A group that includes Eric Schmidt and Peter Thiel isn’t simply funding the effort itself: It wants American taxpayers to help foot the bill.
Congress may have a limited window to pass legislation that could curb skyrocketing drug prices.
Unfortunately, economists may have been looking at it all wrong.
The boutique British carmaker, known for lightweight sports cars more than supermarket runs, is planning to expand production substantially as it goes fully electric.
Financing the next generation of green energy technologies means larger investments and getting venture capitalists to turn their attention away from “fast money.”
Europe is giving investors the green light they need to take risks on climate technologies.
A new aircraft being built in Vermont has no need for jet fuel. It can take off and land without a runway. Amazon and the Air Force are both betting on it. So who will be in the cockpit?
Outwardly, we praise innovation. Inwardly, we harbor a visceral aversion to it, studies have found.
The vote sets up a fight with the Senate, which has different recommendations for how the United States should bolster its technology industry to take on China.
Shifting a 68,000-person social networking company toward the theoretical metaverse has caused internal disruption and uncertainty.
A major competitiveness bill passed the Senate last year with bipartisan support, only to stall. Democrats hope to revive it in the House, but first they will have to bridge big differences.
The tech industry has grown ever more rich off big ideas that were developed more than a decade ago. New things like quantum computing and self-driving cars could take a while.
Silicon Valley’s big investors are not like the rest of us.
A chronic illness made me more left-wing and more libertarian at once.
Recent research underlines the central role that automation has played in widening disparities.
As Meta and other companies bet big on an immersive digital world, questions about its harms are rising.
How we treat farm animals today will be seen as a defining moral failing of our age.
With long battery life and nice cameras, the new Google devices excel at what popular phones have done for years. Is that enough?
The company known for making iPhones presented three electric vehicles that can serve as a basis for working with car companies.
Long-shot money is flowing into start-ups that seek the energy of the stars. Driving the investments is a rising alarm about global warming.
Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive, has signed off on an effort to show users pro-Facebook stories and to distance himself from scandals.
The new iPhone is 10 percent faster than the last one, and the photos are slightly better. In a word: Huh.
In “You Bet Your Life,” Paul A. Offit looks at advances that have prolonged life, from chemotherapy to the Covid vaccine, and the difficult, even deadly, paths to arrive at them.
As Apple and Google enact privacy changes, businesses are grappling with the fallout, Madison Avenue is fighting back and Facebook has cried foul.
A Canadian startup called Nuula that is aiming to build a superapp to provide a range of financial services to small and medium businesses has closed $120 million of funding, money that it will use to fuel the launch of its app and first product, a line of credit for its users.
The money is coming in the form of $20 million in equity from Edison Partners, and a $100 million credit facility from funds managed by the Credit Group of Ares Management Corporation.
The Nuula app has been in a limited beta since June of this year. The plan is to open it up to general availability soon, while also gradually bringing in more services, some built directly by Nuula itself and but many others following an embedded finance strategy: business banking, for example, will be a service provided by a third party and integrated closely into the Nuula app to be launched early in 2022; and alongside that, the startup will also be making liberal use of APIs to bring in other white-label services such as B2B and customer-focused payment services, starting first in the U.S. and then expanding to Canada and the U.K. before further countries across Europe.
Current products include cash flow forecasting, personal and business credit score monitoring, and customer sentiment tracking; and monitoring of other critical metrics including financial, payments and eCommerce data are all on the roadmap.
“We’re building tools to work in a complementary fashion in the app,” CEO Mark Ruddock said in an interview. “Today, businesses can project if they are likely to run out of money, and monitor their credit scores. We keep an eye on customers and what they are saying in real time. We think it’s necessary to surface for SMBs the metrics that they might have needed to get from multiple apps, all in one place.”
Nuula was originally a side-project at BFS, a company that focused on small business lending, where the company started to look at the idea of how to better leverage data to build out a wider set of services addressing the same segment of the market. BFS grew to be a substantial business in its own right (and it had raised its own money to that end, to the tune of $184 million from Edison and Honeywell). Over time, it became apparent to management that the data aspect, and this concept of a super app, would be key to how to grow the business, and so it pivoted and rebranded earlier this year, launching the beta of the app after that.
Nuula’s ambitions fall within a bigger trend in the market. Small and medium enterprises have shaped up to be a huge business opportunity in the world of fintech in the last several years. Long ignored in favor of building solutions either for the giant consumer market, or the lucrative large enterprise sector, SMBs have proven that they want and are willing to invest in better and newer technology to run their businesses, and that’s leading to a rush of startups and bigger tech companies bringing services to the market to cater to that.
Super apps are also a big area of interest in the world of fintech, although up to now a lot of what we’ve heard about in that area has been aimed at consumers — just the kind of innovation rut that Nuula is trying to get moving.
“Despite the growth in services addressing the SMB sector, overall it still lacks innovation compared to consumer or enterprise services,” Ruddock said. “We thought there was some opportunity to bring new thinking to the space. We see this as the app that SMBs will want to use everyday, because we’ll provide useful tools, insights and capital to power their businesses.”
Nuula’s priority to build the data services that connect all of this together is very much in keeping with how a lot of neobanks are also developing services and investing in what they see as their unique selling point. The theory goes like this: banking services are, at the end of the day, the same everywhere you go, and therefore commoditized, and so the more unique value-added for companies will come from innovating with more interesting algorithms and other data-based insights and analytics to give more power to their users to make the best use of what they have at their disposal.
It will not be alone in addressing that market. Others building fintech for SMBs include Selina, ANNA, Amex’s Kabbage (an early mover in using big data to help loan money to SMBs and build other financial services for them), Novo, Atom Bank, Xepelin, and Liberis, biggies like Stripe, Square and PayPal, and many others.
The credit product that Nuula has built so far is a taster of how it hopes to be a useful tool for SMBs, not just another place to get money or manage it. It’s not a direct loaning service, but rather something that is closely linked to monitoring a customers’ incomings and outgoings and only prompts a credit line (which directly links into the users’ account, wherever it is) when it appears that it might be needed.
“Innovations in financial technology have largely democratized who can become the next big player in small business finance,” added Gary Golding, General Partner, Edison Partners. “By combining critical financial performance tools and insights into a single interface, Nuula represents a new class of financial services technology for small business, and we are excited by the potential of the firm.”
“We are excited to be working with Nuula as they build a unique financial services resource for small businesses and entrepreneurs,” said Jeffrey Kramer, Partner and Head of ABS in the Alternative Credit strategy of the Ares Credit Group, in a statement. “The evolution of financial technology continues to open opportunities for innovation and the emergence of new industry participants. We look forward to seeing Nuula’s experienced team of technologists, data scientists and financial service veterans bring a new generation of small business financial services solutions to market.”
Research suggests that initially meeting in person is helpful, especially for people who don’t work closely.
Elon Musk has put up $100 million in prize money for a way to extract carbon from the atmosphere.
Two new books, Eric Berger’s “Liftoff” and Tim Higgins’s “Power Play,” explore Musk’s terrestrial and extraterrestrial pursuits — and what has made him so successful.
A $150 million chip-making tool from a Dutch company has become a lever in the U.S.-Chinese struggle. It also shows how entrenched the global supply chain is.
Icon group is a new $30M VC fund being launched out of Germany’s iconmobile group, a WPP network agency. This means a reorganization of the company from a full-service innovation agency into also offering VC backing.
iconmobile has garnered a reputation as an innovative technology, design, and sustainability agency, but the turnaround means it will now, instead, back tech startups that enable traditional companies to “reinvent their business models and the way they reach their consumers.”
The icon ventures VC fund will be accompanied by new company arm: ‘icon impact’, the continuation of iconmobile’s well-established product and experience innovation arm.
Previous iconmobile properties now fall under the icon ventures umbrella include:
• D[AI]TA, a white label sustainable laundry system that filters microplastic fibers via smart washing machines, reduces chemical contaminants, and uses ‘smart grid’ washing to save energy. It also tracks what items have been washed, and worn, and sends that data to retailers.
• banbutsu, that does sustainable last-mile fulfillment
• icon incar a mobility experience company
Thomas Fellger, Founder of icon group said: “Whether it’s creating the first connected toothbrush for Oral-B or UX/UI design for the world’s leading automotive brands, icon group works to bring innovation from idea to scale…. Now, with the inclusion of a venture fund, we can create the things we believe in without waiting for permission or additional budget allocations by investing in opportunities where we have deep knowledge and proven impact, something that sets us apart from the big five firms.”
Speaking to me over a call he added: “We are more capable than most companies to convert our knowledge of R&D into a fast business opportunity. For example, we found an infrared sensor, which can be used to measure air quality in Egypt. Because we knew we needed that kind of quality of air data, we were able to create a whole new product. And that’s what we will be good at – connecting the dots of different products services across industries to create for that industry, a new way of looking at their business by changing the business model, or even extending the services which they couldn’t do before.”
The legislation would invest in traditional research and development, clashing with a broad Senate measure that focuses on cutting-edge technology to compete with China.
The wide margin of support reflected a sense of urgency among lawmakers in both parties about shoring up the technological and industrial capacity of the United States to counter Beijing.
Ownership of recreational vehicles is on the rise and with improved technology, an attractive lure for those who can hit the road to travel, or work, wherever they choose.
In Thailand and around the world, dogs are being trained to sniff out the coronavirus in people. So far, the results have been impressive.
Last year’s deal could set the rules for global commerce for years to come, leaving the door open to lavish Chinese subsidies and unilateral American tariffs.
You think they randomly choose those glaring shades of Nike, Adidas and New Balance? Think again.
A new exhibition in London charts the rise of global sneaker culture, from performance shoe to cult collector item. But do they belong in the museum?
The legislation has drawn bipartisan support amid the coronavirus pandemic as Democrats and Republicans have become increasingly concerned about Beijing’s supply chain dominance.
He created the adhesive that lets the small, square notes stick to surfaces. They became one of the most ubiquitous office products ever conceived.
A pair of looming eyes could scare away seabirds from fishing nets in which they are often entangled.
Every company wants to maintain that initial spark it had when it was an early stage startup, but keeping that going as you scale into a public company isn’t always easy. Atlassian is taking a unique approach by opening up product ideas to an internal competition, and actually funding and building the best ones with the goal of bringing them to market.
Steve Goldsmith, who is heading up the project for Atlassian says that it’s an in-house startup incubator called Point A. The company wants to encourage employees to be constantly thinking about new ways to improve the products. And every employee is encouraged to participate, not just engineers or product managers, as my might think.
“Point A is our internal framework for turning ideas into products. It’s our way of finding the innovation that’s happening all over the company, and giving a process and framework for those ideas to reach the maturity of actually becoming products that we offer to our customers,” Goldsmith told me.
He says that like many companies they hold internal hackathons and other events where many times employees come up with creative concepts for products, but they tend to get put on a shelf after the event is over and never get looked at again. With Point A, they can actually compete to put their experiments to work and see if they are actually viable.
“So we think of Point A as a way of finding all those different ideas and prototypes and concepts that people have in their brains or on the side of their desk kind of thing, and giving a process and a structure for those ideas to get out the door, and really invest in the ones that have some traction,” Goldsmith said.
He says by providing an official internal process to vet and maybe fund some of them, people inside the organization know that their proposals are being heard and they have a mechanism for submitting them, and the company has a way of seeing them.
The company launched Point A in 2019 looking at 35 possible projects, and testing them as possible products. Last January, they chose 9 that made the final cut and 4 turned into actual products and made it out the door this week including the Jira Work Management tool, which is being released today.
The next program is ready to roll with employees ready to present their ideas in a pitch day competition to get things going. “Our first class is graduating out of this program, and […] we start the process again. We actually just went through our big list of all the ideas to do it a second time, and we are doing a pitch day. It’s going t be a fun Shark Tank, The Voice kind of inspired [competition],” he said.
Company co-founders and co-CEOs Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar both participate in judging the competition, so it has executive buy-in giving more clout to the program and sending a message to employees that their ideas are being taken seriously.
The company provides funding, time away from your regular job, executive coaches and combines that with customer collaboration and early founder involvement with the goal of finding a scalable, repeatable process with defined phases that helps teams take the most innovative ideas from concept to customer.
Some make it. Some don’t as you might expect, but so far the plan seems to be working and is successfully encouraging innovation from within, something every company should be trying to do.
Assessing its future, both the bad and the good.
Building, scaling and launching new tools and products is the lifeblood of the technology sector. When we consider these concepts today, many think of Big Tech and flashy startups, known for their industry dominance or new technologies that impact our everyday lives. But long before garages and dorm rooms became decentralized hubs for these innovations, local and state governments, along with many agencies within the federal government, pioneered tech products with the goal of improving the lives of millions.
Long before garages and dorm rooms became decentralized hubs for innovation, local and state governments, along with many agencies within the federal government, pioneered tech products with the goal of improving the lives of millions.
As an industry, we’ve developed a notion that working in government, the place where the groundwork was laid for the digital assistants we use every day, is now far less appealing than working in the private sector. The immense salary differential is often cited as the overwhelming reason workers prefer to work in the private sphere.
But the hard truth is the private sector brings far more value than just higher compensation to employees. Look no further than the boom in the tech sector during the pandemic to understand why it’s so attractive. A company like Zoom, already established and successful in its own right for years, found itself in a situation where it had to serve an exponentially growing and diverse user base in a short period of time. It quickly confronted a slew of infrastructure and user experience pivots on its way to becoming a staple of work-from-home culture — and succeeded.
That innate ability to work fast to deliver for consumers and innovate at what feels like a moment’s notice is what really draws talent. Compare that to the government’s tech environment, where decreased funding and partisan oversight slow the pace of work, or, worse, can get in the way of exploring or implementing new ideas entirely.
One look (literally, see our graph below) at the trends around R&D spending in the private and government sectors also paints a clear picture of where future innovations will come from if we don’t change the equation.
Look no further than the U.S. government’s own (now defunct) Office of Technology Assessment. The agency aimed to provide a thorough analysis of burgeoning issues in science and technology, exposing many public services to a new age of innovation and implementation. Amid a period of downsizing by a newly Republican-led Congress, the OTA was defunded in 1995 with a peak annual budget of just $35.1 million (adjusted for 2019 dollars). The authoritative body on the importance of technology to the government was deemed duplicative and unnecessary. Despite numerous calls for its reinstatement, it has since remained shuttered.
Despite dwindling public sector investment and lackluster political action, the problems that technology is poised to help solve haven’t gone away or even eased up.
From the COVID pandemic to worsening natural disasters and growing societal inequities, public leaders have a responsibility to solve the pressing issues we face today. That responsibility should breed a desire to continuously iterate for the sake of constituents and quality of life, much in the same way private tech caters to the product, user and bottom line.
My own experiences in government have shaped my career and approach to building new technologies more than my time in Silicon Valley. There are plenty of tangible parallels to the private sector that can attract driven and passionate tech workers, but the responsibility of giving government work realistic consideration doesn’t just fall at the feet of talent. The governments that we depend on must invest more capital and pay closer attention to the tech community.
Tech workers want an environment where they can thrive and get to see their work in action, whoever the end user may be. They don’t want to feel hamstrung by the threat of decreased funding or the red tape that comes as a result of government partisanship. Replicating the unimpeded focus of Silicon Valley’s brightest examples is a must if we’re serious about drawing talented individuals into government or public-sector-focused work.
A great example of these ideas in action is one of the most beloved government agencies, NASA. Its continued funding has produced technologies developed for space exploration that are now commonplace in our lives, such as scratch-resistant lenses, memory foam and water filters. These use cases came much later on, only after millions of dollars were invested without knowing what would result.
NASA has continued to bolster its ability to stay nimble and evolve at a rapid pace by partnering with private companies. For talent in the tech sphere, the ability to leverage outside resources in this way, without compromising the product or work, is a boon for ideation and iteration.
One can also point to the agency when considering the importance of keeping technology research and innovation as apolitical as possible. It’s one of the few widely known public entities to prosper on the back of bipartisan support. Unfortunately, politicians typically do all of us a disservice, particularly tech workers in government, when they too closely connect themselves or their parties to a particular program or platform. It hinders innovation — and the ensuing mudslinging can detract from talented individuals jumping into government service.
There is no shortage of extremely capable tech workers who want to help solve the biggest issues facing society. Will we give them the legitimate space and opportunity to conquer those problems? There’s been some indication that we can. These ambitious and forward-looking efforts matter today more than ever and show all of us in the tech ecosystem that there’s a place in government for tech talent to grow and flourish.
The 6-to-2 ruling ended a decade-long battle over whether Google had improperly used Java code in its Android operating system.
The president needs to maximize his multitrillion-dollar plans.
Something went wrong early for Starship, with shards of metal raining down around the launch site including debris that hit one of the cameras.
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”.
The transportation industry is abuzz with upstarts, legacy automakers, suppliers and tech companies working on automated vehicle technology, digital platforms, electrification and robotics. Then there are shared mobility companies from cars to scooters and mopeds to ebikes. And who can forget the emerging air taxi companies?
At the center of this evolving industry are the investors. Simply put: TechCrunch can’t hold an event on mobility without hearing from the people who are hunting for the best opportunities in the industry and tracking all of its changes. That’s why we’re happy to announce investors Clara Brenner of Urban Innovation Fund, Quin Garcia of Autotech Ventures and Rachel Holt of Construct Capital will join us on our virtual stage at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021. The virtual event, which features the best and brightest minds in the world of mobility, will be held on June 9.
p.s. Early Bird tickets to the show are now available – book today and save 35% before prices go up.
Brenner, Garcia and Holt will come on stage to discuss their near and long-term investment strategies, overlooked opportunities, and challenges that face startups trying to break into the transportation sector. They’ll lean on their considerable experience to provide the advice and insight that will help attendees understand the state of the industry and where it is headed.
Brenner is a serial co-founder. She is co-founder and managing partner of the Urban Innovation Fund, a venture capital firm that provides seed capital and regulatory support to entrepreneurs solving urban challenges. Urban Innovation Fund has backed curbflow, Electriphi and Kyte among others. She also co-founded Tumml, a startup hub for urban tech that provided 38 startups with seed funding and mentorship, and hosts events around urban innovation. In 2014, Forbes listed her as one of its “30 Under 30” for Social Entrepreneurship.
Garcia, a lifelong ‘car guy’ with an MS degree in management science and automotive engineering from Stanford University, is managing director at Autotech Ventures. He’s also a board director, board observer and advisory board member to a number of mobility companies including Lyft, Peloton Technology, and Connected Signals.
Garcia has been on the ground floor of startups, notably as part of the initial team at the electric vehicle infrastructure startup Better Place, where he was responsible for partnerships with automakers and parts suppliers while living in Israel, Japan and China.
Holt is co-founder and Managing Partner of early-stage venture firm Construct Capital, which is focused on finding founders that are trying to change foundational industries such as manufacturing and supply chain, logistics and transportation. The company’s transportation-focused investments include ChargeLab. Holt also sits on the board of MotoRefi.
Prior to Construct, Holt was at Uber, where she was one of the company’s first 30 employees. During her 8.5-year stint at Uber, Holt rose through the ranks of the company, including roles running the U.S. and Canada “Rides” business as well as global marketing and customer support. She was a longtime member of the company’s executive leadership team. Her last position at Uber was leading the company’s new mobility organization, which focused on its e-bike and scooter businesses as well as running its incubator, which funded and developed new products and services.
Rachel began her career at Bain & Company, advising companies in the private equity, financial services and healthcare industries. She was ranked No. 9 on Fortune’s 40 under 40 and was named by Fast Company as One of the Most Creative People in Business.
We can’t wait to hear from this investor panel at TC Sessions: Mobility on June 9. Make sure to grab your Early Bird pass before May 6 to save 35% on tickets and join the fun!
Those that did may be better off, their owners say, because they could meet the moment’s restrictions and cravings from the very start.
The narrative that the private sector drives innovation is only half the story.