#Brandneu – 8 coole und vor allem neue Startups, die man kennen sollte


deutsche-startups.de präsentiert heute wieder einmal einige junge Startups, die zuletzt, also in den vergangenen Wochen und Monaten an den Start gegangen sind, sowie Firmen, die zuletzt aus dem Stealth-Mode erwacht sind. Übrigens: Noch mehr neue Startups gibt es in unserem Newsletter Startup-Radar.

Co-Leader
Hinter Co-Leader aus Köln verbirgt sich ein “digitales Praxistraining für Führungskräfte”. Das Startup, das von Philipp Spiekermann und Florian Abel gegründet wurde, verspricht dabei “personalisierte und praxisnahe Lernpfade und ein neuartiges Lernerlebnis”.

ahearo
Bei ahearo finden Onliner Audio-Magazine. Das Startup aus Hof setzt somit auf das bekannte Curio-Konzept. Das Konzept ist daher simpel zu erklären: “Wir vertonen Magazin-Inhalte vieler Verlage mit professionellen Sprecher*innen und erstellen individuelle Playlists für unsere User”.

Dr.wait
Dr.wait möchte mit seiner Software Wartezeiten in Warteschlangen und Wartezimmern abschaffen. Zielgruppe sind dabei Arztpraxen in Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz. “Kein Wartezimmer zu brauchen, bedeutet weniger Ansteckungen der Patienten untereinander”, schreibt das Unternehmen.

Repair Rebels
Über Repair Rebels kann jeder seine liebsten Klamotten reparieren lassen. “Unser Ziel ist es, eine Alternative zum Neukauf anzubieten und durch ein digitales Konzept auf lokale Lösungen hinzuweisen und so den noch stark fragmentierten, analogen Markt für Modereparaturen zu digitalisieren”, schreiben die Gründerinnen.

RememberMe
RememberMe positioniert sich als “Social-Media-App für Familie und Freunde”. Das Startup kommt dabei als “geschützter Raum” um die Ecke. In diesem können Nutzer:innen ohne Sicherheitssorgen “private Urlaubsfotos, Fotos von Kindern oder von wilden Abi-Feiern” teilen.

1A Motorbid
1A Motorbid aus Düsseldorf setzt auf Auktionen, um Autos an den Mann und die Frau zu bringen.Der Schwerpunkt liegt dabei auf “klassischen Mindestpreisauktionen, bei denen alle Fahrzeuge in Echtzeit versteigert werden”. Hinter dem Startup setzt unter anderem Marc Berger, Initiator von Autobid.de.

Mine
Das Berliner Startup Mine setzt auf Trinkelixiere. Es geht somit um flüssige Nahrungsergänzungsmittel, die etwa für glänzende Haare sorgen sollen. Das Beauty-Startup wird von Antonie Nissen und Leif Löhde vorangetrieben. Im Hintergrund wirkt Liberty Ventures (Felix und Florian Swoboda).

Mindzeit
Hinter Mindzeit verbirgt sich ein Anti-Stress Coach. Die Kölner Gründer beschreiben ihre App als “ein intelligentes Anti-Stress Tool, das sich auf die individuellen Bedürfnisse seiner Nutzer*innen einstellen kann”. Das Startup wurde von Céleste Kleinjans und Marinko Spahic ins Leben gerufen.

Tipp: In unserem Newsletter Startup-Radar berichten wir einmal in der Woche über neue Startups. Alle Startups stellen wir in unserem kostenpflichtigen Newsletter kurz und knapp vor und bringen sie so auf den Radar der Startup-Szene. Jetzt unseren Newsletter Startup-Radar sofort abonnieren!

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

Foto (oben): Shutterstock

#aktuell, #app, #audio, #auto, #beauty, #berlin, #brandneu, #calw, #d2c, #dusseldorf, #e-health, #e-learning, #koln, #medien, #nachhaltigkeit, #social-media

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#Brandneu – 9 richtig spannende neue Startups aus München


deutsche-startups.de präsentiert heute wieder einmal einige junge Startups, die zuletzt, also in den vergangenen Wochen und Monaten an den Start gegangen sind, sowie Firmen, die zuletzt aus dem Stealth-Mode erwacht sind. Übrigens: Noch mehr neue Startups gibt es jede Woche in unserem kostenpflichtigen Newsletter Startup-Radar.

hydesk
hydesk aus München entwickelt “nachhaltiges Möbeldesign für mobil und flexible arbeitende Kunden”. Das erste Produkt der Jungfirma, die von Finian Carey und Daniel Brunsteiner gegründet wurde, ist ein faltbarer, tragbarer und recycelbarer Stehtisch und passt somit gut in die derzeitigen HomeOffice-Zeiten.

Pina
Das Münchner Startup Pina setzt mit Hilfe künstlicher Intelligenz auf die Digitalisierung des Zertifizierungsprozesses. So sollen Waldbesitzern die Möglichkeit haben, am freiwilligen Emissionsmarkt teilzunehmen. ”So wird lokaler Klimaschutz im Wald Realität: digital, messbar, und transparent”, schreibt das Team.

exfinity
exfinity positioniert sich als B2B2C-Plattform für Aktivitäten. “We offer the world’s biggest diversified portfolio of attractions and experiences”, teilt das junge Münchner Startup mit. Das Startup wurde unter anderem von Christina Borensky und Georg Schiffmann gegründet, die vorher mit hip trips unterwegs waren.

Optiwiser
Das Münchner Startup Optiwiser kümmert sich um Operations- und Supply Chain-Management. Die Bajuwaren schreiben zu ihrem Konzept: “We help our clients to boost their supply chain performance through the power of Artificial Intelligence – optimize your data wiser”.

PetLeo
PetLeo aus München bringt sich als “digitale Plattform für moderne Tierbesitzer, innovative Tierärzte und glückliche Haustiere” in Stellung. Die App des Startups bietet Tierbesitzern Gassirouten und Giftköder-Alerts vor allem aber eine digitale Gesundheitsakte und Videosprechstunden mit Tierärzten.

Zenmieter
Das Team von Zenmieter möchte sich als die “Zukunft des Vermietens” einen Namen machen. Vermieter können ihre Wohnungen direkt an Zenmieter vermieten. Das Startup des Venture Builders Stryber übernimmt dann alle Aufgaben des Vermieters. Zum Team gehört unter anderem Maximilian Möhring (Keyp).

Melon
Mit Melon hievte Gründerin Cornelia Weinzierl einen Marktplatz für veganes Essen ins Netz. Die Münchnerin nennt es “das eBay und AirBnB für veganes Essen”. Über Melon kann jeder selbst gekochtes, veganes Essen mit Menschen aus der Umgebung teilen bzw. kaufen.

Organic Labs
Bei Organic Labs können Onliner Super Hafer, einen Haferdrink in Pulverform zum Selbermachen, bestellen. “Die Vorteile: Wir vermeiden CO2-Emissionen durch den überflüssig gewordenen Transport von Wasser und können auch noch Verpackungsmüll einsparen”, schreibt das Startup. 

Audicle
Das Münchner Unternehmen Audicle setzt auf das erfolgreiche Curio-Konzept. Das Startup, das von Wolf Weimer vorangetrieben wird, bietet somit quasi die Zeitung zum Hören. Alles gebündelt in einer kostenpflichtigen App. Im Angebot sind derzeit “hunderte Audio-Artikel deutscher Zeitungen und Magazine”.

Tipp: In unserem Newsletter Startup-Radar berichten wir einmal in der Woche über neue Startups. Alle Startups stellen wir in unserem kostenpflichtigen Newsletter kurz und knapp vor und bringen sie so auf den Radar der Startup-Szene. Jetzt unseren Newsletter Startup-Radar sofort abonnieren!

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

Foto (oben): Shutterstock

#aktuell, #audicle, #audio, #b2b, #brandneu, #climatetech, #d2c, #e-health, #exfinity, #food, #hydesk, #medien, #melon, #munchen, #optiwiser, #organic-labs, #petleo, #pina, #proptech, #startup-radar, #stryber, #telemedizin, #travel, #zenmieter

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LinkedIn confirms it’s working on a Clubhouse rival, too

Clubhouse’s list of competitors is growing. LinkedIn has now confirmed it’s also testing a social audio experience in its app which would allow creators on its network to connect with their community. Unlike the Clubhouse rivals being built by Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn believes its audio networking feature will be differentiated because it will be connected with users’ professional identity, not just a social profile. In addition, the company has already built out a platform that serves the creator community, which today has access to tools like Stories, LinkedIn Live video broadcasting, newsletters and more.

And just today, LinkedIn formalized some of its efforts in this area with the launch a new “Creator” mode that lets anyone set their profile as one that can be followed for updates, like Stories and LinkedIn Live videos, for example.

This focus on creators puts LinkedIn on competitive footing in terms of expanding its own Clubhouse rival, compared with other efforts by Facebook, Twitter, Telegram, or Discord — all of which have their own audio-based networking features in various stages development at this time.

Though Twitter’s Clubhouse rival, Twitter Spaces, is already live in beta testing, its full set of creator tools have yet to arrive. In fact, it was only last month that Twitter announced its plans for a larger creator subscription platform via a new “Super Follow” feature, for instance. And it only this year entered the newsletter space via an acquisition. Facebook, meanwhile, has historically offered a number of creator-focused features, but has just recently gotten invested in tools like newsletters.

LinkedIn says its development of an audio-based networking feature came about because its members and creatives have been asking for more ways to communicate on its platform.

“We’re seeing nearly 50% growth in conversations on LinkedIn reflected in stories, video shares, and posts on the platform,” a LinkedIn spokesperson said, when confirming its audio feature’s development. “We’re doing some early tests to create a unique audio experience connected to your professional identity. And, we’re looking at how we can bring audio to other parts of LinkedIn such as events and groups, to give our members even more ways to connect to their community,” they said.

As a result of creators’ interest in this space, the company moved quickly to develop its own Clubhouse-like feature, where there’s a stage showcasing the room’s speakers and a set of listeners below. There are also tools to join and leave the room, react to comments, and request to speak, according to screenshots of the interface first discovered in the LinkedIn Android app by reverse engineer Alessandro Paluzzi.

Note that Paluzzi populated the user interface with his own profile icon, shown in the image he tweeted. That is not part of the LinkedIn mockup. Instead, LinkedIn shared its own conceptual UX mockup of its in-room experiences with TechCrunch, which shows a more fleshed out example of how the feature may look at launch.

Image Credits: LinkedIn

LinkedIn believes that because the audio experience will be connected with users’ professional identities, they’ll feel comfortable speaking, commenting and otherwise engaging with the content, the company told TechCrunch. It will also be able to leverage its existing investment in moderation tools built for other features — like LinkedIn Live — to help to address any concerns over inappropriate or harmful discussions, like those that have already plagued Clubhouse.

“Our priority is to build a trusted community where people feel safe and can be productive,” a spokesperson noted. “Our members come to LinkedIn to have respectful and constructive conversations with real people and we’re focused on ensuring they have a safe environment to do just that,” they said.

Plus, LinkedIn says that audio networking makes for a natural extension of other areas, like Groups and Events — areas for networking that have continued to grow, and particularly during the pandemic.

In 2020, some 21 million people attended an event on LinkedIn, and overall LinkedIn sessions increased by 30% year-over-year. The company’s 740 million global members also last year built community, had conversations, and shared knowledge, with 4.8 billion connections made.

Like many companies which saw a pandemic boost, LinkedIn believes the pandemic only accelerated the natural progression towards online networking, remote work, and virtual events, which were already in place before lockdowns. For example, LinkedIn says that more than 60% of its members were working remotely by the end of 2020, versus 8% before the pandemic. LinkedIn believes the shift will stick, as more than half the world’s workforce is expected to continue working from home at least some of the time, even after the pandemic comes to an end.

That leaves room for new forms of online networking to grow, as well, including audio experiences.

LinkedIn doesn’t yet have an exact timeframe for its launch of the audio networking feature, but says it will begin beta testing soon.

#audio, #audio-networking, #clubhouse, #linkedin, #microsoft, #tc

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#DealMonitor – GoStudent sammelt 70 Millionen ein – Kolibri-Gründer investieren in heat it – Lizza-Gründer investiert in Zaunkoenig


Im aktuellen #DealMonitor für den 30. März werfen wir wieder einen Blick auf die wichtigsten, spannendsten und interessantesten Investments und Exits des Tages in der DACH-Region. Alle Deals der Vortage gibt es im großen und übersichtlichen #DealMonitor-Archiv.

INVESTMENTS

GoStudent
+++ Coatue investiert gemeinsam mit den Altinvestoren Left Lane Capital und DN Capital 70 Millionen Euro in GoStudent. Das Wiener Startup, das sich als E-Learning-Dienst positioniert, wurde 2017 von Gregor Müller, Felix Ohswald und seinem Bruder Moritz Ohswald gegründet. Left Lane Capital und DN Capital investierten zuletzt in zwei Investmentrunden rund 13 Millionen in GoStudent, das auf kostenpflichtige Einzelkurse setzt. Das frische Kapital soll vor allem “genutzt werden, um die Internationalisierung von GoStudent weiter voranzutreiben, und die bestehende Präsenz in bedeutenden Nachhilfemärkten wie Frankreich, Spanien, Italien, Großbritannien und Irland weiter auszubauen”. Über 300 Mitarbeiter:innen wirken bereits für das junge Unternehmen.

Anzeige
+++ In unserem Newsletter Startup-Radar berichten wir einmal in der Woche über neue Startups. Alle Startups stellen wir in unserem kostenpflichtigen Newsletter kurz und knapp vor und bringen sie so auf den Radar der Startup-Szene. Jetzt unseren Newsletter Startup-Radar abonnieren und 30 Tage kostenlos testen!

heat it
+++ Daniel Stammler, Janosch Sadowski und Oliver Löffler, die Gründer von Kolibri Games, Friedrich Georg Hoepfner und weitere “erfahrene Persönlichkeiten aus den Bereichen Handel und Medizin” investieren in heat it. Das Startup aus Karlsruhe, das 2018 von Lukas Liedtke, Armin Meyer, Christof Reuter und Stefan Hotz gegründet wurde, kämpft mittels Wärme gegen Mücken- und Wespenstiche. Der heat it ist ein nur Würfelzucker-großes Gerät. Er wird einfach in den Ladeanschluss gesteckt und mittels App gesteuert. Die Pre-Money-Bewertung lag nach Firmenangaben bei 5 Millionen Euro. Die heat it-Gründer waren in dieser Woche auch in der Vox-Gründershow “Die Höhle der Löwen”, konnten dort aber kein Investment ergattern.

krankenhaus.de
+++ Der E-Health-Lösungsanbieter samedi, IBB Ventures und capacura investieren 2 Millionen Euro in krankenhaus.de. Das E-Health-Startup, das 2018 von Nikolai von Schroeders, Balthasar von Hohenthal und Lukas Weiß gegründet wurde, positioniert sich als Buchungsdienst für Krankenhäuser.  IBB Ventures und capacura investieren bereits 2019 einen ungenannten Betrag in den Berliner Patientendienst.

German Autolabs
+++ Das Family Office des Schwarzwälder Boten sowie die Altinvestoren Target Partners, nbr Tech Ventures und Coparion investieren “mehrere Millionen Euro” in German Autolabs. Das 2016 von Serienunternehmer Holger G. Weiss gegründete Berliner Startup entwickelte zunächst einen nachrüstbaren smarten Sprachassistenten fürs Auto. Inzwischen setzt die Jungfirma auf “Sprachassistenzlösungen für Berufskraftfahrer, Kuriere und Zusteller”.

Packwise
+++ Der Technologiegründerfonds Sachsen (TGFS), Hüttenes hoch drei (H3) und die Golzern Holding investieren eine siebenstellige Summe in Packwise aus Dresden. Das Unternehmen ermöglicht Unternehmen der Chemie- und Lebensmittelindustrie “eine schnelle und einfache Digitalisierung ihrer Supply Chain sowie die Reduktion ihres CO2-Fußabdruckes”. Packwise wurde 2017 von Gesche Weger, Felix Weger und René Bernhardt gegründet.

Angle Audio
+++ Der Berliner Geldgeber Atlantic Labs und weitere Investoren investierten bereits im Dezember in Angle Audio. Das Startup, das 2020 von Matthias D. Strodtkoetter, Valerius Huonder und Matthias Karg gegründet wurde, positioniert sich als Clubhouse-Alternative und setzt auf “audiobasierte Gruppenkonversationen”. Die Jungfirma aus Zürich bietet zudem aber auch Funktionen wie eine Bildschirmfreigabe und eine Text-Chat Funktion an, um sich auch schriftlich austauschen zu können.

Careloop
+++ Der Swiss Founders Fund (SFF), die Mediengruppe Klambt, WestTech Ventures, HNC Capital und mehrere Angel-Investoren investieren eine “hohe sechsstellige Summe” in Careloop. Das Berliner Startup bringt sich als Personalvermittlung für ausländische Kranken- und Altenpflegekräfte in Stellung. Die Gründer Alexander Lundberg und Matti Fischer wollen dabei selbstredend “den traditionellen Bewerbungsprozess auf den Kopf stellen”.

EXITS

Icony
+++ Russmedia Equity Partners übernimmt die Mehrheit am White-Label-Dating-Anbieter Icony. Das Unternehmen bietet seinen Kunden die Möglichkeit unter einer eigener Marke eine Partnersuche bzw. Singlebörse anzubieten. “Bereits über 200 Medienhäuser und Domains nutzen dieses Netzwerk und generieren so, ohne eigene Ressourcen, relevante Umsätze mit diesem Angebot”, teilt das Unternehmen mit.

VENTURE CAPITAL

Venpace
+++ Die Kölner Firmenschmiede crossbuilders startet gemeinsam mit Ingo Küpper, Walter Botermann und Torsten Oletzky sowie den vier Versicherern Deal Versicherungsgruppe, PrismaLife, Provinzial Rheinland und Vienna Insurance Group den InsurTech-Investor Venpace. “Gemeinsam werden im InsurTech-nahen Umfeld eigene digitale Geschäftsmodelle aufgebaut und Pre-Seed- und Seed-Investments bis 500.000 Euro getätigt”, teilt der neue Geldgeber mit.

DIE HÖHLE DER LÖWEN

Back’o’Funny
+++ In der zweiten Folge der neunten Staffel investierte Regal-Löwe Ralf Dümmel 33.000 Euro in Back’o’Funny und sicherte sich 33 % am Unternehmen. Die Freundinnen Gisela Hüsges-Schnabel und Sabine Kämper haben Back’o’Funnyentwickelt, um Backen so einfach und lecker wie möglich zu machen.

Co’Ps
+++ In der zweiten Folge der neunten Staffel investierte Pharma-Löwe Nils Glagau 100.000 Euro in Co’Ps und sicherte sich dabei 20 % am Unternehmen. Finn Geldermann und Jan Weigelt, die sich seit ihrer Jugend kennen, bieten mit Co’Ps einen Schnaps aus Kaffeebohnen und Kolanuss an.

Zaunkoenig
+++ In der zweiten Folge der neunten Staffel investierten Sales-Löwe Carsten Maschmeyer und Regal-Löwe Ralf Dümmel 100.000 Euro in Zaunkoenig und sicherten sich dabei 25 % am Unternehmen, das von Patrick Schmalzried und seinem Bruder Dominik Schmalzried gegründet wurde. Hinter Zaunkoenig verbirgt sich die “leichteste Computer-Maus der Welt”. Nach der Show platzte der Deal leider. “Für viele Gamer ist das Scrollrad essentiell – ein Tool, das die Entwicklung von Patrick und Dominik nicht hatte. Dies war ein Grund, warum die Beteiligung nicht zustande kam. Sie haben sich unsere Kritik aber zu Herzen genommen und haben das Scrollrad mittlerweile eingebaut. Da war es für uns aber schon zu spät. Wir wünschen den Gründern noch viel Erfolg mit Zaunkoenig”, sagt Löwe Maschmeyer. Stattdessen investierte aber Lizza-Gründer Matthias Kramer, 2016 selbst in der Vox-Show zu Gast war, in das Unternehmen und vor allem die Gründer, die er als “langjährige Freunde” bezeichnet.

PODCAST

Insider #98
+++ Schon die neue Insider-Ausgabe mit Sven Schmidt gehört? In der aktuellen Folge geht es um: Amazd, Pitch, Planet A Ventures, Dance, Blok, likeminded, GraphCMS, Klaus Hommels, Fit Analytics, Patient 21, Enpal, Babbel, Volocopter, Lampenwelt, About You und Mister Spex.

Abonnieren: Die Podcasts von deutsche-startups.de könnt ihr bei Amazon Music – Apple Podcasts – Castbox – Deezer – Google Podcasts – iHeartRadio – Overcast – PlayerFM – Podimo – Spotify – SoundCloud oder per RSS-Feed abonnieren.

Achtung! Wir freuen uns über Tipps, Infos und Hinweise, was wir in unserem #DealMonitor alles so aufgreifen sollten. Schreibt uns eure Vorschläge entweder ganz klassisch per E-Mail oder nutzt unsere “Stille Post“, unseren Briefkasten für Insider-Infos.

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

Foto (oben): azrael74

#aktuell, #angle-audio, #audio, #backofunny, #capacura, #careloop, #cops, #coatue, #coparion, #dating, #dn-capital, #e-health, #german-autolabs, #gostudent, #heat-it, #hnc-capital, #hr, #ibb-ventures, #icony, #insurtech, #karlsruhe, #koln, #krankenhaus-de, #left-lane-capital, #nbr-tech-ventures, #russmedia-equity-partners, #samedi, #swiss-founders-fund, #target-partners, #venpace, #venture-capital, #westtech-ventures, #zaunkonig, #zurich

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Facebook’s Clubhouse rival looks a lot like Clubhouse right now

Facebook is building a Clubhouse rival, The New York Times reported in February. But what that product will look like or how it will work have been questions that have remained unanswered. However, new screenshots of a Facebook audio product, still under development, show what appears to be a live audio broadcast experience that’s more of an extension of Facebook’s existing Messenger Rooms, rather than a standalone app experience. Facebook confirmed with TechCrunch the images are indeed examples of the company’s “exploratory audio efforts,” but cautioned that they don’t represent a live product at this time.

The company said also that detailing what a product may look like based on these images would be inaccurate. We’ve decided to publish them anyway with the caveat that, of course, in-development features are very different from live products. Anything and everything could still change between now and a public launch.

But the images at least help demonstrate how Facebook is thinking about live audio and where such a social experience could fit within Facebook’s existing app. And that’s worth considering.

The photos themselves have been shared by mobile developer and reverse engineer Alessandro Paluzzi, who came across Facebook’s live audio developments and user interface experiments within the Facebook Android app’s code. Like other reverse engineers, Paluzzi digs around in the code to uncover unreleased products in various stages of development. Some of the products he finds are tested and scrapped, while others eventually make it to market.

In Facebook’s case, the images he shared show a “Live Audio” option for Rooms — Facebook’s social Zoom competitor which first launched last May. At the time, people were hungry for video chat options before our collective Zoom fatigue set in as the pandemic wore on. Now we all want to turn our screens off, and hang out in Clubhouse instead.

Currently, when a Facebook user creates a Messenger Room — which you can do from either Messenger or the Status box on Facebook — it’s a group video chat. Here, friends and family can virtually hang out or even co-watch Facebook videos together. But while Rooms support up to 50 people, they’re not meant to offer a large, public broadcast experience.

The new images show an expansion of Rooms, where you’ll be able to pick from one of three different “types” of Rooms — either a private video room (much like you what’s available today), or either a public or private audio room. The private audio room would be just a place to voice chat with a group of friends, while the “Live Audio” room would instead be an audio-only room where you could broadcast to wider group of listeners.

The latter would be given its own Room Link, which speakers could then promote across Facebook — either in Messenger, through a Facebook post, or within a Facebook Group — or anywhere else on social media and the web.

Meanwhile, the Live Audio Room experience — which Paluzzi mocked up with images of Mark Zuckerberg’s face to represent the users profiles — looks a lot like Clubhouse. The speakers are shown at the top of the room where they’re represented with larger, circular profile pics, while the room listeners appear below. There’s also a “followed by speakers” section that leads the audience section — again, much like Clubhouse.

Paluzzi says the way the live audio rooms product is being developed, it would allow for rooms that anyone on Facebook could join, and those rooms could be accessible from Facebook itself — meaning you would not have to switch to Messenger to join a room. When not expanded to full-screen, the room would display its title, the number of speakers, and total listeners so you could get an idea of the room’s popularity.

Of course, what Paluzzi has come across is not a final product — it’s just a user interface, buried in the code, and none of the backend works. Facebook also stressed that the images were just audio experiments, as noted above.

But the images themselves are real and represent something Facebook has built. They’re worth examining, despite any attempts to downplay their importance.

“We’ve been connecting people through audio and video technologies for many years and are always exploring new ways to improve that experience for people,” a spokesperson said, commenting on the images Paluzzi had published.

It’s no secret that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is bullish on audio, of course. In fact, he’s already appeared on Clubhouse a couple of times, and recently spoke about the potential for social audio in a Clubhouse Room hosted last week by former TechCrunch editor Josh Constine, now an investor at SignalFire. During the chat, Zuckerberg said he believes audio has a number of advantages over other formats.

“You don’t have to prepare. You don’t have to look good before you get on to go to a podcast or Clubhouse or whatever you’re doing,” he noted, of the hosting experience. Plus, he added, “you can walk around a lot more easily. You can consume it without having to look at the screen and kind of do that in the background while doing something else.”

Zuckerberg also praised Clubhouse for what it had pioneered, saying it would end up “being one of the modalities around live audio broadcast.”

Image Credits: Alessandro Paluzzi

In other words, it appears Facebook sees Clubhouse as a feature it can reproduce — similar to how it borrowed the concept of Stories from Snapchat for Instagram, and the way it’s more recently copied the TikTok experience for Instagram Reels. It doesn’t have to launch a new app to counteract the Clubhouse threat, it just has to launch a place for people to use audio on Facebook. (And of course, there’s something to be said about praising Clubhouse on Clubhouse while simultaneously building a copy.)

“Overall, I think that this is going to be a pretty big space,” Zuckerberg said of social audio. “The work that we’re doing in this is trying to basically build out a bunch of the tools across the spectrum of how people would want to use audio. I’m really excited about this,” he added.

#apps, #audio, #clubhouse, #facebook, #mark-zuckerberg, #messenger, #messenger-rooms, #social, #social-audio, #social-media, #social-software

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#Brandneu – 6 neue Startups, die wir im Blick behalten


deutsche-startups.de präsentiert heute wieder einmal einige junge Startups, die zuletzt, also in den vergangenen Wochen und Monaten an den Start gegangen sind, sowie Firmen, die zuletzt aus dem Stealth-Mode erwacht sind. Übrigens: Noch mehr neue Startups gibt es in unserem Newsletter Startup-Radar.

HiPeople
HiPeople möchte seinen Kunden bei der Auswahl von Bewerbern helfen. In der Selbstbeschreibung heißt es: “Learn about your top talent from who knows them the best: their former managers, peers, and reports. HiPeople enables you to collect in-depth candidate reference checks, easily”.

truemorrow
Bei truemorrow finden Onliner nachhaltige Körperpflegeprodukte. “Damit du dich im Badezimmer nicht mehr zwischen deinem Wohlbefinden und der Umwelt entscheiden musst”, teilt das Startup mit. Gründer sind Simon Prinz und Matthias Vosen, beide zuletzt bei Dreamlines tätig.

Dive
Das Berliner Startup Dive setzt gezielt auf das derzeit angesagte Clubhouse-Modell. “Dive is an exclusive audio-community for professionals, to share insights and learnings about your career or industry”, heißt es in der Beschreibung der Jungfirma, die von Dmytro Boguslavskyy und Fernando Barrera gegründet wurde.

ContractHero
Das ContractHero-Team bietet eine Vertragsmanagement-Lösung für Geschäftskunden an. “Wichtige Unternehmensverträge werden immer noch analog, an vielen Orten und von unterschiedlichen Mitarbeitern organisiert”, teilen die Gründer Gerry-Constantin Koch und Sebastian Wengryn mit.

Tomorrow’s Education
Das junge Berliner Unternehmen Tomorrow’s Education, das von Christian Rebernik und Thomas Funke gegründet wurde, bietet das berufsbegleitende Masterprogramm “Sustainability, Entrepreneurship and Technology (SET)” an. Lerninhalte können bei dabei auf die Bedürfnisse der Teilnehmer:innen zugeschnitten werden.

Flink
Hinter dem Flash-Supermarkt Flink stecken Christoph Cordes (Home24) und Oliver Merkel (Bain & Company) sowie die Hamburger Pickery-Gründer Saad Saeed und Nikolas Bullwinkel. Das Startup liefert ähnlich wie goPuff oder Gorillas Lebensmittel in rund 10 Minuten aus.

Tipp: In unserem Newsletter Startup-Radar berichten wir einmal in der Woche über neue Startups. Alle Startups stellen wir in unserem kostenpflichtigen Newsletter kurz und knapp vor und bringen sie so auf den Radar der Startup-Szene. Jetzt unseren Newsletter Startup-Radar sofort abonnieren!

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

Foto (oben): Shutterstock

#aktuell, #audio, #berlin, #brandneu, #contracthero, #dive, #e-learning, #edtech, #flink, #hipeople, #hr, #startup-radar, #tomorrows-education, #truemorrow

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Clubhouse promises its accelerator participants either brand deals or $5K per month during the program

Amid growing competition from Twitter Spaces and other newcomers, popular social audio startup Clubhouse is making a move aimed at seeding its network with more high-quality content: it’s launching an accelerator program. During its weekly town hall event on Sunday, the company detailed its plans for its inaugural accelerator called “Clubhouse Creator First,” which will initially help around 20 creators get their shows off the ground. To do so, Clubhouse said it will provide creators with anything they need to get started — whether that’s equipment like an iPhone, AirPods, or an iRig, promotional support or help with booking guests, or even a babysitter. Most importantly, Clubhouse is promising the participating creators an income of some sort.

During the town hall, Clubhouse CEO Paul Davison explained that a core part of the accelerator experience will be to help creators get paid for their work. In order to make this happen, Clubhouse will match the creator with a brand sponsor, he said — something the company believes will be possible because brands are already reaching out to Clubhouse looking for opportunities to get involved.

“We have all of these brands coming to us, asking how they can help — how they can host conversations and find people who can help them host those conversations,” he said.

In the case that Clubhouse can’t find a brand sponsor for a particular show, the company will just guarantee a basic income of $5,000 per month during the three months the creator is participating in the program.

Presumably, this cushion could help people transition from other projects to focus on their Clubhouse show instead, while also giving them time to grow their audience and form the brand relationships that could sustain their shows longer-term.

Clubhouse will also play a hands-on role in helping to develop the shows from the accelerator’s participants, we understand.

Already, the Andreessen Horowitz-backed social audio app has aided in the success of one of its more popular tech programs, The Good Time Show, co-hosted by the VC firm’s latest general partner, Sriram Krishnan. His program has regularly featured guests and co-hosts either investing with the firm or connected to it somehow, and has been responsible some of Clubhouse’s biggest celeb guests — like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg, for example.

That formula could be repeatable, it seems. As Davison noted during the town hall: “we’ll work on matching you with guests for your shows — for your events.” In other words, it’s helping produce.

Davison also said Clubhouse will offer directed feedback to the accelerator’s participants, including its opinion on what works and what doesn’t, and other “deep dive concept development.” When the creators’ shows are ready to launch, Clubhouse will then connect them with creative services to help design promotional materials to market the shows outside of the social app. It may even give the creators invites they can dole out to potential listeners to help them build up the show’s initial audience, if need be.

Of course, Clubhouse has been doing some of this kind of work behind the scenes before today, but the accelerator both formalizes the arrangement and devotes dedicated resources to a larger handful of promising creators.

But it also puts Clubhouse in a potentially precarious position with regard to its still underdeveloped moderation practices.

Brands are typically hesitant to associate themselves with problematic or toxic content, and will pull out of creator deals and relationships if they find that to be the case. In the past, content moderation failures have led to advertisers’ exodus from top social platforms — like the YouTube brand freeze a few years ago over obscene comments, which necessitated a cleanup of the videos allowed on the YouTube ad network. And last year, Facebook faced its largest corporate boycott to date, when brands protested the company’s failures to properly prevent the spread of hate speech and misinformation on its platform.

Though small by comparison — the app now has 12 million global downloads, App Annie says — Clubhouse has already been called out for allowing misogyny, anti-Semitism and COVID-19 misinformation on the platform, despite rules against prohibiting this content. It’s also allowed for verbal abuse, with some users still being name-called or harassed in Clubhouse rooms. (We’ve heard these stories from users directly but will not name names without permission.).

More recently, there’s been growing concern about scam artists taking over Clubhouse and the lack of accountability for what’s being said. Many so-called “experts” are happy to go on the app to dole out advice, but when they wade into territory like mental health, they can spread harmful misinformation that can really hurt people.

All these things could potentially catch up to Clubhouse in a big way in the months to come, if the company can’t figure out a better moderation strategy to weed out the bad actors and keep the platform brand-safe.

Starting today, the company is allowing interested creators to apply for Clubhouse Creator First. The deadline to apply is March 31, 2021.

The program was one of several town hall announcements on Sunday.

The company also announced it has hired a Netflix, OWN, and Harpo Productions alum Maya Watson as its new head of global marketing, and it detailed several new product updates.

Among those, users will now be able to invite people to the app by phone number alone, instead of having to upload their entire address book. It also now allows users to share links that point to their user profile or Club page, and will now better remember a user’s language preferences when displaying its list of rooms, among other things.

#apps, #audio, #clubhouse, #creators, #mobile, #social, #social-media

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Apple pulls the plug on the HomePod

Apple has discontinued production of the pricey HomePod smart speaker that it began shipping in 2018.

The speaker will still be sold until supplies run out, but the space gray version is already gone from Apple’s online store. Only the white version remains, though you might be able to find the space gray one at a third-party retailer.

Regardless of the production change, HomePod owners will continue to get software updates and support from Apple for an unspecified amount of time.

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#apple, #audio, #homepod, #homepod-mini, #siri, #smart-speaker, #speaker, #tech

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Twitter Spaces to launch publicly next month, may include Spaces-only tweets

Twitter Spaces, the social network’s Clubhouse rival, is working towards a public launch in April, the company announced in comments made in a public Twitter Space audio room on Wednesday. According to the Space’s host, Alex aka @akkhosh on Twitter, the company intends to make it possible for anyone to host a Twitter Spaces room of their own sometime in April.

“So, very soon,” the Twitter employee noted. “That’s where we’re headed.”

TechCrunch immediately reached out to Twitter to fact check his statements on Wednesday. Given that, in the context a broader conversation about a beta product that just rolled out to testers on Android a week ago — and for joining Spaces only — his comments could have been interpreted to mean that Android beta testers would also gain the ability to host their own Spaces by April.

That would still be a fairly quick pace of development for a product that only launched into public testing late last year.

However, a Twitter spokesperson confirmed that we can take Alex at his word.

“Can absolutely confirm that he meant everyone on Android and iOS, not just beta testers,” the spokesperson told TechCrunch. In other words, the company is making Twitter Spaces available to the public user base in a matter of weeks.

The speed of development now taking place at Twitter has been notable. In just a few months, Twitter has launched its audio chat room feature to public testing and has quickly iterated on the product to tweak elements like it titles and descriptionsscheduling options, support for co-hosts and moderatorsguest lists, and more. When forthcoming changes are announced — like Android support, co-hosts, or scheduling options, for example — they’re promised to roll out in a matter of weeks, not months.

A few other ideas were also discussed during yesterday’s Twitter Spaces session. The company said it’s considering support for using music in Spaces and thinking about better ways of integrating tweets.

For the former, the goal would be to offer Spaces’ hosts some sort of welcoming music they could play for their listeners. The company has also discussed the idea of offering users the way to tweet inside the Space directly, where tweets would not be displayed on your public timeline. There are various ways this could be accomplished — for example, by offering an ephemeral, fleeting chat room inside the Space, similar to Twitter’s older live video app Periscope, or by offering a dedicated timeline just for the Space itself, which could be more complex to build.

Of course, there are some concerns with rushing a product like Twitter Spaces to launch. In Spaces’ competitor, Clubhouse, users are still regularly reporting dealing with verbal abuse and bad actors who are looking to take advantage of the platform as a place to hustle or scam people.

It’s less clear to what extent Twitter Spaces has been impacted by similar issues, as its product is still non-public. But one Twitter Spaces user who joined during yesterday’s session talked about how their recent Twitter Space was hijacked by a fan group who attempted to take over the discussion. While these particular hijackers would be placated by having the ability to run their own Spaces session, it’s easy to imagine how a coordinated effort to derail a Twitter Space could still be a problem in the weeks to come.

Twitter, in the early days of Spaces, had spoken publicly about how it would first ensure that “women and those from marginalized backgrounds” — a group of people who “are disproportionately impacted by abuse and harm on the platform,” a product designer had said — would be the first testers of the product to ensure it’s built with safety in mind. But in the weeks that have followed, there has not been as much said about Twitter Space’s anti-abuse measures or policies, as the team’s focus has been directed more on the product itself, and its various bells and whistles.

Even when taking the time to speak to analysts and investors or sit down for interviews, Twitter execs and product leaders have tended to gloss over why it keeps building new tools — like its Stories feature Fleets and now, Spaces — to encourage conversations from those who are too afraid to tweet.

The fact is that many are afraid because Twitter has not yet successfully made its platform a place where users aren’t trolled, abused, or attacked — for sometimes even the most benign statements or missteps.

One feature that could potentially help protect users by holding abusers accountable is recording Spaces.  Twitter earlier said it aims to build in a way to natively record Spaces conversations. When on the record, fewer people may be willing to speak abusively, perhaps. That could encourage more thoughtful conversations but could still potentially scare other users off from trying the product.

Meanwhile, the jury is still out on Twitter Spaces and Clubhouse’s long-term potential. There’s a question as to whether some of these platforms will see dwindling usage when the world re-opens as the pandemic ends and the conference and networking circuits heat back up. In that light, Twitter Spaces may end up having more long-term staying power as it’s connected to Twitter’s broader product and plans to make its platform a place for creators to organize, and eventually monetize their fan bases.

#apps, #audio, #clubhouse, #social, #social-media, #social-network, #twitter, #twitter-spaces

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#Brandneu – 7 neue Startups, die sich jeder unbedingt ansehen sollte


deutsche-startups.de präsentiert heute wieder einmal einige junge Startups, die zuletzt, also in den vergangenen Wochen und Monaten an den Start gegangen sind, sowie Firmen, die zuletzt aus dem Stealth-Mode erwacht sind. Übrigens: Noch mehr neue Startups gibt es in unserem Newsletter Startup-Radar.

Bootify
Mit Bootify können Java-Entwickler ihren nächsten “Spring Boot Prototypen” erstellen. “In dem Online-Tool wird einfach das Datenbankschema angelegt, Optionen wie Absicherung mit JWT ausgewählt und der generierte Quellcode steht zum Review und Download zur Verfügung”, schreibt Gründer Thomas Surmann.

Willma
Mit Hilfe von Willma können passionierte Online-Shopper ihre Paketsendungen bündeln lassen und sie in Empfang nehmen, wann es ihnen passt. Das Startup verspricht: “Du verpasst nie wieder ein Paket und erhältst es auf Knopfdruck direkt nach Hause geliefert”.

agyleOS
agyleOS setzt auf eine Software rund um das Thema Agile Working. Auf der Website heißt es: “We believe that agyleOS will help all companies that want to build and run agile organizations in a sustainable way – hundreds of thousands of companies worldwide”.

melita.io
Das Berliner Startup melita.io treibt den Ausbau eines IoT-Netzes auf LoRaWAN-Basis (Long Range Wide Area Network) voran. LoRaWAN-Netzwerke können über ein einzelnes Gateway oder eine Basisstation oftmals ganze Städte und mehrere hundert Quadratkilometer abdecken.

Si:cross
Das Berliner Startup Si:cross entwickelt eine SaaS-Lösung für die unternehmensinterne Kommunikation. Dabei setzt das Gründerteam auf Micro-Podcasts. Mitarbeiter:innen sollen so zu “aktiven Geschichtenerzähler:innen und mobilen Lernenden” werden.

climateers
Das Berliner ClimateTech climateers kämpft – wie derzeit viele Startups – gegen den Klimawandel. “The app is designed to empower individuals, working together in groups, to reduce their personal carbon emissions, by illustrating the carbon impact of simple daily choices”, teilt die Jungfirma mit.

Floristy
Die Grace-Gründer Nina Wegert und Kirishan Selvarajah, die seit etlichen Jahren haltbare Rosen verkaufen, starten mit Floristy einen Flash-Lieferdienst für Blumen. Die Berliner nennen es “Last-Mile Flower Delivery Service”. Floristy liefert innerhalb von 90 Minuten oder zum Wunschtermin bis an die Haustür der Kunden.

Tipp: In unserem Newsletter Startup-Radar berichten wir einmal in der Woche über neue Startups. Alle Startups stellen wir in unserem kostenpflichtigen Newsletter kurz und knapp vor und bringen sie so auf den Radar der Startup-Szene. Jetzt unseren Newsletter Startup-Radar sofort abonnieren!

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

Foto (oben): Shutterstock

#agyleos, #aktuell, #audio, #berlin, #bootify, #brandneu, #climateers, #climatetech, #floristy, #internet-of-things, #logistik, #melita-io, #podcast, #sicross, #startup-radar, #willma

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#Brandneu – Unser Startup des Tages: Dive


Jeden Tag entstehen in Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz neue Startups. Im März präsentiert deutsche-startups.de jeden Werktag – garniert mit einem Einhorn – ein junges Startups, das zuletzt, also in den vergangenen Wochen und Monaten an den Start gegangen sind.

Dive
Das Berliner Startup Dive setzt gezielt auf das derzeit angesagte Clubhouse-Modell. “Dive is an exclusive audio-community for professionals, to share insights and learnings about your career or industry”, heißt es in der Beschreibung der Jungfirma, die von Dmytro Boguslavskyy und Fernando Barrera gegründet wurde.

Social Media-Profile von Dive: Linkedin

Tipp: In unserem Newsletter Startup-Radar berichten wir einmal in der Woche über neue Startups. Alle Startups stellen wir in unserem kostenpflichtigen Newsletter kurz und knapp vor und bringen sie so auf den Radar der Startup-Szene. Jetzt unseren Newsletter Startup-Radar abonnieren und 30 Tage kostenlos testen!

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

Foto (oben): Shutterstock

#aktuell, #audio, #berlin, #brandneu, #clubhouse, #dive

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#DealMonitor – Infarm sucht 250 Millionen – N26 bekommt weitere Millionen – PwC steigt bei Statice ein


Im aktuellen #DealMonitor für den 1. März werfen wir wieder einen Blick auf die wichtigsten, spannendsten und interessantesten Investments und Exits des Tages in der DACH-Region. Alle Deals der Vortage gibt es im großen und übersichtlichen #DealMonitor-Archiv.

INVESTMENTS

Infarm
+++ Das junge Berliner Unternehmen Infarm, ein Vertical Farming-Anbieter, plant 250 Millionen US-Dollar aufzunehmen – siehe Sky News. GT Lighthouse, der Beteiligungsarm des Prinzenhauses Liechtenstein, Hanaco, Bonnier, Haniel und Latitude sowie die bestehenden Investoren Atomico, TriplePoint Capital, Mons Capital und Astanor Ventures investierten zuletzt 170 Millionen US-Dollar in Infarm. Mit der neuen Investmentrunde könnte Infarm zum Unicorn (1 Milliarde Bewertung) aufsteigen. Das Unternehmen wurde 2013 in Berlin von Osnat Michaeli und den Brüdern Erez und Guy Galonska gegründet. Die Jungfirma entwickelt ein “intelligentes modulares Farming-System”.

Anzeige
+++ In unserem Newsletter Startup-Radar berichten wir einmal in der Woche über neue Startups. Alle Startups stellen wir in unserem kostenpflichtigen Newsletter kurz und knapp vor und bringen sie so auf den Radar der Startup-Szene. Jetzt unseren Newsletter Startup-Radar abonnieren und 30 Tage kostenlos testen!

N26
+++ Die Familie hinter dem Schmuckkonzern Swarovski investiert über ihren Ableger Crystalon Finanz in die Berliner Digitalbank N26 – siehe Gründerszene. “Registerdokumente belegen, dass sich die Firma im Rahmen einer Kapitalerhöhung von Ende Januar rund 0,05 Prozent an dem Fintech gesichert hat”, heißt es im Artikel. Zudem stockte Geldgeber Earlybird Venture Capital seine Anteile an N26 auf und hält nun 12,4 % an N26. Die N26-Investoren – darunter Valar Ventures, der singapurische Staatsfonds GIC und der New Yorker Risikokapitalgeber Insight Venture Partners – investierten zuletzt 100 Millionen US-Dollar in das Grownup. Die Bewertung lag bei 3,5 Milliarden Dollar. In der aktuellen Investmentrunde fließen auf Grundlage dieser Bewertung nun weitere 30 Millionen Euro in N26.

Statice
+++ Die Wirtschaftsprüfungs- und Beratungsgesellschaft PwC Deutschland steigt bei Statice ein und sichert sich dabei knapp 50 % am Unternehmen. Das Berliner Startup möchte  Unternehmen helfen, sensible Daten zu anonymisieren. Capnamic Ventures, WATTx und WestTech Ventures investierten in der Vergangenheit eine siebenstellige Summe in die Jungfirma, die 2018 von Sebastian Weyer, Mikhail Dyakov und Omar Ali Fdal gemeinsam mit WATTx gegründet wurde. Capnamic Ventures hielt zuletzt 26,3 % an Statice. WATTx war mit 21,9 % an Bord. PwC Deutschland teilt mit, dass man alle Anteile der Investoren übernommen habe.

Think RE
+++ Der TGFS Technologiegründerfonds Sachsen investiert in Think RE aus Wurzen. Das ClimateTech, dass 2019 von Steffen Hundt, Stephan Dinse und Mataza Golzari gegründet wurde, begleitet über seinen digitalen Marktplatz “Unternehmen bei der Umsetzung ihrer Klimastrategie und der Reduzierung ihres CO2-Fußabdruckes”. Konkret geht es dabei um die Beschaffung, Finanzierung, Verhandlung und Kontrahierung von Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), also von langfristigen Stromlieferverträgen.

Audvice
+++ Die Business Angels Angels Philipp Kinsky, Josef Kogler und Heike Thiele investieren eine sechsstellige Summe in das Pucher Startup Audvice, das von Sophie Bolzer und Erfan Ebrahimnia gegründet wurde – siehe Der Brutkasten. Die Jungfirma setzt ganz auf den derzeitigen Audioboom und das wichtige Thema Wissensmanagement. Mit der Audvice-App können Nutzer Audio-Inhalte erstellen und diese mit anderen Nutzern bzw. Kollegen im eigenen Unternehmen teilen.

Achtung! Wir freuen uns über Tipps, Infos und Hinweise, was wir in unserem #DealMonitor alles so aufgreifen sollten. Schreibt uns eure Vorschläge entweder ganz klassisch per E-Mail oder nutzt unsere “Stille Post“, unseren Briefkasten für Insider-Infos.

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

Foto (oben): azrael74

#aktuell, #audio, #audvice, #berlin, #climatetech, #crystalon-finanz, #earlybird-venture-capital, #fintech, #infarm, #n26, #puch, #pwc-deutschland, #statice, #swarovski, #technologiegrunderfonds-sachsen, #think-re, #venture-capital, #wurzen

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$200 Puro Pro hybrid over-the-ear headphones are almost perfect

Last December, a representative for Puro Sound Labs offered me a review sample of the company’s flagship Bluetooth hybrid headphones. Her timing couldn’t have been better—I had surgery scheduled for January 8 that would put me on the couch all day, every day, for two weeks straight with nothing to do but watch movies and television (ideally without driving my wife and kids insane).

The Puro Pro is an over-the-ear design, which can be connected to audio sources via Bluetooth 5.0 pairing or a simple headphone cord. It offers just about any feature you might dream up for a pair of headphones: safety volume limiting (configurable for either 85dBA or 95dBA), 30+ hour battery life, content control via buttons on the left can, active noise cancellation, and even an inline mic for phone calls.

At $200, the Puro Pro costs more than I’d normally spend on a pair of headphones for watching late-night TV and flying on the occasional airplane (my two primary use cases). But after spending several hours per day with the Puro Pro for a couple of months, I would drop the cash in a heartbeat.

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#audio, #bluetooth-5-0, #bluetooth-headphones, #features, #headphones, #tech

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A race to reverse engineer Clubhouse raises security concerns

As live audio chat app Clubhouse ascends in popularity around the world, concerns about its data practices also grow.

The app is currently only available on iOS, so some developers set out in a race to create Android, Windows and Mac versions of the service. While these endeavors may not be ill-intentioned, the fact that it takes programmers little effort to reverse engineer and fork Clubhouse — that is, when developers create new software based on its original code — is sounding an alarm about the app’s security.

The common goal of these unofficial apps, as of now, is to broadcast Clubhouse audio feeds in real-time to users who cannot access the app otherwise because they don’t have an iPhone. One such effort is called Open Clubhouse, which describes itself as a “third-party web application based on flask to play Clubhouse audio.” The developer confirmed to TechCrunch that Clubhouse blocked its service five days after its launch without providing an explanation.

“[Clubhouse] asks a lot of information from users, analyzes those data and even abuses them. Meanwhile, it restricts how people use the app and fails to give them the rights they deserve. To me, this constitutes monopoly or exploitation,” said Open Clubhouse’s developer nicknamed AiX.

Clubhouse cannot be immediately reached for comment on this story.

AiX wrote the program “for fun” and wanted it to broaden Clubhouse’s access to more people. Another similar effort came from a developer named Zhuowei Zhang, who created Hipster House to let those without an invite browse rooms and users, and those with an invite to join rooms as a listener though they can’t speak — Clubhouse is invite-only at the moment. Zhang stopped developing the project, however, after noticing a better alternative.

These third-party services, despite their innocuous intentions, can be exploited for surveillance purposes, as Jane Manchun Wong, a researcher known for uncovering upcoming features in popular apps through reverse engineering, noted in a tweet.

“Even if the intent of that webpage is to bring Clubhouse to non-iOS users, without a safeguard, it could be abused,” said Wong, referring to a website rerouting audio data from Clubhouse’s public rooms.

Clubhouse lets people create public chat rooms, which are available to any user who joins before a room reaches its maximum capacity, and private rooms, which are only accessible to room hosts and users authorized by the hosts.

But not all users are aware of the open nature of Clubhouse’s public rooms. During its brief window of availability in China, the app was flooded with mainland Chinese debating politically sensitive issues from Taiwan to Xinjiang, which are heavily censored in the Chinese cybserspace. Some vigilant Chinese users speculated the possibility of being questioned by the police for delivering sensitive remarks. While no such event has been publicly reported, the Chinese authorities have banned the app since February 8.

Clubhouse’s design is by nature at odds with the state of communication it aims to achieve. The app encourages people to use their real identity — registration requires a phone number and an existing user’s invite. Inside a room, everyone can see who else is there. This setup instills trust and comfort in users when they speak as if speaking at a networking event.

But the third-party apps that are able to extract Clubhouse’s audio feeds show that the app isn’t even semi-public: It’s public.

More troublesome is that users can “ghost listen,” as developer Zerforschung found. That is, users can hear a room’s conversation without having their profile displayed to the room participants. Eavesdropping is made possible by establishing communication directly with Agora, a service provider employed by Clubhouse. As multiple security researchers found, Clubhouse relies on Agora’s real-time audio communication technology. Sources have also confirmed the partnership with TechCrunch.

Some technical explanation is needed here. When a user joins a chatroom on Clubhouse, it makes a request to Agora’s infrastructure, as the Stanford Internet Observatory discovered. To make the request, the user’s phone contacts Clubhouse’s application programming interface (API), which then creates “tokens”, the basic building block in programming that authenticates an action, to establish a communication pathway for the app’s audio traffic.

Now, the problem is there can be a disconnect between Clubhouse and Agora, allowing the Clubhouse end, which manages user profiles, to be inactive while the Agora end, which transmits audio data, remains active, as technology analyst Daniel Sinclair noted. That’s why users can continue to eavesdrop on a room without having their profile displayed to the room’s participants.

The Agora partnership has sparked other forms of worries. The company, which operates mainly from the U.S. and China, noted in its IPO prospectus that its data may be subject to China’s cybersecurity law, which requires network operators in China to assist police investigations. That possibility, as the Stanford Internet Observatory points out, is contingent on whether Clubhouse stores its data in China.

While the Clubhouse API is banned in China, the Agora API appears unblocked. Tests by TechCrunch find that users currently need a VPN to join a room, an action managed by Clubhouse, but can listen to the room conversation, which is facilitated by Agora, with the VPN off. What’s the safest way for China-based users to access the app, given the official attitude is that it should not exist? It’s also worth noting that the app was not available on the Chinese App Store even before its ban, and Chinese users had downloaded the app through workarounds.

The Clubhouse team may be overwhelmed by data questions in the past few days, but these early observations from researchers and hackers may urge it to fix its vulnerabilities sooner, paving its way to grow beyond its several million loyal users and $1 billion valuation mark.

#audio, #clubhouse, #privacy, #security, #social-audio, #social-networking, #surveillance, #tc, #voice-chat

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Report: social audio app Clubhouse has topped 8 million global downloads

Social audio app Clubhouse has now topped 8 million global downloads, despite still being in a prelaunch, invite-only mode, according to new data released today by mobile data and analytics firm App Annie. Per its estimates, Clubhouse grew from over 3.5 million global downloads as of Feb. 1, 2021, to reach 8.1 million by Feb. 16, 2021. This sharp growth is attributed to several high-profile guest appearances, including those from Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, for example.

App Annie also estimates that 2.6 million-plus of the total global installs took place in the U.S. — a figure that highlights the app’s global appeal.

Image Credits: App Annie

Clubhouse, meanwhile, hasn’t officially shared its total number of downloads or registered users, but CEO Paul Davison revealed in January the app had grown to 2 million weekly active users — which means the app’s monthly active user figure and total registered user count would be much higher. Other estimates have put the app’s registered user base in between 6 million and 10 million (the latter citing unnamed sources.)

Reached for comment on App Annie’s report, Clubhouse said it doesn’t publish user numbers.

It’s worth noting that app install figures aren’t typically a valid proxy for registered users as many people often download an app but then never open it or sign up. But in Clubhouse’s case, the two figures could be more closely aligned as people who are installing the app are motivated to join. The app is not open to the public, so the users installing the app are likely either in possession of a Clubhouse invite or are aiming to get one from a friend or trusted contact who’s already joined.

Also in the new report, App Annie noted how Clubhouse phenomenon is having an impact on the larger app ecosystem. Local rivals to Clubhouse offering their own social audio experience have also gained downloads in recent days, including Dizhua, Tiya and Yalla, which have attracted users in China, the U.S., Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. 

Dizhua, for example, has 174,000 downloads; Tiya has 6 million; and Yalla has 34.5 million, the report says. Yalla, notably, has been live since 2016, but Clubhouse’s popularity is giving it a boost. 

Beyond this small handful, there’s been an explosion of social audio experiences, including those in  from startups like Sonar, Locker Room, Quilt, Yoni Circle, Roadtrip, Space, Capiche.fm, Yac, Cappuccino, and others. Twitter, meanwhile, is building its own Clubhouse rival with Spaces, which it said yesterday will expand to Android by March. Facebook, too, is reportedly planning a Clubhouse competitor.

The question on everyone’s minds now is how much of this growth is sustainable. Skeptics say Clubhouse lends itself to those who tend to dominate conversations by talking at length; that many of its conversations are just kind of boring; that the app favors the “hustle culture”-obsessed; and so on. Some also wonder to how well social audio apps will fare when the world reopens post-COVID and there’s more to do — including the return traditional networking events.

But these concerns don’t take into account that social audio has the potential to carve out space for itself by supplanting users’ other mobile spoken-word audio activities, like podcast listening or audiobooks. Of course, questions about Clubhouse’s future can’t really be answered now, as the pandemic continues, and with an app that’s not fully open to the public.

#app-annie, #apps, #audio, #clubhouse, #mobile-applications, #social, #social-audio, #social-media

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Super High-Fidelity Mario: The quest to find original gaming audio samples

One of many Super Mario World tracks that have now been remastered from their original, high-fidelity audio samples.

Classic-gaming archaeology doesn’t always revolve around digging up rare and unreleased games. Sometimes, it’s about taking well-known relics and reconstructing them from newly unearthed and higher-fidelity original component parts. As a result of this work, one of the biggest games of all time now sounds completely different.

Remastering the Super Mario World soundtrack in this way means diving deep into the world of compressed video game audio samples. These were most common in the late cartridge era; the samples were nestled between the literal bleeps and bloops of the earliest video game sound chips and the CD-quality audio of the optical disc. Games in this era would frequently chain together brief snippets of recorded audio and replay them over and over with different effects, as if they’d been loaded into an electronic keyboard.

The game cartridges couldn’t store much data, of course, so the original synthesizer samples usually took a heavy hit in fidelity during the transition to game soundtracks. “The composer [often felt] obligated to sacrifice sound quality to get their music running without any lag and to fit into the cartridge,” said Michael, a video game music source investigator from El Salvador (who didn’t share his last name). “Especially if all the audio work is made by the CPU (like on the Nintendo 64), this limitation can distort how the music sounds. In some ways, this isn’t the best take of the game’s music.”

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#audio, #game-history, #gaming-culture, #mario, #music, #n64, #snes

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Spotify hints toward plans for podcast subscriptions, à la carte payments

Spotify again signaled its interest in developing new ways to monetize its investments in podcasts. In the company’s fourth-quarter earnings, chief executive Daniel Ek suggested the streaming media company foresees a future where there will be multiple business models for podcasts, including, potentially, both ad-supported subscriptions and à la carte options.

The company, which also revealed its podcast catalog has grown to now 2.2 million programs, said it’s seen increasing demand for the audio format in recent months.

For example, 25% of Spotify’s monthly active users now engage with podcasts, up from 22% just last quarter. Podcast consumption is also increasing, with listening hours having nearly doubled year-over-year in the fourth quarter.

Today, podcasts on Spotify’s platform are available to both free and paid users and are monetized with ads. This is still a key focus for the company — Spotify even recently acquired a podcast hosting and monetization platform, Megaphone, to help make streaming ad insertion technology available to its third-party publishers while also growing its targetable podcast inventory.

But Spotify recently put its feelers out about different means of monetizing podcasts, too.

Late last year, for instance, the company was spotted running a survey that asked its customers if they would be willing to pay for a standalone podcast subscription, and if so what would it look like and how much would it cost?

At the time, the survey offered a few different concepts.

At the low end, a subscription could offer ad-supported exclusive episodes and bonus content for $3 per month. This would be similar to Stitcher Premium, which today provides exclusives from top shows and other bonus episodes. But Spotify’s suggested version included ads, while Stitcher Premium is ad-free.

A middle option suggested a plan that would be even closer to Stitcher Premium, with exclusive shows and bonus material but no ads. This even matched Stitcher Premium’s price of $5 per month. And at the high-end, subscribers could get early access to ad-free interviews and episodes for $8 per month.

A survey, of course, is only meant to gauge consumer demand for such a subscription, and doesn’t indicate that Spotify has a new product in the works. (Spotify said the same when asked to comment on the news at the time.)

However, it’s clear that investors also want to know what Spotify is thinking when it comes to recouping its sizable investments in podcasts.

Asked if Spotify thought customers would be willing to pay for podcasts, Ek on the earnings call responded that he believed there were several new models that could be explored.

“I think we’re in the early days of seeing the long-term evolvement of how we can monetize audio on the internet. I’ve said this before, but I don’t believe that it’s a one-size-fits-all,” he said. “I believe, in fact, that we will have all business models, and that’s the future for all media companies — that you will have ad-supported subscriptions and à la carte sort of in the same space, of all media companies in the future.”

“And you should definitely expect Spotify to follow that strategy and that pattern,” Ek added, more definitively.

The answer seemed to indicate that Spotify is considering some of the ideas in that recent survey — of getting consumers to pay for some podcasts, instead of accessing them all for free or having them bundled into their music subscription.

Of course, that would change the meaning of the word “podcasts,” which today refers to freely distributed, serialized audio programs that get distributed via RSS feeds.

If Spotify chooses to paywall podcasts behind subscriptions or à la carte payments, then they’re no longer really podcasts — they’re a new sort of premium audio program.

This is an area where Spotify has plenty of room to grow, considering the significant investment it has made in podcasts over the years. To date, that’s included buying up content producers like Gimlet Media, The Ringer and Parcast, as well as signing top creators like Joe Rogan, Addison Rae, Kim Kardashian West, DC Comics, Michelle Obama and The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, among others. Spotify also bought podcast tools like Anchor and other ad technology and hosting services.

The advantage with podcasts is that Spotify has the ability to monetize them in multiple ways at once — with ads and subscriptions or direct payments, if it chose. And, of course, there are no licensing fees or royalties to contend with, as with streaming music.

Spotify could also adjust the podcast payments model as needed to fit its different geographies and the way customers around the world prefer to consume and pay for podcast content.

None of this thinking was about near-term launches, Ek also clarified.

“I think it’s early days, though, to specifically kind of look at how that could play out,” he said, talking about how the different models could take shape. “But, obviously, if that were to be the case, that revenue profile would be different than how we do music.”

#audio, #media, #music, #podcasts, #spotify, #streaming, #streaming-service

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Twitter rolls out Stories, aka ‘Fleets,’ to all users; will also test a Clubhouse rival

Twitter this morning is launching its own version of Stories — aka “Fleets” — to its global user base. The product, which allows users to post ephemeral content that disappears in 24 hours, had already rolled out to select markets including Brazil, India, Italy, South Korea, and most recently, Japan. The company, in a press briefing on Monday, also revealed its plans to test an audio-based social networking feature similar to the controversial app Clubhouse.

Like Clubhouse, Twitter’s new audio spaces will allow people to gather for live conversations with another person or a group of people.

This is an area that, so far, has faced significant moderation challenges due to the nature of live audio. Clubhouse, though still in a private, invite-only testing phase, has already seen several high-profile incidents of moderation failure, including the harassment of a New York Times reporter, and another conversation that delved into antisemitism.

Twitter, for all its efforts at developing new features to combat online abuse — from its Hide Replies feature to its newer conversation controls — has not yet proven itself to be the sort of company that has managed to successfully combat online abuse, harassment, and trolling. Nor has it managed to develop a robust reporting system where users feel their complaints are swiftly handled.

So, given that live audio has proven even more difficult to moderate than text-based posts, Twitter’s decision to invest in this space will likely be criticized by those who don’t believe Twitter can safely engineer a platform for this type of conversation.

Image Credits: Twitter

For what it’s worth, Twitter is not rolling out live audio spaces to all users at once. Instead, it’s first testing the product with a small group of people who the company believes can provide better user feedback than those on Clubhouse’s VC chat room, for instance.

“It’s critical that we get safety right — safety and people feeling comfortable in these spaces. We need to get that right in order for people to leverage live audio spaces in the ways we might imagine or in the ways that would be most helpful for them,” explained Twitter Staff Product Designer, Maya Gold Patterson, when introducing the feature in a briefing for reporters.

“So we’re going to do something a little different,” she continued. “We are going to launch this first experiment of spaces to a very small group of people — a group of people who are disproportionately impacted by abuse and harm on the platform: women and those from marginalized backgrounds,” she added.

Image Credits: Twitter

As to why Twitter felt the need to jump on the audio bandwagon so early in the game, when it’s arriving several years late to the Stories format is less clear.

According to Twitter Director of Design Joshua Harris, the company’s delay to launch Stories was because Twitter was being “methodical in exploring how the format works for people on Twitter.”

That’s not exactly true. Twitter wasn’t years late because it was being careful about Fleets’ development. The reality was that Twitter had prioritized work on its core product over new features.

That’s been changing in recent months, thanks in part to activist investor Elliott Management Group, which took a sizable stake in Twitter earlier this year. It did so with a plan to push the company for more innovation and new executive leadership. (The company later struck a deal to spare Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s ousting, however.)

At the time of Elliott’s campaign, Twitter’s lack of Stories had been referenced as an area where the company had fallen behind social media rivals in terms of innovation.

Image Credits: Twitter

Twitter’s trial launch of Fleets soon followed this shakeup. This intervention could also explain why the company is now rushing to enter the still unproven space of audio-based social networking.

Of course, Twitter is aware of the Clubhouse comparisons with its test of audio spaces.

“We think it’s we think that audio is definitely having a resurgence right now across many digital spaces,” noted Twitter Product Lead, Kayvon Beykour. “So it’ll be fascinating to see how other platforms explore the area as well, but we think it’s a critical one for us, too,” he said.

As for Fleets, there’s no change to the product beyond its global availability.

The feature itself is a fairly basic version of the basic Stories format which will be located at the top of the Twitter timeline. Users can post text, photos and videos to Fleets directly, or share tweets into Fleets and post their reactions. Others reply to Fleets via direct messages (DMs), much like how Stories work on other platforms. Twitter says more formats and creative tools will come to the product in the near future.

Twitter also says it’s working to bring standard voice tweets to Android and will make transcriptions for these tweets and other media available in 2021. It’s now testing audio in DMs in Brazil, as well.

The company additionally hinted at some new features in development aimed at pushing Twitter users to be more thoughtful and kinder to one another. These may include built-in reminders and nudges, including ways for friends to reach out privately to another user when they see something is going wrong.

“We’re exploring methods of private feedback on the platform, as well as private apologies, and forgiveness,” said Twitter Senior Product Manager Christine Su. “And so that may look like a notification — that’s like a gentle elbowing from someone that you follow. Or it also may look like a nudge like you’ve seen before.” No further details were provided, nor a timeframe for a rollout.

In the meantime, Fleets will be available to all markets where it hadn’t yet rolled out starting today. The audio spaces test is poised to launch to small groups of users soon.

#apps, #audio, #social, #social-media, #stories, #tc, #tweets, #twitter

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Beats Flex: $50 Bluetooth earphones with Apple’s W1 chip and USB-C

It’s not just Apple that is announcing new products on Tuesday: the company’s Beats subsidiary has unveiled its latest set of wireless headphones, the Beats Flex, as well. The new model is up for preorder today for $50 on Apple.com and will begin shipping on October 21.

The Beats Flex are the successor to the BeatsX, which the manufacturer released in 2017. Like that pair, the Flex are neckband-style wireless earphones. That means they connect over Bluetooth but aren’t totally devoid of wires a la Apple’s AirPods or Beats’ own Powerbeats Pro. Instead, the Flex’s earpieces are attached via a cable that extends behind your neck and has built-in modules for its microphone and call/music controls.

Beats is promising improved sound quality compared to the BeatsX with the help of a redesigned driver, along with greater clarity during phone calls and a design that’s 8 percent lighter. (For reference, the BeatsX only weighed 0.05 lbs.) The earpieces can still connect magnetically when not in use, and Beats says the whole thing now supports auto-play/pause, so they’ll automatically stop or resume your audio whenever they’re removed or put back on.

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#apple, #audio, #beats, #beats-flex, #tech, #wireless-headphones

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Google unveils the $99 Nest Audio smart speaker

Four years after the introduction of the Google Home smart speaker, Google showcased its successor to the company’s mid-range smart speaker. In keeping with the broader rebranding of the company’s smart home products, the device is now called Nest Audio. The smart speaker will retail for $99 and come in a variety of colors including sage, sand, sky, chalk and charcoal.

The device is available starting October 5th and will go on sale in 21 countries.

The company says it prioritized more bass, added volume and clearer sound when designing the product which replaces the aged Google Home smart speaker. Indeed, Google says Nest Audio has 50% “more bass” and can get 75% louder than Google Home could. It all comes in a much larger package. It sports a 19mm tweeter to hit high frequencies while a 75mm midwoofer pushes things out on the lower-end. We’ll have to take them at their word until we can get a hand on the device ourselves.

Image Credits: Google

Nest Audio’s design ditches the candle-like form factor of the previous generation, instead embracing the fabric blob design that the Google Home Mini and Google Home Max have long sported.

The smart speaker market is in a bit of an odd place, the devices have gone through several iterations but the ecosystems for the devices have, if anything, contracted as third-party integrations with smart assistants largely failed to pan out aside from basic tasks like listening to music. For Google, the market opportunity now looks more like creating a low-cost alternative to Sonos, a company which is suing Google for IP theft by the way. Multi-room audio has gotten more and more accessible over the years and smart speaker manufacturers have largely been responsible for that.

#audio, #google, #google-hardware-event-2020, #tc

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#Brandneu – 6 neue Startups, die ihr euch anschauen solltet


Jeden Tag entstehen überall in Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz neue Startups. deutsche-startups.de präsentiert an dieser Stelle wieder einmal einige ganz junge Startups, die zuletzt, also in den vergangenen Tagen, Wochen und Monaten an den Start gegangen sind sowie einige junge Firmen, die zuletzt aus dem Stealth-Mode erwacht sind und erstmals für Schlagzeilen gesorgt haben.

Flexcavo
Bei Flexcavo aus Rosenheim, das von Picus Capital angeschoben wurde, dreht sich alles um das MIeten von Baumaschinen. “Wir kombinieren unsere Mietflotte mit innovativer Technologie, um gemeinsam mit Ihnen den Einsatz von Baumaschinen zu optimieren”, teilen die Jungunternehmer mit.

URL: www.flexcavo.de
Hashtags: #eCommerce #B2B
Ort: Rosenheim
Gründer: Leonhard Fricke, Benedict Aicher

wirbauen.digital
Die Kölner Jungfirma wirbauen.digital positioniert sich als “praxisnahe Online-Plattform, um Architekten, Handwerkern und Bauherren lästige Verwaltungsarbeit abzunehmen”. Dafür bildet das Unternehmen, das von Daniel Grube geführt wird, die Bauprozesse digital ab.

URL: www.wirbauendigital.de
Hashtags: #PropTech #ConTech
Ort: #Köln
Gründer: Daniel Grube

Foodiary
Bei Foodiary dreht sich alles um gesunde Ernährung. “Mit dem Ernährungsplan von Foodiary erhältst du einen auf dich persönlich abgestimmten Ernährungsplan mit Rezepten, der dich unterstützt, dein Ziel zu erreichen”, heißt es auf der Website. Die kostet dabei ab 4,99 Euro pro Monat.

URL: www.foodiary.app
Hashtags: #Food #Wellness
Ort: Waiblingen
Gründer: Felix Mergenthaler

flair
Mit flair drängt eine “HR-Lösung für Salesforce” auf den Markt. Das System des Münchner Startup ist nach eigenen Angaben in der Lage “ jeden Prozess der HR-Abteilung von der Lohnabrechnung über Recruiting bis zum Spesenmanagement und DocuSign zu automatisieren”

URL: www.flair.hr
Hashtags: #HR #Software
Ort: München
Gründer: Evgenii Pavlov, Thiago Rodrigues de Paula

Audiopedia
Das Startup Audiopedia positioniert sich als “offenes, kollaboratives Projekt, um hörbares Wissen zur Verfügung zu stellen”. Zielgruppe sind Menschen, die nicht lesen können und keinen Zugang zu vielen Informationen haben. Das Projekt wird bereits vom Wikimedia Accelerator gefördert.

URL: www.audiopedia.org
Hashtags: #Audio
Ort: Gräfenhausen
Gründer: Felicitas Heyne, Marcel Heyne

jesango
Das junge Münchner Startup jesango versucht sich als “Fairfashion Shopping Community” zu etablieren. Die Bajuwaren wollen dabei vor allem “coole, stylische und aufstrebende Brands” in ihrem Shop versammlen. Auch eine “Fair Fashion Shopping App” ist bereits geplant.

URL: www.jesango.de
Hashtags: #eCommerce #Nachhaltigkeit
Ort: München
Gründer: Catja Günther, Sophia Wittrock und Larissa Schmid

Tipp: In unserem Newsletter Startup-Radar berichten wir einmal in der Woche über junge, frische und brandneue Startups, die noch nicht jeder kennt. Alle diese Startups stellen wir in unserem kostenpflichtigen Newsletter kurz und knapp vor und bringen sie so auf den Radar der bundesweiten Startup-Szene und im besten Fall auf die Agenda von Investoren, Unternehmen und potenziellen Kooperationspartnern. Jetzt unseren Newsletter Startup-Radar sofort abonnieren!

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

Foto (oben): Shutterstock

#aktuell, #audiopedia, #brandneu, #flair, #flexcavo, #foodiary, #jesango, #startup-radar, #wirbauen-digital

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Krisp snags $5M A round as demand grows for its voice-isolating algorithm

Krisp’s smart noise suppression tech, which silences ambient sounds and isolates your voice for calls, arrived just in time. The company got out in front of the global shift to virtual presence, turning early niche traction has into real customers and attracting a shiny new $5 million series A funding round to expand and diversify its timely offering.

We first met Krisp back in 2018 when it emerged from UC Berkeley’s Skydeck accelerator. The company was an early one in the big surge of AI startups, but with a straightforward use case and obviously effective tech it was hard to be skeptical about.

Krisp applies a machine learning system to audio in real time that has been trained on what is and isn’t the human voice. What isn’t a voice gets carefully removed even during speech, and what remains sounds clearer. That’s pretty much it! There’s very little latency (15 milliseconds is the claim) and a modest computational overhead, meaning it can work on practically any device, especially ones with AI acceleration units like most modern smartphones.

The company began by offering its standalone software for free, with paid tier that removed time limits. It also shipped integrated into popular social chat app Discord. But the real business is, unsurprisingly, in enterprise.

“Early on our revenue was all pro, but in December we started onboarding enterprises. COVID has really accelerated that plan,” explained Davit Baghdasaryan, co-founder and CEO of Krisp. “In March, our biggest customer was a large tech company with 2,000 employees — and they bought 2,000 licenses, because everyone is remote. Gradually enterprise is taking over, because we’re signing up banks, call centers and so on. But we think Krisp will still be consumer-first, because everyone needs that, right?”

Now even more large companies have signed on, including one call center with some 40,000 employees. Baghdasaryan says the company went from 0 to 600 paying enterprises, and $0 to $4M annual recurring revenue in a single year, which probably makes the investment — by Storm Ventures, Sierra Ventures, TechNexus and Hive Ventures — look like a pretty safe one.

It’s a big win for the Krisp team, which is split between the U.S. and Armenia, where the company was founded, and a validation of a global approach to staffing — world-class talent isn’t just to be found in California, New York, Berlin and other tech centers, but in smaller countries that don’t have the benefit of local hype and investment infrastructure.

Funding is another story, of course, but having raised money the company is now working to expand its products and team. Krisp’s next move is essentially to monitor and present the metadata of conversation.

“The next iteration will tell you not just about noise, but give you real time feedback on how you are performing as a speaker,” Baghdasaryan explained. Not in the toastmasters sense, exactly, but haven’t you ever wondered about how much you actually spoke during some call, or whether you interrupted or were interrupted by others, and so on?

“Speaking is a skill that people can improve. Think Grammar.ly for voice and video,” Baghdasaryan ventured. “It’s going to be subtle about how it gives that feedback to you. When someone is speaking they may not necessarily want to see that. But over time we’ll analyze what you say, give you hints about vocabulary, how to improve your speaking abilities.”

Since architecturally Krisp is privy to all audio going in and out, it can fairly easily collect this data. But don’t worry — like the company’s other products, this will be entirely private and on-device. No cloud required.

“We’re very opinionated here: Ours is a company that never sends data to its servers,” said Baghdasaryan. “We’re never exposed to it. We take extra steps to create and optimize our tech so the audio never leaves the device.”

That should be reassuring for privacy wonks who are suspicious of sending all their conversations through a third party to  be analyzed. But after all, the type of advice Krisp is considering can be done without really “understanding” what is said, which also limits its scope. It won’t be coaching you into a modern Cicero, but it might help you speak more consistently or let you know when you’re taking up too much time.

For the immediate future, though, Krisp is still focused on improving its noise-suppression software, which you can download for free here.

#artificial-intelligence, #audio, #funding, #fundings-exits, #krisp, #machine-learning, #noise-canceling, #noise-cancellation, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc

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Apple battles Ableton Live with new Logic Pro X 10.5 features

Today, Apple announced Logic Pro X 10.5, a major update to its popular digital audio workstation (DAW) for macOS. Key new features include a pro version of Live Loops, a new drum-machine like tool (Step Sequencer) for making drum beats and other sounds, and some significant updates to the Sampler tool.

Taking a page right out of competing DAW Ableton Live’s book, Live Loops offers a grid-based approach to plotting out loops and samples. Apple also introduced a new feature called Remix FX that allows application of filters in a way that works for live performance. Live performance is something most music producers feel competing DAW Ableton Live excels at, compared to Logic, so this reads as an effort to close that gap.

The Sampler tool has been updated with a new interface and some small new features. The company also offers Quick Sampler here, a tool that lets you pull audio samples from places like the Voice Memos app (and elsewhere) and turn them into playable instruments within Logic.

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#ableton-live, #apple, #audio, #daw, #gaming-culture, #logic, #logic-pro-x, #music, #music-production, #tech

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The Web-based version of Apple Music has officially launched

The multi-platform, Web-based interface for the Apple Music streaming service exited beta and officially launched today. It lives at music.apple.com and is accessible through any modern Web browser.

In many respects, the design and layout of the site closely resembles that of the native Mac app. The layout of store pages is similar, and the visual language is the same. It has the same player controls at the top, and it also has the left-aligned navigation bar with “For You,” “Browse,” and “Radio.”

It’s interesting, though, that the website prominently features “open in Music” (in Safari on Apple devices) or “open in iTunes,” depending on the platform. This suggests that Apple still sees the website as a supplement to the native app experience, not a full replacement for it. Also, the Apple Music Web app lacks some of the personal library features that were grandfathered into Music from iTunes on Macs.

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#apple, #apple-music, #audio, #music, #streaming, #tech, #web

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Media software maker Plex launches new subscriber-only apps for music and server management

Media software maker Plex has released two new projects today from its internal R&D group, Plex Labs. One is an updated take on the classic Winamp player it calls Plexamp, and another is a dedicated app for Plex server administration. The projects are meant to appeal largely to Plex power users who take full advantage of Plex’s software suite, which has grown over time from being only a home media solution to a one-stop shop for everything from live TV to streaming audio.

The first of the new apps, Plexamp, is actually a revamp of the first Plex Labs project released. In December 2017, Plex introduced its own music player, whose name Plexamp was a nod to the Winamp player it aimed to replace. The project, like others from Plex Labs, was built by Plex employees in their spare time.

The goal with the original Plexamp was to offer a small desktop player that could handle any music format. The app let you use media keys for playing, pausing and skipping tracks and it worked offline when the Plex server ran on your laptop. It also offered visualizations to accompany your music that pulled from the album art.

While the original app ran on Mac or Windows, the new release works across five platforms, now including iOS, Android and Linux.

The app itself has been completely redone, as well — rewritten from scratch, in fact. And it’s tied to Plex’s subscription service, Plex Pass — meaning you’ll need to be a paying customer to use it.

The company explains the original version of Plexamp had issues around portability and licensing; it didn’t have an easy way to add functionality; and it was built with React, which tied it to the web.

To create the new Plexamp (version 3.0), Plex built an audio player library called TREBLE on top of a low-level commercial audio engine. TREBLE has been shipping in Plex’s commercial applications, but this release brings it to Plexamp. The addition helped make the app portable across almost all desktop and mobile platforms, as was it being rewritten in React Native.

The new app provides features Plex Pass music listeners want, like gapless playback, high-quality resampling, Sweet Fades (Plex’s “smart” alternative to crossfades) soft transitions and pre-caching. Plex also added a few more effects, including one for voice boosting spoken word audio and another for silence compression.

But the app really sells itself to longtime Plex users, as Plexamp lets you go back to see your own “top personal charts” for what you’ve listened to the most in years past. (Sort of like a Plex version of Apple Music’s Replay playlists).

Plexamp 3.0 also introduces a feature that lets you build your own mixes by picking a set of artists. Plus it offers a more expansive list of stations, supports offline listening and improves its search functionality.

The new Recent Searches area, for example, will save your search results from across servers, as well as TIDAL and podcasts. And a new Recent Plays feature shows you the music you consciously chose to play, again including across all servers and TIDAL.

There are some little touches, too, that show the personal care that went into the app’s design — like the way Plexamp uses album art and a process called “UltraBlur” to give each artist and alum page its own look. Or how there are options for light and dark — and lighter and darker — themes.

The other big new release from Plex Labs is the new Plex Dash app.

This mobile and tablet app lets you keep a close eye on your personal media server, including a way to see all playbacks even across multiple servers, plus other administrative features.

With Plex Dash, you can edit your artwork, scan for new media, fix incorrect matches, check on server resource usage, tweak library settings and view server logs live.

Plex suggests you it run on the iPad you have mounted in the wall — like in your fancy media room, I guess — but for us poorer folks, it runs on your smartphone, too.

It’s a power user tool, but one that will be welcomed for those fully immersed in a Plex-run home media setup. (And also a good way to respond to criticism that Plex is too focused today on its streaming and TV options, and not its core home media software customer base.)

Like Plexamp, the new Plex Dash requires a Plex Pass subscription and runs on iOS and Android.

The apps launched today are notable as they’re the first to arrive from Plex Labs since the original release of Plexamp in 2017 and because they require a subscription in order to work.

Plex at the end of 2019 said it had 15 million registered households using its service. Though the service is profitable, only a small percentage are paid subscribers. New apps with extra features, then, could convince more Plex users to upgrade.

#apps, #audio, #media, #mobile, #plex, #software, #streaming

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#StartupTicker – Mit audiocado macht aus Sound stylische Videos


+++ Eines der vielen Kölner Startups, das mehr Aufmerksamkeit verdient hat, ist audiocado. Das junge Unternehmen ist noch ganz ganz frisch am Start und befindet sich derzeit in der Early-Betaphase. Mit audiocado lassen sich in wenigen Sekunden, im schlimmsten Fall in ein paar Minuten, recht stylische Videos zur Promotion von Audioinhalten generieren. Zielgruppe des tollen Tools sind unter anderem Podcast-Macher, die ihre neue Ausgabe via Twitter und Co. bewerben wollen, oder Künstler, die ihre Songs via Social Media verbreiten möchten.

+++ “Audiocado is made for Musicians. Easily upload your album artwork and turn songs into animated videos with waveform animations”, heißt es dazu auf der Website des jungen Unternehmens. In Sachen Podcast-Macher heißt es: “Turn audio clips from your podcast into shareable video highlights for social media and encourage new listeners to download your show”. Spannend dabei: Mit audiocado lassen sich auch Untertitel generieren.

+++ Hinter Audiocado stecken die Kölner Storrito-Macher. 2016 machten sich Nils Pospischil und Maximilian Weber auf, um den boomenden Virtual Reality-Markt mit einer Advertisement-Lösung zu bereichern. Das Konzept ging nicht auf. “Die Nutzerzahlen im VR-Markt sind weit hinter den Prognosen von 2016 zurückgeblieben, daher haben wir den Pivot gewagt und Storrito entwickelt”, sagt Weber. Hinter Storrito verbirgt sich ein SaaS-Tool zum Erstellen von Stories für Instagram und Co.

Durchstarten in Köln – #Koelnbusiness

In unserem Themenschwerpunkt Köln berichten wir gezielt über die Digitalaktivitäten in der Rheinmetropole. Mit circa 400 Startups, über 60 Coworking Spaces, Acceleratoren und Inkubatoren sowie attraktiven Investoren, zahlreichen Veranstaltungen und Netzwerken bieten Köln und das Umland ein spannendes Ökosystem für Gründerinnen und Gründer. Diese Rubrik wird unterstützt von der KölnBusiness Wirtschaftsförderungs-GmbH#Koelnbusiness auf LinkedInFacebook und Instagram.

KoelnBusiness

Foto (oben): Shutterstock

#aktuell, #audio, #audiocado, #koln, #startupticker, #storrito

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