Descendants of soldiers are holding rededication ceremonies in Europe to honor their ancestors’ Jewish heritage.
For nearly a decade, sanctions have been little more than names on a list for wealthy Russians. Governments are working to give them bite.
Sorry Mr. Putin, but there’s a race on for Russian and Eastern European founders. And right now, those awful capitalists in the corrupt West are starting to out-gun the opposition! But seriously… only the other day a $100 million fund aimed at Russian speaking entrepreneurs appeared, and others are proliferating.
Now, London-based Untitled Ventures plans to join their fray with a €100 million / $118M for its second fund to invest in “ambitious deep tech startups with eastern European founders.”
Untitled says it is aiming at entrepreneurs who are looking to relocate their business or have already HQ’ed in Western Europe and the USA. That’s alongside all the other existing Western VCs who are – in my experience – always ready and willing to listen to Russian and Eastern European founders, who are often known for their technical prowess.
Untitled is going to be aiming at B2B, AI, agritech, medtech, robotics, and data management startups with proven traction emerging from the Baltics, CEE, and CIS, or those already established in Western Europe
LPs in the fund include Vladimir Vedeenev, a founder of Global Network Management>. Untitled also claims to have Google, Telegram Messenger, Facebook, Twitch, DigitalOcean, IP-Only, CenturyLinks, Vodafone and TelecomItaly as partners.
Oskar Stachowiak, Untitled Ventures Managing Partner, said: “With over 10 unicorns, €1Bn venture funding in 2020 alone, and success stories like Veeam, Semrush, and Wrike, startups emerging from the fast-growing regions are the best choice to focus on early-stage investment for us. Thanks to the strong STEM focus in the education system and about one million high-skilled developers, we have an ample opportunity to find and support the rising stars in the region.”
Konstantin Siniushin, the Untitled Ventures MP said: “We believe in economic efficiency and at the same time we fulfill a social mission of bringing technological projects with a large scientific component from the economically unstable countries of the former USSR, such as, first of all, Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, but not only in terms of bringing sales to the world market and not only helping them to HQ in Europe so they can get next rounds of investments.”
He added: “We have a great experience accumulated earlier in the first portfolio of the first fund, not just structuring business in such European countries as, for example, Luxembourg, Germany, Great Britain, Portugal, Cyprus and Latvia, but also physically relocating startup teams so that they are perceived already as fully resident in Europe and globally.”
To be fair, it is still harder than it needs to be to create large startups from Eastern Europe, mainly because there is often very little local capital. However, that is changing, with the launch recently of CEE funds such as Vitosha Venture Partners and Launchub Ventures, and the breakout hit from Romania that was UIPath.
The Untitled Ventures team:
• Konstantin Siniushin, a serial tech entrepreneur
• Oskar Stachowiak, experienced fund manager
• Mary Glazkova, PR & Comms veteran
• Anton Antich, early stage investor and an ex VP of Veeam, a Swiss cloud data management company
acquired by Insight Venture Partners for $5bln
• Yulia Druzhnikova, experienced in taking tech companies international
• Mark Cowley, who has worked on private and listed investments within CEE/Russia for over 20 years
Untitled Ventures portfolio highlights – Fund I
• Sizolution: AI-driven size prediction engine, based in Germany
• Pure app – spontaneous and impersonal dating app, based in Portugal
• Fixar Global – efficient drones for commercial use-cases, based in Latvia,
• E-contenta – based in Poland
• SuitApp – AI based mix-and-match suggestions for fashion retail, based in Singapore
• Sarafan.tech, AI-driven recognition, based in the USA
• Hello, baby – parental assistant, based in the USA
• Voximplant – voice, video and messaging cloud communication platform, based in the USA (exited)
A long running privacy fight between Belgium’s data protection authority and Facebook — over the latter’s use of online trackers like pixels and social plug-ins to snoop on web users — has culminated in a ruling by Europe’s top court today that could have wider significance on how cross-border cases against tech giants are enforced in the region.
The Court of Justice of the European Union has affirmed that, in certain circumstances, national DPAs can pursue action even when they are not the lead data supervisor under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)’s one-stop-shop mechanism (OSS) — opening up the possibility of litigation by watchdogs in Member States which aren’t the lead regulator for a particular company but where the local agency believes there is an urgent need to act.
The OSS was included in the GDPR with the idea of simplifying enforcement for businesses operating in more than one EU market — which would only need to deal directly with one ‘lead’ data protection authority. However the mechanism has been criticized for contributing to a bottleneck effect whereby multiple GDPR complaints are stacking up on the desks of a couple of DPAs (most notably Ireland and Luxembourg) — EU Member States which attract large numbers of multinationals (typically for tax reasons, such as Ireland’s 12.5% corporate tax rate).
Enforcement of the EU’s flagship data protection regime against tech giant has thus been hampered by a perception of ‘forum shopping’ — whereby a handful of EU DPAs have a disproportionately large number of major, cross-border cases to deal with vs the (inevitably limited) resources provided for them by their national governments. The resulting bottleneck looks convenient for those companies that face delayed GDPR enforcement.
Some EU DPAs are also considered more active in enforcement of the bloc’s privacy rules than others — and it’s fair to say that Ireland is not among them. (Albeit, it defends the pace of its investigations and enforcement record by saying that it must do due diligence to ensure decisions stand up to any legal challenges.)
Indeed, Ireland has been criticized for (among other things) the length of time it’s taken to investigate GDPR complaints; for procedural issues (how it’s gone about investigating or indeed not investigating complaints); and for its enforcement record against tech giants — which to date is limited to just one $550k penalty issued against Twitter issued at the end of last year.
The Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) had originally wanted to give Twitter an even lower fine but other EU DPAs disputed its draft decision — forcing it to increase the penalty slightly.
As it stands, scores of cases remain open on the DPC’s desk, including major complaints against Facebook and Google — which are now over three years old.
This has led to calls for the Commission to step in and take action over Ireland’s perceived inaction. Although, for now, the EU’s executive has limited its intervention to a few words urging Ireland to, essentially, hurry up and get on with the job.
Today’s CJEU ruling may alleviate a little of the blockage around GDPR enforcement — in some narrow situations — by enabling national DPAs to take up the baton to litigate over users’ rights when a lead agency isn’t acting on complaints.
However the ruling does not look set to completely unblock the OSS mechanism, per Luca Tosoni, a research fellow at the Norwegian Research Center for Computers and Law at the University of Oslo who has been following the case closely — and whose work was cited by the CJEU’s advocate general in an earlier opinion on the case.
“The Court has essentially confirmed the views that the Advocate General had expressed in his opinion: Under the GDPR’ one-stop-shop system, those data protection authorities that are not the ‘lead authority’ may start enforcement actions against big tech companies only in very limited circumstances, including in case of urgency,” he told TechCrunch.
“However, unfortunately, the Court’s ruling does not elaborate on the criteria to be followed to assess the urgency of an enforcement action. In particular, the Court has not expressly seconded the advocate general’s view that a failure to act promptly from the part of the lead authority may justify the adoption of interim urgent measures by other data protection authorities. Thus, this important point remains partially unclear, and further litigation might be necessary to clarify this issue.
“Therefore, today’s ruling is unlikely to completely settle the ‘Irish issue’.”
Article 56 of the GDPR allows for non-lead DPAs to pursue action at a national level in the case of complaints that relate to an issue that substantially affects only users under their jurisdiction, and where they believe there is a need to act urgently (as a lead authority has not). So it does seem fairly narrow.
One recent example of a non-lead DPA intervention is the Italian DPA’s emergency action against TikTok — related to child safety on the platform after the death of a local girl who had been reported to have participated in a challenge on the platform.
“An authority’s wish to adopt a ‘go-it-alone’ approach… with regard to the (judicial) enforcement of the GDPR, without cooperating with the other authorities, cannot be reconciled with either the letter or the spirit of that regulation,” runs one paragraph of today’s judgement, underlining the court’s view that the GDPR requires careful and balanced joint-working between DPAs.
The ruling does go into some detailed discussion of the “dangers” of under-enforcement of the GDPR — as the concern was raised with the CJEU — but the court takes the view that it’s too soon to say whether such a concern affects the regulation or not.
“If, however, [under-enforcement were to] be evidenced by facts and robust arguments – then I do not believe that the Court would turn a blind eye to any gap which might thereby emerge in the protection of fundamental rights guaranteed by the Charter and their effective enforcement by the competent regulators,” the CJEU goes on. “Whether that would then still be an issue for a Charter-conform interpretation of provisions of secondary law, or an issue of validity of the relevant provisions, or even sections of a secondary law instrument, is a question for another case.”
The ruling, while narrow, may at least unblock the Belgian DPA’s long-running litigation against Facebook’s tracking of non-users via cookies and social plug-ins which was the route for the referral of questions over the scope of the OSS to the CJEU.
Although the court also notes that it will be for a Belgian court to determine whether the DPA’s intervention meets the GDPR’s bar for starting such proceedings or not.
Contacted for comment on the CJEU judgement, Facebook welcomed the ruling.
“We are pleased that the CJEU has upheld the value and principles of the one-stop-shop mechanism, and highlighted its importance in ensuring the efficient and consistent application of GDPR across the EU,” said Jack Gilbert, associate general counsel at Facebook in a statement.
E-bike startup Cowboy has launched the Cowboy 4, its newest generation of urban electric bikes. The bike will come in two different frames, a traditional frame, and a step-through.
The C4 is basically an upgrade on the previous version 3, while the ‘C4 ST’ is a step-through model which the company is predicting will appeal to young people used to city bikes.
The C4 and C4 ST are both priced at £2,290/€2,490 inclusive of mudguards and are available for pre-order with a €100/£100 deposit starting from today cowboy.com, with deliveries starting in September 2021.
Cowboy has raised $46.1M in venture capital and largely extent competes with VanMoof (which raised $61.1M) and Furo Systems (£750K) to a lesser extent. The basic differences between the three are that Cowboy is moving closer to leverage the cloud and apps as its main differentiation, VanMoof tends to built things (like a screen) into the bike (and has an app), and Furo is more about ease of maintenance, and weight.
Cowboy says both bikes feature 50% more torque via their automatic transmission. There are no gears to change, with the engine kicking in as you turn the cranks. The removable battery weighs 2.4kg, giving the bike a range of up to 70km.
The heaviest version of the bikes is 19.2 kg including battery and both will hit 25 km/h (15 mph).
Adrien Roose, Cowboy Co-Founder and CEO said in a statement: “The Cowboy 4 completely redefines life in and around cities. By designing two frame types featuring our first-ever step-through model, an integrated cockpit, and a new app, we are now able to address a much larger audience and cater to many more riders to move freely in and around cities,” he added. “Our mission is to help city dwellers move in a faster, safer and more enjoyable way than any other mode of urban transportation. Be it wandering through the city or staying fit, it’s a reconnection with your senses and a rediscovery of the simple thrill of riding a bike.”
The step-through model is optimized to suit riders 160-190cm in height, while the normal C4 will accommodates riders 170-195cm tall.
Doing a very quick test of the new bikes in a London basketball court and around local streets, I found both bikes to be very nippy on the off and a pleasure to ride. Cowboy is probably right – the step-through version is likely to appeal to a wide variety of riders.
Roose said the bike has been custom-designed. Only the saddle and the carbon belt are made by third-party companies Selle Royal and Gates, respectively. The brake cables are now integrated into the handlebars and stem, brakes and pedals have new angles, and the rear wheel has a ‘dropout’ design.
Cowboy will offer a custom-designed series of accessories starting with a rear rack and kickstand. The C4 and C4 ST will come in Absolute Black, Peyote Green, and Sand Dune, and are available to pre-order now, with deliveries beginning in September. Both models will feature pre-fitted mudguards.
The bikes also now feature a wireless charging mont on the stem featuring a built-in Quad Lock mount to hold the rider’s smartphone and wirelessly charge it via the bike’s internal battery.
Tanguy Goretti, Co-Founder, and VP Software added: “The new Cowboy app [will show] remaining battery range, air quality en route and a wide range of live fitness stats.”
The app also has a new navigation screen, 3D map rendering layout, turn-by-turn directions, air quality index for routes, live fitness data, leaderboard rankings; a new community feature offering the ability to join curated group rides across capital cities in Europe.
Cowboy is also offering a free repair network across Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Austria and Luxembourg; 6 days a week customer support; and a subscription plan operated in partnership with Qover which includes theft detection, theft insurance throughout Europe.
As ESG reporting goes up the agenda for large companies, it’s also increasingly doing so for smaller companies as well. But right now, tracking things like your company’s CO2 emissions is mainly the preserve of large corporations. Now a startup hopes to address this.
Diginex Solutions has a self-guided tool which claims to generate ESG reports six times faster than competitors and comes in at a relatively affordable $99 per month.
The blockchain-enabled reporting tool also generates reports, giving companies the ability to demonstrate their ESG creds.
DiginexESG is certified by the GRI, an international independent standards organization and now operates in the US, UK, Luxembourg, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Chile. It is currently raising venture backing largely from strategic corporate investors.
Competitors include Turnkey Group, NASDAQ Onereport, Enablon (raised $15M) and World-favour.
Mark Blick, CEO at Diginex Solutions said, “The current landscape of ESG reporting is challenging for many organizations – particularly SMEs – requiring huge consultancy fees, time and resources that distracts from day-to-day activity. The DiginexESG platform quite simply takes away those challenges and does all the heavy lifting for them. It’s like Docusign, Dropbox, TurboTax or Slack hardcoded for ESG reporting.”
The e-commerce giant’s European retail business had record sales in 2020, but its headquarters on the continent reported a $1.4 billion loss.
The historical trajectory of venture capital has been to move to earlier and earlier finding rounds in order to capture the greatest potential multiple on exit. In the US, we’ve seen an explosion of Pre-series A funds, and similarly in Europe. But there’s been an opportunity to tie a lot of that activity together and also produce data that can feed into decision-making about growth rounds, further up the funding pipeline. Now, newly-formed Aldea Ventures intends to do just that.
Today’s it’s announcing a €60M first close of its Pan-European fund with the aim of reaching its target €100M first fund. The idea is ambitious: to invest in 700 startups across Europe, but with an unusual, “hybrid” strategy. First up, it will operate as a fund-of-funds, investing in up to 20 early-stage ‘micro VC funds’ across Europe. Second of all, it will act as a co-investment platform from Series A upwards. So far it has invested in London-based Job and Talent and most recently, Copenhagen-based Podimo.
The model is more common in Silicon Valley than in Europe, so Aldea Ventures hopes to capitalize on this trend as one of the earlier players with this strategy. Aldea is also effectively stepping into the gap where corporate VCs in the US would normally fill, but in Europe is generally a gaping hole.
Aldea Ventures is led by managing partners Carlos Trenchs, formerly at Caixa Capital Risc; Alfonso Bassols, previously at Nauta Capital; Josep Duran, formerly with the European Investment Fund; and Gonzalo Rodés, Chairman. Aldea Ventures is partnering with Meridia Capital, a leading Spanish alternative investment fund manager.
Carlos Trenchs, managing partner of Aldea Ventures, said: “We believe Europe will continue to grow in influence and play an integral part in the next decade of technology… Our dual model as a fund of funds and co-investor into scaleups is the first of its kind in Europe. Seen only in Silicon Valley until today, we’re putting this model to work to fuel the next generation of growth across the European ecosystem.”
Aldea will look for five factors to selecting micro VCs: the firm’s thesis (specialist, thematic or generalist); location (pan-European or local); the experience of the partners; the size of the fund, and whether the fund is emerging or established. The fund will also take a long hard look at AI, Blockchain and DeepTech companies.
Trenchs explained to me during an interview that “we will have exposure to seed capital in different geographies with the 700 companies, and we reserve the other half of the fund to invest directly on the growth stage in the best performers in their portfolios.” This, he says, will establish a roadmap from direct investing all the way up to later-stage rounds.
Aldea has so far made investments into six micro VCs; Air Street Capital and Moonfire in London; Helloworld in Luxembourg; Inventures in Munich; Mustard Seed Maze in Lisbon; and Nina Capital in Barcelona.
Nathan Benaich, Founding Partner of Air Street Capital, commented: “Investing in European AI-first companies is a huge opportunity, with almost one-quarter of top global AI talent earning their university degrees here.. Our partnership with Aldea demonstrates a shared conviction that specialist managers with deep sector-specific knowledge will accelerate the success of tomorrow’s category-defining European companies that are AI-first by design.”
There’s clearly also a data play here because Aldea is likely to end up with a lot of data across companies, sectors and also across various stages.
And that was confirmed by Trenchs: “We want to make the VC world more transparent. If you have the 700 companies, in a few years from now, we’ll be able to collect a lot of data about what’s going on at seed stage in European valuations, geographies and sectors. Our intention is of course to use it as intelligence.” He also said the firm intended to share a lot of anonymized data with the wider European ecosystem.
“There is a funnel of few thousands of companies that get funded, but only a few make it through the funnel. As investors, we are looking for venture capitalists that can transform their seed portfolio into a portfolio that graduates from Series A to Series B,” he added.
Nvidia is is going to be powering the world’s fastest AI supercomputer, a new system dubbed ‘Leonardo’ that’s being built by the Italian multi-university consortium CINECA, a global supercomutin leader. The Leonardo system will offer as much as 10 exaflops of FP16 AI performance capabilities, and be made up of more than 14,000 Nvidia Ampere-based GPUS once completed.
Leonardo will be one of four new supercomputers supported by a cross-European effort to advance high-performance computing capabilities in the region, that will eventually offer advanced AI capabilities for processing applications across both science and industry. Nvidia will also be supplying its Mellanox HDR InfiniBand networks to the project in order to enable performance across the clusters with low-latency broadband connections.
The other computes in the cluster include MeluXina in Luxembourg and Vega in Solvevnia, as well as a new supercooling coming online in the Czech Republic. The pan-European consortium also plans four more Supercomputers for Bulgaria, Finland, Portugal and Spain, though those will follow later and specifics around their performance and locations aren’t yet available.
Some applications that CINECA and the other supercomputers will be used for include analyzing genomes and discovering new therapeutic pathways; tackling data from multiple different sources for space exploration and extraterrestrial planetary research; and modelling weather patterns, including extreme weather events.