Inspiration im Vordergrund, denn Tools sind austauschbar. Brillante Ideen hingegen sind unersetzlich. Mich persönlich hat als Kind Steve Job inspiriert. Ich denke, ohne ihn, NeXT.js und Apple wäre Mollie definitiv langweiliger. 

Wie sorgt ihr bei eurem Team für gute Stimmung?
Es ist wichtig, dass wir als Unternehmen mit unseren Mitarbeitern offen umgehen. Die richtigen Werte zu verkörpern ist außerdem wichtig, um eine gute Stimmung im Team zu erzeugen. 

Was war Dein bisher wildestes Startup-Erlebnis?
Als wir Mollie frisch gegründet hatten, war auch mal der eine oder andere Freudentanz dabei. Ein zentrales Erlebnis gibt es aber nicht, eher viele kleine. Für mich ist es zum Beispiel jedes Mal aufregend, wenn wir etwas Neues entwickelt haben, das funktioniert und dem Kunden nutzt. Überhaupt freut es mich, wenn Kunden mit unserem Produkt zufrieden sind. Und natürlich bin ich auch begeistert vom Wachstum unseres Unternehmens.

Tipp: Wie sieht ein Startup-Arbeitsalltag? Noch mehr Interviews gibt es in unserem Themenschwerpunkt Gründeralltag.

Startup-Jobs: Auf der Suche nach einer neuen Herausforderung? In der unserer Jobbörse findet Ihr Stellenanzeigen von Startups und Unternehmen.

Foto (oben): Mollie

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