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Matthias Kaiser’s extensive travels, and apprenticeships in Japan, continue to inform his nuanced, stylistically wide-ranging vessels.
It’s not even half a year since crypto exchange Bitpanda announced a $170M Series B — when, back in March, Austria’s first unicorn was being valued at $1.2 billion. Today it’s topping that: Announcing a $263M Series C, led by Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures, with the fintech startup now valued at a whopping $4.1BN — more than 3x its earlier valuation as crypto trading continues cooking on gas.
The round was signed earlier this month, just four months after the business gained unicorn status. Other participating investors include Alan Howard and REDO Ventures, with existing investors LeadBlock Partners and Jump Capital also joining the Series C.
There are a number of exchanges and trading platforms targeted at retail investors, of course, including some big US-based players. But Bitpanda has been making its mark by being Europe-focused, with offices and physical tech hubs located in eight cities across the region, including Vienna, Barcelona, Berlin, Krakow, London, Madrid, Milan, and Paris.
The platform has a further twist in that it lets its ~3 million users easily invest (commission-free) in precious metals (like gold) or in any established stock they fancy — in addition to encouraging individuals to hop aboard the crypto rollercoaster, which was its first focus. (The minimum investment amount set by the platform is €1.)
Despite diversification beyond crypto, a spokeswoman confirmed to us that crypto trading remains “the preferred choice” for Bitpanda’s current users, noting the Stocks trading product is still in beta. “With Bitpanda Stocks, we introduced a new way of investing in stocks and ETFs; it enables investing 24/7, any time, day or night. This is still in a beta phase, we’re adding constantly new assets. That said, stock trading is slowly picking up and increasing its share in overall trading,” she added.
More recently (in June) Bitpanda expanded into the b2b market — with a white label platform offering that lets other fintechs and banks offer trading to their own clients.
This combination of products and regional focus has helped the platform pile on new users in short order: Bitpanda says it’s “on track” to achieve 6x customer growth year over year, with revenues projected to increase sevenfold in 2021 vs the previous year.
The Series C funding will be used for international expansion and growth, per a press release, as well as going on further beefing up headcount (500+ strong at this stage), as well as on gearing up for further scaling of the business.
Tech and product are also set to get juiced with Series C funds.
Commenting in a statement, Eric Demuth, co-founder and CEO, said: “We started Bitpanda in 2014 with a clear vision: To bring investing closer to everyone, everywhere. We wouldn’t be here today without the efforts of our talented team members who are constantly ‘rolling up their sleeves’ to make things happen. We’re grateful to share our journey with these incredible people — and that’s why a key area of focus for us is to keep strengthening our team by bringing onboard world-class talent.We’re also grateful for the vote of confidence received from our investors, old and new, in this investment round. We look forward to working together as we shape the future of finance and grow Bitpanda into the #1 investment platform in Europe
Bitpanda’s spokeswoman also told us that international expansion and growth are “key priorities”, adding: “We’ll keep building the team, opening new offices, and launching new products as we design for scale and optimise for growth. This also means strengthening Bitpanda’s position in existing markets — such as in the DACH region, Spain, France, Italy, and Poland, and also enter new markets, such as the UK or the markets in Central and Eastern Europe.”
In another supporting statement, Andrew McCormack, founding partner of Valar Ventures, said: “We believed in Bitpanda’s potential from the beginning and we are impressed by the results that Eric, Paul, Christian and the Bitpanda team have achieved. With more than 1.2 million users acquired in the first half of 2021, impressive net revenue growth and world-class executive hires, Bitpanda stands as the living proof that hypergrowth can be achieved in a sustainable way. We’re excited to further work together to bring the world of investing at the fingertips of everyone, anywhere.”
Refurbed, a European marketplace for refurbished electronics which raised a $17 million Series A round of funding last year has now raised a $54 million Series B funding led by Evli Growth Partners and Almaz Capital.
They are joined by existing investors such as Speedinvest, Bonsai Partners and All Iron Ventures, as well as a group of new backers — Hermes GPE, C4 Ventures, SevenVentures, Alpha Associates, Monkfish Equity (Trivago Founders), Kreos, Expon Capital, Isomer Capital and Creas Impact Fund.
Refurbed is an online marketplace for refurbished electronics that are tested and renewed. These then tend to be 40% cheaper than new, and come with a 12-month warranty included. The company claims that in 2020, it grew by 3x and reached more than €100M in GMV.
Operating in Germany, Austria, Ireland, France, Italy and Poland, the startup plans three other countries by the end of 2021.
Riku Asikainen at Evli Growth Partners said: “We see the huge potential behind the way refurbed contributes to a sustainable, circular economy.”
Peter Windischhofer, co-founder of refurbed, told me: “We are cheaper and have a wider product range, with an emphasis on quality. We focus on selling products that look new, so we end up with happy customers who then recommend us to others. It makes people proud to buy refurbished products.”
The startup has 130 refurbishers selling through its marketplace.
Other Players in this space include Back Market (raised €48M), Swappa (US) and Amazon Renew. Refurbed also competes with Rebuy in Germany, Swapbee in Finland.
“We are true believers in the fact that the world needs a new Amazon, a better one, a more sustainable one, one that appreciates local areas and products.” It’s quite one thing to claim you are out to replace Amazon (just as its founder goes into space), but Ralf Wenzel, Founder and CEO of JOKR, certainly believes his company might have a shot. And he’s raising plenty of money to aim at that goal.
Today the fast-growing grocery and retail delivery platform has closed a whopping $170 million Series A funding round. The round comes three months after the company started operations in the U.S., Latin America, and Europe. JOKR’s team consists of people who created both foodpanda and Delivery Hero, so from the outside at least, they have the chops to build a big business.
The round was led by Led by GGV Capital, Balderton Capital, and Tiger Global Management. It was joined by Activant Capital, Greycroft, Fabrice Grinda’s FJ Labs, as well as Latin America’s tech-specialized VC firms Kaszek and Monashees, as did HV Capital, the first institutional investor.
Based out of New York, where it launched last month JOKR plans to roll out across cities in the U.S., Latin America and Europe. Right now it’s live in nine cities, across Latin American countries, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, as well as Poland and Austria in Europe.
Wenzel said: “The investment we announced today will empower us to continue our expansion at an unprecedented rate as we continue to build JOKR into the premier platform for a new generation of online shopping, with instant delivery, a focus on local product offerings and more sustainable delivery and supply chains. We are proud to be able to partner with such a distinguished group of international tech investors to help us seize the enormous opportunity in front of us.”
JOKR’s pitch is that it enables small local businesses to sell their goods, sourced from other local businesses, via the platform, thus expanding their reach without the need for complex logistics and delivery networks on their own. But that local aspect also builds sustainability into the model.
Hans Tung, Managing Partner at GGV Capital, and newly appointed member of JOKR’s board said: “Ralf has put together an all-star team for food delivery that will transform the retail supply chain. The combination of food delivery experience and the sophisticated data capabilities that optimizes inventory allocation and dispatch, set JOKR apart. We look forward to working with the team on their mission to make retail more instant, more democratic, and more sustainable.”
JOKR is joining other fast-delivery grocery providers like Gorillas and Getir in providing a 15 minute delivery time for supermarket and convenience products, pharmaceuticals, but also ‘exclusive’ local products that are not available in regular supermarkets. Although, so far, it only has an app on Google Play.
Speaking at an interview with me Wenzel said: “We are close to the equivalent of Instacart, strongly grocery focused. Our offering is significantly broader than the ones of Gorillas because we’re not only focusing on convenience and all kinds of different grocery categories, we’re getting closer to a supermarket offering, so the biggest competing element would be the traditional supermarkets, the offline supermarkets, as well as online grocery propositions. We are vertically integrating and hence procuring directly, cutting out middlemen and building our own distribution warehouses.”
Swiss Post, the former state-owned mail delivery firm which became a private limited company in 2013, diversifying into logistics, finance, transport and more (including dabbling in drone delivery) while retaining its role as Switzerland’s national postal service, has acquired a majority stake in Swiss-Hungarian startup Tresorit, an early European pioneer in end-to-end-encrypted cloud services.
Terms of the acquisition are not being disclosed. But Swiss Post’s income has been falling in recent years, as (snailmail) letter volumes continue to decline. And a 2019 missive warned its business needed to find new sources of income.
Tresorit, meanwhile, last raised back in 2018 — when it announced an €11.5M Series B round, with investors including 3TS Capital Partners and PortfoLion. Other backers of the startup include business angels and serial entrepreneurs like Márton Szőke, Balázs Fejes and Andreas Kemi. According to Crunchbase Tresorit had raised less than $18M over its decade+ run.
It looks like a measure of the rising store being put on data security that a veteran ‘household’ brand like Swiss Post sees strategic value in extending its suite of digital services with the help of a trusted startup in the e2e encryption space.
‘Zero access’ encryption was still pretty niche back when Tresorit got going over a decade ago but it’s essentially become the gold standard for trusted information security, with a variety of players now offering e2e encrypted services — to businesses and consumers.
Announcing the acquisition in a press release today, the pair said they will “collaborate to further develop privacy-friendly and secure digital services that enable people and businesses to easily exchange information while keeping their data secure and private”.
Tresorit will remain an independent company within Swiss Post Group, continuing to serve its global target regions of EU countries, the UK and the US, with the current management (founders), brand and service also slated to remain unchanged, per the announcement.
The 2011-founded startup sells what it brands as “ultra secure” cloud services — such as storage, file syncing and collaboration — targeted at business users (it has 10,000+ customers globally); all zipped up with a ‘zero access’ promise courtesy of a technical architecture that means Tresorit literally can’t decrypt customer data because it does not hold the encryption keys.
It said today that the acquisition will strengthen its business by supporting further expansion in core markets — including Germany, Austria and Switzerland. (The Swiss Post brand should obviously be a help there.)
The pair also said they see potential for Tresorit’s tech to expand Swiss Post’s existing digital product portfolio — which includes services like a “digital letter box” app (ePost) and an encrypted email offering. So it’s not starting from scratch here.
Commenting on the acquisition in a statement, Istvan Lam, co-founder and CEO of Tresorit, said: “From the very beginning, our mission has been to empower everyone to stay in control of their digital valuables. We are proud to have found a partner in Swiss Post who shares our values on security and privacy and makes us even stronger. We are convinced that this collaboration strengthens both companies and opens up new opportunities for us and our customers.”
Asked why the startup decided to sell at this point in its business development — rather than taking another path, such as an IPO and going public — Lam flagged Swiss Post’s ‘trusted’ brand and what he dubbed a “100% fit” on values and mission.
“Tresorit’s latest investment, our biggest funding round, happened in 2018. As usual with venture capital-backed companies, the lifecycle of this investment round is now beginning to come to an end,” he told TechCrunch.
“Going public via an IPO has also been on our roadmap and could have been a realistic scenario within the next 3-4 years. The reason we have decided to partner now with a strategic investor and collaborate with Swiss Post is that their core values and vision on data privacy is a 100% fit with our values and mission of protecting privacy. With the acquisition, we entered a long-term strategic partnership and are convinced that with Tresorit’s end-to-end encryption technology and the trusted brand of Swiss Post we will further develop services that help individuals and businesses exchange information securely and privately.”
“Tresorit has paved the way for true end-to-end encryption across the software industry over the past decade. With the acquisition of Tresorit, we are strategically expanding our competencies in digital data security and digital privacy, allowing us to further develop existing offers,” added Nicole Burth, a member of the Swiss Post Group executive board and head of communication services, in a supporting statement.
Switzerland remains a bit of a hub for pro-privacy startups and services, owing to a historical reputation for strong privacy laws.
However, as Republik reported earlier this year, state surveillance activity in the country has been stepping up — following a 2018 amendment to legislative powers that expanded intercept capabilities to cover digital comms.
Such encroachments are worrying but may arguably make e2e encryption even more important — as it can offer a technical barrier against state-sanctioned privacy intrusions.
At the same time, there is a risk that legislators perceive rising use of robust encryption as a threat to national security interests and their associated surveillance powers — meaning they could seek to counter the trend by passing even more expansive legislation that directly targets and or even outlaws the use of e2e encryption. (Australia has passed an anti-encryption law, for instance, while the UK cemented its mass surveillance capabilities back in 2016 — passing legislation which includes powers to compel companies to limit the use of encryption.)
At the European Union level, lawmakers have also recently been pushing an agenda of ‘lawful access’ to encrypted data — while simultaneously claiming to support the use of encryption on data security and privacy grounds. Quite how the EU will circle that square in legislative terms remains to be seen.
But there are also some more positive legal headwinds for European encryption startups like Tresorit: A ruling last summer by Europe’s top court dialled up the complexity of taking users’ personal data out of the region — certainly when people’s information is flowing to third countries like the US where it’s at risk from state agencies’ mass surveillance.
Asked if Tresorit has seen a rise in interest in the wake of the ‘Schrems II’ ruling, Lam told us: “We see the demand for European-based SaaS cloud services growing in the future. Being a European-based company has already been an important competitive advantage for us, especially among our business and enterprise customers.”
EU law in this area contains a quirk whereby the national security powers of Member States are not so clearly factored in vs third countries. And while Switzerland is not an EU Member it remains a closely associated country, being part of the bloc’s single market.
Nevertheless, questions over the sustainability of Switzerland’s EU data adequacy decision persist, given concerns that its growing domestic surveillance regime does not provide individuals with adequate redress remedies — and may therefore be violating their fundamental rights.
If Switzerland loses EU data adequacy it could impact the compliance requirements of digital services based in the country — albeit, again, e2e encryption could offer Swiss companies a technical solution to circumvent such legal uncertainty. So that still looks like good news for companies like Tresorit.
Privacy litigation that’s being brought against Facebook by two not-for-profits in the Netherlands can go ahead, an Amsterdam court has ruled. The case will be heard in October.
Since 2019, the Amsterdam-based Data Privacy Foundation (DPS) has been seeking to bring a case against Facebook over its rampant collection of Internet users’ data — arguing the company does not have a proper legal basis for the processing.
It has been joined in the action by the Dutch consumer protection not-for-profit, Consumentenbond.
The pair are seeking redress for Facebook users in the Netherlands for alleged violations of their privacy rights — both by suing for compensation for individuals; and calling for Facebook to end the privacy-hostile practices.
European Union law allows for collective redress across a number of areas, including data protection rights, enabling qualified entities to bring representative actions on behalf of rights holders. And the provision looks like an increasingly important tool for furthering privacy enforcement in the bloc, given how European data protection regulators’ have continued to lack uniform vigor in upholding rights set out in legislation such as the General Data Protection Regulation (which, despite coming into application in 2018, has yet to be seriously applied against platform giants like Facebook).
Returning to the Dutch litigation, Facebook denies any abuse and claims it respects user privacy and provides people with “meaningful control” over how their data gets exploited.
But it has fought the litigation by seeking to block it on procedural grounds — arguing for the suit to be tossed by claiming the DPS does not fit the criteria for bringing a privacy claim on behalf of others and that the Amsterdam court has no jurisdiction as its European business is subject to Irish, rather than Dutch, law.
However the Amsterdam District Court rejected its arguments, clearing the way for the litigation to proceed.
Contacted for comment on the ruling, a Facebook spokesperson told us:
“We are currently reviewing the Court’s decision. The ruling was about the procedural part of the case, not a finding on the merits of the action, and we will continue to defend our position in court. We care about our users in the Netherlands and protecting their privacy is important to us. We build products to help people connect with people and content they care about while honoring their privacy choices. Users have meaningful control over the data that they share on Facebook and we provide transparency around how their data is used. We also offer people tools to access, download, and delete their information and we are committed to the principles of GDPR.”
In a statement today, the Consumentenbond‘s director, Sandra Molenaar, described the ruling as “a big boost for the more than 10 million victims” of Facebook’s practices in the country.
“Facebook has tried to throw up all kinds of legal hurdles and to delay this case as much as possible but fortunately the company has not succeeded. Now we can really get to work and ensure that consumers get what they are entitled to,” she added in the written remarks (translated from Dutch with Google Translate).
In another supporting statement, Dick Bouma, chairman of DPS, added: “This is a nice and important first step for the court. The ruling shows that it pays to take a collective stand against tech giants that violate privacy rights.”
The two not-for-profits are urging Facebook users in the Netherlands to sign up to be part of the representative action (and potentially receive compensation) — saying more than 185,000 people have registered so far.
The suit argues that Facebook users are ‘paying’ for the ‘free’ service with their data — contending the tech giant does not have a valid legal basis to process people’s information because it has not provided users with comprehensive information about the data it is gathering from and on them, nor what it does with it.
So — in essence — the argument is that Facebook’s tracking and targeting is in breach of EU privacy law.
However, since 2018, Europe’s GDPR has been in application and a ‘one-stop-shop’ mechanism baked into the regulation — to streamline the handling of cross-border cases — has meant complaints against Facebook have been funnelled through Ireland’s Data Protection Commission. The Irish DPC has yet to issue a single decision against Facebook despite receiving scores of complaints. (And it’s notable that ‘forced consent‘ complaints were filed against Facebook the day GDPR begun being applied — yet still remain undecided by Ireland.)
The GDPR’s enforcement bottleneck makes collective redress actions, such as this one in the Netherlands a potentially important route for Europeans to get rights relief against powerful platforms which seek to shrink the risk of regulatory enforcement via forum shopping.
Although national rules — and courts’ interpretations of them — can vary. So the chance of litigation succeeding is not uniform.
In this case, the Amsterdam court allowed the suit to proceed on the grounds that the Facebook data subjects in question reside in the Netherlands.
It also took the view that a local Facebook corporate entity in the Netherlands is an establishment of Facebook Ireland, among other reasons for rejecting Facebook’s arguments.
How Facebook will seek to press a case against the substance of the Dutch privacy litigation remains to be seen. It may well have other procedural strategies up its sleeve.
The tech giant has used similar stalling tactics against far longer-running privacy litigation in Austria, for example.
In that case, brought by privacy campaigner Max Schrems and his not-for-profit noyb, Facebook has sought to claim that the GDPR’s consent requirements do not apply to its advertising business because it now includes “personalized advertising” in its T&Cs — and therefore has a ‘duty’ to provide privacy-hostile ads to users — seeking to bypass the GDPR by claiming it must process users’ data because it’s “necessary for the performance of a contract”, as noyb explains here.
A court in Vienna accepted this “GDPR consent bypass” sleight-of-hand, dealing a blow to European privacy campaigners.
But an appeal reached the Austrian Supreme Court in March — and a referral could be made to Europe’s top court.
If that happens it would then be up to the CJEU to weigh in whether such a massive loophole in the EU’s flagship data protection framework should really be allowed to stand. But that process could still take over a year or longer.
In the short term, the result is yet more delay for Europeans trying to exercise their rights against platform giants and their in-house armies of lawyers.
In a more positive development for privacy rights, a recent ruling by the CJEU bolstered the case for data protection agencies across the EU to bring actions against tech giants if they see an urgent threat to users — and believe a lead supervisor is failing to act.
That ruling could help unblock some GDPR enforcement against the most powerful tech companies at the regulatory level, potentially reducing the blockages created by bottlenecks such as Ireland.
Facebook’s EU-to-US data flows are also now facing the possibility of a suspension order in a matter of months — related to another piece of litigation brought by Schrems which hinges on the conflict between EU fundamental rights and US surveillance law.
The CJEU weighed in on that last summer with a judgement that requires regulators like Ireland to act when user data is at risk. (And Germany’s federal data protection commissioner, for instance, has warned government bodies to shut their official Facebook pages ahead of planned enforcement action at the start of next year.)
So while Facebook has been spectacularly successful at kicking Europe’s privacy rights claims down the road, for well over a decade, its strategy of legal delay tactics to shield a privacy-hostile business model could finally hit a geopolitical brick wall.
The tech giant has sought to lobby against this threat to its business by suggesting it might switch off its service in Europe if the regulator follows through on a preliminary suspension order last year.
But it has also publicly denied it would actually follow through and close service in Europe.
How might Facebook actually comply if ordered to cut off EU data flows? Schrems has argued it may need to federate its service and store European users’ data inside the EU in order to comply with the eponymous Schrems II CJEU ruling.
Albeit, Facebook has certainly shown itself adept at exploiting the gaps between Europeans’ on-paper rights, national case law and the various EU and Member State institutions involved in oversight and enforcement as a tactic to defend its commercial priorities — playing different players and pushing agendas to further its business interests. So whether any single piece of EU privacy litigation will prove to be the silver bullet that forces a reboot of its privacy-hostile business model very much remains to be seen.
A perhaps more likely scenario is that each of these cases further erodes user trust in Facebook’s services — reducing people’s appetite to use its apps and expanding opportunities for rights-respecting competitors to poach custom by offering something better.
VividQ, a UK-based deeptech startup with technology for rendering holograms on legacy screens, has raised $15 million to develop its technology for next-generation digital displays and devices. And it’s already lining up manufacturing partners in the US, China and Japan to do it.
The funding round, a Seed extension round, was led by UTokyo IPC, the venture investment arm for the University of Tokyo. It was joined by Foresight Williams Technology (a joint collaboration between Foresight Group and Williams Advanced Engineering), Japanese Miyako Capital, APEX Ventures in Austria, and the R42 Group VC out of Stanford. Previous investors University of Tokyo Edge Capital, Sure Valley Ventures, and Essex Innovation also participated.
The funding will be used to scale VividQ’s HoloLCD technology, which, claims the company, turns consumer-grade screens into holographic displays.
Founded in 2017, VividQ has already worked with ARM, and other partners, including Compound Photonics, Himax Technologies, and iView Displays.
The startup is aiming its technology at Automotive HUD, head-mounted displays (HMDs), and smart glasses with a Computer-Generated Holography that projects “actual 3D images with true depth of field, making displays more natural and immersive for users.” It also says it has discovered a way to turn normal LCD screens into holographic displays.
“Scenes we know from films, from Iron Man to Star Trek, are becoming closer to reality than ever,” Darran Milne, co-founder and CEO of VividQ, said. “At VividQ, we are on a mission to bring holographic displays to the world for the first time. Our solutions help bring innovative display products to the automotive industry, improve AR experiences, and soon will change how we interact with personal devices, such as laptops and mobiles.”
Mikio Kawahara, chief investment officer of UTokyo IPC, said, “The future of display is holography. The demand for improved 3D images in real-world settings is growing across the whole display industry. VividQ’s products will make the future ambitions of many consumer electronics businesses a reality.”
Hermann Hauser, APEX Ventures’ advisor, and co-founder of Arm added: “Computer-Generated Holography recreates immersive projections that possess the same 3D information as the world around us. VividQ has the potential to change how humans interact with digital information.”
Speaking on a call with me, Milne added: “We have put the technology on gaming laptops that can actually take make use of holographic displays on a standard LCD screen. So you know the image is actually extending out of the screen. We don’t use any optical trickery.”
“When we say holograms, what we mean is a hologram is essentially an instruction set that tells light how to behave. We compute that effect algorithmically and then present that to the eye, so it’s indistinguishable from a real object. It’s entirely natural as well. Your brain and your visual system are unable to distinguish it from something real because you’re literally giving your eyes the same information that reality does, so there’s no trickery in the normal sense,” he said.
If this works, it could certainly be a transformation, and I can see it being married very well with technology like UltraLeap.
An Austrian, she was among the most decorated German-language poets of the postwar period, producing a large body of daring work.
Pinterest is expanding further into the creator community with today’s launch of a video-first feature called “Idea Pins,” aimed at creators who want to tell their stories using video, music, creative editing tools and more. The feature feels a lot like Pinterest’s own take on TikTok, mixed with Stories, as the new Pins allow creators to record and edit creative videos with up to 20 pages of content, using tools like voiceover recording, background music, transitions and other interactive elements.
The company says Idea Pins evolved out of its tests with Story Pins, launched into beta in September 2020, after various stages of development beginning the year prior. At the time, Pinterest explained that Story Pins were different from the Stories you’d find on other social networks, like Snapchat or Instagram, because they focused on what people were doing — like trying new ideas or new products, not giving you snapshots of a creator’s personal life.
Another notable differentiator was that Story Pins weren’t ephemeral. That is, they didn’t disappear after a certain amount of time, but rather could be surfaced through search and other discovery mechanisms.
Over the past eight months since their debut, Pinterest has worked with Story Pin creators on the experience. That’s led to the new concept of the Idea Pin — essentially a rebranded Story Pin, which now offers a broader suite of editing tools than what was previously available.
Video is a key element in Idea Pins, as the Pins target the increased consumer demand for short-form video content of a creative nature — like what’s being delivered through TikTok, Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts and elsewhere. The videos in the Pins can be up to 60 seconds on iOS, Android and web for each page, with up to 20 total pages per Pin.
Creators can edit their videos by adding their own voiceover or using a “ghost mode” transition tool to better showcase their before-and-afters by overlaying one part of a video on another. And they can save drafts of their work in progress.
But Idea Pins still include a number of features common to Stories, like adding stickers or tagging other creators with an @username, for instance. Pinterest says it will start with over 100 stickers featuring hand-drawn illustrations focused on top categories and behaviors it expects to see, like food-themed illustrations, stickers for before-and-afters, seasonal moments, and more.
Pinterest is also working with the royalty-free music database Epidemic Sound to offer a catalog of free tracks for use in Idea Pins.
And because many creators will use Idea Pins to inspire people to try a recipe or project of some sort, they can include “detail pages” where viewers can find the ingredient list or instructions, which is handy.
Pins are shared to Pinterest, where the company says they help the creator build an audience by being distributed in several places across its platform, including in some markets, by locating Pins for creators you follow right at the top of the home page.
Creators can also apply topic tags when publishing to ensure they’re surfaced when people are seeking that sort of content. Each Idea Pin can have up to 10 topic tags, which help to distribute the content in a targeted way to users via the home feed and search, the company says.
While Pins can help creators build an audience on Pinterest, they can use Idea Pins to grow their audience on other platforms, too. The company says it will offer export options that let people share their Pins across the web and social media. To do so, they download their Pin as a video which includes a Pinterest watermark and profile name — a trick learned from TikTok. This can then be reshared elsewhere.
Pinterest users, meanwhile, can save Idea Pins like any other Pin on the platform.
“We believe the best inspiration comes from people who are fueled by their passions and want to bring positivity and creativity into the world,” said Pinterest co-founder and Chief Design and Creative Officer Evan Sharp, in a statement about the launch. “On Pinterest, anyone can inspire. From creators to hobbyists to publishers, Pinterest is a place where anyone can publish great ideas and discover inspiring content. We have creators with extraordinary ideas on Pinterest, and with Idea Pins, creators are empowered to share their passions and inspire their audiences,” he added.
The new Idea Pin format is rolling out today to all creators (users with a business account) in the U.S., U.K., Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
Pinterest says, during tests, it found that Idea Pins were more engaging than standard Pins, with 9x the average comment rate. The number of Idea Pins (previously known as Story Pins) has also grown by 4x since January, as more creators adopted the format.
To help creators track how well Pins are performing, Pinterest is expanding its Analytics feature to include a new Followers and Profile Visits-driven metric to show creators how their Idea Pins have driven deeper engagement with their account.
The company says the next step is to make Idea Pins more shoppable, which it’s doing now with tests of product tagging underway.
Pinterest has been increasing its investment in the creator community in recent months, with the launch of its first-ever Creator Fund last month, and this month’s test of livestreamed events with 21 creators. It’s also now testing creator and brand collaborations with a select number of creators, including Domonique Panton, Peter Som and GrossyPelosi, it says.
While Idea Pins seem like a natural pivot from Pinterest’s founding as an inspiration and idea board, it will face serious competition when it comes to wooing the professional creator community to its platform. Other big tech companies are outspending Pinterest, whose new Creator Fund of $500K falls short of the $1 million per day Snap paid creators or the $100 million fund for YouTube Shorts creators, TikTok’s $200 million fund or the deals Instagram has been making to lure Reels creators. These platforms, as well as a host of startups, are also giving creators a way to directly monetize their efforts through features like tips, donations, subscriptions and more.
What Pinterest may have in its favor, though, is its reach. The company claims 475 million users, which makes it a destination some creators may not want to overlook in their bid for growth, and later, e-commerce.
E-bike startup Cowboy has launched the Cowboy 4, its newest generation of urban electric bikes. The bike will come in two different frames, a traditional frame, and a step-through.
The C4 is basically an upgrade on the previous version 3, while the ‘C4 ST’ is a step-through model which the company is predicting will appeal to young people used to city bikes.
The C4 and C4 ST are both priced at £2,290/€2,490 inclusive of mudguards and are available for pre-order with a €100/£100 deposit starting from today cowboy.com, with deliveries starting in September 2021.
Cowboy has raised $46.1M in venture capital and largely extent competes with VanMoof (which raised $61.1M) and Furo Systems (£750K) to a lesser extent. The basic differences between the three are that Cowboy is moving closer to leverage the cloud and apps as its main differentiation, VanMoof tends to built things (like a screen) into the bike (and has an app), and Furo is more about ease of maintenance, and weight.
Cowboy says both bikes feature 50% more torque via their automatic transmission. There are no gears to change, with the engine kicking in as you turn the cranks. The removable battery weighs 2.4kg, giving the bike a range of up to 70km.
The heaviest version of the bikes is 19.2 kg including battery and both will hit 25 km/h (15 mph).
Adrien Roose, Cowboy Co-Founder and CEO said in a statement: “The Cowboy 4 completely redefines life in and around cities. By designing two frame types featuring our first-ever step-through model, an integrated cockpit, and a new app, we are now able to address a much larger audience and cater to many more riders to move freely in and around cities,” he added. “Our mission is to help city dwellers move in a faster, safer and more enjoyable way than any other mode of urban transportation. Be it wandering through the city or staying fit, it’s a reconnection with your senses and a rediscovery of the simple thrill of riding a bike.”
The step-through model is optimized to suit riders 160-190cm in height, while the normal C4 will accommodates riders 170-195cm tall.
Doing a very quick test of the new bikes in a London basketball court and around local streets, I found both bikes to be very nippy on the off and a pleasure to ride. Cowboy is probably right – the step-through version is likely to appeal to a wide variety of riders.
Roose said the bike has been custom-designed. Only the saddle and the carbon belt are made by third-party companies Selle Royal and Gates, respectively. The brake cables are now integrated into the handlebars and stem, brakes and pedals have new angles, and the rear wheel has a ‘dropout’ design.
Cowboy will offer a custom-designed series of accessories starting with a rear rack and kickstand. The C4 and C4 ST will come in Absolute Black, Peyote Green, and Sand Dune, and are available to pre-order now, with deliveries beginning in September. Both models will feature pre-fitted mudguards.
The bikes also now feature a wireless charging mont on the stem featuring a built-in Quad Lock mount to hold the rider’s smartphone and wirelessly charge it via the bike’s internal battery.
Tanguy Goretti, Co-Founder, and VP Software added: “The new Cowboy app [will show] remaining battery range, air quality en route and a wide range of live fitness stats.”
The app also has a new navigation screen, 3D map rendering layout, turn-by-turn directions, air quality index for routes, live fitness data, leaderboard rankings; a new community feature offering the ability to join curated group rides across capital cities in Europe.
Cowboy is also offering a free repair network across Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Austria and Luxembourg; 6 days a week customer support; and a subscription plan operated in partnership with Qover which includes theft detection, theft insurance throughout Europe.
Years after fleeing Europe, my father saw himself in the Dreamers of today.
The European Union may investigate Facebook’s $1BN acquisition of customer service platform Kustomer after concerns were referred to it under EU merger rules.
A spokeswoman for the Commission confirmed it received a request to refer the proposed acquisition from Austria under Article 22 of the EU’s Merger Regulation — a mechanism which allows Member States to flag a proposed transaction that’s not notifiable under national filing thresholds (e.g. because the turnover of one of the companies is too low for a formal notification).
The Commission spokeswoman said the case was notified in Austria on March 31.
“Following the receipt of an Article 22 request for referral, the Commission has to transmit the request for referral to other Member States without delay, who will have the right to join the original referral request within 15 working days of being informed by the Commission of the original request,” she told us, adding: “Following the expiry of the deadline for other Member States to join the referral, the Commission will have 10 working days to decide whether to accept or reject the referral.”
We’ll know in a few weeks whether or not the European Commission will take a look at the acquisition — an option that could see the transaction stalled for months, delaying Facebook’s plans for integrating Kustomer’s platform into its empire.
Facebook and Kustomer have been contacted for comment on the development.
The tech giant’s planned purchase of the customer relations management platform was announced last November and quickly raised concerns over what Facebook might do with any personal data held by Kustomer — which could include sensitive information, given sectors served by the platform include healthcare, government and financial services, among others.
Back in February, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) wrote to the Commission and national and EU data protection agencies to raise concerns about the proposed acquisition — urging scrutiny of the “data processing consequences”, and highlighting how Kustomer’s terms allow it to process user data for very wide-ranging purposes.
“Facebook is acquiring this company. The scope of ‘improving our Services’ [in Kustomer’s terms] is already broad, but is likely to grow broader after Kustomer is acquired,” the ICCL warned. “‘Our Services’ may, for example, be taken to mean any Facebook services or systems or projects.”
“The settled caselaw of the European Court of Justice, and the European data protection board, that ‘improving our services’ and similarly vague statements do not qualify as a ‘processing purpose’,” it added.
The ICCL also said it had written to Facebook asking for confirmation of the post-acquisition processing purposes for which people’s data will be used.
Johnny Ryan, senior fellow at the ICCL, confirmed to TechCrunch it has not had any response from Facebook to those questions.
We’ve also asked Facebook to confirm what it will do with any personal data held on users by Kustomer once it owns the company — and will update this report with any response.
In a separate (recent) episode — involving Google — its acquisition of wearable maker Fitbit went through months of competition scrutiny in the EU and was only cleared by regional regulators after the tech giant made a number of concessions, including committing not to use Fitbit data for ads for ten years.
Until now Facebook’s acquisitions have generally flown under regulators’ radar, including, around a decade ago, when it was sewing up the social space by buying up rivals Instagram and WhatsApp.
Several years later it was forced to pay a fine in the EU over a ‘misleading’ filing — after it combined WhatsApp and Facebook data, despite having told regulators it could not do so.
With so many data scandals now inextricably attached to Facebook, the tech giant is saddled with customer mistrust by default and faces far greater scrutiny of how it operates — which is now threatening to inject friction into its plans to expand its b2b offering by acquiring a CRM player. So after ‘move fast and break things’ Facebook is having to move slower because of its reputation for breaking stuff.
Franz Josef Huber, responsible for deporting tens of thousands of Jews, escaped punishment with U.S. backing and went on to work for West German intelligence, newly disclosed records reveal.
TechCrunch is embarking on a major new project to survey European founders and investors in cities outside the larger European capitals.
Over the next few weeks, we will ask entrepreneurs in these cities to talk about their ecosystems, in their own words.
This is your chance to put your city on the Techcrunch Map!
This is the follow-up to the huge survey of investors (see also below) we’ve done over the last 6 or more months, largely in capital cities.
These formed part of a broader series of surveys we’re doing regularly for ExtraCrunch, our subscription service which unpacks key issues for startups and investors.
In the first wave of surveys (as you can see below) the cities we wrote about were largely capitals.
This time, we will be surveying founders and investors in Europe’s other cities to capture how European hubs are growing, from the perspective of the people on the ground.
We’d like to know how your city’s startup scene is evolving, how the tech sector is being impacted by COVID-19, and generally how your city will evolve.
We leave submissions mostly un-edited, and generally looking for at least one or two paragraphs in answers to the questions.
So if you are tech startup founder or investor in one of these cities please fill out our survey form here.
Austria: Graz, Linz
Croatia: Zagreb, Osjek
Czech Republic: Brno, Ostrava, Plzen
England: Bristol, Cambridge, Oxford, Manchester
France: Toulouse, Lyon, Lille
Germany: Hamburg, Munich, Cologne, Bielefeld, Frankfurt
Italy: Trieste, Bologna, Turin, Florence, Milan
Netherlands: Delft, Eindhoven, Rotterdam, Utrecht
Northern Ireland: Belfast, Derry
Poland: Gdańsk, Wroclaw, Krakow, Poznan
Portugal: Porto, Braga
Romania: Cluj, Lasi, Timisoara, Oradea, Brasov
Scotland: Edinburgh, Glasgow
Switzerland: Geneva, Lausanne
Thank you for participating. If you have questions you can email email@example.com and/or reply on Twitter to @mikebutcher
Here are the cities that previously participated in The Great TechCrunch Survey of Europe’s VCs:
If you develop software for a large enterprise company, chances are you’ve heard of Tricentis. If you don’t develop software for a large enterprise company, chances are you haven’t. The software testing company with a focus on modern cloud and enterprise applications was founded in Austria in 2007 and grew from a small consulting firm to a major player in this field, with customers like Allianz, BMW, Starbucks, Deutsche Bank, Toyota and UBS. In 2017, the company raised a $165 million Series B round led by Insight Venture Partners.
Today, Tricentis announced that it has acquired Neotys, a popular performance testing service with a focus on modern enterprise applications and a tests-as-code philosophy. The two companies did not disclose the price of the acquisition. France-based Neotys launched in 2005 and raised about €3 million before the acquisition. Today, it has about 600 customers for its NeoLoad platform. These include BNP Paribas, Dell, Lufthansa, McKesson and TechCrunch’s own corporate parent, Verizon.
As Tricentis CEO Sandeep Johri noted, testing tools were traditionally script-based, which also meant they were very fragile whenever an application changed. Early on, Tricentis introduced a low-code tool that made the automation process both easier and resilient. Now, as even traditional enterprises move to DevOps and release code at a faster speed than ever before, testing is becoming both more important and harder for these companies to implement.
“You have to have automation and you cannot have it be fragile, where it breaks, because then you spend as much time fixing the automation as you do testing the software,” Johri said. “Our core differentiator was the fact that we were a low-code, model-based automation engine. That’s what allowed us to go from $6 million in recurring revenue eight years ago to $200 million this year.”
Tricentis, he added, wants to be the testing platform of choice for large enterprises. “We want to make sure we do everything that a customer would need, from a testing perspective, end to end. Automation, test management, test data, test case design,” he said.
The acquisition of Neotys allows the company to expand this portfolio by adding load and performance testing as well. It’s one thing to do the standard kind of functional testing that Tricentis already did before launching an update, but once an application goes into production, load and performance testing becomes critical as well.
“Before you put it into production — or before you deploy it — you need to make sure that your application not only works as you expect it, you need to make sure that it can handle the workload and that it has acceptable performance,” Johri noted. “That’s where load and performance testing comes in and that’s why we acquired Neotys. We have some capability there, but that was primarily focused on the developers. But we needed something that would allow us to do end-to-end performance testing and load testing.”
The two companies already had an existing partnership and had integrated their tools before the acquisition — and many of its customers were already using both tools, too.
“We are looking forward to joining Tricentis, the industry leader in continuous testing,” said Thibaud Bussière, president and co-founder at Neotys. “Today’s Agile and DevOps teams are looking for ways to be more strategic and eliminate manual tasks and implement automated solutions to work more efficiently and effectively. As part of Tricentis, we’ll be able to eliminate laborious testing tasks to allow teams to focus on high-value analysis and performance engineering.”
NeoLoad will continue to exist as a stand-alone product, but users will likely see deeper integrations with Tricentis’ existing tools over time, include Tricentis Analytics, for example.
Johri tells me that he considers Tricentis one of the “best kept secrets in Silicon Valley” because the company not only started out in Europe (even though its headquarters is now in Silicon Valley) but also because it hasn’t raised a lot of venture rounds over the years. But that’s very much in line with Johri’s philosophy of building a company.
“A lot of Silicon Valley tends to pay attention only when you raise money,” he told me. “I actually think every time you raise money, you’re diluting yourself and everybody else. So if you can succeed without raising too much money, that’s the best thing. We feel pretty good that we have been very capital efficient and now we’re recognized as a leader in the category — which is a huge category with $30 billion spend in the category. So we’re feeling pretty good about it.”
Last week a select group of 20 employees and guests gathered at an event space on the San Francisco Bay, and, while looking out at the Bay Bridge dined on a selection of choice elk sausages, wagyu meatloaf, and lamb burgers — all of which were grown from a petrie dish.
The dinner was a coming out party for Orbillion Bio, a new startup pitching today in Y Combinator’s latest demo day, that’s looking to take lab-grown meats from the supermarket to high end, bespoke butcher shops.
Instead of focusing on pork, chicken and beef, Orbillion is going after so-called heritage meats — the aforementioned elk, lamb, and wagyu beef to start.
By focusing on more expensive end products, Orbillion doesn’t have as much pressure to slash costs as dramatically as other companies in the cellular meat market, the thinking goes.
But there’s more to the technology than its bourgie beef, elite elk, and luscious lamb meat.
“Orbillion uses a unique accelerated development process producing thousands of tiny tissue samples, constantly iterating to find the best tissue and media combinations,” according to Holly Jacobus, whose firm, Joyance Partners, is an early investor in Orbillion. “This is much less expensive and more efficient than traditional methods and will enable them to respond quickly to the impressive demand they’re already experiencing.”
The company runs its multiple cell lines through a system of small bioreactors. Orbillion couples that with a high throughput screening and machine learning software system to build out a database of optimized tissue and media combinations. “The key to making lab grown meat work scalably is choosing the right cells cultured in the most efficient way possible,” Jacobus wrote.
Co-founded by a deeply technical and highly experienced team of executives that’s led by Patricia Bubner, a former researcher at the German pharmaceutical giant Boehringer Ingelheim. Joining Bubner is Gabriel Levesque-Tremblay, a former director of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, who was a post-doc at Berkeley with Bubner and serves as the company’s chief technology officer. Rounding out the senior leadership is Samet Yildirim, the chief operating officer at Orbillion and a veteran executive of Boehringer Ingelheim (he actually served as Bubner’s boss).
For Bubner, the focus on heritage meats is as much a function of her background growing up in rural Austria as it is about economics. A longtime, self-described foodie and a nerd, Bubner went into chemistry because she ultimately wanted to apply science to the food business. And she wants Orbillion to make not just meat, but the most delicious meats.
It’s an aim that fits with how many other companies have approached the market when they’re looking to commercialize a novel technology. Higher end products, or products with unique flavor profiles that are unique to the production technologies available are more likely to be commercially viable sooner than those competing with commodity products. Why focus on angus beef when you focus on a much more delicious breed of animal?
For Bubner, it’s not just about making a pork replacement, it’s about making the tastiest pork replacement.
“I’m just fascinated and can see the future in us being able to further change the way we produce food to be more efficient,” she said. “We’re at this inflection point. I’m a nerd, i’m a foodie and I really wanted to use my skills to make a change. I wanted to be part of that group of people that can really have an impact on the way we eat. For me there’s no doubt that a large percentage of our food will be from alternative proteins — plant based, fermentation, and lab-grown meat.”
Joining Boehringer Ingelheim was a way for Bubner to become grounded in the world of big bioprocessing. It was preparation for her foray into lab grown meat, she said.
“We are a product company. Our goal is to make the most flavorful steaks. Our first product will not be whole cuts of steak. The first product is going to be a Wagyu beef product that we plan on putting out in 2023,” Bubner said. “It’s a product that’s going to be based on more of a minced product. Think Wagyu sashimi.”
To get to market, Bubner sees the need not just for a new approach to cultivating choice meats, but a new way of growing other inputs as well, from the tissue scaffolding needed to make larger cuts that resemble traditional cuts of meat, or the fats that will need to be combined with the meat cells to give flavor.
That means there are still opportunities for companies like Future Fields, Matrix Meats, and Turtle Tree Scientific to provide inputs that are integrated into the final, branded product.
Bubner’s also thinking about the supply chain beyond her immediate potential partners in the manufacturing process. “Part of my family were farmers and construction workers and the others were civil engineers and architects. I hold farmers in high respect… and think the people who grow the food and breed the animals don’t get recognition for the work that they do.”
She envisions working in concert with farmers and breeders in a kind of licensing arrangement, potentially, where the owners of the animals that produce the cell lines can share in the rewards of their popularization and wider commercial production.
That also helps in the mission of curbing the emissions associated with big agribusiness and breeding and raising livestock on a massive scale. If you only need a few animals to make the meat, you don’t have the same environmental footprint for the farms.
“We need to make sure that we don’t make the mistakes that we did in the past that we only breed animals for yield and not for flavor,” said Bubner.
Even though the company is still in its earliest days, it already has one letter of intent, with one of San Francisco’s most famous butchers. Guy Crims, also known as “Guy the Butcher” has signed a letter of intent to stock Orbillion Bio’s lab grown Wagyu in his butcher shop, Bubner said. “He’s very much a proponent of lab-grown meat.”
Now that the company has its initial technology proven, Orbillion is looking to scale rapidly. It will take roughly $3.5 million for the company to get a pilot plant up and running by the end of 2022 and that’s in addition to the small $1.4 million seed round the company has raised from Joyant and firms like VentureSoukh.
“The way i see an integrated model working later on is to have the farmers be the breeders of animals for cultivated meat. That can reduce the number of cows on the planet to a couple of hundred thousand,” Bubner said of her ultimate goal. “There’s a lot of talking about if you do lab grown meat you want to put me out of business. It’s not like we’re going to abolish animal agriculture tomorrow.”
Scientists want to inoculate every adult in one Austrian district, in a real-world test of how the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine works against the variant first seen in South Africa.
In a pandemic era, when traveling is largely out of the question, these wines, good values all, can take you on a trip around the globe.
Carmakers can’t buy the semiconductors they need because home electronics are taking all the supply.
Governments around the world have tried to support the arts during the pandemic, some more generously than others.
A sunny holiday weekend drew a crush of skiers to Austria’s slopes, with crowded lift lines and parking lots making a mockery of social distancing rules.
Grete Wiesenthal, a ballet-trained Viennese dancer, made the waltz modern and a vehicle for solo expression.
Portable audio recording solutions abound, and many recently released devices have done a lot to improve the convenience and quality of sound recording devices you can carry in your pocket – spurred in part by smartphones and their constant improvement in video recording capabilities. A new device from Austria’s mikme, the mikme pocket (€369.00 or just under $450 USD), offers a tremendous amount of flexibility and quality in a very portable package, delivering what might just be the ultimate pocket sound solution for reporters, podcasters, video creators and more.
mikme pocket is small – about half the size of a smartphone, but square and probably twice as thick. It’s not as compact as something like the Rode Wireless GO, but it contains onboard memory and a Bluetooth antenna, making it possible to both record locally and transmit audio directly to a connected smartphone from up to three mikme pockets at once.
The mikme pocket features a single button for control, as well as dedicated volume buttons, a 3.5mm headphone jack for monitoring audio, a micro-USB port for charging and for offloading files via physical connection, and Bluetooth pairing and power buttons. It has an integrated belt clip, as well as a 3/8″ thread mount for mic stands, with an adapter included for mounting to 1/4″ standard camera tripod connections.
In the box, mikme has also included a lavalier microphone with a mini XLR connector (which is the interface the pocket uses) and a clip and two windscreens for the mic. They also offer a ‘pro’ lavalier mic as a separate, add-on purchase (€149.00 or around $180 USD), which offers improved performance vs. the included lav in terms of audio quality and dynamic range.
The internal battery for the mikme pocket lasts up to 3.5 hours of recording time, and it can last for more than six months in standby mode between recordings, too.
Design and performance
The mikme pocket is a pretty unadorned black block, but its unassuming design is one of its strengths. It has a textured matte feel which helps with grittiness, and it’s easy to hide in dark clothing, plus the integrated belt clip works exactly as desired ensuring the pack is easy secured to anyone you’re trying to wire for sound. It features a single large button for simplified control, which also easily shows you its connectivity status using an LED backlight.
Controls for more advanced functions like Bluetooth connectivity, as well as the micro-USB port, are located on the bottom where they’re unlikely to be pressed accidentally by anyone during recording. The mini XLR interface for microphones means that once a mic is plugged it, it’s also securely locked in place and won’t be jostled out during sessions.
You can use the mikme pocket on its own, thanks to its 16GB of built-in local storage, but it really shines when used in tandem with the smartphone app. The app allows you to connect up to three pockets simultaneously, and provides a built-in video recorder so you can take full advantage of the recording capabilities of modern devices like the iPhone 12 to capture real-time synced audio while you film effortlessly. The mikme pocket and app also have a failsafe built in for filling in any gaps that might arise from any connection dropouts thanks to the local recording backup.
In terms of audio quality, the sound without adjusting any settings is excellent. Like all lavalier mics, you’ll get better results the closer you can place the actually mic capsule itself to a speaker’s mouth, but the mikme pocket produced exceptional clean-sounding, high-quality audio right out of the box – in environments that weren’t particularly sound isolated or devoid of background noise.
The included mini XLR lav mic is probably good enough for the needs of most amateur and enthusiast users, while the lavalier pro is a great upgrade option for anyone looking to make the absolute most of their recordings, especially with post-processing via desktop audio editing software. The mikme app has built-in audio tweaking controls with a great visual interface that allows you to hear the effects of processing tweaks in real-time, which is great for maximizing sound quality on the go before sharing clips and videos directly from your device to social networks or publishing platforms.
From on-phone shotgun mics, to handheld recorders and much more, there are plenty of options out there for capturing audio on-the-go, but the mikme pocket is the one that offers the best balance of very high-quality sound that’s essentially immediately ready to publish, in a package that’s both extremely easy to carry anywhere with you, and that offers durability and user-friendliness to suit newcomers and experts alike.
Microsoft continues to expand its global Azure data center presence at a rapid clip. After announcing new regions in Austria and Taiwan in October, the company today revealed its plans to launch a new region in Denmark.
As with many of Microsoft’s recent announcements, the company is also attaching a commitment to provide digital skills to 200,000 people in the country (in this case, by 2024).
“With this investment, we’re taking the next step in our longstanding commitment to provide Danish society and businesses with the digital tools, skills and infrastructure needed to drive sustainable growth, innovation, and job creation. We’re investing in Denmark’s digital leap into the future – all in a way that supports the country’s ambitious climate goals and economic recovery,” said Nana Bule, General Manager, Microsoft Denmark.
The new data center, which will be powered by 100% renewable energy and feature multiple availability zones, will feature support for what has now become the standard set of Microsoft cloud products: Azure, Microsoft 365, and Dynamics 365 and Power Platform.
As usual, the idea here is to provide low-latency access to Microsoft’s tools and services. It has long been Microsoft’s strategy to blanket the globe with local data centers. Europe is a prime example of this, with regions (both operational and announced) in about a dozen countries already. In the U.S., Azure currently offers 13 regions (including three exclusively for government agencies), with a new region on the West Coast coming soon.
“This is a proud day for Microsoft in Denmark,” said Brad Smith, President, Microsoft. “Building a hyper-scale datacenter in Denmark means we’ll store Danish data in Denmark, make computing more accessible at even faster speeds, secure data with our world-class security, protect data with Danish privacy laws, and do more to provide to the people of Denmark our best digital skills training. This investment reflects our deep appreciation of Denmark’s green and digital leadership globally and our commitment to its future.”
After a chance encounter in Brazil, Johann Zillinger became one of the world’s most prolific wildlife smugglers. Three decades and two prison stints later, he says he has gone straight.
Ride Vision, an Israeli startup that is building an AI-driven safety system to prevent motorcycle collisions, today announced that it has raised a $7 million Series A round led by crowdsourcing platform OurCrowd. YL Ventures, which typically specializes in cybersecurity startups but also led the company’s $2.5 million seed round in 2018, Mobilion VC and motorcycle mirror manufacturer Metagal also participated in this round. The company has now raised a total of $10 million.
In addition to this new funding round, Ride Vision also today announced a new partnership with automotive parts manufacturer Continental .
“As motorcycle enthusiasts, we at Ride Vision are excited at the prospect of our international launch and our partnership with Continental,” Uri Lavi, CEO and co-founder of Ride Vision, said in today’s announcement. “This moment is a major milestone, as we stride toward our dream of empowering bikers to feel truly safe while they enjoy the ride.”
The general idea here is pretty straightforward and comparable with the blind-spot monitoring system in your car. Using computer vision, Ride Vision’s system, the Ride Vision 1, analyzes the traffic around a rider in real time. It provides forward collision alerts and monitors your blind spot, but it can also tell you when you’re following another rider or car too closely. It can also simply record your ride and, coming soon, it’ll be able to make emergency calls on your behalf when things go awry.
As the company argues, the number of motorcycles (and other motorized two-wheeled vehicles) has only increased during the pandemic, as people started avoiding public transport and looked for relatively affordable alternatives. In Europe, sales of two-wheeled vehicles increased by 30% during the pandemic.
The hardware on the motorcycle itself is pretty straightforward. It includes two wide-angle cameras (one each at the front and rear), as well as alert indicators on the mirrors, as well as the main computing unit. Ride Vision has patents on its human-machine warning interface and vision algorithms.
It’s worth noting that there are some blind-spot monitoring solutions for motorcycles on the market already, including those from Innovv and Senzar. Honda also has patents on similar technologies. These do not provide the kind of 360-degree view that Ride Vision is aiming for.
Ride Vision says its products will be available in Italy, Germany, Austria, Spain, France, Greece, Israel and the U.K. in early 2021, with the U.S., Brazil, Canada, Australia, Japan, India, China and others following later.
Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced a set of legislative proposals that would make it easier to keep terrorists behind bars, close mosques and clamp down on funding for terrorists.
The context of a European-wide meeting on Tuesday was tackling the Continent’s terrorism concerns. For the leaders of France and Austria, political interests were the subtext.
The gunman, who killed four people and wounded 23, had been arrested for trying to join ISIS, raising questions about whether he should have been closely watched.
The Austrian leader described the gunmen as terrorists, but no motive has emerged. At least one attacker was still at large.
Several assailants with rifles opened fire in the historic heart of the city, and the police killed one of them. There was no official word on a motive.
Several people were reported injured in the shooting Monday night in the heart of Austria’s capital. The country’s interior minister called it a terrorist attack.
After announcing its latest data center region in Austria earlier this month and an expansion of its footprint in Brazil, Microsoft today unveiled its plans to open a new region in Taiwan. This new region will augment its existing presence in East Asia, where the company already runs data centers in China (operated by 21Vianet), Hong Kong, Japan and Korea. This new region will bring Microsoft’s total presence around the world to 66 cloud regions.
Similar to its recent expansion in Brazil, Microsoft also pledged to provide digital skilling for over 200,000 people in Taiwan by 2024 and it is growing its Taiwan Azure Hardware Systems and Infrastructure engineering group, too. That’s in addition to investments in its IoT and AI research efforts in Taiwan and the startup accelerator it runs there.
“Our new investment in Taiwan reflects our faith in its strong heritage of hardware and software integration,” said Jean-Phillippe Courtois, Executive Vice President and President, Microsoft Global Sales, Marketing and Operations. “With Taiwan’s expertise in hardware manufacturing and the new datacenter region, we look forward to greater transformation, advancing what is possible with 5G, AI and IoT capabilities spanning the intelligent cloud and intelligent edge.”
The new region will offer access to the core Microsoft Azure services. Support for Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365 and Power Platform. That’s pretty much Microsoft’s playbook for launching all of its new regions these days. Like virtually all of Microsoft’s new data center region, this one will also offer multiple availability zones.
A World Cup schedule demands what medical experts have been advising against since March — large group gatherings and international travel.
Microsoft today announced its plans to launch a new data center region in Austria, its first in the country. With nearby Azure regions in Switzerland, Germany, France and a planned new region in northern Italy, this part of Europe now has its fair share of Azure coverage. Microsoft also noted that it plans to launch a new ‘Center of Digital Excellence’ to Austria to “to modernize Austria’s IT infrastructure, public governmental services and industry innovation.”
In total, Azure now features 65 cloud regions — though that number includes some that aren’t online yet. As its competitors like to point out, not all of them feature multiple availability zones yet, but the company plans to change that. Until then, the fact that there’s usually another nearby region can often make up for that.
Talking about availability zones, in addition to announcing this new data center region, Microsoft also today announced plans to expand its cloud in Brazil, with new availability zones to enable high-availability workloads launching in the existing Brazil South region in 2021. Currently, this region only supports Azure workloads but will add support for Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365 and Power Platform over the course of the next few months.
This announcement is part of a large commitment to building out its presence in Brazil. Microsoft is also partnering with the Ministry of Economy “to help job matching for up to 25 million workers and is offering free digital skilling with the capacity to train up to 5.5 million people” and to use its AI to protect the rainforest. That last part may sound a bit naive, but the specific plan here is to use AI to predict likely deforestation zones based on data from satellite images.