Siga secures $8.1M Series B to prevent cyberattacks on critical infrastructure

Siga OT Solutions, an Israeli cybersecurity startup that helps organizations secure their operations by monitoring the raw electric signals of critical industrial assets, has raised $8.1 million in Series B funding.

Siga’s SigaGuard says its technology, used by Israel’s critical water facilities and the New York Power Authority, is unique in that rather than monitoring the operational network, it uses machine learning and predictive analysis to “listen” to Level 0 signals. These are typically made up of components and sensors that receive electrical signals, rather than protocols or data packets that can be manipulated by hackers.

By monitoring Level 0, which Siga describes as the “richest and most reliable level of process data within any operational environment,” the company can detect cyberattacks on the most critical and vulnerable physical assets of national infrastructures. This, it claims, ensures operational resiliency even when hackers are successful in manipulating the logic of industrial control system (ICS) controllers.

Amir Samoiloff, co-founder and CEO of Siga, says: “Level 0 is becoming the major axis in the resilience and integrity of critical national infrastructures worldwide and securing this level will become a major element in control systems in the coming years.”

The company’s latest round of funding — led by PureTerra Ventures, with investment from Israeli venture fund SIBF, Moore Capital, and Phoenix Contact — comes amid an escalation in attacks against operational infrastructure. Israel’s water infrastructure was hit by three known cyberattacks in 2020 and these were followed by an attack on the water system of a city in Florida that saw hackers briefly increase the amount of sodium hydroxide in Oldsmar’s water treatment system. 

The $8.1 million investment lands three years after the startup secured $3.5 million in Series A funding. The company said it will use the funding to accelerate its sales and strategic collaborations internationally, with a focus on North America, Europe, Asia, and the United Arab Emirates. 

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Amazon expands same-day Prime delivery to 6 more U.S. cities

Amazon announced this morning it’s expanding its faster, same-day delivery service to half a dozen more U.S. cities. The service, which the retailer has been working to make same-day delivery even faster over the past year, now offers consumers in a number of markets the ability to shop up to 3 million items on Amazon.com, then receive their orders in only a few hours.

To do so, Amazon invested in what it called “mini-fulfillment centers” closer to where customers lived in select U.S. markets, initially in Philadelphia, Phoenix, Orlando, and Dallas. Those customers could then shop across a dozen merchandise categories, including Baby, Beauty & Health, Kitchen & Dining, Electronics, Pet Supplies, and more. As the pandemic continued to impact Amazon’s business, in November 2020, Amazon expanded its faster same-day service to more cities, to include Nashville and Washington, D.C.

With today’s expansion, Amazon is rolling out same-day delivery to Prime members in Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Tampa, Charlotte, and Houston, bringing the total markets served to 12. In these markets, shoppers will be able to place orders online throughout the day then have items on their doorstep in as fast as 5 hours, Amazon says. Customers can also place orders by midnight to have their orders arrive the following morning.

The service continues to be free with no additional charges on orders over $35 that qualify for same-day delivery. Orders under $35 have a $2.99 fee for Prime customers, and a $12.99 fee for non-members. Prime membership, meanwhile, is $12.99 per month or $119 per year.

The time frame commitments for same-day delivery are the same as those Amazon promised last year when it first announced its plans to speed up Prime delivery. Orders placed between midnight and 8 AM will arrive today by 1 PM. Orders placed between 8 AM and 1 PM arrive by 6 PM; those placed between 1 PM and 5 PM will arrive by 10 PM; and those placed between 5 PM and midnight will arrive overnight by 8 AM. That means customers can place orders fairly late and receive their items before they head out of the house the next day.

Faster same-day delivery has been one of the most significant services Amazon has used to challenge rivals like Walmart and Target, who both benefit from having a large brick-and-mortar footprint that allows them to more quickly serve their customers through same-day order pickup, curbside pickup, and same-day delivery services. While Walmart partners with third-parties on its same-day service, Express delivery, largely focused on grocery, Target acquired delivery service Shipt in 2017 to bring its fast delivery services in-house.

In response to the growing competition, Amazon has been recently acquiring smaller warehouse space inside major urban metros, including in these six new markets where it’s now announcing same-day delivery, as well as larger markets, like New York, and even suburban neighborhoods. It also acquired Whole Foods for $137.7 billion in 2017, not only to more fully participate in the online grocery business, but also in part because of its large retail footprint.

As Amazon has sped up the pace of what’s available under “Prime” delivery, it has wound down its older “Prime Now” business, which was retired Aug. 30 and will be fully shut down by year-end. The separate app had allowed customers to shop items that were available in one or two hours for an additional fee.

The news follows Amazon’s earning miss last week, when the retailer fell short of Wall St.’s estimates for revenue, and gave a weaker than-expected outlook for the quarter ahead, which Amazon attributed to difficult comparisons with a time frame that included Covid lockdowns during height of the pandemic in 2020. The company reported $113.08 billion in revenue and earnings of $15.12, versus expectations of $115.2 billion and $12.30.

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Austin-based Fetch Package secures $60M in equity & debt after tripling ARR in 2020

Fetch Package, a last-mile package delivery company for apartment communities, has raised $50 million in a Series C round of funding and closed on a $10 million venture debt facility.

Michael Patton founded Fetch in May 2016 after being frustrated by having packages lost at the apartment community in which he was living. 

“I took the time to research how communities were handling packages. What I found was that some communities are receiving up to 300 to 400 packages a week and trying to manage that volume manually, adding a significant time burden on the team,” he told TechCrunch. “I knew there had to be a better way and that solution needed to be one that could easily handle the future of package delivery as e-commerce was gaining significant traction.”

Fetch launched its operations in Dallas in February of 2017 with the goal of solving “the package problem” for apartment communities. The startup, which later moved its headquarters to Austin, has seen impressive growth.

By the end of 2017, the SaaS company was servicing approximately 2,000 apartments in the Dallas area. Over the next three years that number grew to almost 150,000 doors being serviced out of 25 warehouses in 15 markets, including Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Orlando, Portland, Phoenix, Arizona and Seattle.

Fetch currently has just over 200,000 doors, or around 700 communities, across the country under contract. It says it works with seven of the top 10 nationally recognized apartment management companies in the country, in addition to “a majority of the largest owners and developers.” Last December, it inked a national preferred vendor agreement with management giant Greystar. Fetch delivered about 3.5 million packages in 2020, and hit the 2.5 million mark for volume in June 2021. The company says it’s currently on track to deliver more than 8 million packages by the end of the year. 

While the company would not disclose hard revenue figures, Patton says it tripled its year-over-year ARR (annual recurring revenue) in 2020 and GAAP revenue grew 6x year-over-year. Over the last two years, Fetch has seen “record sales,” he added, and is on pace to surpass 300,000 units by year’s end. Austin-based Ocelot Capital led its Series C round, which also included participation from Greenpoint Partners, Alpaca VC and Rose Park Advisors. Existing backers Iron Gate Capital, Signal Peak Ventures, Venn Ventures, Pando Ventures and Seamless also put money in the round. 

In addition to the equity raise, Signature Bank provided the company with a $10 million venture debt facility. The latest financing brings Fetch’s total funding to more than $92 million, and triples its valuation from its $18 million Series B raise last August.

Andrew Townsend, managing member at Ocelot Capital, believes that Fetch is “solving for a major bottleneck within the supply chain that is often overlooked.”

“We expect e-commerce delivery volume to continue to grow for the foreseeable future and Fetch is the only scalable solution available to multifamily operators,” he said. 

What makes Fetch stand out, in his view, is that the company can “efficiently” manage the fluctuations in package volume in ways that traditional parcel storage solutions cannot. It also provides apartment residents with the “unique convenience of on-demand doorstep delivery that aligns with the varied schedules of apartment dwellers,” Townsend added.

All packages at Fetch’s client communities are sent to the company’s facilities using a unique code identifier. The company then coordinates scheduled, direct-to-door delivery with residents directly via its app in a time frame that it says “works best for their schedule.”

“This takes the property out of the package management business and provides residents with a convenient amenity,” Patton said.

Fetch works with a mix of W2 employees as well as 1099 contractors to fulfill their service. On the W2 side, Fetch has had a 50% increase in total employees since the middle of last year, with about 350 employees today. This is in addition to the “thousands” of independent contractors/gig economy workers who also serve as drivers in all their markets.

Looking ahead, Fetch will use its new capital primarily to expand into new markets, with plans to launch in South Florida, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Nashville, Minneapolis and a “few other markets” over the next two quarters. Over the next 18 months, the company intends to launch around 20 new markets. The money will also go toward investing in its tech stack and operational infrastructure, Patton said.

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Waymo’s driverless taxi service can now be accessed on Google Maps

Waymo One, the ride-hailing service that uses driverless vehicles in the suburbs of Phoenix, can now be accessed and booked through Google Maps.

This will be the first fully autonomous ride-hailing option available in the app, which will roll out first to Android users, Waymo said Thursday. The team up not only brings together two Alphabet companies, it signals Waymo’s push to become more visible and accessible to the public.

Waymo has abut 600 vehicles in its U.S. fleet. About 300 to 400 of those are in the Phoenix area, but not all of those are used in the driverless Waymo One fleet. The Waymo One service only uses driverless vehicles, which means that a safety operator is not physically behind the wheel. It also means that if it pops up on Google Maps, users can be assured that it will indeed be driverless. Some vehicles in the Phoenix area are used for testing. Waymo doesn’t share exact numbers of how many driverless vehicles it operates as part of the service.

The process still requires a bit of app hopping. There isn’t a direct way to access, book, and pay for the Waymo One rides in Google Maps. Instead, the user is brought over to the Waymo app to complete the booking.  Users first have to input directions to or from a location in Waymo’s Metro Phoenix territory, which includes parts of Chandler, Mesa, and Tempe, from an Android device. Once the user taps on the ridesharing or transit tab, they will see the estimated price and ETA of their trip with Waymo.

Existing Waymo One riders will be directed to the Waymo app to book the ride, while newcomers will be taken to the PlayStore to download it.

 

 

#android, #automotive, #autonomous, #google, #phoenix, #transportation, #waymo

Real estate tech startup Offerpad to go public via SPAC merger in $3B deal

Offerpad is the latest proptech company to go public via a SPAC merger.

The Phoenix, Ariz.-based company announced Thursday its plans to go public by merging with Supernova Partners Acquisition Company in a deal valued at $3 billion.

The transaction is expected to close in the second, or early third, quarter of 2021. The combined company will be named Offerpad Solutions and trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker “OPAD.”

Founded in 2015, Offerpad started out as primarily an iBuyer (meaning it bought homes from sellers who signed up online) and has since evolved its platform in an effort to be a one-stop shop for people looking to buy or sell a home. For example, it now also offers home improvement advances, as well as title and mortgage services. The company has raised $155 million in equity funding from investors such as LL Funds, in addition to hundreds of millions more in debt over the years.

Since its inception, Offerpad says it has completed 30,000 transactions and achieved nearly $7 billion in gross transaction volume. The company projects it will generate revenue of $1.4 billion this year, up from an estimated $1.1 billion in 2020. That compares to revenue of  $100 million in 2016. Offerpad also says it has had “positive per-home contribution margins” since 2016. 

The company has ambitious goals, projecting revenue of $2.4 billion in 2022 and $3.9 billion in 2023.

Supernova Partners, which spun up the SPAC for this deal, is led by Spencer Rascoff — a serial entrepreneur with plenty of prop tech experience who co-founded Hotwire, Zillow, dot.LA and Pacaso, and who led Zillow as CEO for nearly a decade.

PIPE investors include funds and accounts managed by BlackRock and Zimmer Partners, as well as national homebuilder Taylor Morrison Home Corp.

Offerpad says that by partnering with Supernova to become a public company, it expects it will be able “to accelerate its growth to capture more” of the market. The company currently operates in over 900 cities and towns across the country and plans to expand nationwide. 

Rascoff believes Offerpad “is incredibly well-positioned to grab a huge piece” of the online real estate market.

“iBuying has barely scratched the surface of real estate, one of the biggest addressable markets in the world,” he said in a written statement. “In general, real estate continues to be mostly analog, in contrast to other industries like grocery, autos and pharmaceuticals, but consumers demand online solutions. As they bring more transactions online, we believe online real estate as a whole is poised to grow rapidly in the coming years.”

Offerpad competes with companies such as Opendoor, Redfin and Zillow, among others.

As part of the transaction, existing Offerpad shareholders will roll 100% of their equity into the combined company and are expected to own approximately 75% of the combined entity at closing. Offerpad’s founder and CEO Brian Bair will receive high-vote stock that is expected to represent approximately 35% of the voting power of the combined company.

Earlier this month, real estate tech startup Doma, formerly known as States Title, announced it would go public through a merger with SPAC Capitol Investment Corp. V in a deal valued at $3 billion, including debt.

#arizona, #blackrock, #exit, #fundings-exits, #online-real-estate, #phoenix, #real-estate, #redfin, #spencer-rascoff, #startups, #tc

AWS updates its edge computing solutions with new hardware and Local Zones

AWS today closed out its first re:Invent keynote with a focus on edge computing. The company launched two smaller appliances for its Outpost service, which originally brought AWS as a managed service and appliance right into its customers’ existing data centers in the form of a large rack. Now, the company is launching these smaller versions so that its users can also deploy them in their stores or office locations. These appliances are fully managed by AWS and offer 64 cores of compute, 128GB of memory and 4TB of local NVMe storage.

In addition, the company expanded its set of Local Zones, which are basically small extensions of existing AWS regions that are more expensive to use but offer low-latency access in metro areas. This service launched in Los Angeles in 2019 and starting today, it’s also available in preview in Boston, Houston and Miami. Soon, it’ll expand to Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland and Seattle. Google, it’s worth noting, is doing something similar with its Mobile Edge Cloud.

The general idea here — and that’s not dissimilar from what Google, Microsoft and others are now doing — is to bring AWS to the edge and to do so in a variety of form factors.

As AWS CEO Andy Jassy rightly noted, AWS always believed that the vast majority of companies, “in the fullness of time” (Jassy’s favorite phrase from this keynote), would move to the cloud. Because of this, AWS focused on cloud services over hybrid capabilities early on. He argues that AWS watched others try and fail in building their hybrid offerings, in large parts because what customers really wanted was to use the same control plane on all edge nodes and in the cloud. None of the existing solutions from other vendors, Jassy argues, got any traction (though AWSs competitors would surely deny this) because of this.

The first result of that was VMware Cloud on AWS, which allowed customers to use the same VMware software and tools on AWS they were already familiar with. But at the end of the day, that was really about moving on-premises services to the cloud.

With Outpost, AWS launched a fully managed edge solution that can run AWS infrastructure in its customers’ data centers. It’s been an interesting journey for AWS, but the fact that the company closed out its keynote with this focus on hybrid — no matter how it wants to define it — shows that it now understands that there is clearly a need for this kind of service. The AWS way is to extend AWS into the edge — and I think most of its competitors will agree with that. Microsoft tried this early on with Azure Stack and really didn’t get a lot of traction, as far as I’m aware, but it has since retooled its efforts around Azure Arc. Google, meanwhile, is betting big on Anthos.

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Facebook takes down ‘Stop the Steal 2020’ group organizing around false claims of election chicanery

Facebook has taken down a group that had amassed over 300,000 members and was sharing misinformation and organizing around false allegations of impropriety during the 2020 elections.

The group, called “Stop the Steal 2020,” was organizing protests targeting the election officials currently counting ballots cast in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.

“In line with the exceptional measures that we are taking during this period of heightened tension, we have removed the Group ‘Stop the Steal,’ which was creating real-world events,” said a Facebook spokesperson in a statement emailed to TechCrunch. “The group was organized around the delegitimization of the election process, and we saw worrying calls for violence from some members of the group.”

Facebook’s action was first noticed by Ryan Mac of Buzzfeed who reported the move in a tweet.

Protestors advocating for votes to be counted and for vote counting to cease are cropping up across the country as Republican party organizers and campaign officials try to derail the count of mail-in ballots and absentee votes cast in the 2020 race and Democratic supporters organize counter-protests.

Social media election takedowns

While the organizers may be tapping supporters of President Trump across the country, their messaging is different depending on the state.

In Phoenix, protestors are calling for all votes to be counted, as Presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden hangs on to a slim lead in Arizona.

Meanwhile, the messaging is the opposite in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Nevada where President Donald Trump is trying to preserve the slim margins that have him ahead or reverse the counts that had put him behind in the polls. In Detroit, for instance, Trump supporters held up signs that said “stop the steal” and “stop the cheat” according to news reports.

Conservative advocates across the Twittersphere have had their tweets amended by the company to indicate that they were sharing election misinformation.

Facebook has also added “labels” to election posts that break the rules, though they are designed to mostly point users to contextual, factual information rather than to offer explicit warnings about false claims.

In fact, as a direct response to Trump’s premature claims of victory, Facebook also rolled out an eye-catching set of messages across Facebook and Instagram reminding users that votes were still being counted.

Facebook has also instituted changes to its policies about groups that organize real-world events in the wake of 2016’s election disinformation campaign carried out by Russian agents and the recent shooting in Kenosha, Wis. in which two men were killed after a local self-declared militia group organized a response to protests against the killing of Kenosha resident, Jacob Blake.

#2020-election, #arizona, #buzzfeed, #detroit, #donald-trump, #facebook, #georgia, #joe-biden, #las-vegas, #michigan, #nevada, #operating-systems, #pennsylvania, #phoenix, #president, #republican-party, #social-media, #software, #spokesperson, #tc, #vice-president, #world-wide-web

Waymo finally launches an actual public, driverless taxi service

Close-up photograph of a hand holding a smartphone.

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After covering Waymo for several years, I’ve learned to take the company’s announcements with a grain of salt.

In 2018, for example, Waymo said it would launch a fully driverless commercial service by the end of the year. Waymo did release a service called Waymo One in December 2018, but it came with a couple of huge asterisks: every vehicle had a safety driver, and the service was only open to a small group of people.

But today Waymo finally seems to be launching the taxi service it promised two years ago: one that’s fully driverless and open to the public. Waymo told Ars that the service will initially operate in a 50-square-mile area in the Phoenix suburbs of Chandler, Tempe, and Mesa.

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#cars, #driverless, #phoenix, #self-driving-car, #waymo

Uber latest features lets riders book by the hour and make multiple stops

Uber is bringing a new feature to the U.S. that lets users book rides for $50 an hour and make multiple stops as the ride-hailing company tries to respond to changing consumer needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The hourly booking feature, which is already available in a handful of international cities in Australia, Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, will launch in a dozen U.S. cities beginning Monday. The product will be available in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Miami, Orlando, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Tacoma, Seattle and Washington D.C. Uber said it expects to expand into other U.S. cities in the coming weeks.

Uber made the move in an effort to offer riders a more convenient way to get things done, and to provide an additional earnings opportunity for drivers as we move forward in this ‘new normal,’ Niraj Patel, director of rider operations at Uber said in a statement.

Riders who want to use the new feature start by selecting “hourly” in the app and then entering their initial stop. Riders can see the $50 hourly rate at a glance and compare to other options before committing to the trip. The rider selects the expected hours and can enter in multiple stops — as many as three including the destination.

Uber Hourly for Rider feature

Image Credits: Uber

There are limitations to the feature, including mileage. In some cities, the hourly booking feature only allows drivers to travel up to 40 miles. Trips that travel farther than the mileage limit will be charged to the rider at a per mile rate. The same rule applies to trips the run over the booked hour; riders will be charged per minute over the hour.

Hourly booking cannot be used to travel to or from airports and trips must be within a city service area. The $50 hourly rate excludes tolls and surcharges.

 

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