2 CEOs are better than 1

Netflix has two CEOs: Co-founder Reed Hastings oversees the streaming side of the company, while Ted Sarandos guides Netflix’s content.

Warby Parker has co-CEOs as well — its co-founders went to college together. Other companies like the tech giant Oracle and luggage maker Away have shifted from having co-CEOs in recent years, sparking a wave of headlines suggesting that the model is broken.

It’s impossible to be in two places at once or clone yourself. With co-CEOs, you can effectively do just that.

While there isn’t a lot of research on companies with multiple CEOs, the data is more promising than the headlines would suggest. One study on public companies with co-CEOs revealed that the average tenure for co-CEOs, about 4.5 years, was comparable to solitary CEOs, “suggesting that this arrangement is more stable than previously believed.”

The study’s authors also found that co-CEOs were spread across industry types and that splitting the role can “complement each other in terms of educational background or executive responsibilities.”

I serve as co-CEO of an organic meal delivery company with my sister Laureen. Having two CEOs has helped us take Fresh n’ Lean to new heights. We closed 2020 with $87 million in revenue, more than double from the year before, and project similar growth this year.

We complement each other well, and the results bear that out. During the decade that we’ve served as co-CEOs, the company has grown from a very small team to 475 full-time employees and 40 part-time employees. We’ve delivered more than 17 million meals, launched four different meal lines, expanded our retail offerings, partnered with some great names in sports and fitness, and saw our annual revenues climb exponentially.

The leadership structure isn’t for every company, but it’s been a great fit for Fresh n’ Lean. Here’s why.

Divide and conquer to shorten your learning curve by 50%

Laureen launched the company in 2010 out of her one-bedroom apartment.

“Those early years were especially tough,” she said. “I consistently worked 20-hour days as I performed just about every role — cooking dishes, preparing labels, making deliveries and performing customer service duties. I was devoting so much energy into product, packaging and logistics, but in order for the company to grow, I needed help with marketing, tech and finance.”

Those areas happened to be my strengths. There was too much for one person to oversee as CEO and not enough hours in the day. But given the equal challenges that both sides of the company presented and the trust we shared, it made sense for us to be side by side on the organizational chart.

#ceo, #chief-executive-officer, #co-founder, #column, #ec-column, #ec-future-of-work, #ec-how-to, #entrepreneurship, #leadership, #startups

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Building tech for worker safety, Guardhat Technologies is a company that could only come from Detroit

Saikat Dey, the founder of Detroit’s own Guardhat Technologies, got his start working in the steel industry. His last job, before founding Guardhat, was serving as the chief executive officer of Severstal International, the multinational steel conglomerate whose headquarters were in Dearborn, Mich.

There, managing the global business of the fourth largest steelmaker by volume and revenue, with 3,600 employees in Mississippi, Michigan, and the coal mines of West Virginia, Dey became obsessed with safety, he said.

Beyond tracking cash flow and EBITDA, the typical numbers companies use, Dey said that worker safety was another measurement that effected compensation. “One of the key metrics is how well and how safe we keep our frontline workers,” Dey said. 

Dey’s concerns over safety at his plants is what led him to reach out to union leadership and begin developing the technology that would form the core of Guardhat’s offerings.

The company pitches a multi-product intelligent safety system that integrates wearable technology and proprietary software to detect, alert, and prevent hazardous industrial work-related incidents.

Investors including Dan Gilbert’s Detroit Venture Partners, General Catalyst, and RTP Ventures, the venture investment firm led by Ru-Net Holdings co-founder, Leonid Boguslavsky, are backing Dey’s vision, which also has buy-in from the most important audience of all, the unions representing the workers that use the company’s tech.

Notes on the first day brainstorming session for Guardhat’s industrial wearable. Image Credit: Guardhat

Made in Detroit, built for the world’s industrial workers

Roughly fifteen workers are killed every day on the job in industrial jobs like mining, metals and oil and gas and another 3 million people are injured every year. For executives in the industry, the issue is as much a financial concern as it is an ethical one. At Severstal, 40 percent of Dey’s salary was tied to worker safety, he said.

In fact, the idea for Guardhat hit Dey while he was walking the floor of the company’s Detroit-area steel plant. On one of his regular walks through the factory Dey said he wandered past a man working on a piece of equipment when the employee’s carbon monoxide alarm started to buzz. Instead of trying to find the source of the leak, the man turned off his monitor.

“You’re taking about a steel facility in the heart of Detroit having the largest blast furnace in North America,” said Dey. “Whatever that individual was doing, it could have led to a catastrophic accident.”

That’s what inspired Guardhat’s technology that Dey said was designed to answer a few simple, situational questions that apply to any factory anywhere in the world: Where are you? What conditions do you face? When can help get to you? Those are the questions that Guardhat’s technology is designed to answer.

“We didn’t have effective means to prevent or if an accident happens to intervene with timely information,” Dey said. 

The technology may have been designed by executives, but it was made in consultation with the heads of the Detroit area unions, to ensure that workers would actually use the product.

We decided that we wanted to do this in September 2014,” Dey said. “And when I was struggling with whether to scratch that itch and start the business, the union guys said go for it and do it…. I was a person of color with a $6 billion P&L running one of the six largest steelmakers in the U.S. building this literally out of the garage. It took a lot of guts, stupidity, and it took a lot of support from regular friends at the UAW.” 

That collaboration ensured that the union’s workers were comfortable that the information wasn’t being generated and stored in a way that employees would not feel that they were being monitored unnecessarily or punitively.

Guardhat Technologies wearable safety helmet. Image Credit Guardhat Technologies

From prototype to product

The company’s first product was the HC1 — a helmet that comes jam-packed with sensor equipment. “You want to put it on something that everyone wears and is mandated to wear,” Dey said.

Initially the thought was to just create the wearable, but over time Dey and his team realized that the device alone wouldn’t be enough. “The helmet is just another form factor… [and] whatever the form factor, you need to know how you make this information the single source of truth for the platform of all things that surround the worker.”

Like dozens of other Detroit-area startups that came before them, when Dey and his team needed to raise cash, they first turned to Dan Gilbert.

Gilbert tested the prototype by running around a building and asking the GuardHat team if they could find him and tell him where they thought he was.

With Gilbert on board, the product design firm frog labs came into the picture and so did 3M. By then, it was time to test the prototype.

“I still remember the first day we were in testing in a third party certified lab in Akron, Ohio,” sad Dey. These guys were dropping a metal ball from 5 meters and each one of those puppies was $3,000 a-piece and 27 of those hats got ground down to powder,” Dey said. “We failed every test because we didn’t know how to build a helmet.”

Assistance from frog and others brought the device over the finish line and it’s now being used by over 5,000 workers and prevented or alerted workers to at least 2,000 potentially dangerous incidents. 

For Dey, the business could only have come from Detroit. “The Detroit thing is symbolic,” he said. It’s a symbol of the school of hard knocks that educated its founding team in the ways these heavy industries.

#chief-executive-officer, #dan-gilbert, #detroit, #detroit-venture-partners, #general-catalyst, #michigan, #mining, #oil-and-gas, #rtp-ventures, #tc, #wearable-technology

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Temasek and BlackRock form Decarbonization Partners with $600 million to create a zero-emission economy

The $9 trillion financial management firm Blackrock is collaborating with the $313 billion Singapore investment firm Temasek to back companies developing technologies and services to help create a zero emission economy by 2050.

The two mega-investment firms will invest an initial $600 million to launch Decarbonization Partners, and look to raise money from investors committing to achieving a net zero world and long-term sustainable finacnial returns. The two partners have set themselves a goal to raise $1 billion for their first fund, including capital from Temasek and BlackRock.

The partnership, coming during Earth month, is one of several big multi-billion dollar initiatives that are underway to prevent global climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions.

Indeed, BlackRock is somewhat tardy to the party. Temasek, for its part, has already made a number of high-profile bets in the alternative meat market — namely in companies like Impossible Foods — and in alternative energy technology developers including Eavor, a geothermal company, and a $500 million bet on a renewable power developer in India.

Meanwhile, a coalition of billionaires led by Bill Gates are already on their second billion dollar investment vehicle through Breakthrough Energy, a multi-stage, multi-strategy initiative that includes a venture capital arm as well as other types of financing on the way.

“The world cannot meet its net zero ambitions without transformational innovation,” said Larry Fink, Chairman and CEO of BlackRock, in a statement. “For decarbonization solutions and technologies to transform our economy, they need to be scaled. To do that, they need patient, well-managed capital to support their vital goals. This partnership will help define climate solutions as a standalone asset class that is both essential to our collective mission and a historic investment opportunity created by the net zero transition.”

To get a sense of what Decarbonization Partners might back, companies should probably look to the Breakthrough Energy portfolio — the firms share similar interests in new sources of energy, technologies to distribute that energy, building and manufacturing technologies, and material science and process innovations.

It’s a big swing that the firms are taking, but the flood of capital coming into the sustainability sector is commensurate with both the size of the problem, and the potential opportunity in returns generated by solving it.

A report from Morgan Stanley estimated that solving climate change would be a $50 trillion problem, according to a 2019 report from Forbes.

“Bold, aggressive actions are needed to make the global net zero ambition a reality. Decarbonization Partners represents one of several steps we are taking to follow through on our commitment to halve the emissions from our portfolio by 2030, and ultimately move to net zero emissions by 2050,” said Dilhan Pillay, Chief Executive Officer of Temasek International. “Through collective efforts with like-minded partners, we will be able to create sustainable value for all of our stakeholders over the long term, and investors will have the opportunity to help deliver innovative solutions at scale to address climate challenges.”

#articles, #bill-gates, #blackrock, #chief-executive-officer, #energy, #forbes, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #impossible-foods, #india, #morgan-stanley, #singapore, #tc, #temasek, #temasek-holdings

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IoT satellite network startup Hiber secures €26M in funding round led by EU’s innovation agency

European satellite and communications startup, Hiber BV has secured €26 million in EU and private investment to expand its IoT satellite network.  The funding comes from the European Innovation Council Fund (EIC Fund), the EU’s innovation agency, which has a €278 million Innovation Fund. The EIC co-invested with an innovation credit provided by the Dutch government and existing shareholders. Other investors include Finch Capital, Netherlands Enterprise Agency and Hartenlust Group. Hiber’s satellite constellation tracks and monitors machines and devices in harder-to-reach places.

At the same time co-founder of Hiber, Laurens Groenendijk, is to step aside as managing director to turn his attention to “other investment initiatives” the company said in a statement. Steven Kroonsberg joins as CFO. Roel Jansen joins as CCO. Groenendijk has been Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer at Treatwell as well as a serial investor.

Coen Janssen, Chief Strategy Officer and co-founder of Hiber, commented: “The €26 million funding is fantastic validation for Hiber’s success and a major boost for the European ‘New Space’ sector. It is a key step in realizing our aim of making the Internet of Things really simple and available for everyone in remote and developing regions of the world.”

In particular, because it can reach out-of-the-way areas, Hiber’s network may be able to reduce losses in food production and leakages from oil wells.

Nicklas Bergman, European Innovation Council Fund Committee Member, commented: “I am glad to announce the EIC Fund support to this highly innovative company aiming at creating a European champion in the satellite Internet of Things sector. This equity financing will help Hiber to enable affordable and ubiquitous connectivity for the IoT solutions.”

Elia Montanari, Head of Management and Control at the European Space Agency, commented: “This major success has been supported at European level by collaboration of major EU bodies (EIC, EIB, ESA) fostering the Space Value Chain”.

#articles, #cfo, #chief-executive-officer, #esa, #europe, #european-innovation-council, #european-investment-bank, #european-space-agency, #european-union, #finch-capital, #food-production, #innovation, #internet-of-things, #iot, #satellite-constellation, #satellite-internet, #tc

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Eying sustainability gains for its supply chain, BMW backs Boston Metal’s CO2-free iron production tech

BMW has joined the cohort of investors that are backing Boston Metal’s carbon dioxide-free production technology for steel.

The Boston-based startup had targeted a $50 million raise earlier in the year, as TechCrunch reported, and BMW’s addition closes out that round, according to a person familiar with the company.

Through a commitment from BMW iVentures, the automaker’s investment arm, Boston Metal will have an in to a company with massive demands for more sustainably manufactured metal. For instance, BMW Group press plants in Europe process more than half a million tonnes of steel per year, the company said.

“We systematically identify the raw materials and components in our supplier network with the highest CO2 emissions from production,” said Dr Andreas Wendt, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG responsible for Purchasing and Supplier Network, in a statement. “Steel is one of them, but it is vital to car production. For this reason, we have set ourselves the goal of continuously reducing CO2 emissions in the steel supply chain. By 2030, CO2 emissions should be about two million tonnes lower than today’s figure.”

Conventional steel production requires blast furnaces that generate carbon dioxide emissions, but using Boston Metal’s process, an electrolysis cell produces the pig iron that gets processed into steel, the company said.

The addition of BMW to its investor group, which already includes Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures and other strategic and financial investors, caps the fundraising process with another corporate partner wielding incredible industry influence.

“Our investors span across the steel value chain, from the upstream mining and iron ore companies to the downstream end customer, and validate Boston Metal’s innovative process to produce high-quality steel, cost-competitively, and at scale,” said chief executive officer and founder, Tadeu Carneiro.

#automotive-industry, #bmw, #boston, #carbon-dioxide, #cars, #chief-executive-officer, #europe, #investor, #metal, #steel, #tc

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Geothermal startups get another boost from Chevron as the oil giant backs a geothermal project developer

The U.S.-based oil major Chevron is doubling down on its investment in geothermal power by investing in a Swedish developer of low-temperature geothermal and heat power projects called Baseload Capital.

Oil companies are under pressure to find new lines of business as the world prepares for a massive shift to renewable energy resources to power all aspects of industry in the face of mounting climate-related disasters caused by greenhouse gas emissions warming the temperature on the planet.

Joining Chevron in the investment was the ubiquitous billionaire-backed clean energy investment firm Breakthrough Energy Ventures and a Swedish investment group called Gullspang Invest AB.

The investment into Baseload follows closely on the heels of another commitment that Chevron made to the geothermal technology developer Eavor and a recent Breakthrough Energy Ventures investment in the Google-affiliated company, Dandelion Energy (a spinout from Google’s parent company’s moonshot technology development business unit, called X).

Dandelion and Eavor are just two examples of a groundswell of startups working to leverage the knowledge from the oil and gas industry to tap geothermal resources for applications ranging from baseload energy to home heating and cooling.

They’re joined by businesses like Fervo EnergyGreenFire Energy, and Sage Geosystems, who’re all leveraging heat to generate power.

As Chevron noted in its press release, heat power is an affordable form of renewable energy that can be harnessed from either geothermal resources or waste heat.

The investments in Baseload and Eavor are financed by CTV’s Core Venture fund which identifies companies with technology that can add efficiencies to Chevron’s core business in operational enhancement, digitalization, and lower-carbon operations, the company said in a statement.

Together the two businesses are planning pilot projects to test technology and could look to current Baseload operations in Japan, Taiwan, Iceland or the United States to develop projects.

Financial terms of the deal were undisclosed. 

“In August, we announced that we were looking for a new strategic investor to help us accelerate deployment in our key markets,” said Baseload’s Chief Executive Officer Alexander Helling. “We couldn’t have asked for a better one. Chevron complements our group of owners and adds expertise in drilling, engineering, exploration and more. These assets are expected to accelerate our ability to deploy heat power and strengthen our way of working.”

 

#articles, #breakthrough-energy-ventures, #chevron, #chief-executive-officer, #dandelion-energy, #energy, #geothermal-energy, #google, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #iceland, #investment, #japan, #major, #oil, #renewable-energy, #taiwan, #tc, #united-states

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EV charging stations, biofuels, the hydrogen transition and chemicals are pillars of Shell’s climate plan

Royal Dutch Shell Group, one of the largest publicly traded oil producers in the world, just laid out its plan for how the company will survive in a zero-emission, climate conscious world.

It’s a plan that rests on five main pillars that include the massive rollout of electric vehicle charging stations; a greater emphasis on lubricants, chemicals, and biofuels; the development of a significantly larger renewable energy generation portfolio and carbon offset plan; and the continued development of hydrogen and natural gas assets while slashing oil production by 1% to 2% per year and investing heavily in carbon capture and storage.

These four large categories cut across the company’s business operations and represent one of the most comprehensive (if high level) plans from a major oil company on how to keep their industry from becoming the next victim of the transition to low emission (and eventually) zero emission energy and power sources (I’m looking at you, coal industry).

“Our accelerated strategy will drive down carbon emissions and will deliver value for our shareholders, our customers and wider society,” said Royal Dutch Shell Chief Executive Officer, Ben van Beurden, in a statement.

To keep those shareholders from abandoning ship, the company also committed to slashing costs and boosting its dividend per share by around 4% per year. That means giving money back to investors that might have been spent on expensive oil and gas exploration operations. The company also committed too pay down its debt and make its payouts to shareholders 20% to 30% of its cash flow from operations. That’s… very generous.

gas vs electric vehicles

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

The Plan

Shell is a massive business with more than 1 million commercial and industrial customers and about 30 million customers coming to its 46,000 retail service stations daily, according to the company’s own estimates. The company organized its thinking around what it sees as growth opportunities, energy transition opportunities, and then the gradual obsolescence of its upstream drilling and petroleum production operations.

In what it sees as areas for growth, Shell intends to invest around $5 billion to $6 billion to its initiatives including the development of 500,000 electric vehicle charging locations by 2025 (up from 60,000 today) and an attendant boost in retail and service locations to facilitate charging.

The company also said it would be investing heavily in the expansion of biofuels and renewable energy generation and carbon offsets. The company wants to generate 560 terawatt hours a year by 2030, which is double the amount of electricity it generates today. Expect to see Shell operate as an independent power producer that will provide renewable energy generation as a service to an expected 15 million retail and commercial customers.

Finally the company sees the hydrogen economy as another area where it can grow.

In places where Shell already has assets that can be transitioned to the low carbon economy, the company’s going to be doubling down on its bets. That means zero emission natural gas production and a trebling down on chemicals manufacturing (watch out Dow and BASF). That means more recycling as well, as the company intends to process 1 million tons of plastic waste to produce circular chemicals.

Upstream, which was the heart of the oil and gas business for years, the company said it would “focus on value over volume” in a statement. What that means in practice is looking for easier, low cost wells to drill (something that points to the continued importance of the Middle East in the oil economy for the foreseeable future). The company expects to reduce its oil production by around 1% to 2% per year. And the company’s going to be investing in carbon capture and storage to the tune of 25 million tons per year through projects like the Quest CCS development in Canada, Norway’s Northern Lights project, and the Porthos project n the Netherlands.

“We must give our customers the products and services they want and need – products that have the lowest environmental impact,” van Beurden said in a statement.”At the same time, we will use our established strengths to build on our competitive portfolio as we make the transition to be a net-zero emissions business in step with society.”

Money or finance green pattern with dollar banknotes. Banking, cashback, payment, e-commerce. Vector background.

Money talk

For the company to survive in a world where revenues from its main business are cut, it’s also going to be keeping operating expenses down and will be looking to sell off big chunks of the business that no longer make sense.

That means expenses of no more than $35 billion per year and sales of around $4 billion per year to keep those dividends and cash to investors flowing.

“Over time the balance of capital spending will shift towards the businesses in the Growth pillar, attracting around half of the additional capital spend,” the company said. “Cash flow will follow the same trend and in the long term will become less exposed to oil and gas prices, with a stronger link to broader economic growth.”

Shell set targets for reducing its carbon intensity as part of the pay that’s going to all of the company’s staff and those targets are… eye opening. It’s looking at reductions in carbon intensity of 6-8% by 2023, 20% by 2030, 45% by 2035 and 100% by 2050, using a baseline of 2016 as its benchmark.

The company said that its own carbon emissions peaked in 2018 at 1.7 giga-tons per year and its oil production peaked in 2019.

The context

Shell’s not taking these steps because it wants to, necessarily. The writing is on the wall that unless something dramatic is done to stop fossil fuel pollution and climate change, the world faces serious consequences.

A study released earlier this week indicated that air pollution from fossil fuels killed 18% of the world’s population. That means burning fossil fuels is almost as deadly as cancer, according to the study from researchers led by Harvard University.

Beyond the human toll directly tied to fossil fuels, there’s the huge cost of climate change, which the U.S. estimated could cost $500 billion per year by 2090 unless steps are taken to reverse course.

#air-pollution, #articles, #basf, #biofuels, #canada, #chemicals, #chief-executive-officer, #e-commerce, #electricity, #energy, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #harvard-university, #middle-east, #netherlands, #norway, #oil, #oil-and-gas, #renewable-energy, #tc, #united-states

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LA-based Sidecar Health’s low-cost, cash-pay health insurance service is now valued at $1 billion

Meet Sidecar Health, the newest member of the tech industry’s billion dollar healthcare startup club.

The valuation comes thanks to $125 million in new funding that the company will use to expand its new model for health insurance. Sidecar Health’s insurance plans give consumers the ability to pay directly for care — often at steep discounts to the prices that patients would be charged through traditional insurance plans.

A typical Sidecar Health plan costs $240 per-member, per-month and its flexibility has made it a popular choice for the nation’s 20 million to 30 million uninsured individuals, according to chief executive officer Patrick Quigley.

The core of Sidecar’s plan is an ability to offer its policy holders the ability to pay directly for their medical care — and shop around to find the best provider using pricing information that the company provides through its mobile app.

Sidecar’s app provides real-time, geo-located information on the costs of any number of medical procedures, consultations, or drugs — and allows its users to shop at the places that offer them the best deal — in some cases the company will even pay money back if a price-savvy healthcare shopper finds a better deal.

If this all sounds kind of dystopian and nightmarish — well, welcome to the world of American healthcare!

In an ideal world, low-cost medical care would be a right, not a privilege and a baseline level of healthcare access would be available to everyone — including an ability to pay a set price for drugs, consultations and treatment. But if you live in America, bargain hunting for care may be the best bet to curb skyrocketing healthcare costs — at least for now.

While Sidecar pitches its service for everyone, the average age of the company’s current patient population is 33 years-old, Quigley said.  “It’s typically people that earn more than $45,000 a year and less than $75,000,” said Quigley of the company’s demographics.

The way it works is that Sidecar issues its insured members what’s basically a debit card that they use to pay for care, prescriptions, and consultations directly. The money comes from Sidecar’s claims accounts and is paid directly to doctors. By avoiding the middleman (traditional insurance companies), Sidecar can reduce overhead for care providers who like to get paid directly and will offer discounts in exchange for receiving cash in hand.

“It is 40% cheaper than the traditional commercial insurance companies would pay,” said Quigley.

Sidecar covers around 170,000 medical conditions and procedures, according to Quigley — including things from horse therapy (it’s a thing) for anxiety relief to heart transplants and chemotherapy, Quigley said.

Sidecar is currently available in 16 states and hopes to expand to most of the country on the back of its latest round of funding.

And while the company is working with uninsured patient populations now, it’s hoping to also expand its footprint with government-backed healthcare plans and into employer-sponsored health insurance as well.

It’s still early days for the service, which has only been around through two open enrollment periods for would-be plan members to sign up. And while the company doesn’t disclose its membership figures, Quigley said it would end the year above 30,000 members.

“It’s still super early,” Quigley said. 

Despite the stage of the business, investors are convinced that the business model has an opportunity to transform health insurance in the US. 

“The extraordinary level of transparency Sidecar Health brings to the marketplace has the  potential to fundamentally change how millions of Americans shop for healthcare,” said Molly  Bonakdarpour, a partner at the Drive Capital, which provided early backing for the company. “We think Sidecar Health’s team of consumer,  technology and healthcare veterans is well positioned to capitalize on the large healthcare  insurtech opportunity.” 

For the latest round, Drive Capital was joined by new investors including BOND, Tiger Global and Menlo Ventures, according to a statement.

Sidecar Health will use the investment to expand its geographic footprint, grow its team and  invest in new insurance products that build on its success in the uninsured market. The first of  these will be an ACA or “Obamacare” offering for 2022, followed by a product for the self funded employer market. 

“We believe we can take $1 trillion in waste out of the U.S. healthcare system,” Quigley said. 

#affordable-care-act, #america, #articles, #chief-executive-officer, #drive-capital, #health, #health-insurance, #healthcare, #insurance, #menlo-ventures, #partner, #sidecar, #tc, #tiger-global, #united-states

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Fluence, the energy storage systems developer, is now worth over $1 billion after QIA investment

The Qatar Investment Authority is investing $125 million into energy storage systems integrator and power management tech developer, Fluence, in a deal that will value the company at over $1 billion.

The joint venture between the American independent power producer, AES Corp. and the German industrial conglomerate Siemens, was already worth $900 million prior to the transaction, according to Marek Wolek, the vice president of strategy and partnerships at Fluence.

With the new cash, Fluence will look to develop and acquire software and services that can expand the company’s offerings to its core clients among utilities and independent power project developers, Wolek said.

And it might not be too long before the company seeks additional liquidity from the public markets, Wolek said. He noted that the QIA is already backing the battery company QuantumScape, which was acquired by a special purpose acquisition company in late November and whose shares have been on a meteoric rise ever since.

After the QIA investment, AES and Siemens will remain majority shareholders. Each will hold a 44 percent stake in the company after the investment.

“We believe the global problem of climate change can only be tackled by  leveraging the combined capabilities of technologists and investors from around  the world,” said Manuel Perez Dubuc, Fluence’s Chief Executive Officer, in a statement. “We see  energy storage as the linchpin of a decarbonized grid and adding QIA to our  international shareholder base will allow Fluence to innovate even faster and  address the enormous global market for large-scale battery-based energy  storage.” 

One of six founding members of the One Planet Sovereign Wealth Fund Initiative, QIA is a multi-billion dollar investment vehicle that has significant stores of capital to continue its support of climate tech companies like Fluence.

Fluence has already deployed roughly 5 gigawatts of energy storage and management systems to a wide array of customers, according to Wolek.

And while Wolek said Fluence sees itself and its energy storage business as a key component of the global decarbonization which needs to occur to combat climate change, electric storage isn’t the only technology that’s needed.

It’s difficult looking at the energy market and looking at one technology and saying that one technology is going to solve everything,” said Wolek. 

Rather, the company’s role is to ensure that the battery technology Fluence is deploying can be integrated with the other technologies required to provide industry and society with the power it needs, he said. “We want to absolutely be the experts on battery-based storage,” Wolek said. “At the same time we do invest quite a bit on the digital side to expand our dispatch capabilities beyond storage.”

That could mean teaming up with other energy suppliers (like developers of hydrogen fuel proejcts) in the future, he said.

“We want to master the energy piece on the battery side,” Wolek said of the company’s ultimate goal.

That goal puts the company on something of a collision course with the energy business being built by Elon Musk’s Tesla.

The billion-dollar valuation that Fluence currently enjoys and the $36.6 billion market cap that QuantumScape has goes some way toward explaining why Tesla can be considered to be a company worth over $650 billion.

 

#chief-executive-officer, #companies, #electrical-engineering, #energy-storage, #industries, #qatar-investment-authority, #quantumscape, #siemens, #tc

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Entrepreneurs say regulatory constraints are hampering commercial applications of space tech

When Payam Banazadeh and his team started Capella Space in 2016, they had visions of providing private industry with a wealth of new data that they could use in all sorts of ways to create business opportunities and improve efficiencies.

Four years later, Banazadeh is still waiting for that commercial opportunity.

Capella is still successful. The company has managed to raise $82 million in venture capital financing and has a robust pipeline of government contracts, but Banazadeh has not seen the kinds of uptake in private industry.

He’s not the only one.

Speaking at TC Sessions: Space 2020, Banazadeh was among a number of executives including Peter Platzer, the chief executive officer of Spire Global; Helsinki-based ICEYE’s co-founder and chief executive Rafal Modrzewski; and Melanie Stricklan, the founder and chief strategy officer of Slingshot Aerospace; who spoke about the central role government plays in the current space business and how they’re hoping that will change.

“I think regulation in the US… has made huge improvements this past year. But the challenge is always how do you balance national security concerns with making sure that the US industrial space can keep up with the competition internationally,” Banazadeh said. “I think we need to… in the US… we need to take a leadership position to not just restrict the US companies on following what international companies are doing, but rather allow US companies to go above and beyond and be able to capture more of the commercial market by being able to provide some of the more advanced features [that they have] on the government side.”

Modrzewski agreed.

“When we were starting ICEYE, we were kind of all under the impression that the idea behind new space and things that we are doing, is really to enable the use of observation for the betterment of the world… For improving efficiencies of businesses, monitoring climate change, doing all these things that that that we haven’t been able to do to do before,” he said. “And when I look at basically democratizing data and handing best capabilities available to commercial industries, as well as to the government, ultimately, right, because they are users of the same, the same supply chain. I see that you know, the largest factor that’s currently stopping the evolution is actually national approach to particular sets of activities. I think the the more globally we approach to the market, the broader the competition, the less limitation we impact… It seems to work significantly better for everyone as a global community, if we allow those companies to freely collaborate, and the data exchange to be free. So if there was one wish that I had for 2021, it is to have less borders, and more open markets in terms of exchange of data.”

Governments are, already, massive customers for most of these businesses. In total government spending represents around half of the total $423 billion spent on the space industry already, according to data from Statista.

But if the industry is to achieve the $1 trillion potential revenue that Morgan Stanley projects for businesses in the next 20 years, then more will have to be done to unlock private industry.

“When we started the company, we saw the immediate opportunity in commercial. And as we dug a little deeper and made some progress, we realized that the commercial market is still not as mature as we had hoped it to be. And in the meantime, we quickly found out that the government market, both US government, as well as international governments are expanding and growing much faster than, than before, specifically for this type of data, because of the new challenges and challenges and threats that are that are around the corner,” Banazadeh said. “And so we’ve pivoted and focused on going after governments in catering to their needs… We do want to get back into commercial, we have that aspiration. And that’s our long term goal. We just think that we’re probably a few years out to get there.”

While the commercial market may not have materialized to the degree that these entrepreneurs would have hoped, there are still opportunities for plenty of business from government contracts thanks, in part, to the increasing complexity of operating in space.

That means big business for company’s like Slingshot, which provides what Stricklan calls “situational awareness.”

“Whether that’s in orbit or terrestrially, we provide answers to our customers around their risk and and how to mitigate that risk, or at least how to understand the risk as it pertains to spatial-temporal information,” Stricklan said. “And so right now … their most important asset is their data [and] in order to get that data, they have to have their satellites in orbit, and they have to have safety of flight and all those different things.”

The exploding number of satellites in orbit and the presence of nearly 500,000 pieces of space debris means that operationally these very expensive assets are at greater risk than they were. Slingshot tries to solve that problem by giving its customers orbital awareness of potential risks, and providing ways to process data to understand the terrestrial risks that companies face.

Everyone from insurance companies to logistics providers to financial investors use satellite data and imagery in their decision making process and an increasing driver for all of these businesses is a chance to model out impacts from climate change, according to Platzer.

“I think I think the demand for a global understanding off the planet, to use its resources in an effective and responsible way, is unabated. You know, perspire in particular, you know, the impact of climate change through weather on every single business in every single country, for every single person is certainly not going away. And so that demand is is absolutely increasing,” Platzer said. “So I honestly actually see mostly, almost exclusively opportunities, and not necessarily obstacles, funding in the industry is growing at 46%. year over year. Company creation is growing at 32% year over year. So I think I think it’s really a very, very dynamic period, which is more dominated by opportunities than obstacles I would say.”

Increasingly, startups will be able to meet these opportunities, especially if they can receive a boost from government entities that can highlight the areas that are emerging business opportunities and leave it to private industry to pursue them, Modrzewski said.

Still, the panelists agreed that there’s no better time to start a company focused on the space industry than now.

“If I could encourage those that have any sort of inspiration to start a company around space to do it, just do it. Execute on that, that vision, but understand all of the, the things that we talked about today are different than the risk of say, starting a marketing company or those different things. So be up to the challenge to understand the government as part of this and understand rules and regulations, and outside the government that impact how we fly satellites, how we take care of satellites, how we provide data and understand that there’s a lot of legacy that comes with this industry,” Stricklan said. “I think the global space ecosystem is one that remains heavily siloed. It’s not like the digital transformations that have happened in Silicon Valley. Over the last 10 or 15 years. This industry still needs that digital transformation and so the the world is your oyster, but be prepared and be up for the challenge.”

#capella-space, #chief-executive-officer, #driver, #helsinki, #iceye, #industries, #insurance, #rafal-modrzewski, #slingshot, #spire-global, #tc, #tc-sessions-space-2020, #united-states, #uptake, #us-government, #venture-capital-financing

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Two key UK military non-profits join forces to boost veteran training in cyber and tech

Advancements in the tech and the cyber threat landscape are creating vast job opportunities. The global cyber security market is projected to reach £210 billion by 2026. But in the UK, out of 952,000 working aged (16-64) UK military veterans and 15,000 service leavers a year, only 4% of them are working in tech and cyber. This is 20% lower than the non-veteran population. The cost to the UK economy of underemployed or unemployed veterans has been estimated at £1.5 billion over 5 years. This means all this talent – talent which has literally been trained to adapt to fast-moving situations like the one the world finds itself in now – is going to waste, just when the era of massive digitization of business and society is upon us.

So it’s significant that the UK’s RFEA, the Forces Employment charity, is launching a new partnership with TechVets, the non-profit set up to build a bridge for veterans into cyber security and the technology sector.

With the RFEA’s support, TechVets will create extensive new free upskilling and job opportunities for ‘tech-curious’ service leavers and veterans, through its offering of networking, mentoring, signposting and training services, via its new TechVets Academy.

The initiative is timely. It’s estimated that over 173,000 UK military veterans are at risk due to the economic impact of COVID and the ending of the government’s furlough scheme in March 2021.

Since its launch in 2018, TechVets has grown to a community of over 6,000 members and several ‘chapters’ around the UK.

TechVets uses a blend of open-source resources, partner training, and community support, to empower those new to cyber/tech to choose the pathway that is best for them. And it’s all free to veterans and service leavers.

TechVets Programme Director, James Murphy (pictured), is an Army Veteran of 19 years. He joined the 1st Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment in 2000, before transferring to the Intelligence Corps in 2013 after sustaining life-long injuries in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

In a statement, he said: “Anyone who has held a role in the Forces comes armed with an understanding of the sensitivities of working in security. Ex-Services also possess an innate ability to learn new skills and are natural problem solvers, who can work quickly and fit into a team with ease. Ex-military personnel are also the kind of people who thrive in pressurized, or time-sensitive, situations. These soft skills are incredible assets in the security and technology industries, which can be used to fill the current skills shortage in this area.”

RFEA’s Chief Executive Officer, Alistair Halliday, added: “The TechVets Programme is a fantastic new addition to RFEA’s services that will, no doubt, encourage talented veterans to consider tech and security-based roles that may have otherwise overlooked. It will also help veterans to upskill digitally to help them get into wider roles too.”

TechVets member Gareth Paterson, joined the Army in 1994. He started out as a Tank crewman and then transferred to the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers as an instructor in 2001. He left in 2018, having completed operational tours of Northern Ireland, Former Yugoslavia and Afghanistan. He says his life has been changed by TechVets: “I left the Army as I was at the end of my 24-year career… I did not have a clue what career to move into, then I was introduced to offensive cybersecurity and penetration testing. I joined TechVets and it gave me my first insight into the tools and techniques of penetration testing. After that, I was hooked! The support of everyone at TechVets, and its community, has helped me to gain confidence and push harder. I was able to gain qualifications in penetration testing which improved my job prospects in the sector. By November 2018 I started working as a cybersecurity consultant.”

#afghanistan, #army, #chief-executive-officer, #computer-security, #cyberattack, #cybercrime, #cyberwarfare, #data-security, #director, #europe, #military, #northern-ireland, #tc, #united-kingdom

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John Legend and Natalie Portman want you to try wearing fungus instead of leather

Natalie Portman and John Legend are joining a group of venture capitalists and unnamed fashion brands backing MycoWorks, a company that just raised $45 million to commercialize its technology that makes a fungal-based biomaterial that can replace leather.

The goal is to get consumers to trade in their leather and lizard skin couture for some fungus fashion.

The company said it has inked some deals with big fashion brands as partners as it looks to bring its funky fungus to the masses in shoes, wallets, belts, and other goods that traditionally use cowhide or other animal skins.

“We have been working with a few luxury brands and a major footwear manufacturer in very close collaboration,” said Matt Scullin, the chief executive officer at MycoWorks .

The unnamed fashion brands have already started producing products for stores in a range of items including shoes, ready to wear apparel and bags, according to Scullin.

MycoWorks likes to differentiate itself from other brands that want to bring a fungus among us or plant new plant-based fabrics in fashion — companies like Bolt Threads (mushrooms), Ananas Anam (pineapple fibers), and Desserto (cactus leather) — with its emphasis on the durability of its fabric.

“We’ve had the product tested in a huge range of different applications of various leather-based apparel to upholstery to standard leather goods like handbags and wallets. The key difference between our material and mushroom leather is that the structural components is so high,” Scullin said. “We’re confident in the material’s ability to perform in a really wide range of applications so there’s a wide range of uses for that.”

To that end, MycoWorks is focused on the high-end fo the market. “There’s a misconception that brands are willing to sacrifice performance for sustainability and that’s not true,” Scullin said. “The real adoption occurs in an industry like this when the performance is there.”

Scullin won’t say how much the MycoWorks material costs nor would he talk about which specific companies are working with the company’s product right now. He did say that the company hopes eventually to be price competitive with not just the traditional leather market, but the plastic market for leather replacements, which is worth $70 billion per-year alone.

With the company’s current capacity it can produce tens of thousands of square feet of fungal material per yar, according to Scullin. That means MycoWorks still has a long way to go to catch up to an industry that produces billions of square feet of leather.

The funding for MycoWorks is impressive, but it also has to contend with some competitors that are getting traction of their own in the fashion industry.

In October, Bolt Threads announced the creation of a consortium alongside longtime partners Adidas, Stella McCartney and the fashion house behind brands like Balenciaga to explore mushroom leather-based products.

For MycoWorks investors including WTT Investment Ltd. (Taipei, Taiwan), DCVC Bio, Valor Equity Partners, Humboldt Fund, Gruss & Co., Novo Holdings, 8VC, SOSV, AgFunder, Wireframe Ventures, and Tony Faddell, the competition is expected. But they believe that MycoWorks functionality makes it the king (oyster) of the leather substitute world. 

“Fine mycelial leather is customizable to client needs” said DCVC Bio investor Kiersten Stead. “[It’s] customizable in terms of shape, and application. And prices will vary depending on what the application and the criteria from customers is.”

In all, MycoWorks has raised $62 million and the company’s new financing announcement coincides with the opening of a new Emeryville, Calif. production plant that takes its capacity up to its current tens-of-thousands of feet of fungal leather replacement capacity.

Behind all of this push to find replacements for animal skins is a growing awareness of the problems associated with traditional methods for manufacturing leather for clothes and shoes. It’s a terribly toxic and polluting process, both in the tanning and dyeing and in the waste and landfilling associated with both animal leather and its plastic replacements.

“The process of growing the mycelium is carbon negative. Customers will look at [our product] vs. an animal hide and say why wouldn’t I choose [that],” said Sculin. “In addition you have the non-animal aspects and the plastic free aspects that are driving so many decisions right now… what we really are to our brand partners is an advanced manufacturing company. We are motivated by sustainability. We represent a way for them to change their supply chains.”

#adidas, #biology, #bolt-threads, #california, #chief-executive-officer, #john-legend, #kiersten-stead, #king, #leather, #manufacturing, #matt-scullin, #mycelium, #mycoworks, #novo-holdings, #shoe, #taipei, #taiwan, #tc, #valor-equity-partners

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Spying a pivot to ghost kitchens, Softbank’s second Vision Fund pours $120 million into Ordermark

“We’re building a decentralized ghost kitchen,” is a sentence that could launch a thousand investor calls, and Alex Canter, the chief executive officer behind Ordermark, knows it.

The 29 year-old CEO has, indeed, built a decentralized ghost kitchen — and managed to convince Softbank’s latest Vision Fund to invest in a $120 million round for that the company announced today.

“We have uncovered an opportunity to help drive more orders into restaurants through this offering we have called Nextbite,” Canter said. “Nextbite is a portfolio of delivery-only restaurant brands that exist only on UberEats, DoorDash, and Postmates.”

After hearing about Nextbite, Softbank actually didn’t take much convincing.

Investors from the latest Vision Fund first reached out to Canter shortly after the company announced its last round of funding in 2019. Canter had just begun experimenting with Nextbite at the time, but now the business is driving a huge chunk of the company’s revenues and could account for a large percentage of the company’s total business in the coming year.

“We believe Ordermark’s leading technology platform and innovative virtual restaurant concepts are transforming the restaurant industry,” said Jeff Housenbold, Managing Partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, in a statement. “Alex and the Ordermark team have a deep understanding of the challenges that independent restaurants face. We are excited to support their mission to help independent restaurants optimize online ordering and generate incremental revenue from under-utilized kitchens.”

It’s an interesting pivot for a company that began as a centralized hub for restaurants to manage all of the online delivery orders coming in through various delivery services like GrubHub, Postmates and Uber Eats .

Canter is no stranger to the restaurant business. His family owns one of Los Angeles’ most famous delicatessens, the eponymous Canters, and Ordermark apocryphally started as a way to manage the restaurant’s own back-of-the-house chaos caused by a profusion of delivery service orders.

Now, instead of becoming the proprietor of one restaurant brand, Canter is running 15 of them. Unlike Cloud Kitchens, Kitchen United or Reef, Ordermark isn’t building or operating new kitchens. Instead, the company relies on the unused kitchen capacity of restaurants that the company has vetted to act as its quasi-franchisees.

Ordermark logos for some of the company’s delivery-only restaurant concepts. Image Credit: Ordermark

While most of the restaurant concepts have been developed internally, Ordermark isn’t above the occasional celebrity sponsorship. Its Nextbite service has partnered with Wiz Khalifa on a delivery-only restaurant called HotBox by Wiz, featuring “stoner-friendly munchies”.

The first brand Canter launched was The Grilled Cheese Society, which took advantage of unused kitchens at places like a Los Angeles nightclub and mom-and-pop restaurants across the East Coast to build out a footprint that now covers 100 locations nationwide.

It’s perhaps the growth of the HotBox brand that shows what kind of growth Nextbite could promote. Since the brand’s launch in early October, it has grown to a footprint that will reach 50 cities by the end of the month, according to Canter.

In some ways, Nextbite couldn’t exist without Ordermark’s delivery aggregation technology. “The way that Ordermark’s technology is designed, not only can we aggregate online orders into the device, but we can aggregate multiple brands into the device.”

For restaurants that sign up to be fulfillment partners for the Nextbite brands, there are few additional upfront costs and a fair bit of upside, according to Canter. Restaurants are making 30% margin on every order they take for one of Ordermark’s brands, Canter said.

To become a part of Nextbite’s network of restaurants the business has to be vetted by Ordermark. The company takes cues on what kinds of restaurants are performing well in different regions and develops a menu that is suited to match those trends. For instance, Nextbite recently launched a hot chicken sandwich brand after seeing the item rise in popularity on different digital delivery services.

Restaurants are chosen that can match the menu style of the delivery-only brand that Ordermark’s Nextbite business creates.

Behind those menus is Guy Simsiman, a Denver-based chef who is in charge of developing new menus for the company.

“We’re building things that we know can scale and we do a lot of upfront vetting to find the right types of fulfillment partners,” said Canter. “When a restaurant signs up to become a fulfillment partner, we’re vetting them and training them on what they need to do to … We’re guiding them to become fulfillment partners for these concepts. There’s a whole bunch of training that happens. Then there’s secret shopping and review monitoring to monitor quality.”

While Nextbite may be the future of Ordermark’s business, its overall health looks solid. The company is about to cross $1 billion worth of orders processed through its system.

“We are laser focused right now on helping our restaurants survive COVID and the best way we can do that is by doubling down on the incremental revenues of the Nextbite business,” said Canter when asked where the company’s emphasis would be going forward.

Nextbite is something we’ve been developing for a while now. We took it to market at the end of last year prior to COVID. When COVID kicked in every restaurant in America needed to be more creative. People were looking for alternative ways to supplement the loss in foot traffic,” he said. Nextbite provided an answer.

#america, #business, #ceo, #chef, #chief-executive-officer, #companies, #covid, #delivery-services, #denver, #doordash, #east-coast, #grubhub, #jeff-housenbold, #laser, #los-angeles, #managing-partner, #menu, #online-food-ordering, #ordermark, #postmates, #restaurant, #tc, #uber, #uber-eats, #vision-fund, #websites, #wiz

0

Daphne Koller: ‘Digital biology is an incredible place to be right now’

Working at the intersection of biology and computing may be the most exciting new spot for technologists at the moment.

That’s the word from Daphne Koller, the founder and chief executive officer of Insitro — the biotech company that’s raised over $243 million in the two short years since it launched.

Speaking at our virtual TechCrunch Disrupt conference, Koller, a serial entrepreneur who previously co-founded Coursera and briefly served as the chief computing officer for the Alphabet subsidiary focused on human health, Calico, views digital biology as the next big technological revolution.

“Digital biology is an incredible place to be right now,” Koller said in an interview.

It’s certainly been an incredible opportunity for Koller whose work now spans the development of treatments for potential neurological diseases and a nearer term research and development effort on hepatitis with Gilead Pharmaceuticals.

Koller’s Insitro takes its name and inspiration from the combination of two different practices in biological research — the in vitro experiments that are done on living samples in labs and the in silico experiments that are done on the computer.

By synthesizing these two disciplines Koller’s company flips the process of drug discovery on its head, the company is designed sift through massive amounts of data to search for patterns in the expression of certain conditions. Once those patterns are determined, the company can examine the pathways or mechanisms associated with that expression to determine targets for potential therapies.

Then Insitro will pursue the development of novel molecules that can be used to intervene and either reverse or stop the progression of an illness by stopping the biological mechanisms associated with it.

“We now have massive amounts of data that is truly relevant to human disease,” Koller said. “Machine learning has given us a bunch of tools to really make sense of data.”

The company can identify new patient segments, new interventions new drugs that may modulate the expression of those conditions. “We view ourselves as being on the first phase of a very long journey using machine learning,” said Koller.

Take the company’s work on hepatitis in conjunction with Gilead. There, Koller and her team were able to take a small, high-quality dataset from Gilead’s trials and identify how a disease progressed by looking at the patient data from different points in time. Looking at the progression allowed the company to identify drivers that facilitated the progression of fibrosis that causes tissue damage. Now the company is using those targets as a starting point to find modifiers that could slow down the progression of the disease. 

It comes down to using computers to understand the biology, new biotechnology to model that biology in a Petri dish, and from the different models determine the interventions that will make a difference, Koller said.

“What we’re trying to do is so different and so out of alignment with how these [pharmaceutical] companies do their work,” Koller said. “It’s trying to shift the trajectory of these companies of hundreds or thousands of people and shift the culture to a tech culture that is going to be really a challenge.”

It’s the main reason Koller launched her own company rather than joining a big pharma play, and it’s a classic example of the innovator’s dilemma and the disruptive power of technology laid out in the theories of Clayton Christensen that give the Disrupt conference its name.

“[It’s] the notion of the innovator’s dilemma and coming in with a mindset that says we’re going to do this a completely different way,” said Koller. “The drug discovery effort is becoming increasingly expensive and increasingly prone to failure and if we do this in a different way will it enable us to generate better outcomes.”

#chief-executive-officer, #computing, #coursera, #daphne-koller, #disease, #drug-discovery, #health, #illness, #insitro, #machine-learning, #medicine, #serial-entrepreneur, #tc

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Austin-based EmPath’s employee training and re-skilling service snags seed funding from B Capital

By the time Felix Ortiz III left the Army in 2006, the Brooklyn, NY native had spent time taking classes at the City University of New York and St. John’s. Those experiences led him to found ViridisLearning, which aimed to give universities a better way to track student development to help graduates land jobs.

Now he’s taken the learnings of that attempt to reshape education into the corporate world and raised over $1 million in financing from investors including B Capital, the investment firm launched jointly by the Boston Consulting Group and Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, and Subversive Capital.

The goal of Ortiz’s newest startup, EmPath, is to provide corporate employees with a clear picture of their current skills based on the work they’re already doing at a company and give them a roadmap to up-skilling and educational opportunities that could land them a better, higher paying job.

The company has an initial customer in AT&T, which has rolled out its services across its entire organization, according to Ortiz.

From starting out in a shared apartment in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park, Ortiz’s family history took a turn as his father became assistant speaker of the house in New York’s legislature and his mother operated a mental health clinic in the city.

When Ortiz enlisted in the Army at 17, he continued to pursue his education, and served as a Judge Advocate General for the Army at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. From there, Ortiz launched his first education venture, a failed startup that attempted to teach skills for renewable energy jobs online. The Green University may no longer exist, but it was the young entrepreneur’s first foray into education.

A road that would continue with ViridisLearning and lead to the launch of EmPath.

Along the way, Ortiz enlisted the help of an experienced developer in the online education space — Adam Blum.

The creator of OpenEd, the largest educational open resource catalog online, which used machine learning to infer skills from the online activity of children, and the founder of Auger.ai, a toolkit to bring machine learning and predictive modeling to skill development, Blum immediately saw the opportunity EmPath presented.

“Inferring skills for employees using their corporate digital footprint and inferring those skills for potential jobs… where you identified skill gaps using inferred skills for courses to suggest remedial resources to plug education gaps,” just makes sense, Blum said. “It was a much more powerful vision.”

Blum still holds an equity stake in Auger.ai, but considers the work he’s doing with EmPath as the company’s chief technology officer to be his full time job now. “Building this out with felix was more exciting in terms of the impact it would have,” Blum said. 

EmPath already is fully deployed with AT&T and will be adding three Fortune 1,000 companies as customers by the end of the month, according to Ortiz.

The young startup also has a powerful and well-connected supporter in Carlos Gutierrez, the former chief executive officer of Kellogg, and the Secretary of Commerce in the George W. Bush White House.

“Lacking a college degree throughout my career, I had to develop my own skills to enable my climb up the corporate ladder. The technology didn’t exist to help guide me, but in today’s world, professionals should not have to upskill blindly,” said former Commerce Secretary and EmPath co-founder Carlos Gutierrez, in a statement. “We created a technology platform that can help transform an organization’s culture by empowering employees and strengthening talent development. This technology was a game changer even before the Covid-19 pandemic, and now that corporate budgets are tighter, it is even more important for companies to accelerate skills development and talent growth.” 

#army, #articles, #att, #b-capital, #bush, #business, #chief-executive-officer, #chief-technology-officer, #co-founder, #economy, #eduardo-saverin, #entrepreneurship, #facebook, #founder, #machine-learning, #north-carolina, #private-equity, #skill, #startup, #startup-company, #tc, #white-house

0

Committing to a fully zero-emission fleet by 2040, Uber is dedicating $800 million to electrifying its drivers

Ride hailing giant Uber is committing to become a fully zero-emission platform by 2040 and setting aside $800 million to help get its drivers using electric vehicles by 2025.

The company said that it would invest further in its micro-mobility options as well with the goal of having 100 percent of its rides take place on electric vehicles in the US, Canada, and European cities in which the company operates. Uber also said it would commit to reaching net-zero emissions from its own corporate operations by 2030.

If the company can hit its timeline, Uber would achieve necessary milestones in its operations a decade ahead of the Paris Climate Agreement targets set for 2050.

The keys to the company’s efforts are four new and expanding initiatives, according to a statement.

The first is the launch of Uber Green in 15 US and Canadian cities. For customers willing to spend an extra dollar, they can request an EV or hybrid electric vehicle to pick them up. By the end of the year, Uber Green will be available in over 65 cities around the world. Riders who choose the green option will also receive three times the Uber Rewards points they would have received for a typical UberX ride, the company said.

Uber’s second step toward making the world a greener place is to commit $800 million to transition its fleet to electric vehicles. Part of that transition is being subsidized by the $1 surcharge for riders who choose to go green and from fees that the company collects under its London and French Clean Air Plans. Those are 15 cent (or pence) surcharges that Uber has been collecting since January of last year to pay for the electrification of its drivers’ cars in European cities.

Dara Kowsrowshahi, chief executive officer of Uber Technologies Inc., speaks during an event in New Delhi, India, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. During his Japan trip, Khosrowshahi has made it clear the ride-hailing company isnt scaling back its ambitions in certain Asian markets, despite speculation of a retreat. Photographer: Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

To incentivize drivers to go green, Uber’s doling out an extra 50 cents per trip in the US and Canada for every “Uber Green” trip completed to be paid out by riders. Drivers using EVs will also get another dollar from Uber itself, amounting to $1.50 more per trip for each EV ride completed.

Other enticements include partnerships with GM in the US and Canada and Renault -Nissan in Europe to offer discounts on electric vehicles to Uber drivers. Working with Avis, Uber is planning to offer more electric vehicles for rental to US drivers. Meanwhile, the company said it would also expand electric vehicle charging by working to develop new charging stations in conjunction with companies like BP, EVgo, Enel X, Izivia by EDF, and Power Dot.

Uber’s also working to revive the vision of robotic battery swapping to enable customers to forget about their concerns when it comes to charging a new vehicle. It’s working with the San Francisco-based startup, Ample, as the young company develops its battery-swapping tech — and Lithium Urban Technologies, an electric fleet operator out of India.

Building on its existing micro-mobility network, the company is going to integrate bikes and scooters from Lime even closer into its networks and expanding its shared ride programs as soon as its safe to do it. The company is also intent on expanding its Journey Planning feature to enable users to see pricing options, schedules, and directions to and from transit stations. Uber also now offers in-app ticketing in more than ten cities, so people can buy public transit passes in the app itself. As a coup de grace, Uber’s also unveiling a new feature that allows users to plan their trips in Chicago and Sydney using cars and public transit to get where they need to go.

Finally, the company has released its first Climate Assessment and Performance Report analyzing emissions from the company’s operations in the United States and Canada from 2017 through 2019. Unsurprisingly, Uber found that it was more efficient than single-occupant driving, but the company did reveal that its carbon intensity is higher than that of average-occupancy personal cars. Meaning when there’re two people using a personal car, their footprint is lower than that of an Uber driver looking for passengers.

Although arguably, Uber shouldn’t be having its customers foot so much of the bill for its electric transition, these are all positive steps from a company that still has a long road ahead of it if it’s looking to reduce its carbon footprint.

#bp, #canada, #charging-station, #chicago, #chief-executive-officer, #driver, #electric-vehicle, #enel, #europe, #evgo, #garrett-camp, #gett, #getty, #gm, #india, #japan, #london, #new-delhi, #nissan, #paris, #photographer, #renault, #san-francisco, #sydney, #tc, #transport, #uber, #united-states

0

LA gets a big SAAS exit as Fastly nabs the Culver City-based Signal Sciences for $775M

Los Angeles was always more than a one industry town, even when it comes to technology startups, but media and entertainment (and social networking) were always the big draws in tinseltown.

Now the city’s enterprise tech scene can claim a really big winner with Signal Sciences, the security monitoring and management company that is getting bought by Fastly, a provider of content delivery networking services, for $775 million.

“Our team couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity to join Fastly to continue to drive forward security protections that empower developers. But we also believe this is a great moment to showcase the diversity of the LA technology scene,” wrote Signal Sciences chief executive, Andrew Peterson, in a direct message. “Being the largest enterprise tech outcome ever here, we’re just one of so many great deep technology companies who are paving the way for the next generation of SoCal based start ups. We’re thrilled to help lead the way for the broader tech community in Los Angeles.”

Content delivery and security go hand-in-hand and some of the biggest companies online use businesses like Fastly and its competitor, Cloudflare, to ensure that their online presence doesn’t go offline — and that browsers can quickly download and deliver websites.

Fastly said that the acquisition of Signal Sciences’ business will boost its ability to provide better security for applications and APIs — the connective fabric between different services that knit different technologies together behind the scenes.

With the acquisition, Fastly is planting a flag as a new competitor in the cybersecurity market, even as companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google offer a wider array of services under their Internet as a service business lines.

Application security is a higher value piece of the services stack and it takes advantage of the natural position that a company like Fastly has as a content distribution network.

“Fastly was founded to meet developers’ need for greater visibility and control. Now, as the digital transformation movement continues to accelerate, DevOps teams are struggling with inadequate and inflexible security tools,” said Joshua Bixby, Chief Executive Officer of Fastly, in a statement. “Together with Signal Sciences, we will give developers modern security tools designed for the way they work.”

Los Angeles, California, USA – March 23, 2016: Aerial view of the Hollywood sign at dusk in Los Angeles. The image has been taken from an helicopter flying over LA. Image Credit: Getty Images/franckreporter

Under the terms of the agreement Fastly is buying Signal Sciences for $200 million in cash and approximately $575 million worth of stock, subject to customary adjustments for transactions, according to a statement.

Fastly is also setting up a $50 million retention pool of restricted stock units to give out to Signal Sciences employees.

Signal Sciences employees aren’t the only winners in the deal. The company raised $63 million in venture financing from investors including CRV, Harrison Metal, Index Ventures, Oreilly Alphatech Ventures, Lead Edge Capital, and individual investors including former Facebook security officer Alex Stamos, and Etsy chief executive Chad Dickerson.

The company’s last round was a $35 million investment raised about two years ago, and one investor with knowledge of the company’s cap table called it a “pretty efficient exit” for its backers.

Morgan Stanley & Co. and Union Square Advisors are acting as financial advisors to Fastly, and Cooley LLP is acting as its legal advisor with regard to the transaction, according to a statement. Qatalyst Partners is acting as financial advisor to Signal Sciences, while Goodwin Procter was the company’s lawyer.

#alex-stamos, #amazon, #chad-dickerson, #chief-executive-officer, #cloudflare, #computing, #cooley-llp, #etsy, #facebook, #fastly, #financial-advisor, #financial-advisors, #google, #harrison-metal, #internet, #internet-security, #joshua-bixby, #lawyer, #lead-edge-capital, #los-angeles, #microsoft, #oreilly-alphatech-ventures, #qatalyst-partners, #signal-sciences, #social-networking, #tc, #union-square-advisors

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Birmingham-based Help Lightning raises $8 million for its remote training and support tools

In the four years since Help Lightning first began pitching its services out of its Birmingham, Ala. headquarters, the company has managed to sign up 100 customers including some large Fortune 500 companies like Cox Communications, Siemens, and Boston Scientific.

Now, with an additional $8 million in financing from Resolve Growth Partners, the company is hoping to expand its sales and marketing efforts and continue to refine its product.

The technology was initially invented by Bart Guthrie, a neurosurgeon at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who wanted a way to improve telepresence technologies so he could assist with remote surgeries.

What Guthrie developed was a technology that could merge video streams to that experts could remotely monitor, manage, and assist in everything from service repairs to surgery.

“Think of it as a video call on steroids,” says Gary York, the company’s chief executive officer. A serial entrepreneur, York was brought on board by Guthrie to help commercialize the technology four years ago.

The technology works on any android or iOS device and is accessed through a mobile browser. The company now boasts over 100 customers including Cox, Canon, Unisys, and Boston Scientific. And its usage has soared since the advent of the pandemic, according to York.

“We saw call volume quadruple,” he said.

For instance, Cox Communications uses the technology to provide virtual trouble shooting to replace in-home service visits for customers. At Siemens, service technicians who fix medical imaging and lab diagnostic equipment can use the Help Lightning to link up with experts to troubleshoot fixes in real time. York would not comment on pricing, but said that the company provides custom quotes based on usage.

“After evaluating the virtual expertise software market for over a year, our diligence is clear that Help Lightning has built a highly differentiated solution that is valued by its customers” said Jit Sinha, co-founder and Managing Director from Resolve, in a statement earlier this week. “Help Lightning has a tremendous opportunity to power the success of this rapidly emerging market. We’re thrilled to be partnering with Gary York and his talented team.”

 

#alabama, #android, #articles, #canon, #chief-executive-officer, #companies, #cox-communications, #medical-imaging, #real-time, #serial-entrepreneur, #siemens, #tc, #telecommunications, #teleconferencing, #telepresence, #unisys

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Atomwise’s machine learning-based drug discovery service raises $123 million

With a slew of partnerships with large pharmaceutical companies under its belt and the successful spin out of at least one new company, Atomwise has already proved the value of its machine learning platform for discovering and commercializing potential small molecule therapies for a host of conditions.

Now the company has raised $123 million in new funding to accelerate its business.

“Scaling the technology and scaling the team and scaling what we’ve been doing with it,” says chief executive officer Abe Heifets when asked about what comes next for the eight year old business.

Atomwise has already signed contracts worth $5.5 billion with corporate partners that include Eli Lilly & Co., Bayer, Hansoh Pharmaceuticals, and Bridge Biotherapeutics. Smaller, earlier stage companies like StemoniX and SEngine Precision Medicine are also using Atomwise’s tech.

Now the company will look to capture more of the value of drug discovery for itself, looking to develop and commercialize its discoveries by taking over more of the development process and working with manufacturers at a later stage, according to Heifets.

Atomwise tipped its new strategy last year when it announced a partnership with Velocity Drug Development and a $14.5 million investment to create x-37, a spinoff that’s developing small molecule therapies for endodermal cancers, which include cancers of the liver, pancreas, colon, stomach, and bladder.

“We have something like 750 projects running today around the world,” says Heifets. “These comprise more than 600 unique targets and that’s with a vast range of partnerships.”

The power of Atomwise’s drug discovery platform is its ability to harness machine learning to structure new proteins that have never existed — and ensure that they’re able to reach precise target receptors to accomplish a desired task.

Here, the x-37 spinoff is especially illustrative. One line of research the company is conducting into molecules that can target the PIM3 protein receptor. If a drug can block PIM3, it can kill cancerous endodermal cells, according to Heifets. However, if the molecules bind to another, similar target, PIM1, the therapy can cause heart attacks and kill patients.

“This is a challenge and empirically was considered undruggable,” says Heifets. Atomwise’s company screened 11 billion potential molecules against the targets to come up with 500 potential therapies. They’re now working on refining the therapy to bring something to market.

And x-37 is only one of the companies that Atomwise has created to commercialize various new molecules. There’s also Atropos Therapeutics, Theia Biosciences and vAIrus.

Atomwise is far from the only company to think that the application of machine learning technologies to drug discovery is a winning combination. Menten.ai is a company that’s taken the new technology developments one step further and added quantum computing to the mix to come up with new drugs.

“The market opportunity we’re going after is four times the value of the entire pharma industry today,” said Heifets. “Here’s what that’s about. There’s 20,000 human genes and only 4% have ever been drugs. Another 16% have been evidenced. But the opportunity of drugging the undruggable is way bigger than the entire pharma industry.”

Unlocking that opportunity is going to take lots of capital. That’s why B Capital and Sanabil Investments combined to lead Atomwise’s Series B round. It’s also why companies like DCVC, BV, Tencent, Y Combinator, Dolby Ventures, AME Cloud Ventures and two, undisclosed, insurance companies have invested in the company’s latest round.

 with a goal to commercialize high potential candidates through the drug development process. The company plans to continue to expand its work with corporate partners, which currently include major players in the biopharma space including Eli Lilly and Company, Bayer, Hansoh Pharmaceuticals, and Bridge Biotherapeutics, as well as emerging biotechnology companies like StemoniX and SEngine Precision Medicine. Atomwise has signed approximately $5.5 billion in deal value with corporate partners to date.

To date, Atomwise has worked with 750 academic research collaborations addressing over 600 disease targets, to model and screen over 16 billion new molecules for virtual screening. These molecules have generated 17 pending patent applications and several peer-reviewed publications. There are 285 active drug discovery partnerships with researchers at top universities around the world, and recently announced 15 research collaborations with global universities to explore broad-spectrum therapies for COVID-19, targeting 15 unique and novel mechanisms of action.

“New technologies are enabling better and faster R&D for the life science industry,” said Raj Ganguly, co-Founder and Managing Partner at B Capital Group . “The advancements Atomwise has made with its computational drug discovery platform have effectively cut months or even years off of the R&D lifecycle. More importantly, however, they are solving biology problems previously believed to be unsolvable by researchers and delivering that capability to everyone from academics to big pharma. We’re excited to continue to partner with the Atomwise team on its mission to develop new, more effective therapies.”

For lead investor, B Capital, the Atomwise investment is part of a thesis around lowering the cost of care and improving outcomes.

“Companies like Atomwise that are improving the cost curve are in the same vein of bringing therapies to market faster and cheaper. Which means you can improve access and improve costs and address things like rare diseases,” said Adam Seabrook, a principal at B Capital focused on healthcare.

#ame-cloud-ventures, #articles, #atomwise, #b-capital-group, #bayer, #biotechnology, #chief-executive-officer, #disease, #drug-development, #drug-discovery, #health, #healthcare, #insurance, #life-sciences, #machine-learning, #partner, #quantum-computing, #raj-ganguly, #series-b, #tc, #tencent, #y-combinator

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In a sign of digital health’s rise, Livongo and Teladoc Health agree to $18.5 billion merger

In a sign of the growing importance and value of digital healthcare in the world of medicine, two of the industry’s publicly traded companies have agreed to a whopping $18.5 billion merger.

The union of Teladoc Health, a provider of virtual care services, and Livongo, which has made a name for itself by integrating hardware and software to monitor and manage chronic conditions like diabetes, will create a giant in the emerging field of telemedicine and virtual care.

“By expanding the reach of Livongo’s pioneering Applied Health Signals platform and building on Teladoc Health’s end-to-end virtual care platform, we’ll empower more people to live better and healthier lives,” said Glen Tullman, Livongo Founder and Executive Chairman. “This transaction recognizes Livongo’s significant progress and will enable Livongo shareholders to benefit from long-term upside as the combined company is positioned to serve an even larger addressable market with a truly unmatched offering.”

Under the terms of the agreement, each share of Livongo will be exchanged for 0.5920 shares of Teladoc health plus a cash payment of $11.33 for each share. The deal, based on Teladoc’s closing price on August 4, 2020, is roughly $18.5 billion. It’s an eye-popping figure for a company that was, at one point, trading below $16 per-share.

But the new reality of healthcare delivery in the era of COVID-19 rapidly accelerated the adoption of digital and remote care services like those Livongo was selling to its customers — and investor came calling as a result.

The combined company is expected to have pro forma revenue of $1.3 billion representing 85 percent year on year growth, on a pro forma basis. For 2020, the combined company expects adjusted EBITDA to reach $120 million.

“This merger firmly establishes Teladoc Health at the forefront of the next-generation of healthcare,” said Jason Gorevic, the chief executive officer of Teladoc Health, in a statement. “Livongo is a world-class innovator we deeply admire and has demonstrated success improving the lives of people living with chronic conditions. Together, we will further transform the healthcare experience from preventive care to the most complex cases, bringing ‘whole person’ health to consumers and greater value to our clients and shareholders as a result.”

The companies emphasized their combined ability to engage with patients and monitor and manage their conditions using technology. Teladoc Health’s flywheel approach to continued member engagement combined with Livongo’s proven track record of using data science to build consumer trust will accelerate the combined company’s development of longitudinal consumer and provider relationships, the companies said in a statement.

Teladoc currently counts 70 million customers in the United States with an access to Medicare and Medicaid patients that Livongo’s services could reach. The combined company also pitched the operational efficiencies that could be created through the merger. Teladoc estimated that there would be “revenue synergies” of $100 million two years from the close of the deal, reaching $500 million on a run rate basis by 2025, according to a statement. 

Gorevic will run the combined company and David Snow will serve as the chair of the new board — which will be comprised of eight current Teladoc board members and five members of the Livongo board.

The company expects the deal to close by the end of the fourth quarter, subject to regulatory approvals. Lazard advised Teladoc on the transaction while Morgan Stanley served as the financial advisor to Livongo. 

#articles, #chair, #chief-executive-officer, #diabetes, #digital-healthcare, #financial-advisor, #health, #healthcare, #lazard, #livongo, #medicare, #morgan-stanley, #tc, #technology, #telehealth, #telemedicine, #united-states

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Sunrun’s $3.2 billion Vivint Solar bid challenges Tesla’s energy ambitions

Tesla’s 2014 acquisition of SolarCity turned the electric vehicle manufacturer into the undisputed largest player in residential solar, but that lead has steadily eroded as its major competitor, Sunrun, surged ahead with more aggressive plans. Now with the $3.2 billion dollar acquisition of the residential solar installation company, Vivint Solar, Sunrun looks to solidify its place in the top spot.

From Tesla’s very early days Elon Musk has tried to define the company as an energy company rather than just a manufacturer of electric vehicles. When Tesla made its $2.6 billion bid for SolarCity the move was viewed as the culmination of the first phase of its “master plan,” which called for Tesla to “provide zero emission electric power generation options.”

Now that plan faces a major test from a publicly traded competitor that’s focused solely on providing residential solar power and the ability to lower costs for its panels through greater efficiencies of scale, according to analysts who track the solar energy sector.

Sunrun will be freaking big,” Joe Osha, an analyst at JMP Securities, told Bloomberg News. “They are clearly looking for ways to get scale and efficiency.”

Indeed, the combined companies will save roughy $90 million per year thanks to operational efficiencies, according to a statement from Sunrun. And the economies of scale will give the companies even more leverage when they contract with utilities on feeding power into the electric grid.

As Sunrun acknowledged in the announcement of its acquisition of the Blackstone-backed Vivint, the combined customer base of 500,000 homes represents over 3 gigawatts of solar assets. That figure still is only 3% penetration of the total market for residential solar in the United States.

Sunrun had already edged out Tesla for the top spot in residential solar installations and together the two companies account for 75% of new residential solar leases each quarter, according to data from Bloomberg NEF.

“Americans want clean and resilient energy. Vivint Solar adds an important and high-quality sales channel that enables our combined company to reach more households and raise awareness about the benefits of home solar and batteries,” Sunrun CEO and co-founder Lynn Jurich said in a statement. “This transaction will increase our scale and grow our energy services network to help replace centralized, polluting power plants and accelerate the transition to a 100% clean energy future.”

Even as Sunrun’s $1.46 billion stock (and the assumption of about $1.8 billion in debt) creates a massive competitor to Tesla’s solar business, there’s an opportunity for Tesla to sell more batteries through its residential solar competitor.

Sunrun and Vivint will likely be pushing their customers to add energy storage to their solar installations and that means using either Tesla’s Powerwall batteries or its own Brightbox batteries manufactured in partnership with LG Chem .

Investors have responded to Sunrun’s latest maneuver by pouring money into the stock. Sunrun’s shares were up over $5 in midday trading.

Image Courtesy: Yahoo Finance

“Vivint Solar and Sunrun have long shared a common goal of bringing clean, affordable, resilient energy to homeowners,” said David Bywater, Chief Executive Officer of Vivint Solar, in a statement. “Joining forces with Sunrun will allow us to reach a broader set of customers and accelerate the pace of clean energy adoption and grid modernization. We believe this transaction will create value for our customers, our shareholders, and our partners.”

#alternative-energy, #analyst, #articles, #blackstone, #chief-executive-officer, #elon-musk, #energy, #energy-storage, #lg-chem, #player, #solar-power, #solarcity, #sunrun, #tc, #tesla, #united-states, #vivint, #yahoo

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President Trump reportedly will sign executive order temporarily suspending work visas for H-1B holders

President Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order temporarily halting work visas like the H-1B visa program for highly skilled workers, cutting off a critical source of foreign labor for tech companies already complaining about tech talent shortages, according to reports in media outlets including The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

Visa-holders already in the US and those applicants who have received a visa already are exempt from the ban. But the restrictions are intended to last until the end of the year, which would disrupt the government’s typical process of awarding new visas at the beginning of the national fiscal calendar in October.

Officials from the Trump Administration told the Journal that the move is intended to protect American jobs, but executives in the technology industry have long warned that visa restrictions would hurt the nation’s ability to compete in industries that have both strategic and financial significance as engines of economic growth.

Tech officials have even cited immigration curbs as a factor that would force companies to relocate more of their operations overseas in an effort to hire and retain top technology talent.

“The technology industry is working overtime to keep Americans connected during a global pandemic by providing food delivery services, telehealth care, collaborative business solutions, and ways for families and friends to stay connected,” said Linda Moore, the president and chief executive of the tech industry’s lobbying group, TechNet. “Looking forward, technology will continue to be crucial to the rebuilding of our economy. Today’s executive order only hinders the ability of businesses to make decisions on how best to deploy their existing workforce and hire new employees. This will slow innovation and undermine the work the technology industry is doing to help our country recover from unprecedented events.”

According to the news reports, officials expect these new restrictions to last until the end of the year, and expand the immigration bans that the President put in place in April that blocked family members of U.S. citizens from immigrating and slashed the number of visas available to high-skilled  workers looking to immigrate to the US.

Estimates provided to the Wall Street Journal indicate that roughly 525,000 people will be unable to enter the country as a result of the expanded travel restrictions including 170,000 green-card holders barred from entering the US since April. The Trump administration official quoted by the Journal called the initiative an “America-first recovery” that would potentially open up 500,000 jobs for out-of-work Americans.

Technology executives are already voicing their displeasure with the reported ban. “Banning all H1B [sic] visas means CEOs like me have to open offices and hire more people in countries like Canada that allow immigration. This visa ban is morally wrong and economically stupid,” wrote Anshu Sharma, the chief executive officer of the technology startup Skyflow.

Investors are also up-in-arms about the decision’s impact on America’s ability to compete.

“Whether his administration realizes it or not, they creating a significant handicap for US innovation. Our most innovative and impactful portfolio companies and many of their employees started as H-1b holders,” wrote Stonly Baptiste, the co-founder of technology investment fund, Urban.us. “We literally couldn’t have built our portfolio in an environment without H-1B. And we’re not even an immigrant focused fund.”

Also on the chopping block are H-2B visas, which are used to let short-term seasonal workers in landscaping and non-farm jobs into the country, J-1 jobs for short-term workers like camp counselors and au pairs and L-1 visas for corporate company transfers, the Journal reported.

Healthcare workers, coronavirus researchers, food supply workers in food packaging are all exempt from the visa suspensions.

Technology executives aren’t the only ones coming out against the tighter immigration rules. A group of nine Republican senators including South Carolina’s powerful senior senator, Lindsey Graham, and Texas Senator John Cornyn, issued a joint letter on May 27, which pleaded with the President to reconsider the rumored immigration restrictions.

“Guest workers are needed to boost American business, not take American jobs,” they wrote.

#america, #anshu-sharma, #canada, #chief-executive-officer, #contents, #donald-trump, #executive, #h-1b-visa, #official, #president, #skyflow, #south-carolina, #tc, #the-new-york-times, #the-wall-street-journal, #trump-administration, #united-states, #wall-street-journal

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In game app-development platform Overwolf acquires CurseForge assets from Twitch to get into mods

Overwolf, the in-game app development toolkit and marketplace, has acquired Twitch’s CurseForge assets to provide a marketplace for modifications to compliment its app development business.

Since its launch in 2009, developers have used Overwolf to build in-game applications for things like highlight clips, game performance monitoring and metrics, and strategic analysis. Some of these developers have managed to earn anywhere between $100,000 and $1 million per year off of revenue from app sales.

“CurseForge is the embodiment of how fostering a community of creators around games generates  value for both players and game developers,” said Uri Marchand, Overwolf’s chief executive officer, in a statement. “As we move to onboard mods onto our platform, we’re positioning Overwolf as the industry standard for building in-game creations.”

It wouldn’t be a stretch to think of the company as the Roblox for applications for gamers and now it’s moving deeper into the gaming world with the acquisition of CurseForge. As the company makes its pitch to current CurseForge users — hoping that the mod developers will stick with the marketplace, they’re offering to increase the revenue those developers will make by 50 percent.

Overwolf said it already has around 30,000 developers, who have built 90,000 mods and apps, on its platform already.

As a result of the acquisition, the CurseForge mod manager will move from being a Twitch client and become a standalone desktop app included Overwolf’s suite of app offerings and the acquisition won’t have any effect on existing tools and services.

“We’ve been deeply impressed by the level of passion and collaboration in the CurseForge modding community,” said Tim Aldridge, Director of Engineering, Gaming Communities at Twitch . “CurseForge is an incredible asset for both creators and gamers. We are confident that the CurseForge community will thrive under Overwolf’s leadership, thanks to their commitment to empowering developers.”

The acquisition comes two years after Overwolf raised $16 million in a round of financing from Intel Capital, which had also partnered with the company on a $7 million fund to invest in app and mod developers for popular games.

“Overwolf’s position as a platform that serves millions of gamers, coupled with its partnership with top developers, means that Intel’s investment will convert into more value for PC gamers worldwide,” said John Bonini, VP and GM of VR, Esports and Gaming at Intel, in a statement at the time. “Intel has always prioritized gamers with high performance, industry-leading hardware. This round of investment in Overwolf advances Intel’s vision to deliver a holistic PC experience that will enhance the ways people interact with their favorite games on the software side as well.”

Other investors in the company include Liberty Technology Venture Capital, the investment arm of the media and telecommunications company, Liberty Media.

#chief-executive-officer, #computing, #gamer, #intel, #intel-capital, #liberty-media, #minecraft-mods, #mod, #overwolf, #roblox, #tc, #telecommunications, #twitch, #twitch-tv, #video-games, #video-gaming, #video-hosting, #vp, #wikia

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Join us June 3 for a contact tracing and exposure notification app development and deployment forum

Exposure notification and contact tracing are two related but distinct measures many public health authorities are either considering or already implementing.

Contact tracing is a practice almost as old as epidemiology itself, but today’s technology means the way that we go about tracking the spread of a contagious illness within and between communities is changing very quickly. This presents an opportunity for learning more about the opportunities and challenges presented in extending contact tracing and exposure notification via digital means.

To that end, we’re happy to be working with the COVID-19 Technology Task Force, as well as Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center, NYU’s Alliance for Public Interest Technology, Betaworks Studios and Hangar. We’ll be playing host on TC to their live-streamed discussion around contact tracing and exposure notification applications, including demonstrations of some of the cutting-edge products that will be available in the U.S. to tackle these challenging, but crucial, tasks. The day’s events will include a roundtable discussion followed by a series of product demos, and will take place starting at 11 AM EDT (8 AM PDT) on Wednesday, June 3.

Below, we’ve included an agenda of the confirmed speakers and demonstrations for the day so far. Note that this is work in progress, and that more speakers and demos will be added to the day’s slate as we get closer to Wednesday. To RSVP for this free event, check out this link.

11am-1pm EDT: Roundtable Discussion – Hear from researchers, healthcare professionals, and technologists, including:

  • Andrew McLaughlin is helping lead the Task Force’s contact tracing/exposure notification initiative. Andrew is the Chairman of Access Now, the former Deputy U.S. CTO for the White House, and the former Director of Global Public Policy at Google.
  • Daniel Burka is heading up the COVID-19 response efforts for New York State through Resolve to Save Lives, the not-for-profit organization led by former CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden.
  • Harper Reed is helping lead the Task Force’s contact tracing/exposure notification initiative. Harper is a Director’s Fellow at the MIT Media Lab, a Senior Fellow at the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab, and was the CTO of Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.
  • Jonathan Jackson is the Founder and CEO at Dimagi, a social enterprise that develops innovative technology solutions for frontline workforces and underserved populations. They have an extensive background in global health and are a leader in mobile health data collection.
  • Jonathan Zittrain is a professor of law and computer science, and co-founder of Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. Jonathan’s work focuses on topics including control of digital property, privacy frameworks, and the roles of intermediaries in Internet architecture.
  • Randall Thomas is assisting Resolve to Save Lives and other stakeholders with the New York State response to COVID-19. Randall is the CTO of Geometer, a technology incubator.
  • Mona Sloane is an NYU-based sociologist working on inequality in the context of AI design and policy. At NYU, she helps form NYU’s Alliance for Public Interest Technology, and is Co-Principal Investigator on the COVID-19 Tech Project. Mona also leads the project Terra Incognita: Mapping NYC’s New Digital Public Spaces in the COVID-19 Outbreak.

1pm-2pm EDT: Contact Tracing/Exposure Notification Product Demos – Leading organizations developing applications to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, primarily through contact tracing and exposure notification, will each demo their product. Teams include:

We’ll have a live stream available on June 3 so you can follow along, as mentioned, but you can also RSVP here to register your interest. It should be a day full of interesting, expert discussion of why there’s a need to extend contact tracing and exposure notification through connected and digital means, as well as the privacy, public health and policy implications such extension necessarily carries with it.

#andrew-mclaughlin, #articles, #chairman, #chief-executive-officer, #contact-tracing, #cto, #daniel-burka, #director, #harper-reed, #harvard, #health, #jonathan-zittrain, #leader, #mit-media-lab, #public-health, #tc, #technology, #united-states, #white-house

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Biometrics security technology developer BioCatch raises $145M

BioCatch, a developer of biometrics security technology, said it has raised $145 million in its latest round of funding.

The company’s technology tracks user behavior on websites to determine if a customer is real or a fraudster, according to a statement. Its technology is now used by more than 40 of the largest global financial institutions, the company said.

That top tier client list is likely one reason why the company was able to attract the Bain Capital Tech Opportunities investment team as the lead for its latest round. The growth investing business of the multi-billion dollar private equity firm Bain Capital joined previous investors American Express Ventures, Maverick Ventures, and the Israeli crowd-funding investor, OurCrowd in backing the company.

BIoCatch will use its newfound hoard of cash on research and development and sales and marketing to enter new verticals beyond the financial services world.

The investment will accelerate BioCatch’s rapid growth, broaden its product offerings and further support its expanding client base into new verticals.

“BioCatch’s growth in annual recurring revenue and client base speaks directly to the growing demand for our service and the increasing number of use cases we are able to support,” said Howard Edelstein, the company’s chief executive officer, in a statement. “The current environment has spawned a large increase in bad actors seeking to take advantage of distracted individuals working from home or dispersed companies whose technologists are scattered in remote locations. In such times, technologies like behavioral biometrics become more important than ever.”

Since launching to service the financial services sector, the company has already expanded its footprint in fraud detection and prevention to other verticals — including eCommerce. BioCatch intends to introduce new software for public sector offerings in 2020, the company said.

The company claims its tech can identify the creation of fake accounts or stolen identities at onboarding, recognize account takeovers, and flag social engineering scams using voice recordings.

For Bain, the investment in BioCatch extends the firm’s long history of fintech and cybersecurity deals including investments in Blue Coat, acquired by NortonLifeLock; InAuth, acquired by American Express; and WorldPay, which was snatched up by FIS .

“BioCatch has quickly established itself as a pioneer in the digital identity space by developing next-generation behavioral biometrics technology that integrates fraud detection and authentication capabilities to protect end-users and their most sensitive transactions. Their technology is highly applicable to other verticals beyond financial services that have the same need to balance fraud and the user experience,” said Dewey Awad, a Managing Director at Bain Capital Tech Opportunities.

#bain-capital, #biocatch, #blue-coat, #chief-executive-officer, #companies, #e-commerce, #financial-services, #fis, #maverick-ventures, #mitt-romney, #ourcrowd, #tc, #worldpay

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