Men’s health startup Manual raises $30M Series A from US and European investors

Men’s health and wellbeing startup Manual has raised a $30m Series A round from US-based Sonoma Brands and Waldencast, and Manual’s existing European investors Felix Capital and Cherry Ventures. FJ Labs and the GISEV Family Office also participated in the round. The cash will be used for product development and international expansion. Manual provides diagnostics, treatments and ongoing care and plans to expand across Europe, Asia and Latin America. The company has already expanded to Brazil.

Manual is competing with Numan (raised $13M), also from the UK (Manual launched a month earlier than them). In the US it is competing with Ro (raised $876.1M) and Hims (listed). All these brands tend to focus on issues like vitamins and erectile dysfunction, with the, often common refrain of, ‘normalizing’ the idea that men should look after themselves better, across a number of fronts and removing stigma’s around sexual health. It performs blood tests and other tests to analyze heart health, gut health, testosterone, sleep, energy, and immunity. They are pushing at a large market, as men historically avoid doctors.

Manual app

Manual app

George Pallis, CEO and Founder, previously led marketing at Wise and Deliveroo. In a statement he said: “We’ve been encouraged to see men of all ages increasingly turning to Manual to solve multiple health problems, with almost half of our customers seeking help for more than one issue. It’s clear that a health concern may have more than one cause, and we can provide customers with the ability to treat their health in a more holistic way. Using different treatments to understand and improve their wellbeing.”

Speaking to during an interview Pallis added: “We built our own teleconsultation product and have different applications for the blood test offering. When you get your results we will offer a clinician, we’ll walk you through all the data and the learnings. We offer tools where people can monitor their progress and have regular check-ins with our medical team.”

Antoine Nussenbaum, co-Founder and partner of Felix Capital, commented: “There is still much work to be done to remove the taboo when it comes to men looking after their wellbeing and talking openly about health concerns. But we’re starting to see a shift happen amongst consumers.”

Kevin Murphy, Managing Director of Sonoma Brands, commented: “Manual exists to empower men to take better care of themselves and to live fuller lives by doing so. George and his team have the clarity of vision and the skill to make Manual a leader in this exciting and important area.”

#antoine-nussenbaum, #articles, #asia, #brazil, #ceo, #cherry-ventures, #deliveroo, #energy, #europe, #felix-capital, #fj-labs, #health, #latin-america, #leader, #manual, #online-food-ordering, #tc, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #well-being

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New markets emerge for carbon accounting businesses as cities like LA push proposals

Earlier this month, Los Angeles became the latest city to task its various departments with prepping a feasibility study for deploying new software and monitoring technologies to better account for its carbon footprint.

LA’s city council initiative, led by Council member Paul Koretz, follows a push from the state legislature to mandate that all businesses operating in California that gross over $1billion annually disclose their greenhouse gas emissions and set science-based targets to reduce those emissions.

California is far from the only state in the U.S. that’s feeling the disastrous effects of global climate change, but it’s among the most aggressive in trying to address the causes. Whether that’s a dramatic effort to remove fossil fuels from its power supply or the proposal to make businesses accountable for their contributions to climate change, California has been a leader in trying to encourage the adoption of new technology and services that can mitigate the impact of climate change and reverse course on the production of greenhouse gas emissions.

With this move, Los Angeles wants to hitch its wagon to this momentum and is actively looking for tech busineses that can help with carbon accounting.

That means good things for companies like CarbonChain, Persefoni, ClimateView, and SINAI Technologies, which all have offerings meant to help with carbon accounting and management.

It shows that some of the largest cities, with billion dollar budgets, will open their wallets to pay for the tools they need to get a better handle on how they’re contributing to the climate change that threatens their own citizens.

In Los Angeles, the city council tasked the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation and Chief Legislative Analyst to report back on the feasibility of developing or buying technology to provide a more accurate accounting of the city’s carbon footprint.

“The City provides a number of services – from lighting and maintaining municipal buildings, facilities and streetlights, to paving roads and operating a transit fleet, and delivering water and operating reclamation facilities – all of which come with environmental impacts,” said Council member Koretz in a statement earlier this month. “If we’re going to take our carbon reduction goals seriously, and make a real difference in the lives of frontline communities near LAX and the Port of Los Angeles, we need a better, more consistent, and more transparent accounting of our emissions.”

Los Angeles has steadily worked to give climate change and climate friendly policies a more central role in political discussions. Roughly two years ago, in July 2019, Los Angeles set up an office of climate emergency and earlier this year Mayor Eric Garcetti launched the climate emergency mobilization office to coordinate activity between civic leaders, the mayor’s office, and the city council. 

Budget hasn’t been allocated for the accountability plan, but people familiar with the City Council’s plan expect that implementation could begin in the 2021-2022 budget cycle.

Los Angeles has tried to address its carbon footprint in the past, but the efforts weren’t very successful. The study was conducted using historical emissions data and did not include the “scope three” emissions, which refer to the greenhouse gas emissions created by service providers for the city’s operations.

As the City of Angels looks to improve its ability to provide accountability and metrics on its contribution to climate change, it could do worse than look at the standard that’s been set by New York City. Under the Bloomberg Administration, carbon accounting and resiliency measures became a priority — even before Hurricane Sandy made clear that the city was highly exposed to climate and weather-related disasters.

That 2012 storm inflicted nearly $70 billion in damage and killed 233 people across eight countries from the Caribbean to Canada.

The disaster only furthered New York’s resolve to be more aggressive with its climate action. The city has a robust accounting program for emissions from its operations, and is moving forward with policies across the city to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the built environment, transportation, and industry.

“Data drives decision making and without data, we cannot chart a path towards a zero-emission future,” said Councilmember Joe Buscaino. “Today’s generation of leaders must continue to address climate change with urgency and be held accountable to the goals we set for Los Angeles, and this motion sets us on the path to do just that.”

 

#articles, #california, #carbon-dioxide, #carbon-footprint, #carbonchain, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #leader, #los-angeles, #mayor, #persefoni, #sinai-technologies, #tc, #united-states

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Former head of the World Resources Institute has a new role leading Bezos’ $10 billion Earth Fund

The $10 billion Bezos Earth Fund has a new chief executive and it’s Andrew Steer, the former head of the World Resources Institute — an organization that Bezos described as “working to alleviate poverty while protecting the natural world.”

As the head of the fund, Steer will be responsible for spending that money down by the end of 2030, according to a tweet from none other than Steer himself.

“The Earth Fund will invest in scientists, NGOs, activists, and the private sector to help drive new technologies, investments, policy change and behavior. We will emphasize social justice, as climate change disproportionately hurts poor and marginalized communities,” Steer wrote.

With a $100 million award from the first rounds of grants the Bezos Fund issued in November, the World Resources Institute was one of the largest recipients of Bezos’ largesse. Other big recipients from the first block of grants included the Environmental defense Fund, The Natural Resources Defense Council, The Nature Conservancy and The World Wildlife Fund.

“I feel incredibly fortunate to join the Bezos Earth Fund as its CEO, where I will focus on driving systemic change to address the climate and nature crises, with a focus on people. Too many of the most creative initiatives suffer for a lack of finance, risk management or the right partnerships. This is where the Earth Fund will be helpful,” Steer said in a statement issued by the WRI.

While at the WRI, Steer oversaw its international expansion from an advocacy organization centered primarily in Washington to a global organization with offices in Indonesia, the UK and Colombia along with hubs in Ethiopia and the Netherlands. Steer also expanded the offices in Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and Mexico.

His tenure also involved creating coalitions and initiatives that changed the understanding around the economics of climate change, including the launch of a $10 million annual initiative to support the implementation of climate plans by 100 countries, according to a statement from the WRI.

“The $10 billion Bezos Earth Fund has the potential to be a transformative force for good at this decisive point in history. Andrew’s global reputation, deep technical knowledge and experience, and commitment to social justice make him a perfect leader for the fund,” said Christiana Figueres, co-founder of Global Optimism and former Executive Security of the UNFCCC.

#bezos, #brazil, #ceo, #china, #co-founder, #colombia, #ethiopia, #executive, #finance, #head, #india, #indonesia, #jeff-bezos, #leader, #mexico, #nature-conservancy, #netherlands, #risk-management, #tc, #united-kingdom, #washington, #world-wildlife-fund

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YL Ventures sells its stake in cybersecurity unicorn Axonius for $270M

YL Ventures, the Israel-focused cybersecurity seed fund, today announced that it has sold its stake cybersecurity asset management startup Axonius, which only a week ago announced a $100 million Series D funding round that now values it at around $1.2 billion.

ICONIQ Growth, Alkeon Capital Management, DTCP and Harmony Partners acquired YL Venture’s stake for $270 million. This marks YL’s first return from its third $75 million fund, which it raised in 2017, and the largest return in the firm’s history.

With this sale, the company’s third fund still has six portfolio companies remaining. It closed its fourth fund with $120 million in committed capital in the middle of 2019.

Unlike YL, which focuses on early-stage companies — though it also tends to participate in some later-stage rounds — the investors that are buying its stake specialize in later-stage companies that are often on an IPO path. ICONIQ Growth has invested in the likes of Adyen, CrowdStrike, Datadog and Zoom, for example, and has also regularly partnered with YL Ventures on its later-stage investments.

“The transition from early-stage to late-stage investors just makes sense as we drive toward IPO, and it allows each investor to focus on what they do best,” said Dean Sysman, co-founder and CEO of Axonius. “We appreciate the guidance and support the YL Ventures team has provided during the early stages of our company and we congratulate them on this successful journey.”

To put this sale into perspective for the Silicon Valley- and Tel Aviv-based YL Ventures, it’s worth noting that it currently manages about $300 million. Its current portfolio includes the likes of Orca Security, Hunters and Cycode. This sale is a huge win for the firm.

Its most headline-grabbing exit so far was Twistlock, which was acquired by Palo Alto Networks for $410 million in 2019, but it has also seen exits of its portfolio companies to Microsoft, Proofpoint, CA Technologies and Walmart, among others. The fund participated in Axonius’ $4 million seed round in 2017 up to its $58 Million Series C round a year ago.

It seems like YL Ventures is taking a very pragmatic approach here. It doesn’t specialize in late-stage firms — and until recently, Israeli startups always tended to sell long before they got to a late-stage round anyway. And it can generate a nice — and guaranteed — return for its own investors, too.

“This exit netted $270 million in cash directly to our third fund, which had $75 million total in capital commitments, and this fund still has 6 outstanding portfolio companies remaining,” Yoav Leitersdorf, YL Ventures’ founder and managing partner, told me. “Returning multiple times that fund now with a single exit, with the rest of the portfolio companies still there for the upside is the most responsible — yet highly profitable path — we could have taken for our fund at this time. And all this while diverting our energies and means more towards our seed-stage companies (where our help is more impactful), and at the same time supporting Axonius by enabling it to bring aboard such excellent late-stage investors as ICONIQ and Alkeon – a true win-win-win situation for everyone involved!”

He also noted that this sale achieved a top-decile return for the firm’s limited partners and allows it to focus its resources and attention toward the younger companies in its portfolio.

#adyen, #axonius, #ca-technologies, #companies, #crowdstrike, #datadog, #enterprise, #iconiq, #iconiq-growth, #information-technology, #leader, #management, #managing-partner, #microsoft, #palo-alto-networks, #proofpoint, #tel-aviv, #twistlock, #venture-capital, #walmart, #yl-ventures, #yoav-leitersdorf

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Bank of America is bringing VR instruction to its 4,000 banks

As consumer VR begins to have a moment following years of heavy investment from Facebook and other tech giants, corporate America is similarly beginning to find more utility in the technology, as well.

Bank of America announced today that they’ll be working with Bay Area-based VR startup Strivr to bring more of their workplace training into virtual reality. The financial institution has already used the startup’s tech in a pilot effort with about 400 employees, but a wide-scale rollout means scaling the VR learning platform to more of the company’s 45,000 employees and bringing thousands of VR headsets to its bank branches.

Bank of America exec John Jordan has plenty of ideas of where it will be able to implement the technology most effectively, but is open to experimenting early-on, noting that they’ve developed VR lessons for everything from notary services to fraud detection. Jordan also says that they’re working on more ambitious tasks like helping employees practice empathy with customers dealing with sensitive matters like the death of a relative.

Jordan says the scope of the company’s corporate learning program “The Academy” is largely unmatched among other major companies in the U.S., except perhaps by the employee instruction programs at Walmart, he notes. Walmart has been Strivr’s largest customer since the startup signed the retail behemoth back in 2017 to bring VR instruction to their 200 “Walmart Academy” instruction centers and all Walmart stores.

Virtual reality is a technology that lends itself to capturing undivided attention, something that is undoubtedly positive for increasing learning retention, which Jordan says was one of the central appeals for adopting the tech. For Bank of America, VR offers a platform change to reexamine some of the pitfalls of conventional corporate learning. At the same time, they acknowledge that the tech isn’t a silver bullet and that are plenty of best practices for VR that are still unknowns.

“We’re just taking it slow to be honest,” Jordan says. “We already feel pretty great about how we’ve made investments, but we view this as a way to get better.”

Enterprise VR startups have seen varying levels of success over the years as they’ve aimed to find paying customers that can tolerate the limitations of the technology while buying in on the broader vision. Strivr has raised over $51 million, including a $30 million Series B last year, as it has aimed to become a leader in the workplace training space. CEO Derek Belch tells TechCrunch that the company has big plans as it looks towards raising more funding and works to build out its software toolsets to help simplify VR content creation for its partners.

 

 

#america, #bank, #bank-of-america, #ceo, #facebook, #leader, #retailers, #strivr, #tc, #united-states, #virtual-reality, #vr, #walmart

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Brandwatch is acquired by Cision for $450M, creating a PR, marketing and social listening giant

Online consumer intelligence and social media listening platform Brandwatch has been acquired by Cision, best known for its media monitoring and media contact database services, for $450 million, in a combined cash and shares deal. TechCrunch understands Brandwatch’s key executive team will be staying on. The move combines two large players to offer a broad range of services from PR to marketing and online customer engagement. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter of 2021.

Cision has a media contact database of approximately 1 million journalists and media outlets and claims to have over 75,000 customers. Brandwatch applies AI and machine learning the practice known as ‘social listening’.

Along the way, Brandwatch raised a total of around $65 million. It was Series A-funded by Nauta Capital, followed by Highland Europe and then Partech.

IN a statement, Giles Palmer, founder, and CEO of Brandwatch said: “We have always built Brandwatch with ambition… Now is the time to take the next step – joining a company of significant scale to create a business and a suite of products that can have an important global impact.”

Abel Clark, CEO of Cision said: “The continued digital shift and widespread adoption of social media is rapidly and fundamentally changing how brands and organizations engage with their customers. This is driving the imperative that PR, marketing, social, and customer care teams fully incorporate the unique insights now available into consumer-led strategies. Together, Cision and Brandwatch will help our clients to more deeply understand, connect and engage with their customers at scale across every channel.”

Brandwatch has been on an almost case-study of a journey from fundraising to acquisition to a merger, but less characteristically for a well-funded tech company, it did much of it from its home-town of Brighton, on the southern coast of England.

The financing journey began for Giles Palmer, with Angel funding in 2006. In 2010 Brandwatch raised $1.5m from Durrants, a marketing and PR firm, and Nauta Capital. In 2014 it raised $22 million in funding in a Series B round led by Highland Capital. That was followed by a $33M Series C financing led by Partech Ventures in 2015.

With the war chest, it went on to acquire BuzzSumo in 2017, a content marketing and influencer identification platform, for an undisclosed sum. And in 2019 Brandwatch merged with a similar business, Crimson Hexagon, creating a business with around $100 million in ARR. It also acquired the London-based SaaS research platform Qriously.

Brandwatch was recently named a leader in Forrester’s guide for buyers of social listening solutions.

#artificial-intelligence, #brandwatch, #business, #buzzsumo, #ceo, #cision, #communication, #content-marketing, #crimson-hexagon, #europe, #executive, #highland-capital, #highland-europe, #leader, #london, #machine-learning, #marketing, #media-monitoring, #nauta-capital, #partech-ventures, #saas, #social-media, #tc

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UpEquity raises $25 million in equity and debt for its cash-pay mortgage lending service

With a stated goal of aligning the mortgage industry with consumer interests, Austin-based UpEquity has raised $25 million in equity and debt funding to expand its business.

Chief executive Tim Herman started the mortgage lending company to take advantage of what he saw as inefficiencies in the $2 trillion U.S. housing market.

Existing financial services and property technology companies treat the symptom and not the cause of market inefficiencies, said Herman.

The company makes free cash offers but charges 2.5% on the loans it makes to homebuyers to give them the cash they need to make an offer before having to go through the traditional process of taking out a home loan through a bank. Then the homeowners can make payments directly to UpEquity to pay off the mortgage on the house.

“Our cash offer works like a guarantee that during the escrow period we will be able to get the mortgage in place,” Herman said.

A U.S. Naval Academy graduate and former fighter pilot, Herman saw real estate as the only avenue to true wealth creation open to him and his family given their years on the road and lack of available investment capital.

After the Navy, Herman went to Harvard Business School and met his co-founder Louis Wilson. It was in Boston while in B-School that the two men started UpEquity.

They since relocated to Austin because of its booming housing market and relatively more relaxed regulatory environment.

Ultimately, the pitch to customers is the ability to make an all-cash offer, which dramatically improves the likelihood of closing on a house. It’s a luxury that roughly 90 percent of Americans can’t afford, Herman said. There’s no downside for selling homeowners, if a purchaser doesn’t end up buying the home then UpEquity owns the house.

Of all of the 300 deals the company has done so far, only two have failed.

That’s why a company like UpEquity can raise $7.5 million in venture and $17.5 million in venture debt to start making loans.

The company’s A round was led by Next Coast Ventures and UpEquity said it would use the money to fund product development that can slash the time-to-close for the real estate agents that act as the company’s sales channel to ten days.

“Our goal is to finally align the mortgage industry with consumer interests,” said UpEquity Co-Founder and CEO Tim Herman. “This funding is validation that consumers, real estate agents and venture investors understand the power of removing friction from the homebuying process, not only for personal advancement, but to attain the American Dream.”

So far the company has expanded its operations from Texas into Colorado, Florida and California, where it has originated $100 million in mortgages in 2020.

“As real estate continues to evolve in the face of limited supply and tight competition, UpEquity is at the helm of PropTech’s growing capabilities,” said Thomas Ball, managing director at Next Coast Ventures. “Most innovation has focused on the front end, but until now, nobody has expedited what happens after the borrower submits an application. UpEquity has the team, talent and technology to not only succeed, but to disrupt and emerge as the leader in the mortgage lending marketplace.”

 

#austin, #bank, #boston, #california, #co-founder, #colorado, #economy, #finance, #financial-services, #florida, #harvard-business-school, #leader, #loans, #money, #mortgage, #navy, #next-coast-ventures, #pilot, #real-estate, #real-estate-agents, #tc, #texas, #united-states

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Beyond Meat shares soar after inking deal with Taco Bell on new menu items

Shares of Beyond Meat are soaring on news that the company will be working with Taco Bell on new menu items.

The company’s stock was up $17.13, or 13.67%, to $142.48 and climbing in midday trading after Taco Bell announced that it would embrace Beyond Meat to come up with new menu items due to be tested in the next year.

The decision from Taco Bell, a subsidiary of Yum Brands, is a departure from the Mexican fast food chain’s commitment to go it alone as it developed new vegetarian menu items.

“We’ve looked. We’ve met with Beyond, we’ve met with Impossible — our head of innovation knows everybody, and they all know her,” Julie Felss Masino, Taco Bell’s president of North American operations, told CNBC back in 2019. “But I think what we’re proud of is that we’ve been doing vegetarian for 57 years.”

Now the company wants más alternative proteins from the Southern California alternative protein provider. “We have long been a leader in the vegetarian space, but this year, we have more meatless options in store that vegetarians, veggie-curious and even meat-eaters will love,” said Liz Matthews, Taco Bell’s Global Chief Food Innovation Officer. 

Taco Bell boasts that it already has over 30 vegetarian ingredients on the U.S. menu, but its lack of protein alternatives was noticeable as many of its competitors embraced the meat substitute craze.

#beyond-meat, #fast-food, #food-and-drink, #leader, #president, #taco, #taco-bell, #tc, #united-states, #yum-brands

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MadeiraMadeira, Brazil’s answer to Wayfair and Ikea, is now worth over $1 billion

MadeiraMadeira, the Brazilian answer to Wayfair or Ikea, is now worth $1 billion after raising $190 million in late stage financing from investors led by SoftBank’s Latin American investment fund and the Brazilian public and private investment firm, Dynamo.

An online marketplace specializing in home products, MadeiraMadeira offers roughly 300,000 products so customers can build furnish, renovate and decorate their homes.

Founded in 2009 by Daniel Scandian, Marcelo Scandian and Robson Privado, the company has seen huge tailwinds come from the shift to online shopping in Brazil as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

With stores closed, online shopping in Brazil surged. As Daniel Scandian noted, before the pandemic ecommerce penetration in Brazil was at roughly 7%, that number ballooned to 17% at the height of the pandemic in Brazil and has now stabilized at around 10%.

Combining third party sales with private labeled goods and its own shipping and logistics facilities has meant that MadeiraMadeira can take the best practices from several online retailers and home furnishing stores, Scandian said.

There are more than 10,000 sellers on the MadeiraMadeira platform and roughly 2.5 million stock keeping units. In recent years the company has added showrooms to its mix of retail facilities, where customers can check out merchandise, but complete their orders online.

“That’s the way we can tackle the offline market with a digital mindset,” Scandian said. 

Money from the most recent financing will be used to invest in expanding its logistics capabilities with the addition of new warehouse facilities to expand on its existing ten locations. The company also intends to add same day delivery and the expansion of its private label services.

The new capital, likely the last round before a potential public offering, included previous investors like Flybridge and Monashees along with public-focused investment firms Velt, Brasil Capital and Lakewood.

Early investors like Monashees, Kaszek, Fundo Avila, Endeavour Catalyst and angel backers like Niraj Shah, the founder of Wayfair, and Build.com founder Christian Friedland were instrumental to MadeiraMadeira’s early success, Scandian said.

Based in Curitiba, MadeiraMadeira has over 1300 employees, with the majority of them focused on technology, logistics and product development.

“With this new investment, we are raising our commitment to MadeiraMadeira’s long-term value creation vision as the company consolidates its position as the leader in Latin America’s home goods market. Since our initial investment, MadeiraMadeira’s management team has delivered everything they’ve promised, and our faith in them continues to grow,” said Paulo Passoni, Managing Investment Partner to SoftBank Latin America fund.

#brazil, #companies, #dynamo, #e-commerce, #flybridge, #founder, #ikea, #latin-america, #leader, #online-marketplace, #online-shopping, #partner, #retailers, #softbank, #softbank-group, #tc, #wayfair

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Loadsmart raises $90 million to further consolidate its one-stop freight and logistics platform

Leading on-demand digital freight platform Loadsmart has raised a $90 million Series C funding round, led by funds under management by BlackRock, and co-led by Chromo Invest. The funding will be used to continue to build out its platform to offer even more end-to-end logistics services to its freight customers, and the company says that it will be doing that in part through new collaboration with strategic investor TFI International, a leader in the logistics space, which also participated in this round.

In addition to TFI, the round also saw renewed investment from Maersk, a global oceanic shipping leader and one of Loadsmart’s strategic backers since its Series A round. The company says it has increased its revenues by 250% across 2020, while at the same time managing to keep its operating expenses flat. In a press release announcing the news, the company seemed to take indirect shots at competitors including Uber Freight and Convoy by noting that it has achieved its growth through “organic” means, rather than “by subsidizing its customers’ freight spend” through aggressive pricing.

Loadsmart offers booking for freight transportation across land, rail and through ports, all from a single online portal. It recently added the ability to ship partial truckloads, and it’s consistency brought in new strategic investors deeply involved in all aspects of the industry, including port management and overland shipping, which is likely contributing to its growth through ever-deeper industry insight.

#blackrock, #convoy, #leader, #logistics, #maersk, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc, #transport, #transportation, #uber-freight

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Greece’s Marathon Venture Capital completes first close for Fund II, reaching $47M

Marathon Venture Capital in Athens, Greece has completed the first closing of its second fund, reaching the €40m / $47M mark. Backing the new fund is the European Investment Fund, HDBI, as well as corporates, family offices and HNWIs around the world (plus many Greek founders). It plans to invest in Seed-stage startups from €1m to 1.5m initial tickets for 15-20% of equity.

Team changes include Thaleia Misailidou being promoted to Principal, and Chris Gasteratos is promoted to Associate.

Marathon’s most prominent portfolio company is Netdata, which last year raised a $17 million Series A led by Bain Capital, and later raised another $14m from Bessemer. On the success side, Uber’s pending $1.4B+ acquisition of BMW/Daimler’s mobility group was in part driven by a Marathon-backed startup, Taxibeat, which was earlier acquired by Daimler.

Partners George Tziralis and Panos Papadopoulos tell me the fund is focused generally on enterprise/B2B, plus “Greek founders, anywhere”.

Highlights of Fund One’s investments include:

  • Netdata (leading infra monitoring OSS, backed by Bessemer & Bain)
  • Lenses (leader in DataOps, backed by 83North)
  • Hack The Box (cybersecurity adversarial training labs)
  • Learnworlds (business-in-a-box for course creators)
  • Causaly (cause-and-effect discovery in pharma)
  • Augmenta (autonomous precision agriculture)

Tziralis tells me the majority of its next ten companies have already raised a Series A round.

Tziralis and Papadopoulos have been key players in the Greek startups scene, backing many of the first startups to emerge from the country over 13 years ago. And they were enthusiastic backers of our TechCrunch Athens meetup many years ago.

Three years ago, they launched Marathon Venture Capital to take their efforts to the next level. Fund I invested in 10 companies with the first fund, and most have raised a Series A. The portfolio as a whole has raised 4x their total invested amount and maintains an estimated total enterprise value of $350 million.

They’ve also been running the “Greeks in Tech” meetups all over the world – Berlin to London to New York to San Francisco, and many more locations in between, connecting with Greek founders.

#bain-capital, #berlin, #bmw, #daimler, #europe, #european-investment-fund, #finance, #george-tziralis, #greece, #investment, #leader, #london, #mitt-romney, #mobility, #money, #new-york, #panos-papadopoulos, #san-francisco, #taxibeat, #tc, #uber, #venture-capital

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Bob Iger goes from managing Mickey to directing a milk replacement startup as new Perfect Day boardmember

Bob Iger, the chairman and former chief executive at Walt Disney is trading his mouse ears for milk substitutes as the new director of massively funded dairy replacement startup Perfect Day.

Milk substitutes are a $1 trillion category and Perfect Day is angling to be the leader in the market. Iger’s ascension to a director position at the company just affirms that Perfect Day is a big business in the big business of making milk replacements.

Unlike almond milk or soy milk companies, Perfect Day is angling to be a direct replacement for bovine dairy using a protein cultivated from mushrooms.

The move comes as Perfect Day ramps up its development of consumer products on its own and through investments in startups like the Urgent Company. That’s the consumer food company Perfect Day backed to commercialize technologies and create more sustainable food brands.

For Iger, the Perfect Day board represents the first new board seat the longtime entertainment powerbroker has taken since he left Apple.

“Innovation and leadership are both key to world changing ideas,” said Iger, in a statement. “Perfect Day has established both innovation in its use of technology and novel approach to fighting climate change, and clear leadership in building a category with a multi-year head start in the industry they’re helping to build. I’m thrilled to join at this pivotal moment and support the company’s swift growth into new categories and markets.”

Iger joins Perfect Day’s co-founders Ryan Pandya and Perumal Gandhi, and representatives from the company’s international backers and lead investors, Aftab Mathur, from Temasek Holdings, and Patrick Zhang, of Horizons Ventures.

Until yesterday, Perfect Day was the most well-capitalized protein fermentation company focused on dairy in the world. That’s when Impossible Foods, the alternative meat manufacturer which has raised $1.5 billion from investors, unveiled that it, too, was working on a dairy product.

Perfect Day, by contrast, has raised $360 million in total funding to-date.

“We’re thrilled to have Bob Iger join our team, and are confident his tenured operational expertise and visionary leadership style will further help us scale our ambitions,” said Ryan Pandya, the chief executive and co-founder of Perfect Day, in a statement. “We’re focused on rapid commercialization in the U.S. and globally. But we know we can’t do it alone. That’s why we’re excited and humbled to have a proven leader like Bob to help us thoughtfully transform our purpose-driven aspirations into tangible and sustainable impact.”

#bob-iger, #chairman, #consumer-products, #director, #drinks, #food-and-drink, #horizons-ventures, #iger, #impossible-foods, #leader, #milk, #perfect-day, #perumal-gandhi, #ryan-pandya, #tc, #temasek-holdings, #the-walt-disney-company, #united-states, #urgent-company, #walt-disney

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The Justice Department has filed its antitrust lawsuit against Google

The Justice Department said it has filed its long-awaited antitrust lawsuit against Google, confirming an earlier report from The Wall Street Journal.

In the suit, the Justice Department is expected to argue that Google used anticompetitive practices to safeguard its monopoly position as the dominant force in search and search-advertising, which sit at the foundation of the company’s extensive advertising, data mining, video distribution, and information services conglomerate.

It would be the first significant legal challenge that Google has faced from U.S. regulators despite years of investigations into the company’s practices.

A 2012 attempt to bring the company to the courts to answer for anti-competitive practices was ultimately scuttled because regulators at the time weren’t sure they could make the case stick. Since that time Alphabet’s value has skyrocketed to reach over $1 trillion (as of today’s share price).

Alphabet, Google’s parent company, holds a commanding lead in both search and video. The company dominates the search market — with roughly 90% of the world’s internet searches conducted on its platform — and roughly three quarters of American adults turn to YouTube for video, as the Journal reported.

In the lawsuit, the Department of Justice will say that Alphabet’s Google subsidiary uses a web of exclusionary business agreements to shut out competitors. The billions of dollars that the search giant collects wind up paying mobile phone companies, carriers and browsers to make the Google search engine a preset default. That blocks competitors from being able to access the kinds of queries and traffic they’d need to refine their own search engine.

It will be those relationships — alongside Google’s insistence that its search engine come pre-loaded (and un-deletable) on phones using the Android operating system and that other search engines specifically not be pre-loaded — that form part of the government’s case, according to Justice Department officials cited by the Journal.

The antitrust suit comes on the heels of a number of other regulatory actions involving Google, which is not only the dominant online search provider, but also a leader in online advertising and in mobile technology by way of Android, as well as a strong player in a web of other interconnected services like mapping, online productivity software, cloud computing and more.

MOUNTAIN VIEW, UNITED STATES – 2020/02/23: American multinational technology company Google logo seen at Google campus. (Photo by Alex Tai/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

A report last Friday in Politico noted that Democrat Attorneys General would not be signing the suit. That report said those AGs have instead been working on a bipartisan, state-led approach covering a wider number of issues beyond search — the idea being also that more suits gives government potentially a stronger bargaining position against the tech giant.

A third suit is being put together by the state of Texas, although that has faced its own issues.

While a number of tech leviathans are facing increasing scrutiny from Washington, with the US now just two weeks from Election Day, it’s unlikely that we are going to see many developments around this and other cases before then. And in the case of this specific Google suit, in the event that Trump doesn’t get re-elected, there will also be a larger personnel shift at the DoJ that could also change the profile and timescale of the case.

In any event, fighting these regulatory cases is always a long, drawn-out process. In Europe, Google has faced a series of fines over antitrust violations stretching back several years, including a $2.7 billion fine over Google shopping; a $5 billion fine over Android dominance; and a $1.7 billion fine over search ad brokering. While Goolge slowly works through appeals, there are also more cases ongoing against the company in Europe and elsewhere.

Google is not the only one catching the attention of Washington. Earlier in October, the House Judiciary Committee released a report of more than 400 pages in which it outlined how tech giants Apple, Amazon, Alphabet (Google’s parent company) and Facebook were abusing their power, covering everything from the areas in which they dominate, through to suggestions for how to fix the situation (including curtailing their acquisitions strategy).

That seemed mainly to be an exercise in laying out the state of things, which could in turn be used to inform further actions, although in itself, unlike the DoJ suit, the House report lacks teeth in terms of enforcement or remedies.

#alphabet, #amazon, #android, #apple, #big-tech, #europe, #facebook, #google, #google-campus, #leader, #mobile-technology, #online-advertising, #online-search, #operating-system, #operating-systems, #search-advertising, #search-engine, #tc, #texas, #trump, #united-states

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Jesus, SaaS and digital tithing

There are more than 300,000 congregations in the U.S., and entrepreneurs are creating billion-dollar companies by building software to service them. Welcome to church tech.

The sector was growing prior to COVID-19, but the pandemic forced many congregations to go entirely online, which rapidly accelerated growth in this space. While many of these companies were bootstrapped, VC dollars are also increasingly flowing in. Unfortunately, it’s hard to come across a lot of resources covering this expanding, unique sector.

Market map

In broad terms, we can split church tech into six categories:

  • church management software (ChMS)
  • digital giving
  • member outreach/messaging
  • streaming/content
  • Bible study
  • website and app building

Horizontal integration is huge in this sector, and nearly all the companies operating in this space fall into several of these categories. Many have expanded through M&A.

The categories

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Combining social shopping rewards and personal finance apps, ex-Snap product gurus launch Meemo

After Wisam Dakka and André Madeira left Snap in 2018 the two longtime product developers and coders cast about for a new app to build. 

Looking around they realized there was no financial product that spoke to the generation of consumers they’d spent the last bit of their professional lives working to build for, so they decided it would be their next project.

“Our insight is that an individual’s relationship with money is a delicate and an emotional one. Most financial apps are not adopted by the masses because they are strict, lack empathy, and are unconsciously perceived as judgmental, which is why they are often downloaded and then ignored,” said Madeira, in a statement. 

Their solution, launching today, is Meemo .

It’s a combination of a personal financial monitoring, rewards and gifting, and social shopping app all rolled into one.

“One of the things we learned at snap if you want to reach the masses you need to change how you create an app. It has to be effortlessly,” said Madeira. “It has to be automatic and social as well so we want to build an app that is all of that combined.”

Once a user downloads Meemo and connects their main bank account or credit card to the app, Meemo will give that person insights into their spending history and potential rewards.

For most users, the initial experience will be through a gift card. Gifting, it turns out is what Dakka and Madeira think will be the secret sauce for the company’s growth (although getting people to use something if they’re being given money or free stuff is hardly rocket science).

There’s also the social element which the two men think will be a draw as well. Meemo provides recommendations and social validation from friends by harvesting their buying history and sharing it with you.

Once a user downloads Meemo and has the history of their transactions, the app will surface the places where user’s spend the most money. They can then send gift cards to their friends for their favorite restaurants. The goal, eventually, is to get restaurants to subsidize the gifting portion and have their shoppers act as a direct marketing channel.

Shops won’t be able to see who’s getting the gifts until they come into the store. What Meemo hopes to do is gather a profile of a user’s shopping behavior based on their purchases and offer them discounts to places that they may not frequent as often, but match their consumer profile.

Backing the company are investors including Saama Capital, Greycroft, monashees, and Sierra Ventures along with individual investors Amit Singhal, Hans Tung, and serial entrepreneurs and the co-founders’ colleagues from Google and Snap.

Madeira and Dakka first met working on Google Search and went on to found Snap’s San Francisco office. And the team is rounded out by long-time friends like Robson Araújo and Ranveer Kunal.

“We are very excited to back Dakka and Madeira in their creation of a new age finance app at Meemo that will combine improved financial management with deeper social engagement for today’s generation”, said Ash Lilani, Managing Partner at Saama Capital, in a statement. “With Dakka and Madeira’s past experience of assembling talented teams and building viral products, we believe Meemo has an opportunity to become a leader in this space”. 

The company’s name is taken from a Portuguese word “mimo”, which means an affectionate treat, according to a statement. It’s available to download on iOS and Android.

 

#amit-singhal, #california, #companies, #financial-services, #google, #hans-tung, #leader, #managing-partner, #meemo, #secret, #sierra-ventures, #snap-inc, #tc

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SUSE acquires Kubernetes management platform Rancher Labs

SUSE, which describes itself as ‘the world’s largest independent open source company,’ today announced that it has acquired Rancher Labs, a company that has long focused on making it easier for enterprises to make their container clusters.

The two companies did not disclose the price of the acquisition, but Rancher was well funded, with a total of $95 million in investments. It’s also worth mentioning that it’s only been a few months since the company announced its $40 million Series D round led by Telstra Ventures. Other investors include the likes of Mayfield and Nexus Venture Partners, GRC SinoGreen and F&G Ventures.

Like similar companies, Rancher’s original focus was first on Docker infrastructure before it pivoted to putting its emphasis on Kubernetes once that became the de facto standard for container orchestration. Unsurprisingly, this is also why SUSE is now acquiring this company. After a number of ups and downs — and various ownership changes — SUSE has now found its footing again and today’s acquisition shows that its aiming to capitalize on its current strengths.

Just last month, the company reported that the annual contract value of its booking increased by 30% year over year and that it saw a 63% increase in customer deals worth more than $1 million in the last quarter, with its cloud revenue growing 70%. While it is still in the Linux distribution business that the company was founded on, today’s SUSE is a very different company, offering various enterprise platforms (including its Cloud Foundry-based Cloud Application Platform), solutions and services. And while it already offered a Kubernetes-based container platform, Rancher’s expertise will only help it to build out this business.

“This is an incredible moment for our industry, as two open source leaders are joining forces. The merger of a leader in Enterprise Linux, Edge Computing and AI with a leader in Enterprise Kubernetes Management will disrupt the market to help customers accelerate their digital transformation journeys,” said SUSE CEO Melissa Di Donato in today’s announcement. “Only the combination of SUSE and Rancher will have the depth of a globally supported and 100% true open source portfolio, including cloud native technologies, to help our customers seamlessly innovate across their business from the edge to the core to the cloud.”

The company describes today’s acquisition as the first step in its ‘inorganic growth strategy’ and Di Donato notes that this acquisition will allow the company to “play an even more strategic role with cloud service providers, independent hardware vendors, systems integrators and value-added resellers who are eager to provide greater customer experiences.”

#artificial-intelligence, #ceo, #cloud-computing, #cloud-infrastructure, #computing, #enterprise, #free-software, #kubernetes, #leader, #linux, #nexus-venture-partners, #rancher-labs, #software, #suse, #telstra-ventures

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Join us June 17 for a live discussion on COVID-19 contact tracing and safe reopening strategies

Contact tracing is a practice almost as old as epidemiology itself, but today’s technology means the way that we go about tracking the spread of a contagious illness within and between communities is changing very quickly. This presents an opportunity for learning more about the opportunities and challenges presented in extending contact tracing and exposure notification via digital means, especially as contact tracing is likely a key ingredient in any successful reopening of economy in light of ongoing challenges posed by COVID-19.

To that end, we’re happy to be working with the COVID-19 Technology Task Force, as well as Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center, NYU’s Alliance for Public Interest Technology, Betaworks Studios and Hangar. We’ll be playing host on TC to their live-streamed discussion (embedded above) around contact-tracing and exposure-notification efforts, as well as how and when businesses can safely reopen, and what tools can help them to do so. The day’s events will include panel chats and software demonstrations, beginning at 11 AM EDT (8 AM PDT) on Wednesday, June 17.

Below, we’ve included an agenda of the confirmed speakers and demonstrations for the day, and in case you missed it, here’s a roundup of demonstrations of contact tracing and app demonstrations built by a number of companies thus far. RSVP for tomorrow’s free event here.

Agenda

I. Contact Tracing [11AM – 12:30PM EDT]

Contact tracing: what it is, how it works, how tech can help [11:00 – 11:45AM EDT]

Using technology to enable scaled contact tracing [11:45AM – 12:05PM EDT]

Contact tracing considerations for state and city government [12:05 – 12:30PM EDT]

II. Reopening Businesses Safely [12:30-2:00PM EDT]

Reopening businesses safely [12:30-1:15PM EDT]

Demos of tools business leaders can use to help reopen safely [1:15-2:00PM EDT]

Speakers

Margaret Bourdeaux, MD, MPH, is the policy liaison for Partners in Health COVID-19 Contact Tracing Program, and holds appointments at Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

Daniel Burka is supporting New York State’s COVID-19 response efforts through Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies, a global health initiative led by former CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden.

Mike Flowers is leading implementation for contact tracing technology and data strategy for the State of New Jersey as a Senior Fellow with the NJ Office of Innovation. Over the last 25 years he has worked in data intelligence with companies and federal, state and local governments, including as New York City’s first Chief Analytics Officer under Mayor Mike Bloomberg

Mary L. Gray is a senior principal researcher at Microsoft Research and an Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics Fellow at Harvard University.

Jonathan Jackson is the founder and CEO at Dimagi, a social enterprise that develops innovative technology solutions for front-line workforces and underserved populations. They have an extensive background in global health and are a leader in mobile health data collection.

Irina Krechmer is the Chief Technology Officer at Blue Apron, the premier meal-kit company whose mission is to make incredible home cooking accessible to everyone. Before joining Blue Apron, Krechmer most recently served as VP of Engineering at XO Group Inc., the premier technology company with industry-leading digital brands, including The Knot, The Bump, The Nest and GigMasters. Krechmer has over 20 years of experience designing, developing and implementing customer-focused technology solutions, primarily at e-commerce, media and consumer technology companies.

Andrew McLaughlin is helping lead the Task Force’s contact tracing/exposure notification initiative. Andrew is the Chairman of Access Now, the Former Deputy U.S. CTO for the White House, and the Former Director of Global Public Policy at Google.

Andy Moss is currently a Visiting Professor at NYU Tandon teaching entrepreneurship and innovation, as well developing the COR Methodology. He’s an active advisor/mentor to startups and business leaders, and a former Microsoft executive.

Chelsea Raiten is Of Counsel at Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian, LLP. Her practice primarily focuses on providing strategic advice and counseling to employers on all aspects of the employment relationship, including hiring and firing practices, layoffs and RIF’s, wage and hour laws, reasonable accommodation, leaves of absence, employee discipline, restrictive covenants, and workplace policies and procedures.

Harper Reed is helping lead the Task Force’s contact-tracing/exposure-notification initiative. Harper is a Director’s Fellow at the MIT Media Lab, a Senior Fellow at the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab and was the CTO of Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.

Mona Sloane is an NYU-based sociologist working on inequality in the context of AI design and policy. At NYU, she helps form NYU’s Alliance for Public Interest Technology, and is Co-Principal Investigator on the COVID-19 Tech Project. Mona also leads the project Terra Incognita: Mapping NYC’s New Digital Public Spaces in the COVID-19 Outbreak.

Connor Spelliscy is Director of New Platforms at Hangar, a partner at Connectivity Fund, and helps lead COVID-19 Tech Task Force initiatives.

Minerva Tantoco has served in senior technology roles at Palm, Merrill Lynch, and UBS, holds four US patents on intelligent workflow, and served as New York City’s first-ever Chief Technology Officer. Most recently, Tantoco co-founded Grasshopper Bank, an OCC-chartered digital de novo commercial bank, and is currently a consultant and speaker on AI, smart cities, digital transformation, and equity in tech.

Randall Thomas is assisting Resolve to Save Lives and other stakeholders with the New York State response to COVID-19. Randall is the CTO of Geometer, a technology incubator.

Jonathan Zittrain is a professor of law and computer science, and co-founder of Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. Jonathan’s work focuses on topics including control of digital property, privacy frameworks and the roles of intermediaries in internet architecture.

Dr. Margaret (Peggy) Hamburg is the Foreign Secretary of the National Academy of Medicine (NAM). Dr. Hamburg previously held the post of Commissioner of the United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) and served as Commissioner of Health for the City of New York.

#advisor, #andrew-mclaughlin, #articles, #artificial-intelligence, #bank, #barack-obama, #ceo, #chairman, #chief-technology-officer, #co-founder, #contact-tracing, #cto, #daniel-burka, #director, #e-commerce, #executive, #franklin, #google, #harper-reed, #harvard-university, #jonathan-zittrain, #leader, #mayor, #microsoft, #microsoft-research, #minerva-tantoco, #mit-media-lab, #new-jersey, #new-york-city, #new-york-university, #nyu, #palm, #partner, #public-health, #tc, #technology, #ubs, #united-states, #white-house

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Smart glass manufacturer Click Materials inks major deal to challenge $1 billion-backed View Inc.

Click Materials, a Vancouver-based developer of “smart glass” has inked a major partnership with one fo the largest manufacturers of windows for the home, Cardinal Glass, as it looks to challenge the billion dollar-backed View Inc.

Founded in 2016 by a University of British Columbia professor, Curtis Berlinguette, Click Materials has raised only a few hundred thousand dollars in seed funding. But the technology that Berlinguette’s company is developing could provide a lower-cost more flexible option to traditional photochromatic deposition — which can be applied to plastic as well as glass.

Smart glass gets its name from the coatings that are applied to transparent surfaces (typically glass) that allow users to customize the tint of the surface between clear and dark states. The result is more control over heat and light levels in an environment. It turns out that exposure to sunlight has implications for mental health and can enable dramatic cost savings in heating and cooling for any built environment.

Click Materials claims that its windows can reduce heating and cooling costs by up to fifty percent and that it can achieve those reductions while slashing manufacturing costs by as much as sixty percent.

Through the partnership with Cardinal Glass, Click will be building out a pilot plant that could give the upstart company manufacturing capacity to reach nearly $25 million in annual revenue, according to founder and chief executive, Curtis Berlinguette.

A typical plant of that size could cost at least $10 million, according to industry experts, but Click’s process — leveraging automation and existing manufacturing lines — means that a pilot can be built for a fraction of that cost, according to industry insiders.

“The first pilot plant is to prove out the product and get it refined,” says Berlinguette. And the company has other potential partnerships lined up to take its smart window products into commercial real estate and even auto manufacturing, Berlinguette said.  

The company has scaled from one employee as recently as a year ago to a staff of ten now with plans to add another 15 employees by the end of the year.

Image courgesy of Click Materials

While smart glass may seem like an odd investment thesis, the technology has received attention from a diverse array of investors. SoftBank’s Vision Fund is a major investor in the market through View Inc., which has raised roughly $1.8 billion in funding, according to Crunchbase. Another big player in the world of smart glass technologies is the multi-billion dollar French industrial conglomerate Saint-Gobain, which bought Sage Electrochromics back in 2012.

“Both of those companies have cleared a path for us because they’ve educated the market,” said Berlinguette. “The way they make their products — even with economies of scale you won’t be able to bring the cost of making those windows down to a level that’s accessible for the residential market. Those products are two to three times too expensive for the residential sector.”

Cardinal, a longtime leader in residential glass manufacturing and construction, was impressed with the new process that Click had developed, according to a statement from the company.

“Click Material’s proprietary deposition method enables uniform, optically-pure coatings that can be sprayed at ambient conditions and has the potential to disrupt the electrochromic window industry in the residential market and beyond,” said Keith Burrows, Technology Scouting & IP Manager at Cardinal Glass.

The potential to revolutionize design using smart glass extend far beyond the residential market, according to Berlinguette. Indeed, one of the areas where the company’s technology could have a significant impact is in the design of electric vehicles.

Heating and cooling can significantly reduce the range of electric vehicles, and the use of smart glass can, conceivably, increase efficiency significantly, Berlinguette said.

“As consumer appetite to bring smart technologies into the home grows, Click is delivering innovative advancements to window technology that will truly transform the way we experience our connected homes in the future,” said Berlinguette, in a statement. “The opportunities here are immense; heating, cooling and lighting account for 35% of home energy consumption, half of which can be lost through windows. Studies have also shown that greater control over lighting can dramatically improve energy, mood and personal well-being. Our partnership with Cardinal Glass is a massive leap towards bringing the future of windows into the present, with just one Click.”

#energy, #glass, #leader, #materials, #matter, #real-estate, #smart-glass, #smart-technologies, #softbank, #tc, #vancouver, #windows

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Africa Roundup: Africa’s tech ecosystem responds to COVID-19

In March, the virus gripping the world — COVID-19 — started to spread in Africa. In short order, actors across the continent’s tech ecosystem began to step up to stem the spread.

Early in March Africa’s coronavirus cases by country were in the single digits, but by mid-month those numbers had spiked leading the World Health Organization to sound an alarm.

“About 10 days ago we had 5 countries affected, now we’ve got 30,” WHO Regional Director Dr Matshidiso Moeti said at a press conference on March 19. “It’s has been an extremely rapid…evolution.” 

By the World Health Organization’s stats Tuesday there were 3671 COVID-19 cases in Sub-Saharan Africa and 87 confirmed deaths related to the virus — up from 463 cases and 8 deaths on March 18.

As the COVID-19 began to grow in major economies, governments and startups in Africa started measures to shift a greater volume of transactions toward digital payments and away from cash — which the World Health Organization flagged as a conduit for the spread of the coronavirus.

Africa’s leader in digital payment adoption — Kenya — turned to mobile-money as a public-health tool.

At the urging of the Central Bank and President Uhuru Kenyatta, the country’s largest telecom, Safaricom, implemented a fee-waiver on East Africa’s leading mobile-money product, M-Pesa, to reduce the physical exchange of currency.

The company announced that all person-to-person (P2P) transactions under 1,000 Kenyan Schillings (≈ $10) would be free for three months.

Kenya has one of the highest rates of digital finance adoption in the world — largely due to the dominance of M-Pesa  in the country — with 32 million of its 53 million population subscribed to mobile-money accounts, according to Kenya’s Communications Authority.

On March 20, Ghana’s central bank directed mobile money providers to waive fees on transactions of GH₵100 (≈ $18), with restrictions on transactions to withdraw cash from mobile-wallets.

Ghana’s monetary body also eased KYC requirements on mobile-money, allowing citizens to use existing mobile phone registrations to open accounts with the major digital payment providers, according to a March 18 Bank of Ghana release.

Growth in COVID-19 cases in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation of 200 million, prompted one of the country’s largest digital payments startups to act.

Lagos based venture Paga made fee adjustments, allowing merchants to accept payments from Paga customers for free — a measure “aimed to help slow the spread of the coronavirus by reducing cash handling in Nigeria,” according to a company release.

In March, Africa’s largest innovation incubator, CcHub, announced funding and engineering support to tech projects aimed at curbing COVID-19 and its social and economic impact.

The Lagos and Nairobi based organization posted an open application on its website to provide $5,000 to $100,000 funding blocks to companies with COVID-19 related projects.

CcHub’s CEO Bosun Tijani expressed concern for Africa’s ability to combat a coronavirus outbreak. “Quite a number of African countries, if they get to the level of Italy or the UK, I don’t think the system… is resilient enough to provide support to something like that,” Tijani said.

Cape Town based crowdsolving startup Zindi — that uses AI and machine learning to tackle complex problems — opened a challenge to the 12,000 registered engineers on its platform.

The competition, sponsored by AI4D, tasks scientists to create models that can use data to predict the global spread of COVID-19 over the next three months. The challenge is open until April 19, solutions will be evaluated against future numbers and the winner will receive $5,000.

Zindi will also sponsor a hackathon in April to find solutions to coronavirus related problems.

Image Credits: Sam Masikini via Zindi

On the digital retail front, Pan-African e-commerce company Jumia announced measures it would take on its network to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The Nigeria headquartered operation — with online goods and services verticals in 11 African countries — said it would donate certified face masks to health ministries in Kenya, Ivory Coast, Morocco, Nigeria and Uganda, drawing on its supply networks outside Africa.

The company has also offered African governments use of of its last-mile delivery network for distribution of supplies to healthcare facilities and workers.

Jumia is reviewing additional assets it can offer the public sector. “If governments find it helpful we’re willing to do it,” CEO Sacha Poignonnec told TechCrunch.

More Africa-related stories @TechCrunch

African tech around the ‘net

#africa, #articles, #artificial-intelligence, #bank, #bosun-tijani, #broadband, #ceo, #coronavirus, #e-commerce, #east-africa, #economy, #ghana, #italy, #jumia, #kenya, #lagos, #leader, #m-pesa, #machine-learning, #mobile-payment, #mobile-phone, #morocco, #nairobi, #nigeria, #p2p, #president, #sacha-poignonnec, #safaricom, #tc, #telecommunications, #uganda, #united-kingdom, #vodafone, #world-health-organization

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