Gaia Capital Partners in Paris rebrands as Revaia, closes first €250M growth fund

Paris-based VC fund Gaia Capital Partners has change its name to Revaia and announced the final closing of its first growth fund, at €250 million. The firm said it exceeded its initial target of €200 million, and the fund will be ‘ESG focused’.

Revaia is also claiming to be Europe’s largest female-founded VC fund, although TechCrunch has not been able to verify that at the time of publication.

As Gaia Capital Partners, Revaia launched its first fund in late 2019, the portfolio for which currently consists of ten investments, including Aircall, recently achieved a unicorn valuation. Other investments include Epsor (Paris: Epsor designs and distributes employee savings and retirement plans), GetAccept (SF: an all-in-one sales enablement solution that assists B2B sales reps in closing remote deals), gohenry (London: a kids money management application), Planity (Paris: an online booking platform for hair and beauty salons), Welcome to the Jungle (Paris: a multichannel media company), and Yubo (Paris: a social platform for Generation Z).

Alice Albizzati, co-founder of Revaia said in a statement: “When we set up the firm, we were determined to create an investment strategy in line with our convictions – a focus on European companies with high ambitions but with no compromise on sustainability – and with the objective of bridging the gap between private and public markets. Our venture has performed beyond our initial expectations.”

The firm now has an office in Paris and Berlin, as well as a presence in New York and Toronto

The fund’s institutional investors include insurance companies such as Generali, Allianz, and Maif, pension funds, other institutional investors such as Bpifrance, as well as over 50 family offices and Angels.

Elina Berrebi, co-founder of Revaia, said: “We are very grateful to our investors and entrepreneurs who trusted us as we accelerated the build-up of our portfolio. This final closing of our first fund is a huge milestone. It is a solid foundation from which we can support future European technology leaders with their ambitions and sustainability plans, as well as expand and internationalize our team while building a strong value creation platform.”

Revaia said the new fund had already begun investing, and “two new investments should be announced soon”.

The firm says it aims to invest in around 15 companies and expand across Europe.

It’s also partnered with listed market sustainable investor Sycomore Asset Management.

#accel, #allianz, #berlin, #bpifrance, #co-founder, #europe, #finance, #gaia-capital-partners, #insurance, #investment, #london, #maif, #money, #new-york, #paris, #tc, #vc

Data scientists: don’t be afraid to explore new avenues

I’m a native French data scientist who cut his teeth as a research engineer in computer vision in Japan and later in my home country. Yet I’m writing from an unlikely computer vision hub: Stuttgart, Germany.

But I’m not working on German car technology, as one would expect. Instead, I found an incredible opportunity mid-pandemic in one of the most unexpected places: An ecommerce-focused, AI-driven, image-editing startup in Stuttgart focused on automating the digital imaging process across all retail products.

My experience in Japan taught me the difficulty of moving to a foreign country for work. In Japan, having a point of entry with a professional network can often be necessary. However, Europe has an advantage here thanks to its many accessible cities. Cities like Paris, London, and Berlin often offer diverse job opportunities while being known as hubs for some specialties.

While there has been an uptick in fully remote jobs thanks to the pandemic, extending the scope of your job search will provide more opportunities that match your interest.

Search for value in unlikely places, like retail

I’m working at the technology spin-off of a luxury retailer, applying my expertise to product images. Approaching it from a data scientist’s point of view, I immediately recognized the value of a novel application for a very large and established industry like retail.

Europe has some of the most storied retail brands in the world — especially for apparel and footwear. That rich experience provides an opportunity to work with billions of products and trillions of dollars in revenue that imaging technology can be applied to. The advantage of retail companies is a constant flow of images to process that provides a playing ground to generate revenue and possibly make an AI company profitable.

Another potential avenue to explore are independent divisions typically within an R&D department. I found a significant number of AI startups working on a segment that isn’t profitable, simply due to the cost of research and the resulting revenue from very niche clients.

Companies with data are companies with revenue potential

I was particularly attracted to this startup because of the potential access to data. Data by itself is quite expensive and a number of companies end up working with a finite set. Look for companies that directly engage at the B2B or B2C level, especially retail or digital platforms that affect front-end user interface.

Leveraging such customer engagement data benefits everyone. You can apply it towards further research and development on other solutions within the category, and your company can then work with other verticals on solving their pain points.

It also means there’s massive potential for revenue gains the more cross-segments of an audience the brand affects. My advice is to look for companies with data already stored in a manageable system for easy access. Such a system will be beneficial for research and development.

The challenge is that many companies haven’t yet introduced such a system, or they don’t have someone with the skills to properly utilize it. If you finding a company isn’t willing to share deep insights during the courtship process or they haven’t implemented it, look at the opportunity to introduce such data-focused offerings.

In Europe, the best bets involve creating automation processes

I have a sweet spot for early-stage companies that give you the opportunity to create processes and core systems. The company I work for was still in its early days when I started, and it was working towards creating scalable technology for a specific industry. The questions that the team was tasked with solving were already being solved, but there were numerous processes that still had to be put into place to solve a myriad of other issues.

Our year-long efforts to automate bulk image editing taught me that as long as the AI you’re building learns to run independently across multiple variables simultaneously (multiple images and workflows), you’re developing a technology that does what established brands haven’t been able to do. In Europe, there are very few companies doing this and they are hungry for talent who can.

So don’t be afraid of a little culture shock and take the leap.

#artificial-intelligence, #berlin, #column, #data-scientist, #digital-imaging, #e-commerce, #europe, #germany, #imaging, #job-search, #london, #paris, #startups, #tc

Link-in-bio monetization platform Snipfeed raises a $5.5M seed round

The link-in-bio business is heating up as more mobile website builders compete for a coveted slice of real estate on a creator’s TikTok, Instagram, or Twitter. Linktree leads the space, securing a recent $45 million Series B raise to build out e-commerce features, but Beacons boasts competitive creator monetization tools with just a $6 million seed round in May. Now, Snipfeed enters the ring with its own $5.5 million seed round, including investments from CRV, Abstract Ventures, Crossbeam (Ali Hamed), id8, Michael Ovitz (founder of CAA), Michael Bosstick, Diaspora Ventures, and others.

Linktree has been around since 2016 and has more funding than its up-and-coming competitors. But for creators seeking to monetize their following, these newer platforms may be more attractive to some creators, since they already have built-in tools to help them monetize their followings. Linktree currently supports tipping on the platform for users subscribed to its $6 Linktree Pro platform, but Snipfeed offers a wider range of monetization options; some creators are making over $20,000 per month on the platform, according to CEO and co-founder Rédouane Ramdani.

Snipfeed started as a content discovery platform with 44,000 weekly active users — but when Snipfeed added a creator monetization tool to its platform, it became its most popular feature. So, in February 2020, with little to no funding left, the company completely pivoted to its current link-in-bio business. Since then, Snipfeed has amassed 50,000 registered users, with the user base growing 500% in the last six months (Linktree, for comparison, has over 12 million users).

Based in Paris and Los Angeles, Snipfeed’s 15-person staff is particularly interested in the “long tail” of creators, which it says encompasses over 46 million people.

“Content creator doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be the next Addison Rae or a TikTok star,” explained Ramdani. “It means that you might be a doctor or lawyer, and on top of that, you’re going to have a TikTok where you explain how to file your taxes and that kind of stuff. They have this expertise, and they’re wondering, ‘How can I turn that into a side-hustle?’”

Image Credits: Snipfeed

In addition to a standard tipping tool, Snipfeed allows users to sell digital goods, like on-demand video, ebooks, access to livestreams, and one-on-one consultations. But Snipfeed’s biggest differentiator is its Cameo-like system for selling personalized content. For example, TikToker maylikethemonthh uses Snipfeed to sell asynchronous, video-recorded tarot readings. While asking a single, personalized astrology question costs $5, a more in-depth reading can cost up to $20 or $40.

Snipfeed is free to set up, but if you make sales, the company takes 15% — this percentage is inclusive of any transaction fees. Through Snipfeed’s referral program, creators can make 5% of sales from anyone they onboard to the platform (this comes out of Snipfeed’s commission).

“We decided to go with this model because we really want to have a relationship where we help the creators really make money. We only make money if they make money,” Ramdani said.

If a creator or celebrity were to sell personalized videos on Cameo, they’d lose 25% to the platform. Meanwhile, Beacons takes 9% of sales from its free version, and 5% from its $10 per month version, which offers more customization, integrations, analytics.

Image Credits: Snipfeed

Still, depending on the type of creator, the features that each link-in-bio startup offers might matter more than the cost. Beacons allows users to share a shopping-enabled TikTok feed, which could be huge a money-maker for creators that often share product recommendations with affiliate links, which give them a commission from sales. Ramdani said that astrologers have been particularly successful on Snipfeed, since fans can book a variety of asynchronous services at a wide range of prices. But these features could benefit any creator who can profit from answering followers’ specific questions — a chef could offer recipe ideas based on what’s in a fan’s fridge, or a life coach could make a personalized video if a follower requests advice.

With its $5.5 million in seed funding, Snipfeed plans to build out its e-commerce tools so that creators can sell physical products on their link-in-bio (Beacons and Linktree are also working on this with their recent funding rounds — but Beacons’ and Snipfeed’s seed rounds are small compared to Linktree’s Series B). The company also wants to develop educational content to show its users how to best monetize their platform — if Snipfeed can help its creators make money, then it’ll make more money too.

#abstract-ventures, #ali-hamed, #apps, #beacons, #caa, #crossbeam, #founder, #instagram, #lawyer, #link-in-bio, #linktree, #los-angeles, #michael-ovitz, #monetization, #paris, #real-estate, #social-media, #software, #tiktok, #video-hosting, #website, #world-wide-web

China Roundup: Kai-Fu Lee’s first Europe bet, WeRide buys a truck startup

Hello and welcome back to TechCrunch’s China Roundup, a digest of recent events shaping the Chinese tech landscape and what they mean to people in the rest of the world.

Despite the geopolitical headwinds for foreign tech firms to enter China, many companies, especially those that find a dependable partner, are still forging ahead. For this week’s roundup, I’m including a conversation I had with Prophesee, a French vision technology startup, which recently got funding from Kai-Fu Lee and Xiaomi, along with the usual news digest.

Spotting opportunities in China

Like many companies working on futuristic, cutting-edge tech in Europe, Prophesee was a spinout from university research labs. Previously, I covered two such companies from Sweden: Imint, which improves smartphone video production through deep learning, and Dirac, an expert in sound optimization.

The three companies have two things in common: They are all in niche fields, and they have all found eager customers in China.

For Prophesee, they are production lines, automakers and smartphone companies in China looking for breakthroughs in perception technology, which will in turn improve how their robots respond to the environment. So it’s unsurprising that Xiaomi and Chinese chip-focused investment firm Inno-Chip backed Prophesee in its latest funding round, which was led by Sinovation Venture.

The funding size was undisclosed but TechCrunch learned it was in the range of “tens of million USD.” It was also the first investment that Kai-Fu Lee has made through Sinovation in Europe. As Prophesee CEO Luca Verre recalled:

I met Dr. Kai-Fu Lee three years ago during the World Economic Forum … and when I pitched to him about Prophesee, he got very intrigued. And then over the past three years, actually, we kept in touch and last year, given the growing traction we were having in China, particularly in the mobile and IoT industry, he decided to jump in. He said okay, it is now the right timing Prophesee becomes big.

The Paris-based company wasn’t actively seeking funding, but it believed having Chinese strategic investors could help it gain greater access to the complex market.

Rather than sending information collected by sensors and cameras to computing platforms, Prophesee fits that process inside a chip (fabricated by Sony) that mimics the human eyes, a technology that is built upon neuromorphic engineering.

The old method snaps a collection of fixed images so when information grows in volume, a tremendous amount of computing power is needed. In contrast, Prophesee’s sensors, which it describes as “event-based,” only pick up changes in the environment just as the photoreceptors in our eyes and can process information continuously and quickly.

Europe has been pioneering neuromorphic computing, but in recent years, Verre saw a surge in research coming from Chinese universities and tech firms, which reaffirmed his confidence in the market’s appetite.

We see Chinese OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), particularly Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo pushing the standard of quality of image quality to very, very high … They are very eager to adopt new technology to further differentiate in a way which is faster and more aggressive than Apple. Apple is a company with an attitude which to me looks more similar to Huawei. So maybe for some technology, it takes more time to see the technology mature and adopt, which is right very often but later. So I’m sure that Apple will come at certain point with some products integrating event-based technology. In fact, we see them moving. We see them filing patents in the space. I’m sure that will come, but maybe not the first.

Though China is striving for technological independence, Verre believed Prophesee’s addressable market is large enough — $20 billion by his estimate. Nonetheless, he admitted he’d be “naive to believe Prophesee will be the only one to capture” this opportunity.

WeRide bought a truck company

One of China’s most valuable robotaxi startups has just acquired an autonomous trucking company called MoonX. The size of the deal is undisclosed, but we know that MoonX raised “tens of millions RMB” 15 months ago in a Series A round.

While WeRide is focused on Level 4 self-driving technology, it is also finding new monetization avenues before its robotaxis can chauffeur people at scale. It’s done so by developing minibusses, and the MoonX acqui-hire, which brings the company’s founder and over 50 engineers to WeRide, will likely help diversify its revenue pool.

WeRide and MoonX have deep-rooted relationships. Their respective founders, Tony Han and Yang Qingxiong, worked side by side at Jingchi, which was later rebranded to WeRide. Han co-founded Jingchi and took the helm as CEO in March 2018 while Yang was assigned vice president of engineering. But Yang soon quit and started MoonX.

Han, a Baidu veteran, gave Yang a warm homecoming and put him in charge of the firm’s research institute and its new office in Shenzhen, home to MoonX. WeRide’s sprawling headquarters is just about an hour’s drive away in the adjacent city of Guangzhou.

AI surveillance giant Cloudwalk nears IPO

Cloudwalk belongs to a cohort of Chinese unicorns that flourished through the second half of the 2010s by selling computer vision technology to government agencies across China. Together, Cloudwalk and its rivals SenseTime, Megvii and Yitu were dubbed the “four AI dragons” for their fast ascending valuations and handsome funding rounds.

Of course, the term “AI dragon” is now a misnomer as AI application becomes so pervasive across industries. Investors soon realized these upstarts need to diversify revenue streams beyond smart city contracts, and they’ve been waiting anxiously for exits. Finally, here comes Cloudwalk, which will likely be the first in its cohort to go public.

Cloudwalk’s application to raise 3.75 billion yuan ($580 million) from an IPO on the Shanghai STAR board was approved this week, though it can still be months before it starts trading. The firm’s financials don’t look particularly rosy for investors, with net loss amounting to 720 million yuan in 2020.

Also in the news

  • Speaking of the torrent of news in autonomous driving, vehicle vision provider CalmCar said this week that it has raised $150 million in a Series C round. Founded by several overseas Chinese returnees in 2016, CalmCar uses deep learning to develop ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance System) used in automotive, industrial and surveillance scenarios. German auto parts maker ZF led the round.
  • Baby clothes direct-to-consumer brand PatPat said it has raised $510 million from Series C and D rounds. The D2C ecosystem leveraging China’s robust supply chains is increasingly gaining interest from venture capitalists. Brands like Shein, PatPat, Cider and Outer have all secured fundings from established VCs. Founded by three Carnegie Mellon grads, PatPat counts IDG Capital, General Atlantic, DST Global, GGV Capital, SIG China and Sequoia China among its investors.

#apple-inc, #artificial-intelligence, #asia, #carnegie-mellon, #china, #dst-global, #europe, #funding, #fundings-exits, #general-atlantic, #ggv-capital, #idg-capital, #kai-fu-lee, #megvii, #paris, #perception, #self-driving-technology, #sensetime, #sequoia-china, #shein, #shenzhen, #sig-china, #smartphone, #smartphones, #sony, #sweden, #tc, #weride, #xiaomi

This tool tells you if NSO’s Pegasus spyware targeted your phone

Over the weekend, an international consortium of news outlets reported that several authoritarian governments — including Mexico, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates — used spyware developed by NSO Group to hack into the phones of thousands of their most vocal critics, including journalists, activists, politicians and business executives.

A leaked list of 50,000 phone numbers of potential surveillance targets was obtained by Paris-based journalism nonprofit Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International and shared with the reporting consortium, including The Washington Post and The Guardian. Researchers analyzed the phones of dozens of victims to confirm they were targeted by the NSO’s Pegasus spyware, which can access all of the data on a person’s phone. The reports also confirm new details of the government customers themselves, which NSO Group closely guards. Hungary, a member of the European Union where privacy from surveillance is supposed to be a fundamental right for its 500 million residents, is named as an NSO customer.

The reporting shows for the first time how many individuals are likely targets of NSO’s intrusive device-level surveillance. Previous reporting had put the number of known victims in the hundreds or more than a thousand.

NSO Group sharply rejected the claims. NSO has long said that it doesn’t know who its customers target, which it reiterated in a statement to TechCrunch on Monday.

Researchers at Amnesty, whose work was reviewed by the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, found that NSO can deliver Pegasus by sending a victim a link which when opened infects the phone, or silently and without any interaction at all through a “zero-click” exploit, which takes advantage of vulnerabilities in the iPhone’s software. Citizen Lab researcher Bill Marczak said in a tweet that NSO’s zero-clicks worked on iOS 14.6, which until today was the most up-to-date version.

Amnesty’s researchers showed their work by publishing meticulously detailed technical notes and a toolkit that they said may help others identify if their phones have been targeted by Pegasus.

The Mobile Verification Toolkit, or MVT, works on both iPhones and Android devices, but slightly differently. Amnesty said that more forensic traces were found on iPhones than Android devices, which makes it easier to detect on iPhones. MVT will let you take an entire iPhone backup (or a full system dump if you jailbreak your phone) and feed in for any indicators of compromise (IOCs) known to be used by NSO to deliver Pegasus, such as domain names used in NSO’s infrastructure that might be sent by text message or email. If you have an encrypted iPhone backup, you can also use MVT to decrypt your backup without having to make a whole new copy.

The Terminal output from the MVT toolkit, which scans iPhone and Android backup files for indicators of compromise. (Image: TechCrunch)

The toolkit works on the command line, so it’s not a refined and polished user experience and requires some basic knowledge of how to navigate the terminal. We got it working in about 10 minutes, plus the time to create a fresh backup of an iPhone, which you will want to do if you want to check up to the hour. To get the toolkit ready to scan your phone for signs of Pegasus, you’ll need to feed in Amnesty’s IOCs, which it has on its GitHub page. Any time the indicators of compromise file updates, download and use an up-to-date copy.

Once you set off the process, the toolkit scans your iPhone backup file for any evidence of compromise. The process took about a minute or two to run and spit out several files in a folder with the results of the scan. If the toolkit finds a possible compromise, it will say so in the outputted files. In our case, we got one “detection,” which turned out to be a false positive and has been removed from the IOCs after we checked with the Amnesty researchers. A new scan using the updated IOCs returned no signs of compromise.

Given it’s more difficult to detect an Android infection, MVT takes a similar but simpler approach by scanning your Android device backup for text messages with links to domains known to be used by NSO. The toolkit also lets you scan for potentially malicious applications installed on your device.

The toolkit is — as command line tools go — relatively simple to use, though the project is open source so not before long surely someone will build a user interface for it. The project’s detailed documentation will help you — as it did us.

Read more:


You can send tips securely over Signal and WhatsApp to +1 646-755-8849. You can also send files or documents using our SecureDrop. Learn more

#amnesty-international, #android, #cisco, #computing, #espionage, #european-union, #government, #hungary, #iphone, #mexico, #microsoft, #morocco, #nso, #nso-group, #paris, #pegasus, #securedrop, #security, #smartphones, #software, #spyware, #the-guardian, #the-washington-post, #united-arab-emirates, #vmware, #whatsapp

Paris court fines Airbnb $9.6 million for illegal listings

A court in Paris has fined Airbnb, the popular marketplace for vacation rentals. According to the court, the tech company has failed to comply with local regulation when it comes to listing your apartment on the platform. Airbnb should pay $9.6 million (€8.08 million) to the City of Paris.

This decision has been years in the making. Like many major cities around the world, Airbnb has had some impact on the housing market in Paris. Many apartments disappeared from the housing market as they became full-time Airbnb apartments, leading to high rents.

In 2017, it became a bit more difficult to list your home on Airbnb if you live in Paris. For instance, you can’t rent an apartment for more than 120 nights a year. This way, landlords would think twice before switching from full-time tenants to Airbnb customers.

As there are multiple vacation rental platforms, the City of Paris implemented a registration system. If you want to list your apartment on Airbnb, you have to get a registration number first. Platforms like Airbnb would have to ask for that registration number and cap listings to 120 nights per year.

At first, the Mayor’s Office flagged around 1,000 apartments that were not properly registered. They sent the list to Airbnb, asking the company to take down those listings.

In 2019, the City of Paris sued Airbnb for the same reason. Thanks to some regulatory changes, the responsibility was shared between the hosts and the platform. And it leads us to today’s fine.

“This is the first time in France that a local government wins a case against a tech giant,” Paris Deputy Mayor Ian Brossat said in a statement. “Platforms are finally held accountable. A wonderful win for Parisians.”

Airbnb told the AFP that 95% of listings in Paris have been reserved for less than 120 nights in the past year. It means that those last 5% of listings represent much more than 5% of nights.

#airbnb, #europe, #paris, #policy

German identity verifier IDnow acquires France’s ARIADNEXT for $59 million, hits M&A road

IDnow, a German-based identity verification startup is acquiring ARIADNEXT, a French equivalent, specializing in remote identity verification and digital identity creation. A price was not released by either party but TechCrunch understands from sources that the deal was approximately $59 million / €50 million. Sources say IDnow is looking to do similar acquisitions.

IDnow says the combined entity will be able to provide a comprehensive identity verification platform, ranging from AI-driven to human-assisted technology and from online to point-of-sale verification options. IDnow offers its services into the UK, French and German, Spain, Poland, Romania, and other international markets, and says it expects to increase revenue 3x in 2021 versus 2019.

The startup also says the pandemic has meant usage of its products has gone up 200% more compared to last year as companies switch to digital processes.

Andreas Bodczek, CEO of IDnow said in a statement: “This combination with ARIADNEXT is an important step towards our vision of building the pan-European leader for identity verification-as-a-service solutions. With ARIADNEXT, in addition to our recent acquisition of identity Trust Management AG, IDnow can provide our customers with an even broader suite of products through a single platform with a seamless user experience.”

Guillaume Despagne, President of ARIADNEXT, said: “We are looking forward to joining a team of IDnow’s caliber, combining our experience and skills to work towards our shared vision of providing a pan-European secure and future-proof solution to customers.

IDnow will retain ARIADNEXT’s locations in Rennes, Paris, Madrid, Bucharest, Iasi, and Warsaw, as well as its over 125 employees. The acquisition is subject to regulatory approvals.

The acquisition means IDNow is now on a par with the other large player in Europe, OnFido. TechCrunch understands the company has done €50m+ revenue this year expect to over-perform its €100m revenue target for 2023.

#articles, #artificial-intelligence, #business, #ceo, #economy, #europe, #german, #idnow, #madrid, #onfido, #paris, #poland, #president, #romania, #spain, #startup-company, #tc, #techcrunch, #united-kingdom, #verification, #warsaw

Ushopal looks to charm China’s beauty lovers with niche Western brands

What will China’s answer to Estée Lauder look like in the digital age?

According to Ushopal, it will provide a seamless online and offline shopping experience, where China’s savvy beauty shoppers get to discover niche, tasteful brands and learn their stories.

Ushopal was founded in 2017 by J&J veteran Lu Guo as an “omni-channel” partner for luxury beauty brands at a time when online and offline consumption were increasingly merging in China. Unlike traditional import distributors, which simply puts goods on the shelves, Ushopal offers a holistic solution that helps brands develop their digital and brick-and-mortar retail channels as well as marketing content through its network of 2,500 influencers.

Ushopal felt that patnerships weren’t enough, so in 2019, it took a step further by adding a strategic investment arm to seek deeper operational influence on brands. Check sizes range from $10 million to $100 million, and for the larger rounds, Ushopal says it can leverage its own investors such as Cathay Capital, a private equity firm focused on global companies.

For instance, Cathay Capital bought a minority stake in the Paris-based, high-end fragrance brand Juliette Has A Gun. As its investor and partner, Ushopal helped the brand, which was founded by the grandson of the legendary couturier Nina Ricci, grow its gross merchandise value in China from zero to over 70 million yuan within a year.

To boost its capital pool, Ushopal raised $100 million in March that lifted its total fundings to $200 million. Aside from Cathay Capital, its past investors also include FountainVest Partners, a Chinese private equity firm that recently acquired the Canadian premium outdoor clothing label Arc’teryx, and Chinaccelerator, SOSV’s China-based accelerator focused on cross-border businesses.

Chinese consumers are hooked to e-commerce today, but there is still much of the shopping experience that Alibaba’s marketplace and WeChat mini-stores can’t offer. As such, Ushopal opened its first multi-brand store in an upscale mall in Shanghai last year, carrying brands that are normally found in Neiman Marcus in the U.S. and Le Bon Marché in Paris. The goal is to showcase treasures from around the world, an idea that is captured by the chain’s name — Bonnie&Clyde — the names of a Depression-era crime couple who is often depicted as chic and rebellious in popular culture.

Customers don’t pay at B&C’s brick-and-mortar store; instead, they order through its app and can have the order delivered to their doorsteps within four hours if they live in Shanghai. The delivery time is much shorter than China’s standard e-commerce import practice, which normally takes three to seven days for goods to arrive from their overseas distribution centers.

B&C, on the other hand, stockpiles in its own warehouse in a free trade zone in Shanghai, which allows for much quicker delivery. And since it holds exclusive and selective distribution rights to the brands it works with, it has a good grasp over how much inventory to keep.

A promotional short video made by Ushopal for Juliette Has A Gun in China

At China’s beauty stores targeting the mass market, shoppers are often seen moving from one busily stocked shelf to another while their eyes are fixated on their phones, browsing product reviews on content commerce apps like Xiaohongshu. B&C wants full attention from its customers by limiting its in-store product number and statinoing a team of beauty advisors. The demographics it targets are also quite different.

“When they are traveling in the U.S., they are going to Barneys, Saxs Fifth Avenue and whey they are in the U.K., they are going to Harrods,” Lau, vice president of brands at Ushopal, told TechCrunch in an interview. “They are familiar with the experience, and they are not here to line up.”

Last year, B&C generated over $200 million in gross merchandise value through the products it bought from a dozen of brands and subsequently sold in China. The average ticket size of its sales was over 5,000 yuan ($770), with shoppers often spending over 10,000 yuan per order, according to Lau. Many of the customers were what he called “second-generation rich,” roughly China’s equivalent to trust fund kids, as well as “well-to-do wives.”

Ushopal doesn’t limit its portfolio to overseas products. It doesn’t distinguish the origin of a brand, said Lau, whether it’s Chinese, Japanese or European. Though the company mainly works with Western brands at the moment, Lau said Chinese brands are becoming more sophisticated and often understand the local market better.

“For us, it’s just about creating great brands. It’s like Estée Lauder, which has brands from all over the world. We are a China-based company but a global luxury business.”

#alibaba, #asia, #beauty, #brand, #ceo, #china, #chinaccelerator, #ecommerce, #fountainvest-partners, #johnson-johnson, #paris, #shanghai, #tc, #united-states, #xiaohongshu

Clim8 raises $8M from 7pc Ventures, launches climate-focused investing app for retail investors

Ethical investing remains something of a confusing maze, with a great deal of ‘greenwashing’ going on. A new UK startup is hoping to fix that with the launch of its new app and platform for retail investors.

Clim8 Investhas raised $8 million from 7pc Ventures (early backers of Oculus, acquired by Facebook),  British Business Bank Future Fund and a numbers of technology entrepreneurs and executives including Marcus Exall (Monese), Marcus Mosen (N26),  Paul Willmott (Lego Digital, McKinsey), Doug Scott (Redbrain), Matt Wilkins (Thought Machine), Andrew Cocker (Skyscanner), Steve Thomson (Redbrain), Monica Kalia (Neyber, Goldman Sachs), Doug Monro (Adzuna), Erik Nygard (Limejump). 

Consumers will be able to invest in companies and supply chains that are focused on tackling climate change. It will be competing with similar startups in the space such as London-based Tickr (backed by $3m from Ada Ventures), Helios in Paris, and Yova in Zurich.

Duncan Grierson, CEO of Clim8 said in a statement: “We are launching at an exciting time for sustainable investing. 2020 was an exceptional year for environmentally-focused investment offerings, as investors looked harder at climate-related opportunities. Sustainable investments have continued to outperform markets since the beginning of the Covid-19 Crisis and we believe this will continue.”

Grierson has 20 years of experience in the green space and was a winner of the EY Entrepreneur of Year Cleantech award.

The startup will take advantage of new, higher EU rules around the disclosure requirements for sustainable investment funds. Users can choose between either stocks and shares ISAs (up to £20k) or a taxable general investment account.

#ada-ventures, #adzuna, #articles, #ceo, #corporate-social-responsibility, #economy, #europe, #european-union, #facebook, #finance, #goldman-sachs, #london, #monese, #n26, #paris, #retail-investors, #social-finance, #tc, #technology-entrepreneurs, #united-kingdom, #zurich

Private chef parties at home startup Yhangry raises $1.5M Seed from VC angels and Ollie Locke

There’s an “uber for everything” these days and now there are “Ubers for personal chefs”. Just take a look at PopTop or 100 Pleats for instance. Now in London, there is Yhangry (which brands itself as the appropriately shouty YHANGRY). This is a “private chef parties at home” website, and no doubt an app at some point. The startup has now raised a $1.5 million Seed round from a number of notable UK angels which also includes a few UK VCs for good measure, as well as ‘Made In Chelsea’ TV star Ollie Locke.

Founders Heinin Zhang and Siddhi Mittal created the startup before the pandemic, which lets people order a made-to-measure dinner party online. Although it trundled along until Covid, it had to pivot into virtual chef classes during lockdowns last year and this. The company is now poised to take advantage of London’s unlocking, which will see legal outdoor and indoor dining return.

The startup also speaks to the decentralization of experiences going on in the wake of the pandemic. In 2019 we were working out in gyms and going to restaurants. In 2021 we are working out at home and bringing the restaurant to us.

Normally booking private dinner parties involves a lot of hassle. The idea here is that Yhangry makes the whole affair as easy to order as an Uber Eats or Deliveroo.

Investors in the Seed round include Carmen Rico (Blossom Capital), Eileen Burbidge (Passion Capital), Orson Stadler (Antler) and Martin Mignot (Index Ventures), Made In Chelsea star Ollie Locke, plus fellow tech founders including Jack Tang (Urban), Adnan Ebrahim (MindLabs), Alex Fitzgerald (Cuckoo Internet), Georgina Kirby (Vinehealth) and Deepali Nangia (Alma Angels). Yhangry’s statement said all the investors are also keen customers. I bet they are.

Co-founder Mittal said in a statement: “By making private chef experiences more accessible and affordable, our customers regularly tell us they are finally able to catch up with friends at home… 70% of our customers have never had a private chef before and for them, the freedom and flexibility to curate their own evening is priceless.”

Yhangry now has 130 chefs on its books. Chefs have to pass a cooking trial and adhere to Covid rules. The funding will be used to double the size of the startup’s team.

The menus start at £17pp for six people. The price of the booking covers everything, including the cost of the fresh ingredients, but customers can add extras, such as wine etc. Since its launch in December 2019, the firm says it has served more than 7,000 Londoners.

Yhangry says it will enter key European markets, such as Paris, Berlin, Lisbon and Barcelona.

How will Yhangry survive post-Covid, with restaurants/bars opening up again?

Mittal said: “When restaurants were open between our launch and March 2020, we saw demand because people want to be able to spend time with their friends in a relaxed setting, and aren’t limited to the two-hour slot you get in a restaurant. Once places start to open up again, we believe Yhangry will follow this trend of at-home dining and socializing – not to mention for people who are not ready yet to go out to a busy pub or restaurant.”

#articles, #barcelona, #berlin, #chef, #co-founder, #companies, #deliveroo, #economy, #eileen-burbidge, #europe, #lisbon, #london, #martin-mignot, #online-food-ordering, #paris, #passion-capital, #restaurant, #startup-company, #tc, #uber, #uber-eats, #united-kingdom

Virgin Galactic debuts its first third-generation spaceship, ‘VSS Imagine’

Commercial human spaceflight company Virgin Galactic has unveiled the first ever Spaceship III, the third major iteration of its spacecraft design. The first in this new series is called ‘VSS (Virgin SpaceShip) Imagine,’ and will start ground testing now with the aim of beginning its first glide flights starting this summer. VSS Imagine has a snazzy new external look, including a mirrored wraparound finish that’s designed to reflect the spacecraft’s changing environment as it makes its way from the ground to space — but more importantly, it moves Virgin Galactic closer to achieving the engineering goals it requires to produce a fleet of spacecraft at scale.

I spoke to Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier about VSS Imagine, and what it represents for the company.

“We can build these at a faster pace,” he explained. “These are still relatively slow, versus what we want in our next class of spaceships. But what we do expect to have here is, we’ve taken all the learnings from [VSS] Unity, and built-in what we need to do so that we can turn these ships at a faster pace, because obviously, the number of flights we can do is the product of how many ships you have, and how quickly you can turn them.”

Unlike Unity, which is the spacecraft that Virgin Galactic first flew in September 2016, and that it ‘s still using in New Mexico now for its testing and commercial launch preparation program, Imagine has a “modular design” that makes it much easier to maintain, and increases the rate at which it can fly subsequent missions. As Colglazier mentioned, there’s still more work to be done in that regard to get the Spaceship design to the point where it’s able to support the company’s target of around 400 flights per year, per individual spaceport, but it’s a big upgrade, and the company is already beginning manufacturing work on a second Spaceship III-class vehicle, ‘VSS Inspire.’

Image Credits: Virgin Galactic

Imagine and Inspire are technical achievements, to be sure, but Colglazier, who came to Virgin Galactic from Disney Parks International in July 2020, also emphasized the importance of this spacecraft debut in terms of the company’s consumer brand.

“What you’re seeing in the images, the choice of the livery, the film that we’ve put out, is a very clear step, as a consumer brand launch, and as we’re stepping in and building that, that will build over the course of the summer as we build up towards Richard [Branson]’s flight,” he said. “Very purposefully, we’ve used these lofty words of ‘democratizing space’ — but space is meant for everyone. It may take a while, just for everyone to get there, but it’s coming. And so this was leading with a very consumer facing, ‘Why are we doing this?’”

In fact, that focus on the consumer side of the business has been a lot of Colglazier’s work over the past eight months since joining the company. He said that the Virgin Galactic he joined had a “world-class team” that had the aerospace pieces completely locked in, but that his particular contribution has been in building up the commercial side of the business to match.

“We’re now bringing some talent in that is used to scaling this kind of a business, so Swami Iyer actually started Monday of last week,” he said. “And when you see a guy like Joe Rohde, who came in on the experience side, there’s no replacement — that’s additive to building out now the shoulders around this experience.”

Iyer joined as President of Aerospace Systems, and brings years of experience in the commercial space and defense industry, across GKN Advanced Defernce Systems, Honeywell Aerospace and more. Rohde, on the other hand, boasts a very different background, as a longtime Disney Imagineer, who joins the company as its first ‘Experience Architect,’ focused squarely on defining what the Virgin Galactic experience is for its astronaut customers, their friends and family, and the broader public, too.

Colglazier said that their vision for what the experience will look like will also be different depending on what part of the world you’re flying from, noting that weather you fly from a spaceport in Europe, Asia, India or Australia should result in something “dramatically different,” even if the spacecraft themselves are all used in the same way as they are in New Mexico. That definitely seems like a logical approach from an executive whose prior experience includes leading Disney’s parks in Burbank, Paris, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo.

Image Credits: Virgin Galactic

In the end, Colglazier said that the core philosophy Virgin Galactic will pursue in terms of consumer brand will be one focused on inclusion, even if the actual ‘going to space’ part of its offering remains out of reach for most in the short term.

“This is for everyone, it has to be for everyone,” he said. That aspiration may take some number of years to actually be realized, but in the meantime, we have to find a way that our brand and our company can be accessed, that what we do can be accessed by all sorts of people at all different layers of engagement, so we’re going to be very purposeful about that. You’re going to hear us talking mostly about, effectively the apex experience — actually taking the new ships to space. But the ability to tier down out of that is really, really important, and the ability for us to be a brand that’s reaching out to everyone is incredibly important.”

That begins with the approach to this spacecraft debut today, Colglazier says, and is apparent in the tone of the video the company debuted (embedded above) to mark the reveal. And Virgin Galactic also still has 600 passengers booked and waiting for their own flights, so that’s obviously a key focus after Branson’s flight targeted for later this year.

Finally, I asked Colglazier when he himself intends to go up, since he said he definitely plans to when joining the company. Mostly, he said, he doesn’t want to cut in front of any paying customers.

“Okay, there are 600 or so people that are going to be a little ticked at me, if I jumped the line, so I’m going to keep focused at the consumer level,” he said. “But nobody else is in line yet, so I’m gonna get in before anybody else comes in line.”

#aerospace, #asia, #astronaut, #australia, #ceo, #europe, #executive, #india, #michael-colglazier, #new-mexico, #outer-space, #paris, #president, #richard-branson, #shanghai, #space, #space-tourism, #spacecraft, #spaceflight, #tc, #tokyo, #virgin-galactic

Eight Roads Ventures Europe shifts its gears towards diversity, appointing Lucile Cornet to Partner

The world of European VC can post another win for diversity this week as Lucile Cornet is appointed Partner with Eight Roads Ventures Europe, a firm focusing on startups in Europe and Israel. Cornet is its first female Partner. Eight Roads is backed by Fidelity and has over $6 billion assets under management globally.

Cornet will be focusing on the software and fintech sectors and previously led a number of investments for the firm, having risen from Associate to Partner within five years. It’s an out of the ordinary career trajectory when VC is notorious for having a ‘no succession’ culture, unless partners effectively buy into funds.

Cornet commented: “I am hugely optimistic about what is to come for European technology entrepreneurs. We are seeing more and more amazing founders and innovative businesses across the whole European region with ambitions and abilities to become global champions, and I look forward to helping them scale up.”

Speaking with TechCrunch, Cornet added: “I feel so, so fortunate because I think we’ve been living during a once in a lifetime transformation in general in tech and also in Europe. To build some of those companies, and just be part of the ecosystem has been fantastic. I know how much more exciting things are going to be in the next couple of years.”

Cornet previously led investments into Spendesk, the Paris-based spend management platform; Thinksurance, the Frankfurt-based B2B insurtech; and Compte-Nickel, one of the first European neobanks which was successfully acquired by BNP Paribas in 2017. She also sits on the boards of VIU Eyewear, OTA Insight and Fuse Universal.

France-born Cornet’s previous career includes investment banking, Summit Partners, and she joined Eight Roads Ventures in 2015. She was a ‘rising star’ at the GP Bullhound Investor of the Year Awards 2020.

Commenting, Davor Hebel, managing partner at Eight Roads Ventures Europe, said: “We are delighted with Lucile’s success so far at Eight Roads. She has made a huge impact in Europe and globally since joining the firm. She has a tremendous work ethic and drive… identifying the best European companies and helping them scale into global winners. Her promotion also speaks to our desire to continue to develop our best investment talent and promote from within.”

Speaking to me in an interview Hebel added: “We always believed in a slightly different approach and we say when we hire people, even from the start, we want them to have judgment, and we want them to have that presence when they meet entrepreneurs. So it was always part of the model for us to say, we might not hire many people, but we really want them to have the potential to grow and stay with us and have the path and the potential to do so.”

In 2020, Eight Roads Ventures Europe invested in Cazoo, Otrium, Spendesk, Odaseva and most recently Tibber, completed eight follow-on investments and exited Rimilia. The firm also saw its portfolio company AppsFlyer reach a $2 billion valuation.

#appsflyer, #bnp-paribas, #business, #companies, #economy, #eight-roads-ventures, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #france, #frankfurt, #gp-bullhound, #investment-banking, #israel, #managing-partner, #paris, #partner, #private-equity, #startup-company, #summit-partners, #tc, #technology-entrepreneurs

Miami-based Ironhack raises $20 million for its coding bootcamps as demand for coders continues

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.

 

#amsterdam, #barcelona, #berlin, #capgemini, #co-founder, #companies, #education-technology, #europe, #european-union, #ironhack, #lambda-school, #lisbon, #madrid, #mexico-city, #miami, #north-america, #paris, #santander, #sao-paulo, #siemens, #south-america, #tc, #united-states, #web-development

If elected, Biden commits to rejoin climate accord U.S. just abandoned

On the same day that the U.S. officially withdrew from the global pact to reduce emissions that cause climate change, presidential contender Joe Biden committed that he would rejoin the Paris Agreement if elected.

In a tweet late Wednesday, Biden wrote, “Today, the Trump Administration officially left the Paris Climate Agreement. And in exactly 77 days, a Biden Administration will rejoin it.”

The Trump Administration announced that the U.S. would leave the agreement three years ago, in a move that was blasted by venture investors at the time.

“I have always believed that, while we can disagree on the scientific premise behind climate change, we should all agree that advanced energy technologies represent one of the biggest economic opportunities,” said General Catalyst managing director Hemant Taneja at the time. “To give that up is a threat to American prosperity … Our American companies will be at a huge competitive disadvantage globally if they don’t have a market to rely on in their backyard.”

Biden’s decision to rejoin the agreement should come as no surprise given the $2 trillion climate stimulus package that was a major plank of the former Vice President’s campaign.

For the Trump Administration, the official abandonment of the climate agreement was the fulfillment of a campaign promise made in what could be the waning days of its authority.

A permanent American exit from the climate accord would be a huge blow to the international community’s ability to stave off a climate disaster caused by rising temperatures related to greenhouse gas emissions. A year of wildfires, flooding and other climate-related catastrophes have shown how changing temperatures are already wreaking havoc on communities. As the second largest emitter of global carbon dioxide, the U.S. plays an outsized role in the success of any climate change mitigation plan.

The agreement, a centerpiece of the previous Obama Administration in which Biden served as vice president, was designed to limit the emissions that cause global warming so that temperatures would not rise beyond another 2 degrees celsius.

“If Biden wins, then the fact that the withdrawal became final on November 4 really won’t matter,” Todd Stern, who was the top U.S. climate negotiator during the Obama administration, told the Financial Times. “If Trump wins a second term, then it will have much more lasting impact.”

To date, the U.S. is the only country that has formally left the agreement.

Even if a Trump Administration were to eke out a slight electoral college victory and return for a second term, market dynamics could mute the effect of any fossil fuel industry advocacy or stimulus the government may try to initiate.

Simply put, renewable energy is making more economic sense within the U.S. than its fossil fuel competitors. Wind and solar are now basically cost competitive or cheaper than fossil fuels in many markets. The cost of battery storage is also falling dramatically.

A March report from Consumer Reports explained just how much better solar power can be for consumers. “Going solar is a money-saver in the long term, even though startup costs are higher for the consumer,” according to the publication. “Electricity from fossil fuels costs between 5 cents and 17 cents per kilowatt-hour. Solar energy costs average between 3 cents and 6 cents per kilowatt-hour and are trending down, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.”

Beyond market forces, a recalcitrant Trump Administration could be pressured to adopt more aggressive policies to reduce its emissions by international tariffs and potential sanctions, Sarah Ladislaw, a director of the climate change program at the Center for International and Strategic Studies at Tufts University, told the Financial Times..

“It is quite likely that other countries with ambitious emissions reduction targets, like the EU and China, will try to influence US behavior through cross-border carbon tariffs and a push to influence the global financial system to incorporate climate considerations,” she said.

#consumer-reports, #european-union, #general-catalyst, #government, #hemant-taneja, #joe-biden, #paris, #paris-agreement, #tc, #tufts-university

Google Maps gets improved Live View AR directions

Google today announced a few updates to Live View, the augmented reality walking directions in its Google Maps app that officially launched last year. Live View uses your phone’s camera and GPS to tell you exactly where to go, making it a nice addition to the standard map-centric directions in similar applications.

The new features Google is introducing today include the ability to invoke Live View from the transit tab in Google Maps when you’re on a journey that includes multiple modes of transportations. Until now, the only way to see Live View was when were asking for pure walking directions.

 

Image Credits: Google

 

 

If you’re like me and perpetually disoriented after you exit a subway station in a new city (remember 2019, when we could still travel?), this is a godsend. And I admit that I often forget Live View exists. Adding it to multi-model directions may just get me to try it out more often since it is now more clearly highlighted in the app.

Google Maps can now also identify landmarks around you to give you better guidance and a clearer idea of where you are in a city. Think the Empire State Building in New York, for example.

Image Credits: Google

These new landmarks will be coming to Amsterdam, Bangkok, Barcelona, Berlin, Budapest, Dubai, Florence, Istanbul, Kuala Lumpur, Kyoto, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Milan, Munich, New York, Osaka, Paris, Prague, Rome, San Francisco, Sydney, Tokyo and Vienna, with more to follow.

If you’re a regular Live View user, you’ll know that the actual pin locations in this mode can sometimes be off. In hilly areas, the pin can often be hovering high above your destination, for example. Now, Google promises to fix this by using a combination of machine learning and better topographical maps to place the pin exactly where it’s supposed to be.

Also new is the ability to use Live View in combination with Google Maps’ location sharing feature. So when a friend shares their location with you, you can now see exactly where they are in Live View, too, and get directions to meet them.

#amsterdam, #artificial-intelligence, #augmented-reality, #bangkok, #barcelona, #berlin, #budapest, #dubai, #florence, #google, #google-maps, #gps, #istanbul, #kuala-lumpur, #kyoto, #london, #los-angeles, #machine-learning, #madrid, #milan, #munich, #new-york, #osaka, #paris, #prague, #rome, #san-francisco, #software, #sydney, #tokyo, #vienna

ServiceNow updates its workflow automation platform

ServiceNow today announced the latest release of its workflow automation platform. With this, the company is emphasizing a number of new solutions for specific verticals, including for telcos and financial services organizations. This focus on verticals extends the company’s previous efforts to branch out beyond the core IT management capabilities that defined its business during its early years. The company is also adding new features for making companies more resilient in the face of crises, as well as new machine learning-based tools.

Dubbed the ‘Paris’ release, this update also marks one of the first major releases for the company since former SAP CEO Bill McDermott became its president and CEO last November.

“We are in the business of operating on purpose,” McDermott said “And that purpose is to make the world of work work better for people. And frankly, it’s all about people. That’s all CEOs talk about all around the world. This COVID environment has put the focus on people. In today’s world, how do you get people to achieve missions across the enterprise? […] Businesses are changing how they run to drive customer loyalty and employee engagement.”

He argues that at this point, “technology is no longer supporting the business, technology is the business,” but at the same time, the majority of companies aren’t prepared to meet whatever digital disruption comes their way. ServiceNow, of course, wants to position itself as the platform that can help these businesses.

“We are very fortunate at ServiceNow,” CJ Desai, ServiceNow’s Chief Product Officer, said. “We are the critical platform for digital transformation, as our customers are thinking about transforming their companies.”

As far as the actual product updates, ServiceNow is launching a total of six new products. These include new business continuity management features with automated business impact analysis and tools for continuity plan development, as well as new hardware asset management for IT teams and legal service delivery for legal operations teams.

Image Credits: ServiceNow

With specialized solutions for financial services and telco users, the company is also now bringing together some of its existing solutions with more specialized services for these customers. As ServiceNow’s Dave Wright noted, this goes well beyond just putting together existing blocks.

“The first element is actually getting familiar with the business,” he explained. “So the technology, actually building the product, isn’t that hard. That’s relatively quick. But the uniqueness when you look at all of these workflows, it’s the connection of the operations to the customer service side. Telco is a great example. You’ve got the telco network operations side, making sure that all the operational equipment is active. And then you’ve got the business service side with customer service management, looking at how the customers are getting service. Now, the interesting thing is, because we’ve got both things sitting on one platform, we can link those together really easily.”

Image Credits: ServiceNow

On the machine learning side, ServiceNow made six acquisitions in the area in the last four years, Wright noted — and that is now starting to pay off. Specifically, the company is launching its new predictive intelligence workbench with this release. This new service makes it easier for process owners to detect issues, while also suggesting relevant tasks and content to agents, for example, and prioritizing incoming requests automatically. Using unsupervised learning, the system can also identify other kinds of patterns and with a number of pre-built templates, users can build their own solutions, too.

“The ServiceNow advantage has always been one architecture, one data model and one born-in-the-cloud platform that delivers workflows companies need and great experiences employees and customers expect,” said Desai. “The Now Platform Paris release provides smart experiences powered by AI, resilient operations, and the ability to optimize spend. Together, they will provide businesses with the agility they need to help them thrive in the COVID economy.”

#articles, #artificial-intelligence, #bill-mcdermott, #business, #ceo, #enterprise, #machine-learning, #paris, #sap, #servicenow, #tc, #workflow

Committing to a fully zero-emission fleet by 2040, Uber is dedicating $800 million to electrifying its drivers

Ride hailing giant Uber is committing to become a fully zero-emission platform by 2040 and setting aside $800 million to help get its drivers using electric vehicles by 2025.

The company said that it would invest further in its micro-mobility options as well with the goal of having 100 percent of its rides take place on electric vehicles in the US, Canada, and European cities in which the company operates. Uber also said it would commit to reaching net-zero emissions from its own corporate operations by 2030.

If the company can hit its timeline, Uber would achieve necessary milestones in its operations a decade ahead of the Paris Climate Agreement targets set for 2050.

The keys to the company’s efforts are four new and expanding initiatives, according to a statement.

The first is the launch of Uber Green in 15 US and Canadian cities. For customers willing to spend an extra dollar, they can request an EV or hybrid electric vehicle to pick them up. By the end of the year, Uber Green will be available in over 65 cities around the world. Riders who choose the green option will also receive three times the Uber Rewards points they would have received for a typical UberX ride, the company said.

Uber’s second step toward making the world a greener place is to commit $800 million to transition its fleet to electric vehicles. Part of that transition is being subsidized by the $1 surcharge for riders who choose to go green and from fees that the company collects under its London and French Clean Air Plans. Those are 15 cent (or pence) surcharges that Uber has been collecting since January of last year to pay for the electrification of its drivers’ cars in European cities.

Dara Kowsrowshahi, chief executive officer of Uber Technologies Inc., speaks during an event in New Delhi, India, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. During his Japan trip, Khosrowshahi has made it clear the ride-hailing company isnt scaling back its ambitions in certain Asian markets, despite speculation of a retreat. Photographer: Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

To incentivize drivers to go green, Uber’s doling out an extra 50 cents per trip in the US and Canada for every “Uber Green” trip completed to be paid out by riders. Drivers using EVs will also get another dollar from Uber itself, amounting to $1.50 more per trip for each EV ride completed.

Other enticements include partnerships with GM in the US and Canada and Renault -Nissan in Europe to offer discounts on electric vehicles to Uber drivers. Working with Avis, Uber is planning to offer more electric vehicles for rental to US drivers. Meanwhile, the company said it would also expand electric vehicle charging by working to develop new charging stations in conjunction with companies like BP, EVgo, Enel X, Izivia by EDF, and Power Dot.

Uber’s also working to revive the vision of robotic battery swapping to enable customers to forget about their concerns when it comes to charging a new vehicle. It’s working with the San Francisco-based startup, Ample, as the young company develops its battery-swapping tech — and Lithium Urban Technologies, an electric fleet operator out of India.

Building on its existing micro-mobility network, the company is going to integrate bikes and scooters from Lime even closer into its networks and expanding its shared ride programs as soon as its safe to do it. The company is also intent on expanding its Journey Planning feature to enable users to see pricing options, schedules, and directions to and from transit stations. Uber also now offers in-app ticketing in more than ten cities, so people can buy public transit passes in the app itself. As a coup de grace, Uber’s also unveiling a new feature that allows users to plan their trips in Chicago and Sydney using cars and public transit to get where they need to go.

Finally, the company has released its first Climate Assessment and Performance Report analyzing emissions from the company’s operations in the United States and Canada from 2017 through 2019. Unsurprisingly, Uber found that it was more efficient than single-occupant driving, but the company did reveal that its carbon intensity is higher than that of average-occupancy personal cars. Meaning when there’re two people using a personal car, their footprint is lower than that of an Uber driver looking for passengers.

Although arguably, Uber shouldn’t be having its customers foot so much of the bill for its electric transition, these are all positive steps from a company that still has a long road ahead of it if it’s looking to reduce its carbon footprint.

#bp, #canada, #charging-station, #chicago, #chief-executive-officer, #driver, #electric-vehicle, #enel, #europe, #evgo, #garrett-camp, #gett, #getty, #gm, #india, #japan, #london, #new-delhi, #nissan, #paris, #photographer, #renault, #san-francisco, #sydney, #tc, #transport, #uber, #united-states

12 Paris-based VCs look at the state of their city

Four years after the Great Recession, France’s newly elected socialist president François Hollande raised taxes and increased regulations on founder-led startups. The subsequent flight of entrepreneurs to places like London and Silicon Valley portrayed France as a tough place to launch a company. By 2016, France’s national statistics bureau estimated that about three million native-born citizens had moved abroad.

Those who remained fought back: The Family was an early accelerator that encouraged French entrepreneurs to adopt Silicon Valley’s startup methodology, and the 2012 creation of Bpifrance, a public investment bank, put money into the startup ecosystem system via investors. Organizers founded La French Tech to beat the drum about native startups.

When President Emmanuel Macron took office in May 2017, he scrapped the wealth tax on everything except property assets and introduced a flat 30% tax rate on capital gains. Station F, a giant startup campus funded by billionaire entrepreneur Xavier Niel on the site of a former railway station, began attracting international talent. Tony Fadell, one of the fathers of the iPod and founder of Nest Labs, moved to Paris to set up investment firm Future Shape; VivaTech was created with government backing to become one of Europe’s largest startup conference and expos.

Now, in the COVID-19 era, the government has made €4 billion available to entrepreneurs to keep the lights on. According to a recent report from VC firm Atomico, there are 11 unicorns in France, including BlaBlaCar, OVHcloud, Deezer and Veepee. More appear to be coming; last year Macron said he wanted to see “25 French unicorns by 2025.”

According to Station F, by the end of August, there had been 24 funding rounds led by international VCs and a few big transactions. Enterprise artificial intelligence and machine-learning platform Dataiku raised a $100 million Series D round, and Paris-based gaming startup Voodoo raised an undisclosed amount from Tencent Holdings.

We asked 12 Paris -based investors to comment on the state of play in their city:

Alison Imbert, Partech

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

All the fintechs addressing SMBs to help them to focus more on their core business (including banks disintermediation by fintech, new infrastructures tech that are lowering the barrier to entry to nonfintech companies).

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?

77foods (plant-based bacon) — love that alternative proteins trend as well. Obviously, we need to transform our diet toward more sustainable food. It’s the next challenge for humanity.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
Impact investment: Logistic companies tackling the life cycle of products to reduce their carbon footprint and green fintech that reinvent our spending and investment strategy around more sustainable products.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
D2C products.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
100% investing in France as I’m managing Paris Saclay Seed Fund, a €53 million fund, investing in pre-seed and seed startups launched by graduates and researchers from the best engineering and business schools from this ecosystem.

Which industries in your city and region seem well-positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
Deep tech, biotech and medical devices. Paris, and France in general, has thousands of outstanding engineers that graduate each year. Researchers are more and more willing to found companies to have a true impact on our society. I do believe that the ecosystem is more and more structured to help them to build such companies.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
Paris is booming for sure. It’s still behind London and Berlin probably. But we are seeing more and more European VC offices opening in the city to get direct access to our ecosystem. Even in seed rounds, we start to have European VCs competing against us. It’s good — that means that our startups are moving to the next level.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
For sure startups will more and more push for remote organizations. It’s an amazing way to combine quality of life for employees and attracting talent. Yet I don’t think it will be the majority. Not all founders are willing/able to build a fully remote company. It’s an important cultural choice and it’s adapted to a certain type of business. I believe in more flexible organization (e.g., tech team working remotely or 1-2 days a week for any employee).

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
Travel and hospitality sectors are of course hugely impacted. Yet there are opportunities for helping those incumbents to face current challenges (e.g., better customer care and services, stronger flexibility, cost reduction and process automation).

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
Cash is king more than ever before. My only piece of advice will be to keep a good level of cash as we have a limited view on events coming ahead. It’s easy to say but much more difficult to put in practice (e.g., to what extend should I reduce my cash burn? Should I keep on investing in the product? What is the impact on the sales team?). Startups should focus only on what is mission-critical for their clients. Yet it doesn’t impact our seed investments as we invest pre-revenue and often pre-product.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
There is no reason to be hopeless. Crises have happened in the past. Humanity has faced other pandemics. Humans are resilient and resourceful enough to adapt to a new environment and new constraints.

#apps, #artificial-intelligence, #b2c, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #education, #enterprise, #europe, #food, #france, #machine-learning, #paris, #payments, #saas, #security, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital

Calling Warsaw VCs: Be featured in The Great TechCrunch Survey of European VC

TechCrunch is embarking on a major new project to survey the venture capital investors of Europe.

Our survey of VCs in Warsaw will capture how the city is faring, and what changes are being wrought amongst investors by the coronavirus pandemic.

We’d like to know how the Warsaw startup scene is evolving, how the tech sector is being impacted by COVID-19 and, generally, how your thinking will evolve from here.

Our survey will only be about investors, and only the contributions of VC investors will be included.

The shortlist of questions will require only brief responses, but the more you want to add, the better.

You can fill out the survey here.

Obviously, investors who contribute will be featured in the final surveys, with links to their profiles.

What kinds of things do we want to know? Questions will include which trends are you most excited by? What startup do you wish someone would create? Where are the overlooked opportunities? What are you looking for in your next investment, in general? How is your local ecosystem going? And how has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy?

Over the next few weeks, we will be “zeroing-in” on Europe’s major cities.

It’s part of a broader series of surveys we’re doing to help founders find the right investors. For example, here is the recent survey of London.

Not in Warsaw? All European VC investors can STILL fill out the survey, as we will be putting a call out to your city next anyway! The survey will cover almost every European country on the continent of Europe (not just EU members, btw), so just look for your country in the menu on the survey and please participate (if you’re a venture capital investor).

Thank you for participating. If you have questions you can email mike@techcrunch.com

#corporate-finance, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #european-union, #finance, #london, #money, #paris, #private-equity, #startup-company, #tc, #venture-capital

OneKey wants to make it easier to work without a desktop by integrating apps into mobile keyboards

“The app that you use the most on your phone and you don’t realize it is your keyboard,” says Christophe Barre the co-founder and chief executive of OneKey.

A member of Y Combinator’s most recent cohort, OneKey has a plan to make work easier on mobile devices by turning the keyboard into a new way to serve up applications like calendars, to-do lists, and, eventually, even Salesforce functionality.

People have keyboards for emojis, other languages, and gifs, but there have been few ways to integrate business apps into the keyboard functionality, says Barre. And he’s out to change that.

Right now, the company’s first trick will be getting a Calendly-like scheduling app onto the keyboard interface. Over time, the company will look to create modules that they can sell in an app-store style marketplace for the keyboard space on smartphones.

ezgif.com-optimize.gif

For Barre, the inspiration behind OneKey was the time spent working in Latin America and primarily conducting business through WhatsApp. The tool was great for messaging, but enterprise functionality broke down across for scheduling or other enterprise app integrations.

“People are doing more and more stuff on mobile and it’s happening right now in business,” said Barre. “When you switch from a computer-based world to a mobile phone, a lot of the productivity features disappear.”

Barre, originally from the outskirts of Paris, traveled to Bogota with his partner. She was living there and he was working on a sales automation startup called DeepLook. Together with his DeepLook co-founder (and high school friend), Ulysses Pryjiel, Barre set out to see if he could bring some of the business tools he needed over to the mobile environment.

The big realization for Barre was the under-utilized space on the phone where the keyboard inputs reside. He thinks of OneKey as a sort of browser extension for mobile phones, centered in the keyboard real estate.

“The marketplace for apps is the longterm vision,” said Barre. “That’s how you bring more and more value to people. We started with those features like calendars and lists that brought more value quickly without being too specialized.”

The idea isn’t entirely novel. SwiftKey had a marketplace for wallpapers, Barre said, but nothing as robust as the kinds of apps and services that he envisions.

“If you can do it in a regular app, it’s very likely that you can do it through a keyboard,” Barre said.

#computing, #latin-america, #mobile-app, #mobile-devices, #mobile-phones, #paris, #salesforce, #smartphones, #tc, #technology, #user-interfaces, #y-combinator

Bird launches navigation app to help riders stay in the right lane

Bird is rolling out a new standalone app, called Bird Maps, in Paris and Tel Aviv that will provide turn-by-turn navigation for riders who want to use bike or micromobility lanes for their entire trip.

The app, which will be available on iOS and Android, was created using navigation software from Trailze, an Israeli startup that has mapped the urban grid with micromobility in mind. Bird has not determined how long it will pilot Bird Maps. The results of the pilot will determine testing in other cities, a spokesperson told TechCrunch.

Bird Maps prioritizes bike lanes, wide roads or paths with less traffic and offers visual and, more importantly, audio directions to riders. A Bird spokesperson said the company expects the audio feature will be the main method people use in the app. Bird is not testing phone mounts, which would be the only safe way for riders to view the navigation.

“With millions of people embracing shared electric micromobility and cities everywhere committing more resources to the development of bike and micromobility lanes, we wanted to ensure that riders could more easily navigate and utilize city infrastructure,” Patrick Studener, head of Bird EMEA said in a statement. “By working with Trailze to pilot Bird Maps in Paris and Tel Aviv – two cities that have recently committed to and developed additional bike lanes – we are making it easier for riders to feel more comfortable and safe as they move about their cities without relying upon cars and hope to pave the way for increased adoption and usage of clean transportation.”

Making it easier and safer to use scooters will help boost ridership, and as a result, generate more revenue. But it also builds goodwill with cities that have grown weary of scooter, bike-share and ride-hailing companies creating new problems and running afoul of local regulations. If Bird can provide a safe alternative to riding on sidewalks, the scooter company could get a warmer welcome from cities.

Bird and Trailze see more opportunity to find safe pathways for scooters and bikes in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the related lockdowns, which prompted more than 300 cities to introduce plans to designate some 2,600 additional miles of slow streets and temporary bike lanes.

Bird said this maps app follows other initiatives it has launched that use technology to improve, safety such as Helmet Safety and Warm up mode.

#apps, #bicycle-sharing, #bird, #france, #head, #here, #israel, #micromobility, #navigation-technology, #operating-systems, #paris, #scooter-sharing, #sharing-economy, #tel-aviv, #transportation

SpaceX to build floating spaceports for rockets bound for the Moon and Mars, and for hypersonic Earth travel

SpaceX is hiring experts in Offshore Operations in Brownsville, job ads revealed on Tuesday – and the purpose is to help the company develop and build floating spaceports that will provide launch sites for the company’s’ Super Heavy-class launch vehicles. SpaceX will use these larger rockets to get its forthcoming large payload rockets to the Moon, to Mars – and also for point-to-point travel right here on Earth, according to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

Musk said on Twitter that this was the purpose behind the new job posting, which was originally spotted by Dan Paasch. SpaceX has previously shown concepts of its forthcoming Super Heavy rocket booster, paired with its Starship spacecraft, launching for hypersonic Earth travel – which would reduce the trip time for long-haul flights to merely a couple of hours. Those concepts have thus far consisted only of renders, however, and we didn’t know what the plan was in terms of how and from where those spacecraft would launch until today.

Starship and Super Heavy are primarily being developed to help SpaceX and Musk realize their goal of delivering human to Mars, in order to colonize that and other interstellar destinations including the Moon to “make humans an interstellar species.” But while those goals may seem out of reach to most people, the company’s aims of using the same fully reusable spacecraft to greatly decrease the cost of point-to-point supersonic travel here on Earth are likely to be much more relevant.

Point-to-point space-based transportation is not a new concept, and others beyond SpaceX are working on developing ways to make this happen. The idea is that by traveling at the edge of, or beyond Earth’s atmosphere, you can greatly reduce the fuel cost and duration of flight – traveling the distance between New York and Paris, for instance, in under an hour. In fact, SpaceX claimed during a presentation in 2017 that point-to-point transportation with its Starship could reach any city on Earth from any other city in less than an hour.

SpaceX has been developing Starship in Texas, near Brownsville where this new job posting is seeking Offshore Operations Engineers. The company has been expanding its testing and development site in the area, and has also sought to increase the resources dedicated to its operations in the state.

Musk didn’t share much more about the plans, but did say in response to another tweet that claimed this amounted to “Referb[ushing] oil platforms with a hyperloop to transport from land” was “pretty much” part of the plan, so that could be involved in shuttling passengers back and forth to and from their departure and destination spaceports.

#aerospace, #bfr, #ceo, #elon-musk, #hyperloop, #new-york, #outer-space, #paris, #science, #space, #spacecraft, #spaceflight, #spacex, #starship, #tc, #texas

Spin scooters head to Europe, starting with Germany

Spin has launched its scooter sharing business to Germany, the first step in the U.S. company’s plans to expand to Europe.

The company, which was acquired by Ford in 2018 for about $100 million, has launched in Cologne and plans to open up in German cities Dortmund and Essen in the coming weeks. Spin said it’s also expanding its footprint in the U.S., starting with Atlanta. Other U.S. cities will follow, Spin said without providing more details. 

Spin’s Europe expansion is part of a trend that was emerging in the beginning of the year before COVID-19 upended the economy. In early 2020, it looked like Europe would become a summertime battleground for e-scooter companies. European and U.S.-based companies, including Lime, Bird, Circ, Swedish startup Voi and German startup Tier, were vying for market share. Voi was in about 40 cities in Europe and Tier had expanded to roughly 56. Amsterdam-based Dott was also in the mix. Spin announced in February plans to expand to Europe.

COVID-19 spread throughout Europe and then North America soon after, putting the brakes on micromobility. The pandemic prompted a number of scooter and bike share companies to pause operations or even pull out of cities altogether.

E-scooter startups are now coming back to Europe, where adoption rates and unit economics have been rosier than in some U.S cities.

Spin is starting with Germany in part because a recent survey conducted by the company and YouGov suggests e-scooters are poised to become a favored mode of transit in the country. Nearly 50% of those surveyed in Germany indicated they are already using or planning to use a solo transportation option for commuting to and from work and for taking trips within their immediate vicinity, Spin said.

“We are seeing heavier adoption of micromobility all around the world especially as the need for people to commute in less crowded conditions increases,” CEO and co-founder Derrick Ko said in a statement.

Spin said it plans to expand beyond Germany. The company has applied for permits in Lyon and Paris in France and submitted a proposal for rental e-scooter pilot in several U.K. cities, including Birmingham, Liverpool, London and Manchester.

Spin continued operating in some U.S. cities where it was allowed and provided free rides for healthcare workers during the pandemic. The company has resumed operations in 14 cities this month. It is now operating in 25 U.S. cities.

“Spin scooters are being used now more than ever as a utility rather than for leisurely activities,” president and co-founder Euwyn Poon said in a statement. “As public transit is cutting services, Spin is stepping in to help.”

Since April, new daily active users have increased an average 34% week over week, according to Poon. Trip duration has also increased 44%, reaching a peak of 24 minutes per trip, in May, Poon added.

 

#amsterdam, #atlanta, #automotive, #bird, #circ, #cologne, #derrick-ko, #dott, #e-scooters, #electric-scooters, #europe, #euwyn-poon, #ford, #france, #germany, #liverpool, #london, #manchester, #micromobility, #north-america, #paris, #sharing-economy, #spin, #tier, #transportation, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #voi, #yougov

C4 Ventures raises $88M fund for post-Series A startups, in a post-COVID19 world

C4 Ventures, the Paris -based VC, has raised a new €80 million ($88 million) “Fund II”. The fund was founded by Pascal Cagni, a former Europe boss of Apple, and includes cofounder Raph Crouan, another Apple alumni previously with Startupbootcamp and is currently President of La FrenchTech. C4 is designed to be a “post-Series A” fund and normally invests around €3-4 million euros.

The new fund is described as a “boutique” VC which will focus on tech which will thrive in “post-Covid” world. Recruited by the late Steve Jobs, Cagni started the fund within months of leaving Apple, but the firm didn’t become significant until 2014. Outside of business, Cagni is an “ally” to President Emmanuel Macron and has worked on several initiatives to boost France’s technology and entrepreneurship sectors.

Cagni, who was head of Apple in Europe from 2000 to 2012, said: “Having witnessed first-hand technology’s unique power to drive real-time behavioral change, we believe that, although Covid-19 is going to bring about an economic slowdown, it is also going to be a breeding ground for innovation and change through disruptive tech,” said Pascal Cagni. “We felt confident that we should, as planned, raise and deploy capital during this period.”

Fund II has a good head start, having invested in seven companies which will be able to adapt to a Post-Covid world including:

• Zoov, a French electric bike-sharing platform

DriveNets, a software company adapting the cloud model to networking, allowing consumer service providers to scale up for lower costs.

• Trouva, a European online homeware marketplace helping independent local shops scale their offers online.

C4 has previously invested in include Nest, the smart thermostat company acquired by Google for $3.2 billion, and Graphcore, an AI chip start-up now valued at over $2 billion. But it also put cash into Anki, a consumer robotics company that went bust last year after raising around $200 million.

#anki, #apple, #apple-inc, #apple-store, #artificial-intelligence, #cofounder, #companies, #drivenets, #emmanuel-macron, #europe, #france, #google, #graphcore, #hardware-club, #head, #industries, #paris, #pascal-cagni, #president, #raph-crouan, #software, #tc, #techstars

The Station: Hertz files for bankruptcy, hailing “self-driving” scooters, Memorial Day travel

The Station is a weekly newsletter dedicated to all things transportation. Sign up here — just click The Station — to receive it every Saturday in your inbox.

Hi and welcome back to The Station. Memorial Day is this coming Monday, a holiday meant to honor military personnel who died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. Over the years, it has evolved for many Americans who use the three-day weekend to fire up the grill, go camping, head to the beach, local amusement park or take a road trip. It’s become the unofficial kickoff to the summer season — even though we still have more than three weeks of spring.

Every year around this time, AAA provides an estimate for travel over the weekend. For the first time in 20 years, AAA said it would not issue a Memorial Day travel forecast, as the accuracy of the economic data used to create the forecast has been undermined by COVID-19.

The travel forecast often reflects the state of the economy or at least certain aspects of it. For instance, Memorial Day 2009 holds the record for the lowest travel volume at nearly 31 million travelers. Last year, 43 million Americans traveled for Memorial Day Weekend, the second-highest travel volume on record since 2000, when the organization began tracking this data.

I will put my prognosticator hat on for a moment knowing I might very well be wrong (I’m sure ya’ll will remind me later). I expect this weekend to be a low travel holiday, but I fully anticipate this summer will mark the return of the road trip. And that’s not just my forecast for the U.S. I expect Europeans will stick closer to home and opt for road and possibly train travel over long haul flights for their summer holidays. That has all kinds of implications, positive and negative. And it’s why I’m going to spend some time in the coming weeks driving a variety of new SUV models in search of road trip worthy vehicles.

This past week I drove the 2020 VW Atlas Cross Sport V6 SEL (premium trim), a more smaller and approachable version of the massive three-row Atlas. I will share a few thoughts about it next week. After that, I will be driving the 2020 Land Cruiser standard trim. Have a vehicle suggestion? Reach out and I’ll try to put it in my queue.

Reach out and email me at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com to share thoughts, criticisms, offer up opinions or tips. You can also send a direct message to me at Twitter — @kirstenkorosec.

Shall we get down to it? Vamos.

Micromobbin’

the station scooter1a

Micromobility had some good action this week so let’s dive on in. Here in San Francisco, Bird’s Scoot redeployed 300 electric kick scooters. By Memorial Day weekend, Scoot will have 500 electric scooters available. Additionally, Scoot expanded its scooter service area to serve more parts of San Francisco.

Over in Atlanta, GoX and Tortoise teamed up to deploy teleoperated electric scooters. In Peachtree Corners, GoX riders can hail a scooter equipped with tech from Tortoise. As Keaks, aka Kirsten Korosec, explained earlier this week, riders can request a scooter to come to them and once they’re done, the scooter will drive itself back to a parking spot.

Meanwhile, in Europe, Tier brought integrated helmets to its electric scooters. The foldable helmets fit inside a box attached to the scooter below the handlebars. This month, Tier plans to deploy 200 scooters equipped with helmets in Paris and Berlin. Over the summer, Tier will deploy an additional 5,000 helmet-equipped scooters. Additionally, given concerns about COVID-19, Tier is experimenting with an antibacterial, self-disinfecting handlebar technology from Protexus. Tier is testing these handlebars in Paris and Bordeaux.

Also, don’t miss my analysis of why micromobility may come back stronger after the pandemic.

Megan Rose Dickey

Deal of the week

money the station

Vroom, the online used car marketplace that has raised some $700 million since 2013, filed for an IPO this week. (Yes, IPOs qualify as deals in my book). It plans to trade on the Nasdaq under VRM with Goldman Sachs as lead underwriter.

Vroom is an interesting company that I’ve been writing about for years now. And there have been times that I wondered if it would fold altogether. The company managed to keep raising funds though, most recently $254 million in December 2019 in a Series H round that valued the company at around $1.5 billion.

A look at the S-1 shows modest growth, rising losses and slim gross margins. Eck!

Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Vroom’s revenue grew 39.3% in 2019 compared to 2018. During that same period, its gross margin fell from 7.1% to 4.9%. The company’s net losses as a percent of revenue rose from 10% in 2018 to 12% in 2019. (That doesn’t include costs relating to “accretion of redeemable convertible preferred stock.” By counting the non-cash cost, add $13 million to Vroom’s 2018 net loss and $132.8 million to its 2019 figure.)
  • In the first quarter of 2020, Vroom generated revenue of $375.8 million, leading to gross profit of $18.4 million, or about 4.9% of revenue. It also reported a net loss of $41.1 million in the first quarter, putting it on a run-rate to lose even more money in 2020 than it did in 2019.

TechCrunch’s Alex Wilhelm takes a look under Vroom’s hood and digs into why the company is heading to the public markets during this volatile time. Check it out.

Other deals:

Missfresh, a Chinese grocery delivery company backed by Tencent, is closing in on $500 million in new funding.

Autonomous aviation startup Xwing locked in a $10 million funding round before COVID-19 hit. Now the San Francisco-based startup is using the capital to hire talent and scale the development of its software stack as it aims for commercial operations later this year — pending FAA approvals. The Series A funding round was led by R7 Partners, with participation from early-stage VC Alven, Eniac Ventures and Thales Corporate Ventures.

Fly Now Pay Later, a London-based fintech startup focused on travel, raised £5 million in Series A equity funding and another £30 million in debt funding.

French startup Angell has signed a wide-ranging partnership with SEB, the French industrial company behind All-Clad, Krups, Moulinex, Rowenta, Tefal and others. As part of the deal, SEB will manufacture Angell’s electric bikes in a factory near Dijon, France. SEB’s investment arm, SEB Alliance, is also investing in Angell. The terms of the deal are undisclosed, but Angell says it plans to raise between $7.6 and $21.7 million with a group of investors that include SEB.

Layoffs, business disruptions and people

Signage is displayed at the Hertz Global Holdings Inc. rental counter at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Tuesday, May 5, 2020. Photo: Getty Images

Hertz filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Friday, a move we’ve been anticipating for awhile now. The bankruptcy protection stems from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here’s why.

Once business trips and other travel was halted, Hertz was suddenly sitting on an unused asset — lots and lots of cars. It wasn’t just that the revenue spigot was turned off. Used car prices have dropped, further devaluing its fleet.

The company said that it has more than $1 billion in cash on hand, which it will use to keep the business operating through the bankruptcy process. Hertz also said its principal international operating regions, including Europe, Australia and New Zealand are not included in the U.S. Chapter 11 proceedings, nor are franchised locations.

Other layoffs:

Indian ride-hailing firm Ola has seen revenue drop by 95% in the last two months as India enforced a stay-at-home order for its 1.3 billion citizens in late March. You can guess what has happened as a result. Ola co-founder and CEO Bhavish Aggarwal said in an internal email the company is cutting 1,400 jobs in India, or 35% of its workforce in the home market.

India’s top food delivery startup Swiggy is cutting 1,100 jobs and scaling down some adjacent businesses as it looks to reduce costs to survive the coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s something on the “new” job front

There’s been a lot of attention on autonomous delivery robots. These companies will most certainly struggle to become profitable. On-demand delivery is a tricky business. But COVID-19 might have inadvertently expanded the labor pool for these companies.

On-demand delivery startup Postmates has seen an increase in demand for its autonomous delivery robots known as Serve, which operate in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The company uses teleoperators, humans who remotely monitor and guide the autonomous robots. COVID-19 prompted Postmates to set up teleoperations centers within each employee’s home. Postmates sees potential to reach a new group of workers.

Tortoise, which we mentioned earlier in Micromobbin’, sees the same potential, according to its founder and CEO Dmitry Shevelenko.

A little bird

blinky cat bird green

We hear (and see) things. But we’re not selfish. We share!

For those not familiar with “a little bird,” this is a periodic section that shares insider tips that have been vetted. This week comes out of the super-hyped world of on-demand delivery. It’s a business that might be seeing a lot of demand. But demand doesn’t always square with profitability.

Take Postmates for example. The company has raised about $900 million to date, including a $225 million round announced in October that valued the company at about $2.5 billion. But now it seems that common shares are trading at a 45% discount on the secondary market, according to our sources.

Early investors do take money off the table from time to time. But it can also indicate other troubles worth watching out for. Postmates filed confidential IPO paperwork in February 2019, but those plans have been delayed. The company is also fighting for market share against giants like Doordash. A Uber-Grubhub merger would put it even with DoorDash.

That leaves Postmates in a distant fourth. Dan Primack over at Axios noted “multiple sources” have told him the company is seeking raise around $100 million in new private-market funding.

Other notable bits

Here are a few other items that caught my eye …

Amazon is joining India’s online food delivery market just as top local players Swiggy and Zomato reduce their workforce to steer through the coronavirus pandemic and months after Uber Eats’ exit from the nation.

GM has a “big team” working on an advanced version of its hands-free driving assistance system, Super Cruise, that will expand its capability beyond highways and apply it to city streets, the automaker’s vice president of global product development Doug Parks said during a webcasted interview at Citi’s 2020 Car of the Future Symposium.

Cake, the Stockholm-based mobility startup, debuted the Kalk OR, a 150-pound, battery-powered two-wheeler engineered for agile off-road riding and available in a street-legal version.

Nauto has launched a new feature in its driver behavior learning platform that is designed to detect imminent collisions to help reduce rear-end accidents. It works by taking in driver behavior data, vehicle movement, traffic elements, and contextual data to help predict and prevent collisions.

Organizers of the New York International Auto Show, once hoping to hold the rescheduled event in August, have decided to scrap the entire year. The show has been officially canceled for 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers announced Friday. The next show will take place April 2 to April 11, 2021. Press days will be March 31 and April 1.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the company is raising the price of its “Full Self-Driving” package of its Autopilot driver assistance package by around $1,000 on July 1. This has happened before and it will, I promise happen again. The Verge has a good breakdown of why. I, of course, care about the financial reasons. Right now, Tesla can only count about half of the revenue it generates from FSD. The other half is deferred revenue — money that Tesla can recognize on its balance sheet at a later date.

Wunder Mobility, the Hamburg-based startup that provides a range of mobility services, from carpooling to electric scooter rentals, announced the launch of Wunder Vehicles and a business-to-business partnership with Chinese EV manufacturer Yadea. Wunder Vehicles is a service that gives customers a toolkit of sorts to launch a fleet-sharing company. The company provides software, a marketing plan, data, financing options and the electric vehicles, which will come from Yadea.

Rad Power Bikes unveiled the newest iteration of its electric cargo bike. The RadWagon 4 has been fully redesigned from the ground up. Trucks VC’s Reilly Brennan recently described this on Twitter as the possible F-150 of micromobility. We hope to test it soon.

Image Credits: Rad Power Bikes

#atlanta, #automotive, #berlin, #bird, #europe, #kirsten-korosec, #megan-rose-dickey, #memorial-day, #paris, #san-francisco, #scooter, #transport, #transportation, #united-states, #vehicles, #vw