An estimation of the iconic predator’s total population can teach us things about dinosaurs that fossils cannot.
Corporate training startup Attensi — which originally emerged out of Oslo, Norway — has raised $26 million from New York-based Lugard Road Capital, DX Ventures (a VC fund backed by Delivery Hero), and existing shareholder Viking Venture. The new funding will be used to expand in North America and Europe.
Attensi uses a ‘gamified approach to corporate training, putting employees into 3D simulations of their workplace and work processes. Its competitors include companies like GoSkills, Mindflash SAP Litmos Skilljar.
With the pandemic shifting all office work to remote, digital training platforms like this stand to benefit.
This is also yet another recent example of how US VCs are ‘going hunting’ for startups in Europe, putting pressure on local VCs.
Attensi co-founder and co-CEO, Trond Aas said in a statement: “With gamified simulation training, we have combined the best of workplace psychology with our expertise in simulations and gamification to create a new category of training solutions.”
The company claims it’s experienced a 63% CAGR in annual recurring revenue. Its clients include Daimler Mercedes Benz, Circle K, Equinor, BCG, and ASDA.
Doug Friedman, a partner at Lugard Road Capital, said: “We could not be more excited to be investing in the Attensi team as they work to forever change and improve corporate learning and development through their Attensi solutions.”
Online branded payments now run the gamut of anything from Spotify vouchers, Netflix vouchers, Neosurf, PaySafe cards, and everything in between. Consumers use them to pay for a variety of things. In Europe, they are an increasingly big business. Now, European branded payments company Recharge.com has raised €10m ($11.8m) in a debt funding round led by London-based Kreos Capital, a growth debt provider for high-growth companies. In 2019 the Dutch fintech Creative Group, which owns the Recharge.com and Rapido.com brands, took investment of €22m from Prime Ventures.
Recharge has also appointed Michael Kent – who previously founded payments companies Small World and Azimo, along with UK neobank Tandem – as its non-executive chairman.
Recharge.com says it plans to use the funding to extend its mobile offering, product range, and expand in regions such as North America, Latin America and the GCC. It’s also aiming for sales of €450m in 2021.
Günther Vogelpoel CEO of Recharge.com said in a statement: “We live in a world of instant wish fulfillment, from taxis that appear on demand to same-day delivery of consumer goods. Recharge.com gives customers a fast, safe and simple way to fulfill their wishes, whether that’s an essential remittance or access to digital goods and services.”
Commenting, Kent said: “The era of supermarket gift cards and mobile top-ups is drawing to a close. Branded payments have exploded during the global lockdown as consumers seek digital alternatives to the high street. People are now aware that online branded payments are safe, fast, and convenient.”
Through a range of digital vouchers from brands including Apple, Google, Spotify, Xbox and PlayStation as well as cross-border remittances of call, data credits etc Recharge is attacking the market from the consumer angle.
The biggest company in this space is Blackhawk networks which is owned by private equity group Silverlake. It’s considered a large player in Europe which has a direct-to-consumer model.
As Kent told me over a Zoom call: “Nobody actually owns the consumer side of this business globally so that’s the big opportunity.”
Canadian travel startup Hopper has raised a $170 million Series F round, led by Capital One. The U.S. banks and credit card company is also coming on board as a strategic partner, to launch Capital One Travel, which is the first instantiation of Hopper’s new B2B platform, Hopper Cloud.
This is Hopper’s second raise in a year that has been marked by turmoil for the travel industry, owing to the disruptions caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Last March, Hopper raised $70 million, in a round that saw Inovia Capital actually make its first investment in the startup — essentially at the very moment that things looked most bleak for the travel industry in general, and in particular for airfare-focused Hopper.
I asked Inovia partner Patrick Pichette about his decision to back Hopper at a moment when a lot of investors where essentially on pause pending the fallout of the just-declared pandemic, and about their renewed support with a contribution to this latest round.
“What we had seen in the prior six months, nine months ti a year at Hopper was a transformation of a company before COVID,” Pichette said. “And second is our thesis at Inovia — we invest in companies with the mindset of, ‘Does this company have a shot at being a global company?’ If it’s gonna be a Canadian company, it might be fine, but it’s just not for us. Also, does it really leverage tech in a way that is differentiated? And so if it has these attributes, then we’re interested.”
That pre-COVID transformation that Pichette is referring to is Hopper’s shift from being essentially a machine learning-powered lowest fare finder, to what co-founder and CEO Fred Lalonde says is really much more of a fintech company. That characterization mostly comes from Hopper’s ability to offer customers financial flexibility around their travel bookings.
“The real fundamental sea change is that Hopper moved away from being a predominantly air travel company to a true fintech,” Lalonde explained in an interview. “Price freeze is a good example. We allow you to come in and hold the price of a booking for between two hours and 14 days. If the price goes up you pay what you froze, and if it goes down and you pay the lower price. We have flexible date plans, cancellation plans, where you can take a non-refundable, non-changeable ticket and for a nominal fee, make it changeable. And one that’s working really surprisingly well is the disruption insurance.”
Hopper’s disruption insurance is basically a rebooking service for missed connections. Whatever the reason, if you happen to miss a connection on a multiple-leg flight and you have opted for the disruption insurance service, you’ll be presented with every flight leaving that particular airport, regardless of airline, to your destination and you can select an available option at no additional cost.
Understandably, Hopper’s overall business took a hit during the pandemic, and that had a steep cost: The company laid off around 45% of its staff last year as a result of the dip in demand. But for the bookings that were being made, Lalonde says the company was seeing very high attach rates for its products that provide more peace-of-mind around booking stability. Now, with the U.S. travel industry in particular taking its first steps towards recovery, Lalonde says behavior is not changing as much as his company had anticipated.
“What is interesting is as demand has recovered, originally we thought since we had very, very high attach rates, we thought those would never come back,” he said. “But we’ve actually outgrown our pandemic attach rate. So people are adding more of these services, and we credit that to the product innovation.”
Lalonde also credits the pandemic for proving out the validity of its fintech approach, since Hopper “had a lot of liabilities” in place prior to the global shutdowns, and so a lot of investors and observers were watching and thinking that though this was a novel and interesting approach, carrying those liabilities appeared to incur a lot of additional risk, as well. The pandemic was “the mother of all black swan events,” however, he notes, which means that now, it doesn’t have to talk about the theoretical resilience of its model — it can point to the actual experience.
“Three months later, [it turns out] we lost money for about 30 days,” Lalonde said. “Now we’re back on the other side of this, every color is profitable. The fact is the way that the future travel credits kicked in, and how the refunding work, we ended up with a pretty stable revenue stream.”
Hopper customers may not have felt so optimistic about the company’s performance during the pandemic, however. The startup’s app reviews, Better Business Bureau (BBB) profile and social media accounts were inundated with negative comments and reports of poor experiences. Most centered around either a lack of customer ability to secure their refund, or a failure of communication on Hopper’s part. Lalonde says that Hopper definitely failed at the communication part, and it’s still in the process of hiring hundreds of additional call center employees to improve that part of the business, but fundamentally, it opted to take a hit on that front in order to focus on building a technical solution to handle the unprecedented volume of flight credits coming from airlines.
“The part that is misunderstood is that all of a sudden, the airlines gave out these future travel credits,” he said. “These vouchers, we had to key them in all by hand. And I swear, this is a green screen – you have to go in and do commands. It takes about 20 minutes to do one, so we counted how much time with all of our staff, it would take us to do them by hand. And the answer was we’d be done in 2070, and then even if you double the number of people doing it, it was 2050.”
No existing automation for this process existed because prior to the pandemic, credits for non-refundable airline tickets just didn’t really exist, and particularly not at scale. At that point, Lalonde says Hopper “made a decision to put everybody on the automation, [and] just get murdered publicly.”
He says that gamble has worked out, since once the automation was up and running, they’ve been able to clear out the backlog pretty much entirely. And the company has also been focused on new product developments, including shifting its roadmap to prioritize the addition of car rental and hotel/holiday home booking to better suit the needs of pandemic travel, which has largely been overland in North America. That has meant deprioritizing other areas, including international expansion, but Lalonde says that’s one focus for use of the new funds the company raised.
The other big focus is Hopper Cloud, a B2B offering that provides the benefits of Hopper’s machine-learning power price prediction, as well as its fintech travel insurance and disruption prevention products, but tied to another businesses’ unique offerings. In the case of Capital One, that means all the rewards the company offers its cardholders in terms of earning and redeeming travel credits, for instance. I asked Lalonde whether that approach was made more appealing by the fact that it somewhat intermediates the customer experience, but he pointed out that the initiative is a co-branded one, so Hopper still has its name on the product and the accountability. Plus, he added, the real advantage of these kinds of partnerships are the network effects, and Hopper’s goal remains becoming the top booking destination for customers directly.
“One of the reasons I never want to drop the marketplace — it’s growing really quickly and making money, but even if it didn’t, losing that would just put us further away from the end customer,” Lalonde said. “I like the proximity of knowing exactly what happens, and feeling the pain when we screw up and feeling the joy when we get something right.”
Researchers say a botnet targeting Windows devices is rapidly growing in size, thanks to a new infection technique that allows the malware to spread from computer to computer.
The Purple Fox malware was first spotted in 2018 spreading through phishing emails and exploit kits, a way for threat groups to infect machines using existing security flaws.
But researchers Amit Serper and Ophir Harpaz at security firm Guardicore, which discovered and revealed the new infection effort in a new blog post, say the malware now targets internet-facing Windows computers with weak passwords, giving the malware a foothold to spread more rapidly.
The malware does this by trying to guess weak Windows user account passwords by targeting the server message block, or SMB — a component that lets Windows talk with other devices, like printers and file servers. Once the malware gains access to a vulnerable computer, it pulls a malicious payload from a network of close to 2,000 older and compromised Windows web servers and quietly installs a rootkit, keeping the malware persistently anchored to the computer while also making it much harder to be detected or removed.
Once infected, the malware then closes the ports in the firewall it used to infect the computer to begin with, likely to prevent reinfection or other threat groups hijacking the already-hacked computer, the researchers said.
The malware then generates a list of internet addresses and scans the internet for vulnerable devices with weak passwords to infect further, creating a growing network of ensnared devices.
Botnets are formed when hundreds or thousands of hacked devices are enlisted into a network run by criminal operators, which are often then used to launch denial-of-network attacks to pummel organizations with junk traffic with the aim of knocking them offline. But with control of these devices, criminal operators can also use botnets to spread malware and spam, or to deploy file-encrypting ransomware on the infected computers.
But this kind of wormable botnet presents a greater risk as it spreads largely on its own.
Serper, Guardicore’s vice president of security research for North America, said the wormable infection technique is “cheaper” to run than its earlier phishing and exploit kit effort.
“The fact that it’s an opportunistic attack that constantly scans the internet and looks for more vulnerable machines means that the attackers can sort of ‘set it and forget it’,” he said.
It appears to be working. Purple Fox infections have rocketed by 600% since May 2020, according to data from Guardicore’s own network of internet sensors. The actual number of infections is likely to be far higher, amounting to more than 90,000 infections in the past year.
Guardicore published indicators of compromise to help networks identify if they have been infected. The researchers do not know what the botnet will be used for but warned that its growing size presents a risk to organizations.
“We assume that this is laying the groundwork for something in the future,” said Serper.
The announcement came at a time when the Biden administration has been quietly pressing Mexico to ramp up its efforts to limit the flow of migrants.
The Biden administration has been quietly pressing Mexico to ramp up its efforts to limit the flow of migrants, clinging to a Trump policy of relying on southern neighbors to enforce America’s immigration agenda.
From distributed homes in Cambridge, Mass. and Cambridge, England, inBalance Research is joining Y Combinator as it looks to accelerate its business as the oracle for independent energy providers, utilities, and market makers.
Selling a service it calls Delphi, the very early stage startup is hoping to provide analysis for power producers and utilities on the demand forecasts of energy markets.
The orchestration of energy load across the grid has become a more pressing issue for utilities around the country after witnessing the disastrous collapse of Texas’ power grid in response to its second “once-in-a-century” storm in the last decade.
“If we want to address the solution longterm, it’s a two part solution,” said inBalance co-founder and chief executive, Thomas Marge. “It’s a combination of hardware and software. You need the right assets online and you need the right software that can ensure that markets operate when there are extreme market shocks.”
Prices for electricity change every 15 minutes, and sometimes those pries can fluctuate wildly. In some places, even without the weather conditions that demolished the Texas grid and drove some companies out of business, prices can double in a matter of hours, according to inBalance.
That’s what makes forecasting tools important, the company said. As prices spike, asset managers of finite responsive resources such as hydro and storage need to decide if they will offer more value to the market now or later. Coming online too early or too late will decrease the revenue for their clean generation and increase peak prices for consumers.
The situation is even worse, according to the company, if storage and intermittent renewables come online at the same time. That can create downward price pressure for both the storage and renewable assets, which, in turn, can lead to increased fossil fuel generation later the same day, once cleaner sources are depleted.
The software to predict those pressures is what inBalance claims to provide. Marge and his fellow co-founders, Rajan Troll and Edwin Fennell have always been interested in the problems associated with big data and energy.
For Marge, that began when he worked on a project to optimize operations for wind farms during a stint in Lexington, Mass.
“Fundamentally we’re a data science solution,” said Marge. “It’s a combination of knowing what factors influence every single asset on every single market in North America. We have a glimpse into how those assets are going to be working one day before to one hour before in order to do price forecasting.”
So far, one utility using the company’s software in the Northeast has managed to curb its emissions by 0.2%. With a focus on renewables, inBalance is hoping to roll out larger reductions to the 3,000 market participants that are also using its forecasting tools for other services. Another application is in the work inBalance is conducting with a gas peaker plant to help offset the intermittency of renewable generation sources.
The reduction in emissions in New England is particularly impressive given that the company only began working with the utility there in December. Given its forecasting tools, the company is able to provide a window into which assets might be most valuable at what time — including, potentially, natural gas peaking plants, hydropower, pumped hydropower (basically an energy storage technology), battery or flywheel energy storage projects and demand response technologies that encourage businesses and consumers to reduce consumption in response to price signals, Marge said.
Already, six companies have taken a trip to see the Delphi software and come away as early users. They include a global renewable asset manager and one of the top ten largest utilities in the U.S., according to Marge.
“We use machine learning to accurately forecast electricity prices from terabytes of public and proprietary data. The solution required for daily power system stability is both hardware—like storage and electric vehicle charging—and the software required to optimally use it. inBalance exists to be that software solution,” the company said in a statement.
When Mike Morrison left his hometown of Fredericton, New Brunswick, for Calgary, Alberta, he assumed he’d never go back except to visit.
Morrison was following a well-trodden path of Atlantic Canadians heading west to find work rom which few returned. During the mid-aughts, Alberta was booming thanks to the high price of oil. To Morrison, migrating west seemed an easy choice. “If I stayed, my options were to be a supply teacher or work in a call center.”
When he arrived in Alberta, Morrison worked three jobs. During his free time, he started a blog to tell his friends back home about his life out west, and also to recommend TV shows. Slowly, Mike’s Bloggity Blog became one of Canada’s premier entertainment sites, and Morrison found himself with a local newspaper column as well as regular television and radio appearances. He then started Social West, a Calgary-based digital marketing conference that, before long, expanded to three cities. His identity and public persona were intertwined with his adopted city.
“For a while, I would tell people that I was being paid to be a professional Calgarian.” Then, in 2021, Morrison left Calgary for Halifax, Nova Scotia, back east.
Morrison and his partner are part of a wave of skilled young people reversing Canada’s natural current of internal migration. In doing so, they’re participating in an economic revival that could change the destiny of the depressed Atlantic region.
When they return, young people like Morrison are finding that Atlantic Canadians have quietly built a robust startup ecosystem that has resulted in a dozen acquisitions to companies like IBM and Salesforce, the sum of which likely surpasses $5 million in cash and stock.
The Atlantic Canada story may provide a blueprint for other rural regions looking to take advantage of the decentralizing impact of COVID-19 to swap resource-based economies for the knowledge economy.
If you’ve never thought of Atlantic Canada before, you’re not alone. Indeed, many Canadians refer to Toronto as “east”’ despite there being 1,900 miles between Drake and The Weeknd’s hometown and St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, the easternmost point of Canada and North America. The four provinces that make up Atlantic Canada (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador) are easy to overlook for their remoteness. Known within Canada for its sleepy seaside towns, kitchen parties, trouble-making red-headed orphans and lobster galore, Atlantic Canada has had a rough few decades.
After the collapse of the cod fishing industry in the 1990s followed by the migration of shipbuilding to Asia, Atlantic Canada defined itself as the have-not region of America’s rational northern neighbor. Despite booming from the war years onward due to its abundant natural resources, since the ’90s Atlantic Canada has watched its young people migrate west to the oil fields of Alberta for blue-collar work and to Toronto and Montreal for white-collar work.
Soon, the region’s hard-luck narrative stuck. Stephen Harper, the country’s prime minister from 2006 to 2015, famously quipped that the region suffered from “a culture of defeatism.” The narrative of the death of the coastal region became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Then, during the pandemic, the narrative drastically changed. In September 2020, Halifax-based fitness data management company Kinduct was acquired by mCube. In November 2020, Newfoundland-based Verafin was acquired by Nasdaq for $2.75 billion in cash. In January 2021, Prince Edward Island-based ScreenScape Networks was acquired by Spectrio for an undisclosed fee, then Halifax-based storytelling platform Wattpad was acquired by Naver in a deal worth $600 million. Atlantic Canada had four major tech acquisitions in a five-month period.
Outsiders were surprised by the sudden upsurge in exits, but momentum had been building for some time. Business writer Gordon Pitts pinpoints 2011 as the game-changing year for the Atlantic startup scene. In his book “Unicorn in the Woods: How East Coast Geeks and Dreamers are Changing the Game,” Pitts recounts how in March 2011 Salesforce purchased New Brunswick-based social media monitoring company Radian6 for approximately $300 million. Then, in November of the same year, IBM purchased another New Brunswick-based startup, cybersecurity company Q1 labs, for a reported $600 million. If anyone considered the Radian6 acquisition a one-off chance event, the subsequent success of Q1 labs demonstrated there was a there there.
Under normal circumstances, one might expect the founders of Radian6 and Q1 labs to disappear into the suburbs of Cambridge or Marin Country, but that never happened. Rather than uproot their newly acquired companies, both Salesforce and IBM opened engineering offices in Fredericton. Verafin would appear to be following suit: in the press release announcing the acquisition, Nasdaq committed to keeping the company’s headquarters in Newfoundland, investing in the local university and contributing to the development of the local ecosystem.
Once lone rangers, Q1 Labs and Radian6 are now surrounded by thriving copycats in a self-sustaining ecosystem. According to Peter Moreira, founder of Entrevestor, a publication that has tracked the Atlantic Canadian startup scene since 2011, the ecosystem has attracted over a billion dollars in investment spread among 700 companies, creating more than 6,000 direct jobs. About 100 companies are created every year in fields as diverse as life sciences, cleantech and ocean tech.
VC firms have taken notice: notable investors in Atlantic Canadian startups include Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a fund supported by Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson. Indeed, what’s remarkable about the string of recent exits is their diversity across industries and their inside-baseball inclinations, spanning everything from fraudulent credit card transactions to fitness data and video technology.
Sandy Bird is one of the protagonists of the Atlantic Canada tech-driven economic revival. Sandy co-founded Q1 Labs and then, after the acquisition, became the CTO of IBM’s security division. In 2017, Bird and the former CEO of Q1 Labs founded a new cybersecurity company, this one focused on public clouds, called Sonrai Security, which has since raised nearly $40 million in venture capital. Bird takes great pride in having lived his entire life within a 30-minute radius and showing the world that his prior exit was not a one-off event.
According to Bird, IBM was happy to keep an engineering division in New Brunswick because the quality of the engineers is high and employee attrition, one of the obstacles for any fast-growing company operating in the competitive labor market of the San Francisco Bay Area, is low. Atlantic Canada is a place where the idea of the “company man/woman” is still alive and thriving.
Bird noted that “thanks to our high retention, we’re able to build a company culture that makes up for any of the disadvantages of a smaller labor market.” Bird also pointed out that the Atlantic time zones are ideal, enabling effective communications with Europe as well as the rest of North America.
Bird is also honest about the region’s shortcomings. For example, airline connections to Atlantic Canada can be tricky. Getting to places like Denver can take a day and multiple connections. Sonrai Security, for example, has its core engineering team in Fredericton while sales and marketing are in New York, with regional salespeople spread out around North America.
In terms of starting a company, the local ecosystem can provide those first checks to get a company up and running, but growth from Series B onward requires tapping into U.S. venture capital. Another challenge is hiring fast enough to meet the demands of a thriving tech company. Though companies like his can recruit recent graduates and exiled Atlantic Canadians eager to return, Bird mentioned that Q1 Labs opened a parallel engineering office in Belfast, Ireland, to scale-up hiring.
So what is the playbook for other rural regions hoping to copy the Atlantic Canada model of generating tech jobs? Speaking to insiders, all cite the low cost of living and high quality of life as enabling startups to both attract and retain talent. Second, a welcoming attitude toward immigration helps. Even prior to COVID-19, Canada cheekily took advantage of anxiety around U.S. immigration policies to launch a startup visa program to attract entrepreneurs and H1-B visa holders away from the United States, and many cite that program as acting as a strategic advantage for the coastal provinces.
Atlantic Canada’s recent success is owed in part to proactive government. After years of failed top-down economic development initiatives, both the provincial and the federal governments have found formulas to kickstart new companies through grants as well as repayable and non-repayable non-dilutive funding.
Entrepreneurs cite IRAP, the National Research Council of Canada’s Industrial Research Assistance Program, as key to obtaining funds that subsidize wages for staff and contractors. Another federal government agency, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), awards funding between CA$500,000 and CA$3 million (roughly $400,000 USD to $2.4 million USD) through its Atlantic Innovation Fund (AIF). Each of the four provincial governments has its own incentive programs, which include grants and wage subsidies as well as incentives for private investors.
Despite these government programs, local entrepreneurs stress that the region’s modest success is primarily driven by the private sector. Each province tends to have a godfather/cheerleader who has championed local startups through investment, advice and connections. Notable also is the accessibility of the success stories of the region’s protagonists. In a place where ostentatious displays of wealth are avoided, successful founders are easy to get a hold of and happy to provide advice, contacts and in some cases capital. Also notable is the region’s mix of 16 public-private universities that produce graduates with varied skill sets across STEM and humanities programs.
Even with these advances, obstacles abound, and it remains to be seen whether politicians and policy-makers can match entrepreneurs with bold initiatives. While countries like Ireland and Estonia have rewritten their corporate tax codes to encourage tech companies to set up in their previously disadvantaged jurisdictions, Atlantic Canada continues to have tax rates above neighboring provinces and U.S. states. Past innovation hubs have relied on physical proximity in order to build networks of human and social capital. Atlantic Canada as a region spans 500,000 square kilometers (193,256 square miles), much of which is hard to get to and poorly connected to the rest of the world.
Having done the hard work of providing the region with a new narrative, and a newfound sense of self-belief, many entrepreneurs hope to finally transition away from a declining resource-based economic model. They want to create a world where ambitious Atlantic Canadians don’t need to choose between staying close to home and pursuing exciting careers.
There are reasons to be hopeful: With every exit, future entrepreneurs are provided the success stories that, like supernovas, explode and act as the base material for new ventures. With every VC investment, the region’s network of startups builds the social capital that can enable the next round of funding. With every innovation, the region’s breadth of knowledge deepens through newfound expertise.
And with Atlantic Canada’s traditional migratory patterns seeming to reverse themselves as workers return to seek a lower cost of living and higher quality of life in small towns with coastal views, the pool of talent has only increased.
In the post-COVID world, talent can go anywhere, proving that constant proximity is not a prerequisite to building high-performing companies. To replicate the Atlantic Canada model, however, rural areas will need to offer more than a lower cost of living, as housing prices quickly catch up to demand.
Atlantic Canada’s modest success can be summarized as the result of fomenting a highly collaborative ecosystem that includes companies, universities, investors and government to ensure that the human capital, social capital and financial capital are available to propel new companies forward. Only by building an ecosystem can we create economic models where instead of talent chasing opportunity, opportunity chases talent.
Israel-based Ibex Medical Analytics, which has an AI-driven imaging technology to detect cancer cells in biopsies more efficiently, has raised a $38 million Series B financing round led by Octopus Ventures and 83North. Also participating in the round was aMoon, Planven Entrepreneur Ventures and Dell Technologies Capital, the corporate venture arm of Dell Technologies. The company has now raised a total of $52 million since its launch in 2016. Ibex plans to use the investment to further sell into diagnostic labs in North America and Europe.
Originally incubated out of the Kamet Ventures incubator, Ibex’s “Galen” platform mimics the work of a pathologist, allowing them to diagnose cancer more accurately and faster and derive new insights from a biopsy specimen.
Because rates of cancer are on the rise and the medical procedures have become more complex, pathologists have a higher workload. Plus, says Ibex, there is a global shortage of pathologists, which can mean delays to the whole diagnostic process. The company claims pathologists can be 40% more productive using its solution.
Speaking to TechCrunch, Joseph Mossel, Ibex CEO and Co-founder said: “You can think of it as a pathologist’s assistant, so it kind of prepares the case in advance, marks the regions of interest, and allows the pathologist to achieve the efficiency gains.”
He said the company has secured the largest pathology network in France, and LD path, which is five pathology labs that service 24 NHS trusts in the UK, among others.
Michael Niddam, of Kamet Ventures said Ibex was an “excellent example of how Kamet works with founders very early on.” Ibex founders Joseph Mossel and Dr. Chaim Linhart had previously joined Kamet as Entrepreneurs in Residence before developing their idea.
The pandemic has disrupted international trade, driving up the cost of shipping goods and adding a fresh challenge to the global economic recovery.
In the post-Trump era, research suggests the best ways to win people over.
SpaceX hasn’t issue any public statement about the $850 million in fresh funding CNBC reported it raised last week, but a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) published today confirms the round. SpaceX’s funding was said to value the company at around $74 billion, with a per-share value moon the round set at around $420.
Investment firm Sequoia led the considerable raise, and has now put over $600 million into the Elon Musk-led space company overall between this and a round it participated in in 2020, according to Bloomberg. CNBC’s report also said that a secondary sale of existing shares generated an additional $750 million in capital for the company, putting the total new money available for SpaceX’s use at $1.6 billion – not too far shy of the $2 billion it raised at a valuation of $46 billion last August.
That probably seems like a lot of money to raise in such less than a year. But few companies – private or otherwise – have the kind of capital needs of SpaceX. While it’s been able to build a thriving launch business on the money raised during the first part of its now nearly two-decade existence, that hasn’t slowed the rate at which it’s been undertaking big new projects with tremendous upfront costs.
Currently, SpaceX is rapidly building new prototypes of its Starship, a next-generation reusable rocket with multiple times the cargo capacity of its current Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 cargo nosecone. It has flown a number of prototypes – and lost two in the process due to missed landings. The company typically has at least two new prototypes under construction simultaneously, and had been operating at that pace for many months now, with a highly manual production process for both the rockets and the new engines that power them.
Meanwhile, it’s also building out Starlink – the global broadband internet satellite constellation that it wants to scale from its current 1,000+ size, to more than 12,000 for final, world-spanning coverage reach. To scale it quickly and get its service operational (which it now is, to select areas in North America), SpaceX has been launching its own dedicated Falcon 9 rockets with 60 Starlink satellites on each. Since the company is its own customer for the majority of those missions, they’re entirely operating expenditure. Musk has estimated that fully deploying Starlink will take around $10 billion.
Both of these projects – Starship and Starlink – carry massive upfront costs, but they also have a lot of potential long-term upside; hence the skyrocketing valuation as both efforts begin to produce positive results, between Starship’s high-altitude tests, and Starlink’s initial service availability.
As money floods into the electric vehicle market a number of small companies are trying to stake their claim as the go-to provider of charging infrastructure. These companies are developing proprietary ecosystems that work for their own equipment but don’t interoperate.
ChargeLab, which has raised $4.3 million in seed financing led by Construct Capital and Root Ventures, is looking to be the software provider providing the chargers built by everyone else.
“You’ll find everyone in every niche and corner,” says ChargeLab chief executive Zachary Lefevre. Lefevre likens Tesla to Apple with its closed ecosystem and compares Chargepoint and Blink, two other electric vehicle charging companies to Blackberry — the once dominant smartphone maker. “What we’re trying to do is be android,” Lefevre said.
That means being the software provider for manufacturers like ABB, Schneider Electric and Siemens. “These guys are hardware makers up and down the value stack,” Lefevre said.
ChargeLab already has an agreement with ABB to be their default software provider as they go to market. The big industrial manufacturer is getting ready to launch their next charging product in North America.
As companies like REEF and Metropolis revamp garages and parking lots to service the next generation of vehicles, ChargeLab’s chief executive thinks that his software can power their EV charging services as they begin to roll that functionality out across the lots they own.
Lefevre got to know the electric vehicle charging market first as a reseller of everyone else’s equipment, he said. The company had raised a pre-seed round of $1.1 million from investors including Urban.us and Notation Capital and has now added to that bank account with another capital infusion from Construct Capital, the new fund led by Dayna Grayson and Rachel Holt, and Root Ventures, Lefevre said.
Eventually the company wants to integrate with the back end of companies like Chargepoint and Electrify America to make the charging process as efficient for everyone, according to ChargeLab’s chief executive.
As more service providers get into the market, Lefevre sees the opportunity set for his business expanding exponentially. “Super open platforms are not going to be building an EV charging system any more than they would be building their own hardware,” he said.
In “Ancestor Approved” and “The Sea-Ringed World,” sacred stories provide comfort by bringing people together.
As of 2019, the majority of venture firms — 65% — still did not have a single female partner or GP at their firm, according to All Raise.
So naturally, anytime we hear of a new female-led fund, our ears perk up.
Today, New York-based Avid Ventures announced the launch of its $68 million debut venture capital fund. Addie Lerner — who was previously an investor with General Catalyst, General Atlantic and Goldman Sachs — founded Avid in 2020 with the goal of taking a hands-on approach to working with founders of early-stage startups in the United States, Europe and Israel.
“We believe investing in a founder’s company is a privilege to be earned,” she said.
Tali Vogelstein — a former investor at Bessemer Venture Partners — joined the firm as a founding investor soon after its launch and the pair were able to raise the capital in 10 months’ time during the 2020 pandemic.
The newly formed firm has an impressive list of LPs backing its debut effort. Schusterman Family Investments and the George Kaiser Family Foundation are its anchor LPs. Institutional investors include Foundry Group, General Catalyst, 14W, Slow Ventures and LocalGlobe/Latitude through its Basecamp initiative that backs emerging managers.
Avid also has the support of 50 founders, entrepreneurs and investors as LPs — 40% of whom are female — including Mirror founder Brynn Putnam; Getty Images co-founder Jonathan Klein; founding partner of Acrew Capital Theresia Gouw and others.
Avid invests at the Series A and B stages, and so far has invested in Alloy, Nova Credit, Rapyd, Staircase, Nava and The Wing. Three of those companies have female founders — something Lerner said happened “quite naturally.”
“Diversity can happen and should happen more organically as opposed to quotas or mandates,” she added.
In making those deals, Avid partnered with top-tier firms such as Kleiner Perkins, Canapi Ventures, Zigg Capital and Thrive Capital. In general, Avid intentionally does not lead its first investments in startups, with its first checks typically being in the $500,000 to $1 million range. It preserves most of its capital for follow-on investments.
“We like to position ourselves to earn the right to write a bigger check in a future round,” Lerner told TechCrunch.
In the case of Rapyd, Avid organized an SPV (special-purpose vehicle) to invest in the unicorn’s recent Series D. Lerner had previously backed the company’s Series B round while at General Catalyst and remains a board observer.
Prior to founding Avid, Lerner had helped deploy more than $450 million across 18 investments in software, fintech (Rapyd & Monzo) and consumer internet companies spanning North America, Europe and Israel.
When it comes to sectors, Avid is particularly focused on backing early-stage fintech, consumer internet and software companies. The firm intends to invest in about 20 startups over a three-to-four year period.
“We want to take our time, so we can be as hands-on as we want to be,” Lerner said. “We’re not looking to back 80 companies. Our goal is to drive outstanding returns for our LPs.”
The firm views itself as an extension of its portfolio companies’ teams, serving as their “Outsourced Strategic CFO.” Lerner and Vogelstein also aim to provide the companies they work with strategic growth modeling, unit economics analysis, talent recruiting, customer introductions and business development support.
“We strive to build deep relationships early on and to prove our value well ahead of a prospective investment,” Lerner said. Avid takes its team’s prior data-driven experience to employ “a metrics-driven approach” so that a startup can “deeply understand” their unit economics. It also “gets in the trenches” alongside founders to help grow a company.
Ed Zimmerman, chair of Lowenstein Sandler LLP’s tech group in New York and adjunct professor of VC at Columbia Business School, is an Avid investor.
He told TechCrunch that because of his role in the venture community, he is often counsel to a company or fund and will run into former students in deals. Feedback from numerous people in his network point to Lerner being “extraordinarily thoughtful about deals,” with one entrepreneur describing her as “one of the smartest people she has met in a decade-plus in venture.”
“I’ve seen it myself in deals and then I’ve seen founders turn down very well branded funds to work with Addie,” Zimmerman added, noting they are impressed both by her intellect and integrity. “…Addie will find and win and be invited into great deals because she makes an indelible impression on the people who’ve worked with her and the data is remarkably consistent.”
A new study underway at Toronto’s University Health Network (UHN), a group of working research hospitals in the city, could shift our approach to treatment in an area of growing concern in human health. The study, led by Dr. Heather Ross, will investigate whether the Apple Watch can provide early warnings about potentially worsening health for patients following incidents of heart failure.
The study, which is aiming to eventually span around 200 patients, and which already has a number of participants enrolled spanning ages from 25 to 90, and various demographics, will use the Apple Watch Series 6 and its onboard sensors to monitor signals including heart rate, blood oxygen, general activity levels, overall performance during a six minute walk test and more. Researchers led by Ross will compare this data to measurements taken from the more formal clinical tests currently used by physicians to monitor the recovery of heart failure patients during routine, periodic check-ups.
The hope is that Ross and her team will be able to identify correlations between signs they’re seeing from the Apple Watch data, and the information gathered from the proven medical diagnostic and monitoring equipment. If they can verify that the Apple Watch accurately reflects what’s happening with a heart failure patient’s health, it has tremendous potential for treatment and care.
“In the US, there are about six-and-a-half million adults with heart failure,” Ross told me in an interview. “About one in five people in North America over the age of 40 will develop heart failure. And the average life expectancy [following heart failure] is still measured at around 2.1 years, at a tremendous impact to quality of life.”
The stats point to heart failure as a “growing epidemic,” says Ross, at a cost of some “$30 billion a year at present in the U.S.” to the healthcare system. A significant portion of that cost can come from the care required when conditions worsen due to preventable causes – ones that can be avoided by changes in patient behavior, if only implemented at the right time. Ross told me that currently, the paradigm of care for heat failure patients is “episodic” – meaning it happens in three- or six-month intervals, when patients go into a physician’s office or clinic for a bevy of tests using expensive equipment that must be monitored by a trained professional, like a nurse practitioner.
“If you think about the paradigm to a certain degree, we’ve kind of got it backwards,” Ross said. “So in our thinking, the idea really is how do we provide a continuous style monitoring of patients in a relatively unobtrusive way that will allow us to detect a change in a patient status before they end up actually coming into hospital. So this is where the opportunity with Apple is tremendous.”
Ross said that current estimates suggest nearly 50% of hospitalizations could be avoided altogether through steps taken by patients including better self-care, like adhering to prescribed medicinal regimens, accurate symptom monitoring, monitoring dietary intake and more. Apple Vice President of Health Dr. Sumbul Desai echoed the sentiment that proactivity is one of the key ingredients to better standards of care, and better long-term outcomes.
“A lot of health, in the world of medicine, has been focused on reactive responses to situations,” she said in an interview. “The idea to get a little more proactive in the way we think about our own health is really empowering and we’re really excited about where that could take us. We think starting with these studies to really ground us in the science is critical but, really, the potential for it is something that we look forward to tackling.”
Desai, has led Apple’s Health initiatives for just under four years, and also spent much of her career prior to that at Stanford (where she remains an associate professor) working on both the academic and clinical side. She knows first-hand the value of continuous care, and said that this study is representative of the potential the company sees in Apple Watch’s role in the daily health of individuals.
“The ability to have that snapshot of an individual as they’re living their everyday life is extremely useful,” she said. “As a physician, part of your conversation is ‘tell me what’s going on when you’re not in the clinic.’ To be able to have some of that data at your fingertips and have that part of your conversation really enhances your engagement with your patients as well. We believe that can provide insight in ways that has not been done before and we’re really excited to see what more we’re learning in this specific realm but we already hearing from both users and physicians how valuable that is.”
Both Ross and Desai highlighted the value of Apple Watch as a consumer-friendly device that’s easy to set up and learn, and that serves a number of different purposes beyond health and fitness, as being key ingredients to its potential in a continuous care paradigm.
“We really believe that people should be able to play a more active role in managing their well-being and Apple Watch in particular, we find to be — and are really proud of — a powerful health and wellness tool because the same device that you can connect with loved ones and check messages also supports safety, motivates you to stay healthy by moving more and provides important information on your overall wellness,” Desai said.
“This is a powerful health care tool bundled into a device that people just love for all the reasons Sumbul has said,” Ross added. “But this is a powerful diagnostic tool, too. So it is that consumer platform that I think will make this potentially an unstoppable tool, if we can evaluate it properly, which we’re doing in this partnership.”
The study, which is targeting 200 participants as mentioned, and enrolling more every day, will span three months of active monitoring, followed by a two-year follow up to investigate the data collected relative to patient outcomes. All data collected is stored in a fully encrypted form (Ross pointed to Apple’s privacy track record as another benefit of having it as a partner) and anyone taking part can opt-out at any point during the course of the research.
Even once the results are in, it’ll just be the first step in a larger process of validation, but Ross said that the hope is to ultimately “to improve access and equitable care,” by changing the fundamental approach to how we think about heart failure and treatment.
More than 700 people have been keeping digital diaries as part of Pandemic Journaling Project. It may be the most complete record of our shifting moods in this isolating year.
The automaker earned more than $6 billion last year — money that it will plow into the development of electric and autonomous vehicles.
Beauty and wellness appointment booking apps have proliferated of the last few years, but it appears the race is still on as today one of the leaders, Booksy, raises $70 million in a Series C round led by Cat Rock Capital, with participation from Sprints Capital.
The round was also joined by OpenOcean, Piton Capital, VNV Global, Enern, Kai Hansen, Zach Coelius and Manta Ray Ventures, and takes the total raised by the firm to $119 million. The funding will be used for expansion plans across North America, expanding to new verticals, and acquiring complementary businesses.
The Booksy app is used by customers to book and pay for beauty appointments with local businesses. Salons, nail bars and barbershops can manage the bookings, payments, and customer base via the accompanying Booksy Biz app. The platform also allows salons to sell other products via Booksy E-Commerce, which acts as a marketplace allowing customers to discover and book other local stylists, nail technicians etc.
Booksy was founded by Polish entrepreneurs Stefan Batory (CEO) and Konrad Howard. Allowing customers to schedule their best appointment time means that 38% of customers end up booking after-hours and increasing their appointment frequency by 20%, says the company. The startup launched in 2014 but is now in the US (its largest market), UK, Poland, Spain, Brazil, and South Africa. It claims to be the number-one beauty booking app in each country, with “13 million” consumers on the app.
Batory said in a statement: “Like with many sectors negatively hit by the pandemic, it’s been a turbulent time for the beauty and wellness industry but we’re confident in its ability to come back from this, so it’s fantastic to see our latest group of investors share our optimism and vision. This latest round of funding enables us to reach even more salons and service providers across the US, and in all the regions we operate, which in turn helps them reach more customers.”
Alex Captain, founder and managing partner at Cat Rock Capital, said: “We are incredibly excited to invest in Booksy as it builds the leading global software platform for digitizing the beauty and wellness industry around the world.”
Booksy certainly seems to have cracked the international expansion game ahead of most competitors, which tend to stay more local to their countries of origin such as Treatwell, Styleseat, Vagaro and Mindbody. The opportunity for Booksy is to now use its war cast to roll-up other local players.
It has already acquired rival Lavito in 2018 and, more recently, merged with Versum in December 2020 allowing it to enter Mexico.
Researchers propose that some remote ancestors of Native Americans may have been the first humans to forge the bond with wolves that led to domestication.
Dubai-based cybersecurity startup SpiderSilk has raised $2.25 million in a pre-Series A round, led by venture firms Global Ventures and STV.
In the past two years, SpiderSilk has discovered some of the biggest data breaches: Blind, the allegedly anonymous social network that exposed private complaints by Silicon Valley employees; a lab leaked highly sensitive Samsung source code; an inadvertently public code repository revealed apps, code, and apartment building camera footage belonging to controversial facial recognition startup Clearview AI; and a massive spill of unencrypted customer card numbers at now-defunct MoviePass may have been the final nail in the already-beleaguered subscription service’s casket.
Much of those discoveries were found from the company’s proprietary internet scanner, SpiderSilk co-founder and chief security officer Mossab Hussein told TechCrunch.
Any company would want their data locked down, but mistakes happen and misconfigurations can leave sensitive internal corporate data accessible from the internet. SpiderSilk helps its customers understand their attack surface by looking for things that are exposed but shouldn’t be.
The cybersecurity startup uses its scanner to map out a company’s assets and attack surfaces to detect vulnerabilities and data exposures, and it also simulates cyberattacks to help customers understand where vulnerabilities are in their defenses.
“The attack surface management and threat detection platform we built scans the open internet on a continuous basis in order to attribute all publicly accessible assets back to organizations that could be affected by them, either directly or indirectly,” SpiderSilk’s co-founder and chief executive Rami El Malak told TechCrunch. “As a result, the platform regularly uncovers exploits and highlights how no organization is immune from infrastructure visibility blind-spots.”
El Malak said the funding will help to build out its security, engineering and data science teams, as well as its marketing and sales. He said the company is expanding its presence to North America with sales and engineering teams.
It’s the company’s second round of funding, after a seed round of $500,000 in November 2019, also led by Global Ventures and several angel investors.
“The SpiderSilk team are outstanding partners, solving a critical problem in the ever-complex world of cybersecurity, and protecting companies online from the increasing threats of malicious activity,” said Basil Moftah, general partner at Global Ventures.
Ironhack, a company offering programming bootcamps across Europe and North and South America, has raised $20 million in its latest round of funding.
The Miami-based company with locations in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Lisbon, Madrid, Mexico City, Miami, Paris and Sao Paulo said it will use the money to build out more virtual offerings to compliment the company’s campuses.
Over the next five years, 13 million jobs will be added to the tech industry in the U.S., according to Ironhack co-founder Ariel Quiñones. That’s in addition to another 20 million jobs that Quiñones expects to come from the growth of the technology sector in the EU.
Ironhack isn’t the only bootcamp to benefit from this growth. Last year, Lambda School raised $74 million for its coding education program.
Ironhack’s raised its latest round from Endeavor Catalyst, a fund that invests in entrepreneurs from emerging and underserved markets; Lumos Capital, which was formed by investors with a long history in education technology; Creas Capital, a Spanish impact investment firm; and Brighteye, a European edtech investor.
Prices for the company’s classes vary by country. In the U.S. an Ironhack bootcamp costs $12,000, while that figure is more like $3,000 for classes in Mexico City.
The company offers classes in subjects ranging from web development to UX/UI design and data analytics to cybersecurity, according to a statement.
“We believe that practical skills training, a supportive global community and career development programs can give everyone, regardless of their education or employment history, the ability to write their stories through technology,” said Ariel Quiñones, co-founder of Ironhack.
Since its launch in 2013, the company has graduated more than 8,000 students, with a job placement rate of 89%, according to data collected as of July 2020. Companies who have employed Ironhack graudates include Capgemini, Siemens, and Santander, the company said.
The species’ remarkable genetic isolation from other wolves may have contributed to its demise.
From orbit, satellites send tragic evidence of climate change’s destructive power. This film covers 10 days, Sept. 7-16, 2020, a period of intense fires activity in North and South America.
Today, the acute asthma attack of primary school-aged girl in February 2013 was ruled by a UK court to be due to air pollution. It is thought to be the first ruling of its kind in the world. Only a year after Ella Kissi-Debrah died, another mother also became concerned about the effects of air quality on her daughter’s asthma and decided to do something about it.
Today, Yodit Stanton has secured $4m in seed funding for her air monitoring startup OpenSensors, in a Seed round led by Crane Venture Partners and other unnamed investors. The startup previously bootstrapped the company prior to the round, supported by customer revenues.
OpenSensors, uses sensors to monitor air quality and light intensity, but it’s the data platform that is the real ‘special source’. The startup’s technology works to reveal workplace and workforce conditions and patterns. It competes with companies like Condecco and Workplace Fabric, but takes a more ‘360 degree’ approach.
It now has more than 30 customers with complex real estate operations across North America, Ireland, UK and Europe, in industries such as Insurance, Finance, Tech and more.
Building costs are the 2nd highest expense for organizations, with office costs over £20bn per year in the UK, but even in normal, pre-pandemic times, half of that office space is unused at any point during the day and only reaches 55% peak utilization. Buildings also represent 36% of global energy usage & 39% of CO2 emissions. OpenSensors tracks humidity, CO2 levels, and more to guide on the optimal capacity to reduce viral transmission, thus enabling companies to return their workforces to offices safely.
Stanton commented: “How we work and live are changing faster than we could have ever anticipated. There is a real opportunity for humanity to rethink how we use the physical world with sustainability in mind as well as making the design of workplaces better for people using them.”
Scott Sage, Partner at Crane Venture Partners said: “With data insights, real-world usage and known customer references, OpenSensors has all the ingredients to become a trusted advisor and solutions provider throughout COVID-19 and the immediate recovery, as well as supporting the shift towards more flexible working that COVID-19 has accelerated.”
Speaking exclusively to TechCrunch, Stanton, who also founded and runs the UK’s Women In Data event, said: “Initially it just started as a fun hobby project. I was playing around with IoT as in my daughter has asthma, so I was monitoring air quality up in our neighborhood to try to see if I can correlate the particulates spikes and so forth with her asthma attacks. I released it as a project for my community to monitor air quality. But it became, I guess a real thing when people asked if I could manage their buildings.”
She said that low humidity encourages virus transmission: “So you really have to aim for around 40% humidity within an indoor environment and dry air also affects your immune system as an individual.”
This means that monitoring air quality has become a huge issue for companies. So it unsurprising that VCs are now backing air-quality startups like OpenSensors.
Q&A, a startup developing tech for the music industry co-founded by industry insiders Troy Carter (Lady Gaga’s first manager) and Suzy Ryoo (Carter’s longtime collaborator), has launched a new suite of software products through a division called Venice Innovation Labs.
The new tools are designed to help record labels beta test songs, manage artists, and distribute music easily and efficiently, the company said in a statement.
The first releases from the new division are StreamRate, which provides sentiment analysis of new songs before they’re released; and Venice For Labels, which tracks splits and payments among different artists, manages and monitors music distribution, and helps labels keep track of their rosters.
The company is also providing a human touch through a strategic marketing and advisory “Premium Services” team led by Ray Kurzeka in North America and Matt Ott in the UK.
“Technology is rapidly changing the way music is consumed, yet our industry’s infrastructure remains underserved. We’ve been quietly building beautiful and intuitive tools that labels will love, as well as services that move the needle. Our vision is to create an authentic community to empower brilliant artists and the labels that support them daily,” said Suzy Ryoo, President of Q&A.
The rush to capitalize on the shift to online learning, post-pandemic, continues. IntellectoKids, a developer of educational apps for children aged 3 to 7 years, has raised $3 million in a Series A financing led by US-based Allrise Capital and other investors, including Genesis Investments.
The platform offers parents of preschool children ‘gamified’ educational content and structured lessons available on mobile devices.
The startup will now launch a Classroom feature with learning tracks in five core Kindergarten and Grade 1 courses, including Math, Phonics, Science, Arts, and Logic.
In addition to the current B2C model, the founders expect in 2021 to offer primary schools and kindergartens IntellectoKids’ platform as an online supplement to support their offline educational process.
IntellectoKids was founded by Mike Kotlov and Andrey Kondratyuk in 2017, who each have three young children.
Kotlov said: “On the education scene, preschool education is becoming a highly vibrant market. The pandemic showed that preschool kids can effectively consume educational content online and autonomously. Clearly, there is a growing need for this type of product among parents and businesses now; however, once the pandemic is over the online education is here to stay for sure as it has already become intertwined with offline and benefited the overall educational process.”
IntellectoKids says it has more than 2 million installs across North America and Central & Northern Europe.
Amazon Web Services is currently having an outage, taking a chunk of the internet down with it.
Several AWS services were experiencing problems as of early Wednesday, according to its status page. That means any app, site or service that relies on AWS might also be down, too. (As I found out the hard way this morning when my Roomba refused to connect.)
Amazon says the issue is largely localized to North America. The company didn’t give a reason for the outage, only that it was experiencing increased error rates and that it was working on a resolution. The irony is that the outage is also affecting the company’s “ability to post updates to the Service Health Dashboard,” so not even Amazon is immune from its own downtime.
So far a number of companies that rely on AWS have tweeted out that they’re experiencing issues as a result, including Adobe and Roku.
We’ll keep you updated as this outage continues. On the bright side TechCrunch is still up, so here are a few things to read.
- Slack’s stock climbs on possible Salesforce acquisition
- Tiger Global invests in India’s Unacademy at $2 billion valuation
- Coinbase disables margin trading following guidance from Commodity Futures Trading Commission
- The FCC rejects ZTE’s petition to stop designating it a ‘national security threat’
- SpaceX successfully launches a Falcon 9 booster for a record seventh time
- Google plans to test end-to-end encryption in Android messages
- Decrypted: Apple and Facebook’s privacy feud, Twitter hires Mudge, mysterious zero-days
- Dear Sophie: Can an H-1B co-founder own a Delaware C Corp?
- If you didn’t make $1B this week, you are not doing VC right
- As edtech grows cash rich, some lessons for early stage
AMP Robotics, the recycling robotics technology developer backed by investors including Sequoia Capital and Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, is close to closing on as much as $70 million in new financing, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the company’s plans.
The new financing speaks to AMP Robotics’ continued success in pilot projects and with new partnerships that are exponentially expanding the company’s deployments.
Earlier this month the company announced a new deal that represented its largest purchase order for its trash sorting and recycling robots.
That order, for 24 machine learning-enabled robotic recycling systems with the waste handling company Waste Connections, was a showcase for the efficacy of the company’s recycling technology.
That comes on the back of a pilot program earlier in the year with one Toronto apartment complex, where the complex’s tenants were able to opt into a program that would share recycling habits monitored by AMP Robotics with the building’s renters in an effort to improve their recycling behavior.
The potential benefits of AMP Robotic’s machine learning enabled robots are undeniable. The company’s technology can sort waste streams in ways that traditional systems never could and at a cost that’s far lower than most waste handling facilities.
As TechCrunch reported earlier the tech can tell the difference between high-density polyethylene and polyethylene terephthalate, low-density polyethylene, polypropylene and polystyrene. The robots can also sort for color, clarity, opacity and shapes like lids, tubs, clamshells and cups — the robots can even identify the brands on packaging.
AMP’s robots already have been deployed in North America, Asia and Europe, with recent installations in Spain and across the U.S. in California, Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, Michigan, New York, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.
At the beginning of the year, AMP Robotics worked with its investor, Sidewalk Labs on a pilot program that provided residents of a single apartment building representing 250 units in Toronto with detailed information about their recycling habits. Sidewalk Labs is transporting the waste to a Canada Fibers material recovery facility where trash is sorted by both Canada Fibers employees and AMP Robotics.
Once the waste is categorized, sorted and recorded, Sidewalk communicates with residents of the building about how they’re doing in their recycling efforts.
It was only last November that the Denver-based AMP Robotics raised a $16 million round from Sequoia Capital and others to finance the early commercialization of its technology.
Netflix is committing $1 billion in production spend at its ABQ Studios in Albuquerque, New Mexico along with plans to expand those studios, the company said.
In an announcement alongside New Mexico’s Governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, and Albuquerque Mayor, Tim Keller, Netflix’s chief executive Ted Sarandos said the company would add 300 acres to its existing space in ABQ Studios, creating one of the largest film production facilities in North America.
That means roughly 1,000 new production jobs in New Mexico over the next ten years, the company predicted and an additional 1,467 construction jobs to complete the expansion.
“My administration has expanded our state’s competitive film incentives, facilitating higher-wage employment for New Mexicans all across the state, and increased opportunities for rural communities,” said Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.
The proposed expansion and $150 million in capital expenditures will add ten new stages, post-production services, mills, backlots, and training facilities, wardrobe suites, a commissary, and other flexible buildings.
New Mexico’s government is providing $17 million in funding and the city of Albuquerque is providing another $7 million in financing, including $6 million in infrastructure in-kind financing.
The city is also issuing bonds to abate property and other taxes over a 20-year term to cover the first $500 million investment by Netflix to build out the production facility.
As part of the deal, Netflix has also agreed to lease 130 acres from the State Land Office in addition to the private purchase of another 170 acres.
New Mexico’s Economic Development Department Cabinet Secretary, Alicia J. Keyes, said the deal could ultimately result in $2.5 billion worth of spending in the state.
Netflix also committed to supporting the state’s indigenous, latino, Black and other underrepresented content creators and filmmakers.
Productions filming in New Mexico currently include “The Harder They Fall” and “Intrusion” — and the company expects to begin shooting the next season of “Stranger Things” in the state.
We can all, by now, ascribe to the idea that something has changed in the last few months. Like it or not, business is not as it was. If we were true to ourselves, we would admit that our lives will never be the name again. But parallel to this visceral feeling, is the quite clear and objective truth that the planet that sustains our existence is in trouble. So, surely, is it not beholden upon us to step up? Is this both a moral and a commercial opportunity?
Today Astanor Ventures is launching a $325m ‘Global Impact fund’ concentrating on food and agriculture technology. These are two of the most pressing areas in the climate debate, The aim is to deploy funds across Europe and North America.
Astanor‘s fund is a multi-stage tech investor that unites both knowledge and experience of scaling new technology companies with food, cross-sector expertise and agriculture.
Speaking to TechCrunch, Eric Archambeau, co-founder and partner of Astanor Ventures said: “There is now an urgent need for an impact investor like Astanor which is using tech and capital to bring about a revolution in food and farming.”
Archambeau told TechCrunch that the fund will rigorously apply the ideas behind the UN’s seventeen SDGs to ints investments.
“There is a new generation coming on board at LPs and family offices today and new funds understand the imperative this generation now raises. It’s time to stop up and be counted for the future,” said Archambeau.
Within its network, Astanor counts entrepreneurs, impact investors, farmers, chefs, policymakers, food scientists and high-profile sector experts, such as Kathleen Merrigan, Professor in the School of Sustainability and Executive Director of the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems at Arizona State University (an Astanor Venture Partner).
The background opportunities to shift the economy are, by now, obvious. Multiple studies show there are booming greenhouse gas emissions and some 70% of the world’s freshwater resources are consumed by agriculture. The earth’s soil is degrading (fertile soil is being lost at rate of 24bn tonnes a year. Food waste is a huge issue and some 40% of food goes to waste); most fruit or vegetable has 15% less nutrients than it did in 1950.
Since its founding in 2017, Astanor has invested in more than 20 European and US startups that are working to accelerate regenerative agriculture, innovate food production techniques and farming, as well as promote food culture and the enjoyment of food.
Portfolio companies include French insect farming pioneer Ϋnsect, in which Astanor is the lead investor; Infarm, the Berlin -based on-demand vertical farming company; La Ruche Qui dit Oui, a French farm to table supplier; and Notpla, a UK-based company seeking to eliminate plastics by creating a highly functional packaging material from seaweed. California food waste reduction company Apee created plant-based protection for fresh fruit and vegetables, allowing produce to stay fresh twice as long as without it.
This yeast-free bread connects us to long-ago bakers and rewards those who are patient with a delicate, cakelike crumb.
AMP Robotics, the manufacturer of robotic recycling systems, has received its largest purchase order from the publicly traded North American waste handling company, Waste Connections.
The order, for 24 machine learning enabled robotic recycling systems, will be used on container, fiber and residue lines across numerous materials recovery facilities, the company said.
The AMP technology can be used to recover plastics, cardboard, paper, cans, cartons and many other containers and packaging types reclaimed for raw material processing.
The tech can tell the difference between high-density polyethylene and polyethylene terephthalate, low-density polyethylene, polypropylene, and polystyrene. The robots can also sort for color, clarity, opacity and shapes like lids, tubs, clamshells, and cups — the robots can even identify the brands on packaging.
So far, AMP’s robots have been deployed in North America, Asia, and Europe with recent installations in Spain, and across the US in California, Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, Michigan, New York, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.
In January, before the pandemic began, AMP Robotics worked with its investor, Sidewalk Labs on a pilot program that would provide residents of a single apartment building representing 250 units in Toronto with detailed information about their recycling habits.
Working with the building and a waste hauler, Sidewalk Labs would transport the waste to a Canada Fibers material recovery facility where trash will be sorted by both Canada Fibers employees and AMP Robotics. Once the waste is categorized, sorted, and recorded Sidewalk will communicate with residents of the building about how they’re doing in their recycling efforts.
Sidewalk says that the tips will be communicated through email, an online portal, and signage throughout the building every two weeks over a three-month period.
For residents, it was an opportunity to have a better handle on what they can and can’t recycle and Sidewalk Labs is betting that the information will help residents improve their habits. And for folks who don’t want their trash to be monitored and sorted, they could opt out of the program.
Recyclers like Waste Connections should welcome the commercialization of robots tackling industry problems. Their once-stable business has been turned on its head by trade wars and low unemployment. About two years ago, China decided it would no longer serve as the world’s garbage dump and put strict standards in place for the kinds of raw materials it would be willing to receive from other countries. The result has been higher costs at recycling facilities, which actually are now required to sort their garbage more effectively.
At the same time, low unemployment rates are putting the squeeze on labor availability at facilities where humans are basically required to hand-sort garbage into recyclable materials and trash.
AMP Robotics is backed by Sequoia Capital, BV, Closed Loop Partners, Congruent Ventures and Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, a spin-out from Alphabet that invests in technologies and new infrastructure projects.
With a new $4 million round, the Bogota-based supply chain logistics technology developer Tül is prepping to expand across the Latin American region.
Founded by Enrique Villamarin Lafaurie and Juan Carlos Narváez, Tül’s technology connects construction manufacturers to the small businesses across Latin America that are responsible for handling half of the inventory for construction jobs in the region, Lafaurie said.
Lafaurie previously spent ten years working in the construction industry for Cementos Argos, the Colombian company responsible for a huge chunk of cement sales in North and South America.
“We’re connecting big construction companies in the back to hardware companies at the front end. It’s a way where producers can connect to those stores and can talk to those stores and do promotions straight to those stores,” said Lafaurie.
By digitizing what had been a primarily analog industry, the company has managed to hit a $10 million run revenue run rate and sign up 3,000 stores since its launch 8 months ago.
And that’s just in Colombia alone, said Lafaurie. The company will soon open up operations in Ecuador, which Lafaurie said was the second largest hardware market (per capita) in Latin America.
The company now counts nine employees on staff and expects to ramp up hiring significantly with the new capital.
“Colombia, was the most locked down country in the whole world. People were not allowed to leave their houses, but construction was deemed an essential business,” said Eric Reiner, an investor with Vine Capital Management, which led the company’s seed round. “Tül allowed hardware stores to ship products directly to the construction workers. With their logistics network they started a separate brand delivering sanitation equipment so that schools and laundromats could become sanitation stations.”
As Lafaurie describes it, Tül’s online service became a lifeline for the industry.
“The whole industry just shut down and we managed to keep those business open by not only helping them deliver straight to the jobsite, but by becoming the sanitation stations in the neighborhood. The outcome of that is very loyal customers to us that we helped,” he said. “We have huge retention of customers just from that.”
Botanists have laid out evidence that dozens of North American trees, herbs, plants and shrubs have gone extinct since European settlers arrived.