Deep in a Covid Wave, Europe Counts Cases and Carries On

Even in countries that once took strict measures, the authorities are relying on vaccination and past infections to take the sting out of Omicron subvariants.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #coronavirus-omicron-variant, #coronavirus-risks-and-safety-concerns, #czech-republic, #disease-rates, #europe, #france, #germany, #great-britain, #italy, #masks, #politics-and-government, #spain, #vaccination-and-immunization

Poland Shows the Risks for Women When Abortion Is Banned

Poland’s abortion ban has had many unintended consequences. One is that doctors are sometimes afraid to remove fetuses or administer cancer treatment to save women’s lives.

#abortion, #abortion-drugs, #birth-control-and-family-planning, #czech-republic, #germany, #law-and-justice-poland, #law-and-legislation, #netherlands, #poland, #pregnancy-and-childbirth, #roe-v-wade-supreme-court-decision, #roman-catholic-church, #slovakia, #supreme-court-us, #united-states, #women-and-girls, #womens-rights

Seeking Arms for Ukraine, Pentagon Buyers Scour Eastern European Factories

Soviet-designed ammunition is part of the ‘life blood’ for Ukrainian troops fighting Russia, and the United States is keeping it flowing.

#afghanistan-war-2001, #arms-trade, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #bosnia-and-herzegovina, #bulgaria, #czech-republic, #defense-department, #firearms, #florida, #general-dynamics, #kabul-afghanistan, #kyiv-ukraine, #new-jersey, #north-atlantic-treaty-organization, #poland, #romania, #russia, #russian-invasion-of-ukraine-2022, #serbia, #slovakia, #ukraine, #united-states-army, #united-states-special-operations-command, #ussr-former-soviet-union, #warsaw-pact

Rabbits Are Boring Pets. I Love Them Anyway.

My friends and family don’t get it. All I can do is try to describe what it’s like to be with them, the moments I’m not sure I can do without.

#animals, #czech-republic, #pets, #rabbits

Some Ukrainian Refugees Are Returning Home, Despite the Risks

A growing number of families, convinced the war could last for years, have decided that facing danger at home is better than life as a refugee.

#czech-republic, #europe, #lviv-ukraine, #poland, #refugees-and-displaced-persons, #russia, #russian-invasion-of-ukraine-2022, #stations-and-terminals-passenger, #ukraine, #war-and-armed-conflicts

Ukrainians Fleeing the War Are Offered Jobs Across Europe

Job boards are overflowing with offers dedicated to Ukrainian refugees, as businesses and governments fast-track access to employment.

#adecco-sa, #czech-republic, #europe, #hiring-and-promotion, #labor-and-jobs, #lithuania, #refugees-and-displaced-persons, #russian-invasion-of-ukraine-2022, #ukraine

Zelensky Urges More Leaders to Visit Kyiv After Visit by 3 NATO Leaders

The leaders from Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia “fear nothing,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said, and he urged other leaders to make similar visits.

#czech-republic, #embargoes-and-sanctions, #kyiv-ukraine, #north-atlantic-treaty-organization, #poland, #politics-and-government, #russia, #russian-invasion-of-ukraine-2022, #slovenia, #telegram-llc, #ukraine, #united-states, #war-and-armed-conflicts, #zelensky-volodymyr

Europe’s Trains Take Fighters to Ukraine, and Bring Back Refugees

Built up over 150 years of conflicts that defined modern-day Europe, railways have played a central role in the continent’s peacetime integration. Now they’re back on a war footing.

#czech-republic, #europe, #poland, #prague-czech-republic, #railroads, #refugees-and-displaced-persons, #russia, #russian-invasion-of-ukraine-2022, #ukraine, #war-and-armed-conflicts

NATO Countries Pour Weapons Into Ukraine, Risking Conflict With Russia

Brussels is proud to be providing military aid, but Moscow may see it as a dangerous intervention and could move to disrupt the flow of arms through Poland.

#baltic-region, #belarus, #belgium, #borrell-fontelles-josep, #bulgaria, #czech-republic, #defense-and-military-forces, #denmark, #estonia, #europe, #european-union, #finland, #france, #germany, #great-britain, #greece, #hungary, #italy, #latvia, #lithuania, #morawiecki-mateusz, #north-atlantic-treaty-organization, #politics-and-government, #putin-vladimir-v, #russia, #russian-invasion-of-ukraine-2022, #stoltenberg-jens, #ukraine, #von-der-leyen-ursula, #war-and-armed-conflicts

Google Faces New Antitrust Law in Europe

A small search engine company in the Czech Republic helped inspire a law that is poised to put major limits on tech giants like Google.

#android-operating-system, #antitrust-laws-and-competition-issues, #computers-and-the-internet, #czech-republic, #europe, #european-commission, #european-union, #google-inc, #regulation-and-deregulation-of-industry, #search-engines, #seznam-as, #smartphones, #suits-and-litigation-civil

Czechs Defeat a Populist, Offering a Road Map for Toppling Strongmen

A wide range of parties in the Czech Republic banded together despite their differences to oppose Andrej Babis, the country’s populist prime minister. Opposition parties in Hungary are hoping to duplicate the feat.

#ano-czech-political-party, #babis-andrej, #brno-czech-republic, #czech-republic, #elections, #hungary, #poland, #politics-and-government

Populist Leader of Czech Republic Narrowly Defeated in Election

The results suggest that the populist wave in Eastern and Central Europe is receding, stalled by the growing unity of its opponents and a crisis of confidence after the defeat of the former U.S. president.

#ano-czech-political-party, #babis-andrej, #czech-republic, #elections, #politics-and-government

Help! We’re Going to Europe and Haven’t a Clue Which Masks to Pack.

Mask mandates exist to varying degrees throughout Europe, and the details — inside, outside, fabric, N95 and more — are dizzying.

#air-france, #airlines-and-airplanes, #austria, #content-type-service, #czech-republic, #france, #germany, #masks, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #transit-systems, #travel-and-vacations, #travel-warnings

Cybersecurity giants NortonLifeLock and Avast merge in $8.1B deal

US cybersecurity firm NortonLifeLock has confirmed it is acquiring British rival Avast in order to create a global consumer security powerhouse.

The agreement, which comes just weeks after both companies confirmed they were in advanced discussions regarding a possible combination of the two brands, will see Avast stockholders receive cash and shares that value the deal at $8.1 billion to $8.6 billion. That makes this merger the third-largest cybersecurity acquisition of all time, following Thoma Bravo‘s $12.3 billion takeover of Proofpoint and Broadcom’s $10.7 billion acquisition of Symantec’s enterprise business. 

NortonLifeLock, formed in 2019 as a spin-off from Symantec following the latter, says the deal will create an industry-leading consumer cyber safety business, unlock approximately $280 million of annual gross cost synergies, and dramatically expand its user numbers thanks to Avast’s 435 million-strong customer base.

“With this combination, we can strengthen our cyber safety platform and make it available to more than 500 million users,” NortonLifeLock CEO Vincent Pilette said in a statement. “This transaction is a huge step forward for consumer cyber safety and will ultimately enable us to achieve our vision to protect and empower people to live their digital lives safely.”

Avast, founded in 1988, focuses on cybersecurity software for consumers and small and medium-sized businesses and describes itself as one of the largest security companies. However, the company has not been without controversy during its near-25-year history; Avast was forced to shut down its marketing technology subsidiary Jumpshot last year after it was found to be peddling web browsing data that could be linked to individual users.

Once NortonLifeLock’s acquisition of the company is complete, Pilette will remain CEO of the new business, while Avast CEO Ondrej Vlcek will become president and join the board, the companies said.

“Our talented teams will have better opportunities to innovate and develop enhanced solutions and services, with improved capabilities from access to superior data insights,” Vlcek said. “Through our well-established brands, greater geographic diversification and access to a larger global user base, the combined businesses will be poised to access the significant growth opportunity that exists worldwide.”

The final name of the merged company has yet to be determined, but NortonLifeLock has confirmed it will be dual headquartered in the Czech Republic and Tempe, Arizona, and will seek to cut its number of employees from 5,000 workers to around 4,000 over the next two years. The combined company will be listed on the Nasdaq, rather than Avast’s current London Stock Exchange home.

The deal, which has been confirmed just weeks after NortonLifeLock bought free antivirus provider Avira for £360 million, is expected to close in mid-2022. 

#arizona, #avast, #avira, #broadcom, #ceo, #computer-security, #czech-republic, #freeware, #jumpshot, #ma, #nortonlifelock, #president, #proofpoint, #security, #software, #symantec, #thoma-bravo, #united-states

Rohlik raises $119M at a $1.2B valuation to grow its 2-hour grocery delivery service in Europe

“Instant” grocery delivery has been a big theme among food startups in Europe, where customers can order from a limited assortment of items and get their purchases packed from “dark stores” and delivered in sometimes as little as 10 or 15 minutes. But today a startup that’s built a much bigger proposition — a virtual supermarket of 17,000+ items that it delivers in as little as two hours — is announcing some funding as it expands in Europe.

Rohlik, a Czech startup that has built an online grocery ordering and delivery business selling grocery fare — which it procures itself wholesale, or in partnership with established businesses, combining that with items sourced from local small businesses — has picked up €100 million ($119 million at today’s rates). This Series C investment values Rohlik at €1 billion ($1.2 billion).

The round is being led by Index Ventures, which was also part of Rohlik’s $230 million Series B that it raised only three months ago. Previous backers including Partech and Quadrille Capital also participated in this latest round.

The reason for the rapid fundraise is to strike while the iron is hot and put the gas on expansion, said Tomáš Čupr, Rohlik’s founder and CEO.

In the last three months, the Czech startup has expanded to Hungary and Austria and is planning its first launch in Germany, in Munich, in the coming months. With this extra funding boost, he said that Romania, Italy, France and Spain now on the list as well.

“They were all in the first plan we wanted to present to investors, but we felt we were unproven coming from Eastern Europe,” Čupr said in an interview. “Now we feel like we can unleash what we saw before, which is that with the high penetration of mobile shopping, we have a chance to disrupt groceries in Europe.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a giant impact on how we eat — and one aspect of that has been that many more people started to buy food — ready-made, groceries, and everything in between — online and get it delivered to their homes rather than picking it and paying in person. As established online and offline services buckled under the weight of customer demand, that represented a big opportunity for tech companies building more efficient models to get people the same goods (and sometimes even a more interesting selection, or a more convenient service) to fill the gap.

Rohlik was actually around and growing steadily for six years in its home market of the Czech Republic before raising money — and it’s actually already profitable there — but its star really started to rise with that bigger shift in consumer demand.

Rohlik’s revenues in 2020 passed €300 million, with over 750,000 customers; it’s not yet disclosing any figures for 2021 that would speak to how well its expansion is going, but the funding seems to point to traction. Currently, the average shop is in the range of €60 to €100 per order, with customers typically shopping about once per week, Čupr said.

While Rohlik’s name may change with each new market — in Hungary it’s Kifli.hu, in Austria its Gurkerl.at, and in Germany it will be called Knuspr.de — what is staying consistent is the company’s basic formula, a mix of its own-purchased-in wholesale items, goods from partners like Marks & Spencer, and products sourced from smaller and local businesses, a mix that might be rebalanced or personalized depending on market demand, and potentially pushed out for some interesting economies of scale using Rohlik’s logistics operations to do so.

This is an interesting point. As someone who has lived both in countries like the U.S. where small food businesses like fishmongers are essentially nonexistent, except for in the biggest of metropolises; and in places in Europe, where it’s not uncommon for even the smallest villages to have independent, well-used shops for basics, this is where Rohlik stands out for me, as a rare example of a tech company that is trying to bring more growth to those small businesses rather than providing a service that eventually puts them out of business.

Čupr described a “failing in the online grocery business in the last few years,” where the offerings were essentially just what you got in a basic large supermarket. Rohlik is changing that up by incorporating smaller businesses. His example: a pasta-making shop in Italy might now be able to, for the first, time, also sell its ravioli and pappardelle to a buyer in Austria or Hungary through Rohlik.

“This has absolutely been the playbook. You will see the same pattern with our assortment,” he said. “Local butchers, bakers, fishmongers and pharmacies, but also M&S clothes, kitchenware. It’s basically our ‘near food’ approach.

“It’s not just a journey to a cornershop that we are trying to cut out,” he continued, in reference to the profusion of fast-delivery startups that have all hit the market. Instead, he referred to another major European shopping practice of saving it all for the weekend. “We want to save your Saturday in a few clicks.”

And given that there are still countries, like France, where online groceries have been quite slow to take off, that speaks of a lot of growth potential. All of this likely resonates strongly with European investors who would likely know those routines as part of their own cultures.

“It’s a combination of three things that got validated here,” said Jan Hammer, a partner at Index who led this deal. “First, it’s the incredible market opportunity, and we’re only scratching the service. Then, it’s Rohlik’s formula and business model, a unique combination, and customers love it.”

Whether consumer habits are shifted for good will be something to watch, as will how others in the market respond, particularly more localized players that have carved out their own leadership over years, and in cases where they may have brick-and-mortar as well, generations. That loyalty to traditional businesses is ultimately what Rohlik champions, but also what might most challenge it.

#czech-republic, #delivery, #europe, #food, #funding, #grocery, #online-grocery, #rohlik

Cannabis and digital health start-up Sanity Group closes $44.2M Series A led by Redalpine

Berlin-based cannabis and digital health start-up Sanity Group has closed a $44.2M Series A financing round led by Swiss VC Redalpine along with US-based Navy Capital and SOJE Capital. GMPVC also participated in the round. This appears to be the largest round of cannabis funding in Europe to date and brings total investment in Sanity Group to $73M.

The new capital will be used to expand the Group’s medical division in Europe as well as a EU-GMP-compliant research and production facility near Frankfurt.

Previous investors include HV Capital, TQ Ventures, Atlantic Food Labs, Cherry Ventures, Bitburger Ventures, and SevenVentures. In addition, Sanity Group has attracted celebrity angels including music producers will.i.am, Scooter Braun, and actress Alyssa Milano.

Sanity’s cannabis-based platform is for mental health and chronic pain management, allowing the tracking of cannabis-based therapy digitally with a medical device. This tells customers how much of the active ingredient (THC, CBD or other cannabinoids) is being administered. This is then registered in a therapy diary.

Finn Age Hänsel, founder and managing director of Sanity Group said: “A round of this magnitude shows that cannabis is increasingly moving into the mainstream of investor awareness, and represents an important milestone in our business expansion on our way to becoming Europe’s leading cannabis company.”

Over an interview, he added: “So we are fully legal and operated in Germany. We are just about to enter the Czech Republic and Poland. The UK is one of the biggest markets we want to enter going forward because, as you might know, the whole area of medical cannabis is slowly but surely opening all over Europe, with Germany being the largest market, about 80% of all the cannabis cannabinoid-based therapies today. But actually, the UK being the number two, which is a super attractive market for us but we look further into the Czech Republic and Poland, because those are the markets that have opened up from a regulatory perspective, at the most, over the last two years, and then France will open up next year, but that’s basically one after the other.”

Sean Stiefel, CEO at Navy Capital said: “The European cannabis market faces exciting developments in the coming months. Compared to the North American market, Europe is now where we were in the U.S. about four years ago. We want to bring our expertise and experience to the table. For our first investment in Europe, it was important for us to find a team that understands the market and has real industry experts in its ranks.”

#actress, #alyssa-milano, #atlantic-food-labs, #berlin, #cannabis, #canopy-growth, #ceo, #cherry-ventures, #czech-republic, #europe, #european-union, #france, #frankfurt, #germany, #hansel, #hv-capital, #music-producers, #navy-capital, #poland, #scooter-braun, #tc, #united-kingdom, #united-states

House Hunting in the Czech Republic: A Restored Gem in Prague’s Historic Heart

Low interest rates and friendly tax laws have sent the market soaring in Prague. Now the city is trying to bolster inventory to temper the surge.

#czech-republic, #prague-czech-republic, #real-estate-and-housing-residential

Village Caught in Czech-Russia Spy Case Just Wants Things to Stop Blowing Up

Was a huge blast at a Czech weapons depot sabotage by Russian spies? The villagers where it happened aren’t sure, but they do know they only want to watch James Bond films, not live inside one.

#babis-andrej, #bombs-and-explosives, #cold-war-era, #czech-republic, #defense-and-military-forces, #espionage-and-intelligence-services, #gru-russia, #politics-and-government, #russia, #zeman-milos

The Arms Merchant in the Sights of Russia’s Elite Assassination Squad

Russian spies have twice tried to poison Emilian Gebrev. Now, revelations in the Czech Republic show they also destroyed shipments of his military supplies.

#assassinations-and-attempted-assassinations, #babis-andrej, #czech-republic, #defense-and-military-forces, #espionage-and-intelligence-services, #european-union, #moscow-russia, #poisoning-and-poisons, #putin-vladimir-v, #salisbury-england, #skripal-sergei-v

Russia’s Ties With West Fray Further After Czech Republic Expels Its Diplomats

About 60 Russian diplomats were ordered out of the Czech Republic, which said it had evidence of Moscow’s involvement in an ammunition dump explosion in 2014.

#biden-joseph-r-jr, #czech-republic, #diplomatic-service-embassies-and-consulates, #espionage-and-intelligence-services, #kgb, #politics-and-government, #putin-vladimir-v, #russia, #sabotage-crime

Czechs Blame 2014 Blasts at Ammunition Depots on Elite Russian Spy Unit

The unit has also been implicated in the 2018 nerve agent attack in Salisbury, England, on Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy, and his daughter.

#babis-andrej, #boshirov-ruslan, #czech-republic, #espionage-and-intelligence-services, #europe, #gru-russia, #russia, #salisbury-england, #skripal-sergei-v, #skripal-yulia-s

20,000 White Crosses: Marking Covid’s Toll in Central and Eastern Europe

The crosses painted on a Prague street highlight a stark death toll in the Czech Republic as the coronavirus sweeps across the region.

#central-europe, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #czech-republic, #eastern-europe, #hungary, #poland, #shutdowns-institutional, #vaccination-and-immunization

8 Czech VCs on green shoots, pandemic impacts and 2021 opportunities

While London, Paris, Berlin and Stockholm feature regularly in tech coverage, the rest of Europe has been busy.

The Czech Republic may be better known for beer, hockey and the sights of Prague, but its entrepreneurial community is as ambitious as any. Pipedrive is an EU-based CRM company with offices in eight countries, but it has a Czech co-founder in VP of Product Martin Henk, one of several founders to emerge from the ecosystem.

Then there was Integromat, which did not raise any external capital but sold for around 2.5 billion crowns ($114 million), making its seven Czech founders into multimillionaires. Prague’s Memsource is valued at approximately 1.3 billion crowns or $59 million. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.

To unpack this rare gem of Europe’s startup scene, we spoke to eight area investors.

Among the trends they identified are startups in B2B, business automation processes, e-commerce, AI, SaaS and COVID-19-related solutions, as well as “smart” everything: factories, cities, offices, etc. Other themes included cybersecurity, AR/VR, remote work, and cybersecurity.

Saturated areas included cryptocurrency, blockchain, fintech and martech. The people we spoke to said they see travel, dating apps and other businesses traditionally based on physical interaction as weaker segments. Still, new opportunities are popping up in remote work, psychedelics and wellness.


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Respondents said they invest around 50% inside Czechia and 50% across Central and Eastern Europe, while some are more focused across CEE generally, with some percentage of the fund supporting startups that have scaled to the U.S.

Most said their investments hadn’t been significantly impacted by COVID-19, but future uncertainly is a concern. The advice is to “be frugal to accommodate to the new situation and roll on.”

As far as green shoots, COVID-19 has “played a role of an accelerator for innovation in many business areas and even e-government and other rigid/conservative industries,” said one. D2C startups have benefitted and “Zoom selling” now seems “totally plausible.”

We surveyed:


Petra Končelíková, partner, Nation1.vc

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
Innovative.

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

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
I miss a more innovative approach.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
Steady rapid growth, innovative mind.

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

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
We are solely focusing on the European market, with an impact on the Czech Republic.

Which industries in your city and region seem well positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
Healthcare, industry 4.0.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
Huge potential.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
Remote work is not an issue, but the pandemic has of course huge impact on startups. They are forced to pivot and accommodate to this new world.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
Travel and gastro.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
Accommodate to the new situation and roll on.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
Vaccination.

Who are key startup people you see creating success locally, whether investors, founders or even other types of startup ecosystems roles like lawyers, designers, growth experts, etc. We’re trying to highlight the movers and shakers who outsiders might not know.
Financial experts — financial planning, CFOs to hire as an service from agencies.

Oleksander Bondarev, associate, Credo Ventures

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
Developer tools, communication apps, applied AI.

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

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
Cloud CI/CD.

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

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

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
Only in founders from: Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Romania or Hungary.

Which industries in your city and region seem well positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
Productboard, UiPath, Pricefx, Supernova, Spaceflow.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
Maturing.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
Yes.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
Enabling communication, transparency within the remote workforce.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
Be frugal.

Any other thoughts you want to share with TechCrunch readers?
We are trying to be the most founder-friendly fund in the region. As an ex-founder (Olek) I love speaking with and advising all startups that come my way 🙂

Ondrej Bartos, founding partner, Credo Ventures

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
Automation, AI, enabling remote, authentication.

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

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
Outstanding founders tackling big opportunity.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
VR/AR has been an area with lots of investment, therefore very competitive. AI is overhyped but most AI are actually not that intelligent.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
Less. We focus on Central Europe as a region (if that would count as local, then more than 50%).

Which industries in your city and region seem well positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
Central Europe is well positioned in automation, security, developer tools and analytics. I’m most excited about UiPath, Productboard, Pricefx, TypingDNA, Spaceflow, Around (in our portfolio). Best CE founders are in my view Daniel Dines, Hubert Palan, Marcin Cichon plus Oliver Dlouhý (Kiwi.com).

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
There are a lot of great developers in Prague, good energy and enough success stories and role models to follow. There is a lot of investment capital there (just as everywhere else I guess), not too much smart money yet, so definitely opportunity for good VCs to take a look (and they are looking).

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
I have no doubts that the pandemic has been accelerating remote work, which ultimately should lead to more remote-first startups which might benefit new geos.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
Travel and hospitality seem most fragile and unpredictable due to COVID-19. Remote and enabling remote seem like the biggest opportunity; automation and enabling digital transformation are attractive as well.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
Our investment strategy is unchanged; actually we’ll double down on it. There is a lot of opportunity for good tech startups, technology is what’s helping people and countries to get out of crises faster with less damage. Our advice to startups is still the same: Focus on your cause and try to solve problems in your space better than anybody else.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
We definitely see green shoots in some of the enterprise software companies. “Zoom selling” now seems totally plausible, sales cycles shortened in some verticals as companies need to digitize and enable remote work.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
I’ve always had hope. Yes, there have been low moments especially when quarantined, but overall I haven’t lost hope for people to cope with this unprecedented situation, and for technology to play a significant role in the recovery. I still have this hope 🙂

Any other thoughts you want to share with TechCrunch readers?
I feel like I had been traveling too much, two- or three-day transatlantic trips make little sense and I think I won’t go back there. Also, I don’t think I’ll go back to 5+ days in the office every week, home office works fine with me and it will stay with me and the company in some capacity. That being said, it is what I feel now. I may be wrong and things may go back to “old normal” — which I would consider a big mistake and lost opportunity.

Osman Salih, associate, Bolt Start Up Development a.s.

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
We are looking for synergies with our parent company O2 Czech republic and other companies under the PPF Group.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
IP Fabric.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
We would like to see more insurtech startups in Europe.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
We are looking for synergies with our partner companies rather looking into a specific branch.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
Fintech is oversaturated with very low margins.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
We mostly invest locally, but our most successful investment was in Taxify (now Bolt).

Which industries in your city and region seem well positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
Definitely security domain is best positioned. We are excited about IP Fabric (founder is ex-Cisco CEO Pavel Bykov), Whalebone (R. Malovič), Wultra (P. Dvořák).

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
The interest is bigger, a lot of successful startups raise demand for opportunities.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
We don’t think so, local network is important. Remote work is not for everyone.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
There will be shifts in retail. This is an opportunity for startups like Pygmalios, which provide analytics for retail.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
Luckily the impact is not big. Biggest worries are about difficulties with travel abroad for business meetings. Our advice is hold the runway longer 🙂

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
Yes, demand for call center tools like omnichannel solution mluvii.com, which works at the home office move up significantly.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
At spring our country was “best in COVID” and now it is “worst in COVID.” Last spring thousands of people from the startup community helped and came up with brilliant ideas, apps and solutions but at the end most outcomes (like eRouška and https://koronavirus.mzcr.cz/en/) were screwed by slow or faulty decisions of government. Instead of hope I’m disappointed, but I believe that vaccination will help us to get life back on the track.

Who are key startup people you see creating success locally, whether investors, founders or even other types of startup ecosystems roles like lawyers, designers, growth experts, etc. We’re trying to highlight the movers and shakers who outsiders might not know.
Patrik Juránek from Startup Disrupt community.

Any other thoughts you want to share with TechCrunch readers?
Prague is great and safe city for living — when you setup a branch in Prague you can attract people from all of the CEE region to move in.

Lukáš Konečný, principal, Y Soft Ventures

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
Anything that helps businesses run smarter is something we would like to take a look at. More specifically we are interested in areas such as Internet of Things, smart factories, smart cities, smart office, cybersecurity, big data and AR/VR. And especially when there is some kind of hardware involved — that something we really love.

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

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
It would be great to see more startups focusing on hardware. Admittedly, creating hardware and scaling-up a hardware-focused business is always a bigger challenge, but the opportunities are so vast and many are yet untapped.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
Apart from the “obvious” aspects such as innovativeness, global potential, scalability, strong team and fit with our investment thesis, we look for founders who show great strategic thinking and execution skills, who really understand the market and their customers’ needs and listen to feedback.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
Considering our focus on B2B, we have better overview of this part of the economy. Lately, we have seen a huge number of startups using AI/ML for computer vision or natural language processing use cases creating very similar products, meaning it will be rather difficult for them to differentiate and outperform the rest of the competition. But that does not mean that a new revolutionary idea cannot appear.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
Our focus is on the Central European region — so far we have invested in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, but we are open to founders from other neighboring countries as well. The majority of our portfolio is located in the Brno/South Moravia region, where Y Soft is based. It is not an outcome of an intentional strategy, but just the reality of which startups interested us the most.

Which industries in your city and region seem well positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
Generally, the Czech startup ecosystem is getting more mature, especially thanks to serial entrepreneurs as well as more experienced first-time founders, and the developing business angel/VC ecosystem. It is hard to pick just one industry, as the spectrum of companies is very vast.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
From the investors’ point of view, the Czech startup ecosystem can provide a lot of interesting opportunities, and especially for foreign investors the investments can be a “good value for money,” even though the VC ecosystem has become more competitive in the last years due to influx of new money. The seed and partly Series A segment can be seen as rather saturated, but there is a significant potential in the larger Series A or later-stage investments.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
The main Czech hubs, Prague and Brno, are probably not going to see their status weakened, as they are not only business centers, but also have the main universities where the talented people are and are hearts of the cultural life that is attractive to many. But we will see a shift toward remote woking, allowing founders to tap a wider talent pool.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
We believe that after the shock caused by COVID-19 fades away, there will be more opportunities for the companies in segments we invest in, as the induced trends are only forcing businesses to run smarter. The trends most relevant to us will be those associated with accelerated digital transformation, changes in supply chains and evolution of workspaces.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
COVID-19 has not impacted our strategy. The only changes were on the tactical level, as for a certain period of time we shifted more capacities to portfolio support. Most of our founders had to deal with a negative impact on their sales funnel, as some customers postponed or cancelled the planned deals. Some of the founders had to deal with disruptions in the distribution channels, as some of their partners’ businesses were hit rather hard, and a small number of companies had to resolve issues with their supply chain. These challenges are still, to an extent, worries to our portfolio companies, as the economic development is still uncertain. To deal with the situation, cash flow became the main focus, together with more active communication with key business partners throughout the value chains.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
We have seen a lot of positive signals in retention and some green shoots regarding revenue, but the situation is still too fragile.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
It is hard to find glimmers of hope lately, as the situation in the Czech Republic is really not developing well. However, I was recently able to participate in several online events that young entrepreneurs, in some cases even high school or university students, attended to present their projects or to improve their business skills. And it was great to see people who are still deeply interested in — and invested in — the entrepreneurial path, regardless of the current situation.

Vaclav Pavlecka, managing partner, Air Ventures

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
We are sector agnostic, so it’s not so much about “trends,” rather than other aspects of startups in our pipeline.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
Cross Network Intelligence.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
Many sectors are “to-be-disrupted yet” but for example I believe that the predictive medicine (that helps you avoid the problem instead the one that is helping to solve the problem that is already there) will be one of the major trends for the near future.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
Distinctive unique selling proposition, market-oriented and sales-hungry team, disruptive potential, upmarket potential.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
Social networks in general are the type of services I am concerned about due to a long-term impact on one’s mental health and due to social confirmation bias and decreasing ability for a healthy unheated critical discussion in society. As for oversaturation, it is hard to generalize, since every industry still has its niches. But a top of my mind idea for an oversaturated market is the marketing technologies sector (as well as many other software products). Solutions are easily replicable (think chatbots) and successful only at the limited market.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
We tend to focus on companies with the local strings (with exceptions made — e.g., Californian clothing startup Nahmias).

Which industries in your city and region seem well positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
We see a huge potential of local talents in cybersecurity, industry automation (due to the fact that Czechia has one of the densest “per capita” car production in the world), gaming industry (including esports), crypto and health. As for companies I think Apiary, Beat Games, Warhorse gaming studio, Mews.com, Kiwi.com, Snuggs, Prusa Research, Productboard, Rossum, Integromat and Alheon.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
“Local” VCs and investors are definitely willing to make meaningful connections and co-invest. The ecosystem is more mature every year and grows stronger. Prague and the surrounding region also has its charm that attracts many talents as the city has an ideal balance between the life quality and costs in comparison to other metropolitan areas.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
I believe that we will see a big “return to the good part of the old system” in the end of this year/early 2022, so I won’t expect the big shift in the sense of geographic “founder density” outside of the major cities. If, however, the COVID-19 restrictions should last more years, then many social changes can be sparked, including geographic mobility and flexibility.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
No surprise there — the whole travel industry, gastronomical industry and culture tech are in the deepest crisis in decades. Many other industries are under big pressure to increase the speed of change, e.g., the education industry, the entertainment industry. Also in general small to medium businesses are having tough times locally, since the government restrictions are not being implemented efficiently and their communication isn’t built around a sound strategy.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
Our investment strategy is built around long-lasting principles and therefore we didn’t have to change it completely. Of course the investment appetite in sectors hit by crisis decreased significantly but other opportunities emerged. As for portfolio impact, proptech vertical was hit heavily and some of our companies had to reiterate their product offering. Our general advice to any startup in our portfolio is to boost the dialogue with their customers, learn how their needs are shifting (if so) and try to steer the wheel in the right time. If needed, we are ready to support our founders financially and also teamwise, since we are hands-on investors.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
D2C startups with a sound unit economy and their own strong distribution channels are thriving (not only locally). This includes our portfolio.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
Not losing hope really. I think people were in much deeper crises and that we refer to the current situation as we do only due to lack of historical comparability. We are still living in times of prosperity and the pandemic will eventually go away thanks to the scientific progress people have achieved. So I think the beacon of positive change are all the RNA vaccines out there. I am thrilled by the restless work of scientists involved in their development and I believe they should receive much greater social credit than they do nowadays.

Who are key startup people you see creating success locally, whether investors, founders or even other types of startup ecosystems roles like lawyers, designers, growth experts, etc. We’re trying to highlight the movers and shakers who outsiders might not know.
Cedric Maloux, Lubo Smid, Dita Formánková, Tomas Cironis, Ondrej Bartos.

Roman Horacek , partner, Reflex Capital

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
B2B, business automation processes, e-commerce, AI, SaaS, COVID-19-related solutions — across verticals (remote work, conferencing, etc.).

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
Webnode, SignageOS and some others that unfortunately cannot be disclosed yet 🙂

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
I would like to see more AI startups (actually using AI).

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
Rockstar founders, existing and real market need, scalable solution with solid IP.

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

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
As of now our portfolio is approximately 75%/25% (75% CEE and 25% USA/other).

Which industries in your city and region seem well positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
Our companies — APIFY, Productboard, Smartlook, Alice Technologies, SingageOS. Other companies — DoDo, Around, UiPath, Pex,

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
Great technical talent with superb ideas falling behind with go-to-market and sales skills.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
I don’t think so, I believe the talent will still be attracted by existing major hubs. Smaller the team, more interaction is needed. Despite all the innovations in remote work one-to-one interactions and social time cannot be fully replaced (yet).

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
Exposed — travel, dating apps … all businesses traditionally based on physical interaction. Not a surprise I guess 🙂 Opportunities — remote work applications, psychedelic applications, well-being startups, life science solutions, logistics and related industries, e-commerce for SMEs.

Has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
Not really. Our No. 1 investment criteria is strong founders. Most of them were able to adjust their business models to the new market conditions. Spring 2020 advice was cash is king, stay frugal and adjust your business to the new market conditions ASAP or others will.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
Yes. I believe COVID-19 played a role of an accelerator for innovations in many business areas and even e-government and other rigid/conservative industries.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
Given all the events of 2020 we had a solid year as a fund. What was inspiring — seeing founders coming across whatever obstacles thrown under their legs … overcoming them with new ideas/inventions and unbreakable entrepreneurial spirit.

Who are key startup people you see creating success locally, whether investors, founders or even other types of startup ecosystems roles like lawyers, designers, growth experts, etc. We’re trying to highlight the movers and shakers who outsiders might not know.
Hard to name one or a few … every single player plays a different role and one individual is unimportant without others. Same as in nature, even the strongest/biggest predators cannot thrive without a thriving ecosystem as a whole.

#czech-republic, #ec-investor-surveys, #europe, #investor-survey, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital

Israel Gives Vaccine to Far-Off Allies, as Palestinians Wait

The donations will go to nations like the Czech Republic and Honduras that pledged to move diplomats to Jerusalem. Critics say Israel has an obligation to inoculate Palestinians under its occupation.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #czech-republic, #gaza-strip, #guatemala, #honduras, #hungary, #israel, #palestinian-authority, #vaccination-and-immunization, #west-bank

Rocket Lab completes its first rocket launch of 2021 and 18th mission overall

Rocket Lab has launched its 18th mission, and the first of 2021, as of 8:26 PM NZT (2:30 AM EST). The ‘Another One Leaves The Crust’ mission took off from Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand, and flew a single communications microsatellite on behalf of client OHB Group, a satellite manufacturer based in Europe with facilities in Germany, Sweden and the Czech Republic.

Rocket Lab’s launches often feature payloads from more than one customer on the same Electron launch vehicle, but this dedicated payload launch is an example of how the flexibility of its smaller rocket can serve customers even for single small satellite missions. The rocket successfully delivered its payload as intended shortly following take-off.

While Rocket Lab has been developing and testing a booster stage recovery process to help it re-use part of its launch vehicles on subsequent flights, this particular mission did not include a recovery attempt. The company has had significant success with that development process however, and recovered its first booster last year. Sometime this year, it’s expected to attempt a recovery that includes a mid-air catch of the returning first stage via helicopter.

#aerospace, #booster, #czech-republic, #electron, #europe, #germany, #new-zealand, #rocket-lab, #space, #spaceflight, #sweden, #tc

LAUNCHub Ventures heading towards a $85M fund for South Eastern European startups

LAUNCHub Ventures, an early-stage European VC which concentrates mainly on Central Eastern (CEE) and South-Eastern Europe (SEE), has completed the first closing of its new fund at €44 million ($53.5M), with an aspiration to reach a target size of €70 million. A final close is expected by Q2 2021.

Its principal backer is the European Investment Fund, corporates and a number of Bulgarian tech founders and investors.

With this new fund, LAUNCHub aims to invest in 25 startups in the next 4 years. The initial investment range will be between €500K and €2M in verticals such as B2B SaaS, Fintech, Proptech, Big Data, AI, Marketplaces, Digital Health. The fund will also actively invest in the Web 3.0 / Blockchain space, as it has done so since 2014.

LAUNCHub has also achieved a 50:50 gender split in its team, with Irina Dimitrova being promoted to operating partner while Raya Yunakova who joins as an Investor, previously working for PiLabs in London and Mirela Yordanova joins as an Associate, previously leading the startup community at Google for Startups Campus in London.

The investor is mining a rich view of highly skilled developers in the CEE countries where there are approximately 1.3 developers for every 100 people in the workforce. “Central and Eastern Europe’s rapid economic growth has caught the attention of Western investors searching for the next unicorn. The region has huge and still untapped potential with more and more local success stories, paving the way for the next generation of CEE tech founders.” said Todor Breshkov, Founding Partner at LAUNCHub Ventures .

LAUNCHub Ventures competes with other investors like Earlybird in the region, but they tend to invest at a later stage and is more typically a co-investor with LAUNCHub. Nearby Greece also features Greek funds such as Venture Friends and Marathon, but these tend to focus on their core country and diaspora entrepreneurs. Others include Speedinvest (usually focused on DACH) and Credo Ventures, more focused on the Czech Republic and CEE.

LAUNCHub partner and cofounder Stefan Grantchev told me: “Our strategy is to be regional, not to focus specifically on Bulgaria – but to look at all the opportunities in the region of South-Eastern Europe.”

LAUNCHub Ventures has backed companies including:

  • Giraffe360 (Robotic camera for real estate listing automation, co-investment with Hoxton Ventures and HCVC)

  • Fite (Premium direct to consumer digital live streaming for sports, followed-on by Earlybird)

  • GTMHub (The world’s leading and most intuitive OKR software, followed-on by CRV)

  • FintechOS (Banking and Insurance middleware for automation and digital innovation acceleration, followed-on by Earlybird and OTB)

  • Cleanshelf (Enterprise SaaS management and optimization platform, followed-on by Dawn Capital)

  • Office RnD (Co-working and flexible office space management, followed-on by Flashpoint Ventures)

  • Ferryhopper (Ferry ticketing platform for Southern Europe, co-investment with Metavallon)

#almaz-capital, #bulgaria, #business-incubators, #central-europe, #cofounder, #corporate-finance, #credo-ventures, #czech-republic, #eastern-europe, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #european-investment-fund, #google, #greece, #hoxton-ventures, #launchub-ventures, #london, #partner, #private-equity, #seedcamp, #startup-company, #tc, #venture-capital

Florida-based logistics provider ShipMonk raises $290 million on the back of rising eCommerce demand

Jan Bednar started ShipMonk with $70,000 in winnings from a string of student business plan competitions and launched the business that just closed on $290 million in new funding from a small warehouse with no air conditioning in the middle of Florida.

While Bednar’s new offices are still inside the warehouse his company operates, they now have air conditioning… and a $290 million financing round from Summit Partners to grow its business.

The Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.-based ShipMonk provides a slew of shipping and logistics services for small to medium-sized eCommerce businesses and right now — given the continuing COVID-19 pandemic — business is good.

We help SMBs and mid-market direct to consumer companies manage their supply chains. Help get their products from suppliers to facilities and connect with all of their sales channels including B2B … order management, transportation management, reverse logistics,” said Bednar. 

The company’s largest customers can book anywhere from $150 million to $250 million in revenue, but most of ShipMonk’s customers are actually small businesses pulling in between $1 million and $10 million on average.

It’s for these businesses that ShipMonk will fill its warehouses in Pennsylvania, California and Florida with 60,000 stock keeping units — managing around 50 different items for each customer it serves.

Bednar said ShipMonk would use the new cash to continue to upgrade its automation services and increase its staffing while also looking to expand internationally.

Profitable from the outset, ShipMonk just came off one of its best years, taking in upwards of $140 million in revenue. 

Bednar began the business alone, but quickly brought on co-founders Kevin Seitz, who handles marketing for the business, and Bosch Jares, a fellow native of the Czech Republic (like Bednar) who serves as the company’s chief technology officer.

The story of how Jares joined the business is indicative of the type of hustle that’s allowed Bednar to grow a booming tech and logistics business from the Ft. Lauderdale beaches.

It was the Florida weather that sold Jares, a college student from one of the Czech Republic’s top technical institutions, on the move to ShipMonk. Bednar had posted an internship opportunity to work (unpaid, but offering room and board) at his company on a college job board in the middle of January. The applications came pouring in, but it was Jares, a programmer who had been working with computers since age 14 who took the slot.

The rest… is ShipMonk history. Jares built the bulk of the backend for the company’s initial services spending nearly 20 hours a day coding.

 The thriftiness and hard work has won ShipMonk a booming business that has grown from 15,000 square feet of warehousing space into nearly 1 million square feet of storage space and a logistics service that spans the U.S. 

Timing for the new round couldn’t be better, as National Retail Federation estimates are banking on a 20% bump in new online sales — which could reach $202 billion this year. 

Black Friday alone raked in $9 billion in online purchases, according to data from Adobe Analytics provided by the company, and consumer spending is only going to continue to move online as the pandemic continues to threaten the health and safety of American consumers.  

ShipMonk’s technology integrates with shopping cart and marketplace platforms like Shopify to import orders across sales channels, which are then processed at the company’s warehouse locations. Customers can save up to 50% on their operational costs, according to the company.

“We believe ShipMonk truly demonstrates the power of a bootstrapped, durable growth mindset. Jan identified a significant gap in the market and, together with the ShipMonk team, has scaled the business in a deliberate and capital efficient manner to address that need. The results have been impressive,” said Christopher Dean, a Managing Director at Summit Partners who is taking a seat on the company’s board. 

 

#articles, #business, #california, #chief-technology-officer, #czech-republic, #e-commerce, #florida, #logistics, #online-purchases, #online-sales, #online-shopping, #order-management, #pennsylvania, #programmer, #shopify, #summit-partners, #supply-chain-management, #tc, #united-states

Helicopter Crash in Egypt Kills 8 Sinai Peacekeepers

Six Americans are among the dead. The Multinational Force and Observers said there was nothing to suggest the crash was anything but an accident.

#aviation-accidents-safety-and-disasters, #czech-republic, #deaths-fatalities, #france, #helicopters, #multinational-force-and-observers, #sinai-peninsula-egypt, #united-states

Nvidia will power world’s fastest AI supercomputer, to be located in Europe

Nvidia is is going to be powering the world’s fastest AI supercomputer, a new system dubbed ‘Leonardo’ that’s being built by the Italian multi-university consortium CINECA, a global supercomutin leader. The Leonardo system will offer as much as 10 exaflops of FP16 AI performance capabilities, and be made up of more than 14,000 Nvidia Ampere-based GPUS once completed.

Leonardo will be one of four new supercomputers supported by a cross-European effort to advance high-performance computing capabilities in the region, that will eventually offer advanced AI capabilities for processing applications across both science and industry. Nvidia will also be supplying its Mellanox HDR InfiniBand networks to the project in order to enable performance across the clusters with low-latency broadband connections.

The other computes in the cluster include MeluXina in Luxembourg and Vega in Solvevnia, as well as a new supercooling coming online in the Czech Republic. The pan-European consortium also plans four more Supercomputers for Bulgaria, Finland, Portugal and Spain, though those will follow later and specifics around their performance and locations aren’t yet available.

Some applications that CINECA and the other supercomputers will be used for include analyzing genomes and discovering new therapeutic pathways; tackling data from multiple different sources for space exploration and extraterrestrial planetary research; and modelling weather patterns, including extreme weather events.

#artificial-intelligence, #broadband, #bulgaria, #computing, #czech-republic, #europe, #finland, #flops, #gpu, #luxembourg, #mellanox, #nvidia, #portugal, #science, #spain, #supercomputers, #tc

Central Europe Suffers as Coronavirus Surges

The Czech Republic, with the highest transmission rate in Europe, closed schools, bars and restaurants. In some countries in Central Europe, there is a critical shortage of doctors and nurses.

#bucharest-romania, #budapest-hungary, #bulgaria, #central-europe, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #coronavirus-risks-and-safety-concerns, #czech-republic, #disease-rates, #europe, #european-union, #gazeta-wyborcza, #gdansk-poland, #hospitals, #hungary, #kaczynski-jaroslaw, #orban-viktor, #oxford-university, #pew-research-center, #politics-and-government, #prague-czech-republic, #romania, #shutdowns-institutional

The Nurse, the Nazis, and the Long Revenge

Her actions have become legend in a small Czech town.

#czech-republic, #czechoslovakia, #documentary-films-and-programs, #holocaust-and-the-nazi-era, #sex, #world-war-ii-1939-45

EU digs in on digital tax plan, after US quits talks

The European Commission has reiterated its commitment to pushing ahead with a regional plan for taxing digital services after the US quit talks aimed at finding agreement on reforming tax rules — ramping up the prospects of a trade war.

Yesterday talks between the EU and the US on a digital services tax broke down after U.S. treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, walked out — saying they’d failed to make any progress, per Reuters.

The EU has been eyeing levying a tax of between 2% and 6% on the local revenues of platform giants.

Today the European Commission dug in in response to the US move, with commissioner Paolo Gentiloni reiterating the need for “one digital tax” to adapt to what he dubbed “the reality of the new century” — and calling for “understanding” in the global negotiation.

However he also repeated the Commission’s warning that it will push ahead alone if necessary, saying that if the US’ decision to quit talks means achieving global consensus impossible it will put “a new European proposal on the table”.

Following the break down of talks, France also warned it will go ahead with a digital tax on tech giants this year — reversing an earlier suspension that had been intended to grease the negotiations.

The New York Times reports French finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, describing the US walk-out as “a provocation”, and complaining about the country “systematically threatening” allies with sanctions.

The issue of ‘fair taxes’ for platforms has been slow burning in Europe for years, with politicians grilling tech execs in public over how little they contribute to national coffers and even urging the public to boycott services like Amazon (with little success).

Updating the tax system to account for digital giants is also front and center for Ursula von der Leyen’s Commission — which is responding to the widespread regional public anger over how little tech giants pay in relation to the local revenue they generate.

European Commission president von der Leyen, who took up her mandate at the back end of last year, has said “urgent” reform of the tax system is needed — warning at the start of 2020 that the European Union would be prepared to go it alone on “a fair digital tax” if no global accord was reached by the end of this year.

At the same time, a number of European countries have been pushing ahead with their own proposals to tax big tech — including the UK, which started levying a 2% digital services tax on local revenue in April; and France, which has set out a plan to tax tech giants 3% of their local revenues.

This gives the Commission another clear reason to act, given its raison d’être is to reduce fragmentation of the EU’s Single Market.

Although it faces internal challenges on achieving agreement across Member States, given some smaller economies have used low national corporate tax rates to attract inward investment, including from tech giants.

The US, meanwhile, has not been sitting on its hands as European governments move ahead to set their own platform taxes. The Trump administration has been throwing its weight around — arguing US companies are being unfairly targeted by the taxes and warning that it could retaliate with up to 100% tariffs on countries that go ahead. Though it has yet to do so.

On the digital tax reform issue the US has said it wants a multilateral agreement via the OECD on a global minimum. And a petite entente cordiale was reached between France and the US last summer when president Emmanuel Macron agreed the French tech tax would be scraped once the OECD came up with a global fix.

However with Trump’s negotiators pulling out of international tax talks with the EU the prospect of a global understanding on a very divisive issue looks further away than ever.

Though the UK said today it remains committed to a global solution, per Reuters which quotes a treasury spokesman.

Earlier this month the US also launched a formal investigation into new or proposed digital taxes in the EU, including the UK’s levy and the EU’s proposal, and plans set out by a number of other EU countries, claiming they “unfairly target” U.S. tech companies — lining up a pipeline of fresh attacks on reform plans.

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Europe Reopens After Lockdown to the Familiar and Alien

A Times photojournalist and correspondent spent two weeks driving through Europe as it edged out of lockdown. Here is what they saw in six countries.

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Prague Says Ricin Plot Was a Hoax, and Moves to Expel 2 Russians

Prime Minister Andrej Babis of the Czech Republic said a feud between employees of the Russian Embassy had led to “made-up information about a planned attack on Czech politicians.”

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The Drive-In Theater: Keeping Drama Alive During the Lockdown

Czech theater companies couldn’t perform onstage during the early phases of the pandemic. So they took over a parking lot.

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A Reporter’s Journey Across a Resuscitating, and Oddly Changed, Europe

In fits and starts, Europe is gradually reopening after months of lockdown. We’re driving more than 3,700 miles to document life on a continent where surreal moments now seem normal, and normality surreal.

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Uber subsidiary Careem to slash workforce by 31%, suspends bus transport app

Careem, the Dubai-based ride-hailing and delivery company that was acquired by Uber last year, is cutting its workforce by 31% and suspending its mass transportation business due to affects from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The layoffs will affect more than 530 employees. Employees who are laid off will receive at least three months severance pay, one month of equity vesting, and where relevant, extended visa and medical insurance through the end of the year, according to the company’s blog post announcing the reductions.

“We delayed this decision as long as possible so that we could exhaust all other means to secure Careem,” Mudassir Sheikha, the company’s co-founder and CEO, wrote in a blog post Monday.

Careem started in 2012 as a ride-hailing company aiming to compete with Uber rival in the Middle East. In recently years, Careem has diversified its business, expanding into credit transfers, food and package delivery and bus services. Uber bought Careem in March 2019 for $3.1 billion.

Since the COVId-19 pandemic hit, Careem has seen business fall by more than 80%, Sheikha said.

The company made the cuts to preserve the business and its vision to create a consumer-facing “super app” that offers a suite of lifestyle services, including a digital payment platform and last-mile delivery. Those reductions will also affect some previously announced products, namely its mass transportation feature called Careem BUS.

“The economics of the mass transportation business have improved but remain challenging, and at this time, we need to accelerate our investments in deliveries and the Super App,”  We believe Careem BUS is a much-needed offering in some of our core markets, and I predict that the service will reappear on the Careem Super App in the future.” 

The announcement comes just hours after Uber Eats said it will shutter its on-demand food business in several markets, including in the Czech Republic, Egypt, Honduras, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Uruguay and Ukraine. Uber Eats said it will transfer its business operations in the in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to Careem.

“Consumers and restaurants using the Uber Eats app in the UAE will be transitioned to the Careem  platform in the coming weeks, after which the Uber Eats app will no longer be available,” according to a regulatory filing detailing the operational shifts.

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Uber Eats exits seven markets, transfers one as part of competitive retooling

Uber Eats is pulling out of a clutch of markets — shuttering its on-demand food offering in the Czech Republic, Egypt, Honduras, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Uruguay and Ukraine.

It’s also transferring its Uber Eats business operations in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to Careem, its wholly owned ride-hailing subsidiary that’s mostly focused on the Middle East.

“Consumers and restaurants using the Uber Eats app in the UAE will be transitioned to the Careem platform in the coming weeks, after which the Uber Eats app will no longer be available,” it writes in a regulatory filing detailing the operational shifts.

“These decisions were made as part of the Company’s ongoing strategy to be in first or second position in all Eats markets by leaning into investment in some countries while exiting others,” the filing adds.

An Uber spokesman said the changes are not related to the coronavirus pandemic but rather related to an ongoing “strategy of record” for the company to hold a first or second position in all Eats markets — which means it’s leaning into investment in some countries while exiting others.

Earlier this year, for example, Uber pulled the plug on its Eats offer in India — selling to local rival Zomato. Zomato and Swiggy hold the top two slots in the market. (As part of that deal Uber took a 9.99% stake in Zomato.)

Uber Eats rival, Glovo, also announced a series of exits at the start of this year — as part of its own competitive reconfiguration in a drive to cut losses and shoot for profitability. It too says its goal is to be the first or second platform in all markets where it operates.

The category is facing major questions about profitability — with now the added challenge of the coronavirus crisis. (Related: Another player in the space, Uk-based Deliveroo, confirmed a major round of layoffs last week.) tl;dr, on-demand unit economics don’t stack up unless you can command large enough marketshare so it looks like the competitive pack is thinning as it becomes clearer who’s winning where.

In a statement on the latest round of Eats exits, Uber said: “We have made the decision to discontinue Uber Eats in Czech Republic, Egypt, Honduras, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, and Uruguay, and to wind down the Eats app and transition operations to Careem in U.A.E. This continues our strategy of focusing our energy and resources on our top Eats markets around the world.”

The discontinued and transferred markets represented 1% of Eats’ Gross Bookings and 4% of Eats Adjusted EBITDA losses in Q1 2020, per Uber’s filing. 

“Consistent with our stated strategy, we will look to reinvest these savings in priority markets where we expect a better return on investment,” the filing adds. 

The Uber Eats spokesman told us that the exits do not sum to any change to the ‘more than 6,000 cities’ figure for the unit’s market footprint — which Uber reported earlier this year.

Asked which markets the company considers to be priorities going forward the spokesman did not respond. It’s also not clear whether or not Uber sought buyers for the shuttered units.

Per Uber’s filing, Eats operations will be fully discontinue in the Czech Republic, Egypt, Honduras, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Uruguay and Ukraine by June 4, 2020.

Uber Rides operations are not affected, it adds.

A source familiar with Uber also said the changes will allow the company to focus resources on new business lines — such as grocery and delivery.

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the on-demand food delivery business as usual in many markets — with convenience-loving customers locked down at home so likely to be cooking more, and large numbers of restaurants closed (at least temporarily), putting a dent in the provider side of these platforms too.

At the same time there is a demand upside story in the groceries category. And last month Uber announced a tie-up with a major French supermarket, Carrefour, to expand its delivery offering nationwide. It also inked other grocery-related partnerships in Spain and Brazil.

Grocery delivery has been seeing a massive uptick as consumers look for ways to replenish their food cupboards while limiting infection risk.

While other types of deliveries — from pharmaceuticals to personal protective equipment — also potentially offer growth opportunities for on-demand logistics businesses, which is how many major food delivery platforms prefer to describe themselves.

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Coronavirus Restrictions Are Eased in Europe

The lifting of restrictions is an early test of whether democracies can restart their economies and restore basic freedoms without refueling the spread of the coronavirus.

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Madeleine Albright: The Best Response to the Coronavirus Is Resilience

These are hard times, but we have seen worse. Courage, staying calm and counting on one another can get us through.

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