MedRhythms raises $25M to get patients back in tune after a stroke

MedRhythms secured $25 million in Series B funding to advance its digital therapy platform aimed at measuring and improving someone’s ability to walk after they have experienced a neurologic injury or disease.

Morningside Ventures and Advantage Capital co-led the round, with participation from existing investor Werth Family Investment Associates, to give the Portland, Maine-based company $31 million in funding to date.

Company co-founder and CEO Brian Harris was a neurologic music fellow at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston, treating people with stroke and brain deficits with music. He began getting questions from patients and families on how they could access similar care outside of the hospital. Not seeing a suitable alternative, he started MedRhythms with entrepreneur Owen McCarthy in 2016.

The company’s platform uses sensors, music and software, along with an evidence-based intervention called “rhythmic auditory stimulation,” to target the neural circuitry that controls movement. The technology taps into “entrainment,” a neurologic process in which the auditory and motor systems of the brain are coupled in synchrony with an external rhythmic cue, which over time, can lead to improved walking functionalities.

“There is no other stimulus that engages the brain like music does,” Harris said. “When someone is engaging in music, it aids in neuroplasticity to create new connections and strengthen old ones. Neuroplasticity is how we can learn new things or why people with brain deficits can improve.”

MedRhythms’ product cycle. Image Credits: MedRhythms

A year ago, MedRhythms’ digital therapeutic product received Breakthrough Device designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat chronic walking deficits resulting from a stroke. It is the first in the company’s pipeline, which is also looking at using music to treat neurological conditions like Parkinson’s, acute stroke and multiple sclerosis. To that effect, it is participating in a neuroimaging study with Massachusetts General Hospital.

Harris intends to use the proceeds from the Series B funding to get the product to market, expand the team and the treatment pipeline. The company is preparing for submission to the FDA so it can do a commercial launch of the technology and begin clinical trials.

Stephen Bruso, investment partner at Morningside, said he has known the team at MedRhythms for a year. The firm is active in the digital health space and has followed the company closely since then.

COVID served to fundamentally shift healthcare in how to deliver care. The hospital and clinic models were robust, but resistant to change until the pandemic forced care to telemedicine visits at home, he said. It also forced innovation on the industry, and at-home therapy is an area where Bruso expects to see improvement in both patient compliance and recovery, and MedRhythms is capitalizing on that trend of shifting care to the home.

What intrigued the firm for the last couple of months was the idea of affecting the brain via non-pharmaceutical needs.

“MedRhythms using musical intervention to drive changes and improvements in neurologics is compelling,” Bruso added. “Emotional memory is tied to music. Its use provides a richer experience than taking a drug, and the company exists to tap into that.”

 

#brian-harris, #funding, #health, #medrhythms, #morningside-ventures, #multiple-sclerosis, #neuroscience, #parkinsons-disease, #portland, #recent-funding, #startups, #stephen-bruso, #stroke, #tc, #telemedicine

New York City’s new biometrics privacy law takes effect

A new biometrics privacy ordinance has taken effect across New York City, putting new limits on what businesses can do with the biometric data they collect on their customers.

From Friday, businesses that collect biometric information — most commonly in the form of facial recognition and fingerprints — are required to conspicuously post notices and signs to customers at their doors explaining how their data will be collected. The ordinance applies to a wide range of businesses — retailers, stores, restaurants, and theaters, to name a few — which are also barred from selling, sharing, or otherwise profiting from the biometric information that they collect.

The move will give New Yorkers — and its millions of visitors each year — greater protections over how their biometric data is collected and used, while also serving to dissuade businesses from using technology that critics say is discriminatory and often doesn’t work.

Businesses can face stiff penalties for violating the law, but can escape fines if they fix the violation quickly.

The law is by no means perfect, as none of these laws ever are. For one, it doesn’t apply to government agencies, including the police. Of the businesses that the ordinance does cover, it exempts employees of those businesses, such as those required to clock in and out of work with a fingerprint. And the definition of what counts as a biometric will likely face challenges that could expand or narrow what is covered.

New York is the latest U.S. city to enact a biometric privacy law, after Portland, Oregon passed a similar ordinance last year. But the law falls short of stronger biometric privacy laws in effect.

Illinois, which has the Biometric Information Privacy Act, a law that grants residents the right to sue for any use of their biometric data without consent. Facebook this year settled for $650 million in a class-action suit that Illinois residents filed in 2015 after the social networking giant used facial recognition to tag users in photos without their permission.

Albert Fox Cahn, the executive director of the New York-based Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, said the law is an “important step” to learn how New Yorkers are tracked by local businesses.

“A false facial recognition match could mean having the NYPD called on you just for walking into a Rite Aid or Target,” he told TechCrunch. He also said that New York should go further by outlawing systems like facial recognition altogether, as some cities have done.

Read more:

#articles, #biometrics, #face-id, #facebook, #facial-recognition, #facial-recognition-software, #illinois, #learning, #new-york, #new-york-city, #new-yorkers, #oregon, #portland, #privacy, #rite-aid, #security, #surveillance, #techniques

How Expensify shed Silicon Valley arrogance to realize its global ambitions

Expensify may be the most ambitious software company ever to mostly abandon the Bay Area as the center of its operations.

Expensify may be the most ambitious software company ever to mostly abandon the Bay Area as the center of its operations.

The startup’s history is tied to places representative of San Francisco: The founding team worked out of Peet’s Coffee on Mission Street for a few months, then crashed at a penthouse lounge near the 4th and King Caltrain station, followed by a tiny office and then a slightly bigger one in the Flatiron building near Market Street.

Thirteen years later, Expensify still has an office a few blocks away on Kearny Street, but it’s no longer a San Francisco company or even a Silicon Valley firm. The company is truly global with employees across the world — and it did that before COVID-19 made remote working cool.

“Things got so much better when we stopped viewing ourselves as a Silicon Valley company. We basically said, no, we’re just a global company,” CEO David Barrett told TechCrunch. That globalism led to it opening a major office in — of all places —a small town in rural Michigan. That Ironwood expansion would eventually lead to a cultural makeover that would see the company broadly abandon its focus on the Bay Area, expanding from a headquarters in Portland to offices around the globe.

It makes sense that a company founded by internet pirates would let its workforce live anywhere they please and however they want to. Yet, how does it manage to make it all work well enough to reach $100 million in annual revenue with just a tad more than 100 employees?

As I described in Part 2 of this EC-1, that staffing efficiency is partly due to its culture and who it hires. It’s also because it has attracted top talent from across the world by giving them benefits like the option to work remotely all year as well as paying SF-level salaries even to those not based in the tech hub. It’s also got annual fully paid month-long “workcations” for every employee, their partner and kids.

Yet the real story is how a company can become untethered from its original geography, willing to adapt to new places and new cultures, and ultimately, give up the past while building the future.

#david-barrett, #ec-1, #enterprise, #expense-management, #expensify, #michigan, #portland, #san-francisco, #tc

How 4 New Jersey pools turned into a startup that just raised $10M

As the oldest of 12 children, Bunim Laskin spent much of his teen years looking for ways to help keep his siblings entertained. Noticing that a neighbor’s pool was often empty, Laskin reached out to ask if his family could use her pool. To make it worth her while, he suggested that they could help cover her expenses for maintaining the pool.

Soon after, five other families had made the same arrangement with her and the pool owner had six families covering 25% of her expenses. This meant that the neighbor was actually making money off her pool. The arrangement sparked a business idea in Laskin’s mind. At the age of 20, he founded Swimply, a marketplace for homeowners to rent out their underutilized pools to local swimmers, with Asher Weinberger.

The Cedarhurst, New York-based company launched a beta in 2018, starting with four pools in the New Jersey area. 

“We used Google Earth to find houses, and then knocked on 80 doors with a pool,” Laskin recalls. “We got to 100 pools organically. Word of mouth really helped us grow.” The site was pretty bare bones, he admits, with potential customers only able to view photos of the pools and connect with the pool owner by phone.

That year, Swimply did around 400 reservations and raised $1.2 million from friends and family.

In 2019, Swimply launched what he describes as a “proper” website and app with an automated platform. It grew “4 to 5 times” that year, again mostly organically. In an episode that aired in March 2020, the company appeared on Shark Tank but went home without a deal.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Swimply, Laskin said, pivoted right into the pandemic.

“We were the perfect solution for people when the world was falling on its head,” he said. The company restructured its offering to ensure that pool owners did not have to interact with guests. “It was the perfect, contact-free, self-serve experience to hang out and be with people you quarantined with.”

The CDC then came out to say that it was safe to swim because chlorine could help kill the virus, and that proved to be a big boon to its business.

“On one end, it was a way for people to have a normal day and on the other, it helped give owners a way to earn an income, at a time when many people were being affected financially,” Laskin told TechCrunch.

Business took off in 2020 with revenue growing 4,000% and now Swimply is announcing a $10 million Series A round. Norwest Venture Partners led the financing, which also included participation from Trust Ventures and a number of angel investors such as Poshmark founder and CEO Manish Chandra; Rob Chesnut, former general counsel and chief ethics officer at Airbnb; Ancestry.com CEO Deborah Liu and Michael Curtis. 

Swimply is now operating in a total of 125 U.S. markets, two markets in Canada and five markets in Australia. It plans to use its new capital in part to expand into new markets and toward product development.

Image Credits: Swimply

The way it works is pretty straightforward. Swimply simply connects homeowners that have underutilized backyard spaces and pools with those seeking a way to gather, cool off or exercise, for example. People or families can rent pools by the hour, ranging in price from $15 to $60 per hour (at an average of $45/hour) depending on the amenities. New markets that Swimply has recently expanded to include Portland, Oregon; Raleigh, NC and the California cities of Oakland, San Luis Obispo and Los Gatos. 

“The shifting mindset from younger generations about ownership is a huge contributor to increased growth of the Swimply marketplace,” said co-founder Weinberger, who serves as Swimply’s COO. “Swimming is the third most popular activity for adults and number one for children, and yet no other company has tackled the aquatic space to make swimming more affordable and accessible…until now.”

While the company declined to provide hard revenue figures, Laskin said Swimply was seeing “7 digits a month in revenue” and 15,000 to 20,000 reservations a month. Families represent the most popular reservation.

“People can book and pay through our platform, and only 20% of hosts ever meet their guests,” Laskin said. “We’re enabling a new kind of consumer behavior with what we’re doing.”

The company is planning to use its new capital to also rebuild much of its tech infrastructure and boost its customer support team to be more “readily available.”

It is also now offering a complimentary up to $1 million worth of insurance per booking for liability as well as $10,000.

Swimply has a little over 20 employees, up 10 times from 2 people in December of 2020. It plans to double that number over the next few months.

The company’s model has proven quite lucrative for some owners, according to Laskin.

“Last year, there were some owners who earned $10,000 a month. One owner in Denver earned $50,000 last year and he had signed up toward the end of the summer. He should make over $100,000 this year,” Lasken projects.

Its only criteria is that owners offer a clean pool. Eighty five percent of hosts offer restrooms as well. If they don’t, they are limited to one-hour reservations with a max of five guests. Swimply has also partnered with local pool companies, and if they pay one of its owners a visit and certify that pool, that owner gets a badge on the site “so guests get an additional level of security,” Laskin said.

Ed Yip of Norwest Venture Partners admits that when he first heard of the concept of Swimply, he “didn’t know what to make of it.”

But the more he heard about it, the more excited he got.

“This is the holy grail for a consumer investor. We’re not changing consumer behavior, but rather productize the experience and make it safer and easier on both sides,” Yip told TechCrunch.

What also gets the investor excited is the potential for Swimply beyond just swimming pools in the future.

“We’re seeing a ton of demand from hosts wanting to list hot tubs and tennis courts, for example,” Yip said. “So this can turn into a marketplace for shared outdoor resources and that’s a huge market opportunity that adds value on both sides.”

Indeed, the concept of monetizing underutilized space is a growing concept. Earlier this year, we reported on Neighbor, which operates a self-storage marketplace, raising $53 million in a Series B round of funding. Neighbor’s unique model aims to repurpose under-utilized or vacant space — whether it be a person’s basement or the empty floor of an office building — and turn it into storage.

 

 

#airbnb, #ancestry-com, #australia, #california, #canada, #ceo, #co-founder, #coo, #denver, #entertainment, #funding, #fundings-exits, #manish-chandra, #new-jersey, #north-carolina, #norwest-venture-partners, #oakland, #oregon, #pool, #portland, #poshmark, #raleigh, #recent-funding, #renting, #sports, #startup, #startups, #tc, #united-states, #venture-capital

Autodesk acquires Upchain

Autodesk, the publicly-traded software company best known for its CAD and 3D modeling tools, today announced that it has acquired Upchain, a Toronto-based startup that offers a cloud-based product lifecycle management (PLM) service. The two companies, which didn’t disclose the acquisition price, expect the transaction to close by July 31, 2021.

Since its launch in 2015, Upchain raised about $7.4 million in funding, according to Crunchbase. The central idea behind the service was that existing lifecycle management solutions, which are meant to help businesses take new products from inception production and collaborate with their supply chain in the process, were cumbersome and geared toward large multi-national enterprises. Upchain’s focus is on small and mid-sized companies and promises to be more affordable and usable than other solutions. It’s customer base spans a wide range of industries, ranging from textiles and apparel to automotive, aerospace, industrial machines, transportation and entertainment.

“We’ve had a singular focus at Upchain to up-level cloud collaboration across the entire product lifecycle, changing the way that people work together so that everyone has access to the data they need, when they need it,” Upchain CEO and founder John Laslavic said in today’s announcement. “Autodesk shares our vision for radically simplifying how engineers and manufacturers across the entire value chain collaborate and bring a top-quality product to market faster. I look forward to seeing how Upchain and Autodesk, together, take that vision to the next level in the months and years to come.”

For Autodesk, this is the company’s 15th acquisition since 2017. Earlier this year, the company made its first $1 billion acquisition when it bought Portland, OR-based Innovyze, a 35-year-old company that focuses on modeling and lifecycle management for the water management industry. 

“Resilience and collaboration have never been more critical for manufacturers as they confront the increasing complexity of developing new products. We’re committed to addressing those needs by offering the most robust end-to-end design and manufacturing platform in the cloud,” said Andrew Anagnost, President and CEO of Autodesk. “The convergence of data and processes is transforming the industry. By integrating Upchain with our existing offerings, Autodesk customers will be able to easily move data without barriers and will be empowered to unlock and harness valuable insights that can translate to fresh ideas and business success.”

#aerospace, #andrew-anagnost, #autodesk, #business-software, #cad, #ceo, #portland, #product-lifecycle-management, #product-management, #software, #supply-chain, #tc, #toronto

Google promises better 3D maps

Google is announcing a handful of major updates to Google Maps today that range from bringing its Live View AR directions indoors to adding weather data to its maps, but the most tantalizing news — which in typical Google fashion doesn’t have an ETA just yet — is that Google plans to bring a vastly improved 3D layer to Google maps.

Using photogrammetry, the same technology that also allows Microsoft’s Flight Simulator to render large swaths of the world in detail, Google is also building a model of the world for its Maps service.

“We’re going to continue to improve that technology that helps us fuse together the billions of aerials, StreetView and satellite images that we have to really help us move from that flat 2D map to a more accurate 3D model than we’ve ever had. And be able to do that more quickly. And to bring more detail to it than we’ve ever been able to do before,” Dane Glasgow, Google’s VP for Geo Product Experience, said in a press event ahead of today’s announcement. He noted that this 3D layer will allow the company to visualize all its data in new and interesting ways.

Image Credits: Google

How exactly this will play out in reality remains to be seen, but Glasgow showed off a new 3D route preview, for example, with all of the typically mapping data overlayed on top of the 3D map.

Glasgow also noted that this technology will allow Google to parse out small features like stoplights and building addresses, which in turn will result in better directions.

“We also think that the 3D imagery will allow us to visualize a lot of new information and data overlaid on top, you know, everything from helpful information like traffic or accidents, transit delays, crowdedness — there’s lots of potential here to bring new information,” he explained.

Image Credits: Google

As for the more immediate future, Google announced a handful of new features today that are all going to roll out in the coming months. Indoor Live View is the flashiest of these. Google’s existing AR Live View walking directions currently only work outdoors, but thanks to some advances in its technology to recognize where exactly you are (even without a good GPS signal), the company is now able to bring this indoors. This feature is already live in some malls in the U.S. in Chicago, Long Island, Los Angeles, Newark, San Francisco, San Jose, and Seattle, but in the coming months, it’ll come to select airports, malls and transit stations in Tokyo and Zurich as well (just in time for vaccines to arrive and travel to — maybe — rebound). Because Google is able to locate you by comparing the images around you to its database, it can also tell what floor you are on and hence guide you to your gate at the Zurich airport, for example (though in my experience, there are few places with better signage than airports…).

Also new are layers for weather data (but not weather radar) and air quality in Google Maps. The weather layer will be available globally on Android and iOS in the coming months, with the air quality layer only launching for Australia, India and the U.S. at first.

Image Credits: Google

Talking about air quality, Google Maps will also get a new eco-friendly routing option that lets you pick the driving route that produces the least CO2 (coming to Android and iOS later this year), and it will finally feature support for low emission zones, a feature of many a European City. Low emission zones on Google Maps will launch in June in Germany, France, Spain and the UK on Android and iOS. More countries will follow later.

And to bring this all together, Google will update its directions interface to show you all of the possible modes of transportations and routing options, prioritized based on your own preferences, as well as based on what’s popular in the city you are in (think he subway in NYC or bike-sharing in Portland).

Also new are more integrated options for curbside grocery pickups in partnership with Instacart and Albertsons, if that’s your thing.

And there you have it. As is so often the case with Google’s announcement, the most exciting new features the company showed off don’t have an ETA and may never launch, but until then you can hold yourself over by getting your weather forecasts on Google Maps.

#albertsons, #android, #artificial-intelligence, #australia, #chicago, #computing, #eta, #france, #germany, #google, #google-search, #google-maps, #gps, #india, #instacart, #los-angeles, #maps, #newark, #operating-systems, #portland, #san-francisco, #san-jose, #seattle, #software, #spain, #tokyo, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #zurich

Mate Fertility is aiming to create a franchise of fertility clinics open to everyone

Mate Fertility, the new Los Angeles startup launching today with $2.8 million in financing, has a mission to create a more inclusive network of family planning services for people struggling with the high cost and low availability of fertility clinics around the country.

Founded by serial entrepreneur Oliver Bogner and his brother Gabriel, Mate was born from both brothers’ struggles with trying to start a family. For Oliver, that was when he and his partner were looking at IVF as a way to screen for the BRCA1 gene from her embryos after she found out that she was a carrier. Meanwhile, Gabriel, an IVF baby who is a member of the LGBTQ community, felt that the services for family planning weren’t always accepting of the gay community.

“IVF and surrogacy were the only options for me to have kids,” the younger Bogner said. “And the queer community has been locked out of these services. It became my mission to democratize healthcare for my community.”

Once Oliver started doing research into the market and discovered that there were only 460 fertility clinics in the U.S. and that over 80% were concentrated in five major metropolitan areas, he knew there was an opportunity for a new business.

Mate Fertility co-founders Gabriel and Oliver Bogner. Image Credit: Mate Fertility

The Bogner brothers enlisted famed reproductive endocrinologist Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg, who trained under the British doctors that pioneered In Vitro Fertilization, to come on board and together the three men launched Mate Fertility.

The co-founders have enlisted an impressive array of financiers to back their business boasting an investor base that includes Andy Dunn, the founder of Bonobos; Peter Pham, the co-founder of the LA-based consumer focused company incubator, Science; Patrick Schwarzenegger; Brian Schwartz; the investors behind Roman, Allbirds, and Caspar, Rosecliff Ventures; Pure Imagination Brands; Mana Ventures, and Maschmeyer Group Ventures.

Mate is launching first in Oklahoma City, where two legacy providers are charging anywhere from 10% to 15% above the national average for family planning services. “We’re going in at anywhere from 50% to 60% lower costs than they are,” said Oliver Bogner.

The company said it would offer egg freezing services for as low as $5,000 and IVF for $8,000, while the national average for IVF cycle costs ranges from $15,000 to $18,000, including medication.

“We’re still making healthy margins that allow us to operate the business. It’s not a matter fo these procedures costing more. These 460 clinics are allowed to radically mark up the process,” said the elder Bogner. “One of these clinics is making approximately 1,000% profit margin on every procedure.”

Given the fact that the company estimates roughly 18% of the U.S. population will face some fertility issue, the need for more clinics — setting aside the lower costs — would be enormous.

We need 3,000 clinics to properly serve our population, today we have 460. There’s a huge gap in care,” said Bogner. 

The company is working with the architects behind Dry Bar, Heitler Houstoun, to design its clinics in an effort to popularize and destigmatize the services.

“We were really intrigued by Oliver and Gabe. In terms of what the biggest risks are… you’re not playing around. You’re not creating software, you’re creating life,” said Adam Struck, the founder of Mate Fertility’s lead investment firm, Struck Capital. “The ultimate KPI which is success rate for our patients is top tier. There’s a lot that Nate is doing to ensure that some of the best medical personnel in the world are part of the Mate mission.” 

Mate Fertility offers modern EHR platforms, an e-pharmacy, proven protocols, payment assistance and digital patient and provider portals for services that include IVF, genetic screening, egg freezing, surrogacy and LGBTQ family building treatments, the company said.

Its first locations will be clinics in Oklahoma City, Anchorage, Ark., Bakersfield, Calif. Lancaster, Pa., Austin, and Portland.

#anchorage, #andy-dunn, #arkansas, #austin, #bonobos, #california, #co-founder, #e-pharmacy, #egg-freezing, #ehr, #fertility, #founder, #healthcare, #ivf, #lancaster, #los-angeles, #louisiana, #pennsylvania, #peter-pham, #portland, #reproduction, #rosecliff-ventures, #serial-entrepreneur, #struck-capital, #tc, #united-states

Conversa Health expands its Series B round to $20M

Portland, Oregon-based Conversa Health, a virtual care and communication platform that helps health organizations stay in touch with their patients and customers, today announced that it has expanded its Series B funding round from $12 million to $20 million. The round is still co-led by Builders VC and Northwell Health’s venture arm Northwell Ventures. Additional investors include UH Ventures, the venture arm of University Hospitals and VC firms P5 Health Ventures, Epic Ventures, StartUp Health and Nassau Street Ventures, as well Genesis Merchant Capital and J-Ventures, which came in as new investors in this expanded round.

“There’s been a recognition, especially with COVID, that the need for automated and virtual — which are two big trends in healthcare — were on the horizon but now the horizon has been pulled in because of COVID and the healthcare system recognizes that that’s going to be required to be able to allow access for patients and improve both the experience for patients and providers, and get better outcomes and do it at lower cost,” Conversa CEO Murray Brozinsky told me.

Brozinsky actually believes that within the next decade, 80% of care will be done remotely. This will allow for more personalized and evidence-based care, but it will also require investments in automation.

“Conversa links providers’ EHRs and other patient data to best-of-breed interactive digital care pathways and clinical analytics engine to automate care management 24×7. This improves care plan adherence pre and post visit, reducing costs and generating better outcomes for patients,” said Builders VC partner and Conversa board member Mark Goldstein. “Conversa’s enterprise platform and library of digital pathways are used by providers to care for patients across their populations, as opposed to one-off point solutions. It fills an enormous gap in the market.”

Given the pandemic, it’s maybe no surprise that Conversa’s business also boomed. The number of customers the company its services has grown fourfold while its financial metrics are up 6x because a lot of its larger companies have expanded their use of the platform.

The team decided to expand the existing Series B round to help it capitalize on this momentum and to bring on more engineers in order to scale the platform. Brozinsky believes that the need for a platform like Conversa’s will remain after the pandemic ends. In addition, the company is also already rolling out support for vaccination programs in its service to help educate consumers but also help in monitoring efforts after people get their shots.

“Everything we’re hearing from health systems, they recognize that they need to be prepared for this to happen again, they still need to care for the core demographics that haven’t changed — this aging population — with an acute shortage of healthcare workers,” Brozinsky said. “So the need for the systems and these platforms is going to be more acute and the investment is not so much an additional cost but an enormous return.”

#board-member, #builders-vc, #conversa-health, #epic-ventures, #health, #health-care, #healthcare, #murray-brozinsky, #northwell-ventures, #oregon, #portland, #primary-care, #recent-funding, #series-b, #startup-health, #startups, #vaccination, #vc

Cyber insurance startup At-Bay raises $34M Series C, adds M12 as a new investor

Cybersecurity insurance startup At-Bay has raised $34 million in its Series C round, the company announced Tuesday.

The round was led by Qumra Capital, a new investor. Microsoft’s venture fund M12, also a new investor, participated in the round alongside Acrew Capital, Khosla Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Munich Re Ventures, and Israeli entrepreneur Shlomo Kramer, who co-founded security firms Check Point and Imperva.

It’s a huge move for the company, which only closed its Series B in February.

The cybersecurity insurance market is expected to become a $23 billion industry by 2025, driven in part by an explosion in connected devices and new regulatory regimes under Europe’s GDPR and more recently California’s state-wide privacy law. But where traditional insurance companies have struggled to acquire the acumen needed to accommodate the growing demand for cybersecurity insurance, startups like At-Bay have filled the space.

At-Bay was founded in 2016 by Rotem Iram and Roman Itskovich, and is headquartered in Mountain View. In the past year, the company has tripled its headcount and now has offices in New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Portland, Los Angeles, and Dallas.

The company differentiates itself from the pack by monitoring the perimeter of its customers’ networks and alerting them to security risks or vulnerabilities. By proactively looking for potential security issues, At-Bay helps its customers to prevent network intrusions and data breaches before they happen, avoiding losses for the company while reducing insurance payouts — a win-win for both the insurance provider and its customers.

“This modern approach to risk management is not only driving strong demand for our insurance, but also enabling us to improve our products and minimize loss to our insureds,” said Iram.

It’s a bet that’s paying off: the company says its frequency of claims are less than half of the industry average. Lior Litwak, a partner at M12, said he sees “immense potential” in the company for melding cyber risk and analysis with cyber insurance.

Now with its Series C in the bank, the company plans to grow its team and launch new products, while improving its automated underwriting platform that allows companies to get instant cyber insurance quotes.

#acrew-capital, #atlanta, #california, #chicago, #computer-security, #computing, #cyber-insurance, #cyberwarfare, #dallas, #europe, #information-technology, #internet-security, #los-angeles, #m12, #new-york, #portland, #qumra-capital, #security, #series-c

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.

#amazon-web-services, #atlanta, #aws-reinvent-2020, #boston, #chicago, #cloud, #cloud-applications, #cloud-computing, #cloud-infrastructure, #cloud-services, #computing, #dallas, #denver, #developer, #enterprise, #google, #houston, #kansas-city, #las-vegas, #los-angeles, #miami, #microsoft, #minneapolis, #mobile-edge, #new-york, #philadelphia, #phoenix, #portland, #seattle, #tc, #vmware, #web-hosting, #web-services

Google Pay gets a major redesign with a new emphasis on personal finance

Google is launching a major redesign of its Google Pay app on both Android and iOS today. Like similar phone-based contactless payment services, Google Pay — or Android Pay as it was known then — started out as a basic replacement for your credit card. Over time, the company added a few more features on top of that but the overall focus never really changed. After about five years in the market, Google Pay now has about 150 million users in 30 countries. With today’s update and redesign, Google is keeping all the core features intact but also taking the service in a new direction with a strong emphasis on helping you manage your personal finances (and maybe get a deal here and there as well).

Google is also partnering with 11 banks to launch a new kind of bank account in 2021. Called Plex, these mobile-first bank accounts will have no monthly fees, overdraft charges or minimum balances. The banks will own the accounts but the Google Pay app will be the main conduit for managing these accounts. The launch partners for this are Citi and Stanford Federal Credit Union.

Image Credits: Google

“What we’re doing in this new Google Pay app, think of it is combining three things into one,” Google director of product management Josh Woodward said as he walked me through a demo of the new app. “The three things are three tabs in the app. One is the ability to pay friends and businesses really fast. The second is to explore offers and rewards, so you can save money at shops. And the third is getting insights about your spending so you can stay on top of your money.”

Paying friends and businesses was obviously always at the core of Google Pay — but the emphasis here has shifted a bit. “You’ll notice that everything in the product is built around your relationships,” Caesar Sengupta, Google’s lead for Payments and Next Billion Users, told me. “It’s not about long lists of transactions or weird numbers. All your engagements pivot around people, groups, and businesses.”

It’s maybe no surprise then that the feature that’s now front and center in the app is P2P payments. You can also still pay and request money through the app as usual, but as part of this overhaul, Google is now making it easier to split restaurant bills with friends, for example, or your rent and utilities with your roommates — and to see who already paid and who is still delinquent. Woodward tells me that Google built this feature after its user research showed that splitting bills remains a major pain point for its users.

In this same view, you can also find a list of companies you have recently transacted with — either by using the Google Pay tap-and-pay feature or because you’ve linked your credit card or bank account with the service. From there, you can see all of your recent transactions with those companies.

Image Credits: Google

Maybe the most important new feature Google is enabling with this update is indeed the ability to connect your bank accounts and credit cards to Google Pay so that it can pull in information about your spending. It’s basically Mint-light inside the Google Pay app. This is what enables the company to offer a lot of the other new features in the app. Google says it is working with “a few different aggregators” to enable this feature, though it didn’t go into details about who its partners are. It’s worth stressing that this, like all of the new features here, is off by default and opt-in.

Image Credits: Google

The basic idea here is similar to that of other personal finance aggregators. At its most basic, it lets you see how much money you spent and how much you still have. But Google is also using its smarts to show you some interesting insights into your spending habits. On Monday, it’ll show you how much you spent on the weekend, for example.

“Think of these almost as like stories in a way,” Woodward said. “You can swipe through them so you can see your large transactions. You can see how much you spent this week compared to a typical week. You can look at how much money you’ve sent to friends and which friends and where you’ve spent money in the month of November, for example.”

This also then enables you to easily search for a given transaction using Google’s search capabilities. Since this is Google, that search should work pretty well and in a demo, the team showed me how a search for ‘Turkish’ brought up a transaction at a kebab restaurant, for example, even though it didn’t have ‘Turkish’ in its name. If you regularly take photos of your receipts, you can also now search through these from Google Pay and drill down to specific things you bought — as well as receipts and bills you receive in your Gmail inbox.

Also new inside of Google Pay is the ability to see and virtually clip coupons that are then linked to your credit card, so you don’t need to do anything else beyond using that linked credit card to get extra cashback on a given transaction, for example. If you opt in, these offers can also be personalized.

Image Credits: Google

The team also worked with the Google Lens team to now let you scan products and QR codes to look for potential discounts.

As for the core payments function, Google is also enabling a new capability that will let you use contactless payments at 30,000 gas stations now (often with a discount). The partners for this are Shell, ExxonMobil, Phillips 66, 76 and Conoco.

In addition, you’ll also soon be able to pay for parking in over 400 cities inside the app. Not every city is Portland, after all, and has a Parking Kitty. The first cities to get this feature are Austin, Boston, Minneapolis, and Washington, D.C., with others to follow soon.

It’s one thing to let Google handle your credit card transaction but it’s another to give it all of this — often highly personal — data. As the team emphasized throughout my conversation with them, Google Pay will not sell your data to third parties or even the rest of Google for ad targeting, for example. All of the personalized features are also off by default and the team is doing something new here by letting you turn them on for a three-month trial period. After those three months, you can then decide to keep them on or off.

In the end, whether you want to use the optional features and have Google store all of this data is probably a personal choice and not everybody will be comfortable with it. The rest of the core Google Pay features aren’t changing, after all, so you can still make your NFC payments at the supermarket with your phone just like before.

#android, #apps, #artificial-intelligence, #austin, #bank, #boston, #citi, #computing, #exxonmobil, #google, #google-pay, #minneapolis, #mobile-payments, #online-payments, #p2p, #portland, #product-management, #shell, #tc, #up, #washington, #washington-d-c

Portland, Maine passes referendum banning facial surveillance

As we’re currently shifting through all of the national and local votes from last night’s elections, here’s a small but important victory for privacy advocates out of Portland, Maine . Per the Bangor Daily News, the city passed “Referendum Question B,” designed to curb government and police use of facial recognition technology.

According to the initiative:

An Act to Ban Facial Surveillance by Public Officials in Portland will ban the city of Portland and its departments and officials from using or authorizing the use of any facial surveillance software on any groups or member of the public, and provides a right to members of the public to sue if facial surveillance data is illegally gathered and/or used.

It’s one of four progressive measures that passed last night in the city. Other successful measures include a $15/hour minimum wage and a cap on rent increases. It also joins other recent local ordinances. Other cities to pass similar legislation include San Francisco, Boston and the other Portland, which offered a pretty sweeping ban back in September.

Meanwhile, earlier this week, an arrest was made in Washington, DC using facial recognition. The individual was reportedly identified using an image found on Twitter.

#2020-election, #apps, #facial-recognition, #maine, #portland, #privacy

WildType is opening up a pre-order list for select chefs as it focuses on sushi-grade salmon

WildType, the startup making lab-grown salmon, is opening up a pre-order list for select chefs.

Although the company is as much as five years out from commercial production, according to founders, the company is looking to partner with select chefs around the country who want to incorporate their sushi-grade salmon product into their menus .

“We’re not launching right now. We’re releasing the news that we have the next iteration of the product,” said co-founder Justin Kolbeck, a former US diplomat who launched the company to address issues of food insecurity he’d seen firsthand while stationed in Afghanistan.

“[It’s] sushi or nigiri or sashimi that you would order at a sushi restaurant,” he said. So the product that WildType hopes to ship will be equivalent to the saku blocks of fish meat that sushi chefs carve to prepare salmon. “Chefs will take a fish apart into saku blocks which are ten to fourteen ounces of fish,” said Kolbeck. “They’ll cut out bits that go on nigiri and the bits that are left over are made into rolls. We’ve designed an initial product release that can serve all three of those form factors.”

The process is more difficult than simply culturing cells. According to Kolbeck and WildType’s other co-founder Arye Elfenbein, the company has developed its own technology for developing the scaffolding on which both the muscle tissue and fats can grow to replicate the taste and texture of wild caught salmon.

“We’re developing the cell lines ourselves, we’re developing the scaffolding, and we’re developing the nutrients that we need to grow and we’re developing the cultivators that the cells need to grow in,” said Kolbeck.

Image of WildType’s sushi-grade, lab-grown salmon. Image Credit: Arye Elfenbein/WildType

For the cultivated meat industry to reach its full potential, companies may need to differentiate their businesses to focus on a single element of the supply chain going forward, the founders said.

Already, companies like Future Fields are raising money to focus on specific examples of the cultivated food supply chain, and WildType considered going down that road itself, according to Elfenbein.

“What we’ve created is special in its ability to provide cells with the right signals to organize and mature,” said Elfenbein. “This is applicable to other species than the salmon that we have worked on… we basically create a scaffold that provides the right guidance in different places for cells to take up fats in different places or become more striated.”

Already WildType has created sushi-grade salmon that achieves equivalence when it comes to nutrition and when it comes to the healthy omega 3 fats that make salmon a healthier option for consumers.

WildType is already working with restaurants in San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle and is looking for chefs in other parts of the country.

Kolbeck thinks the timing is right for the company’s cultivated product. Consumers right now are coming to the realization that the supply chain for seafood is broken even as more shoppers are gravitating from the meat aisle to seafood in greater numbers.

From mislabeling of fish to the problems associated with factory fish farming, aquaculture and environmental degradation — along with the risks of chemically contaminated fish — shoppers who want seafood are also increasingly looking for more information about the provenance of the food they’re eating.

“The news is that we’re placing our bet on sushi as an industry where we can launch and make a big splash… pun intended,” said Kolbeck.

#afghanistan, #co-founder, #fish, #food, #food-and-drink, #food-supply-chain, #menu, #portland, #san-francisco, #seattle, #sushi, #tc, #united-states

Portland adopts strictest facial recognition ban in nation to date

A helpful neon sign in Portland, Ore.

Enlarge / A helpful neon sign in Portland, Ore. (credit: Seth K. Hughes | Getty Images)

City leaders in Portland, Oregon, yesterday adopted the most sweeping ban on facial recognition technology passed anywhere in the United States so far.

The Portland City Council voted on two ordinances related to facial recognition: one prohibiting use by public entities, including the police, and the other limiting its use by private entities. Both measures passed unanimously, according to local NPR and PBS affiliate Oregon Public Broadcasting.

The first ordinance (PDF) bans the “acquisition and use” of facial recognition technologies by any bureau of the city of Portland. The second (PDF) prohibits private entities from using facial recognition technologies “in places of public accommodation” in the city.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#face-recognition, #facial-recognition, #laws, #oregon, #policy, #portland, #privacy, #racism, #surveillance

The Shed is a startup out of Virginia trying to revive the rental-for-everything business

Reducing consumption by expanding the notion of the rental economy and giving people access to tools and equipment has been something of a startup holy grail for some time.

It’s a model that’s worked famously well for fashion and accessories (just ask investors in Rent the Runway), but has had not had the same resonance for white label goods.

The Shed, out of Richmond, Va., hopes to change that.

Launched by Karen Rodgers O’Neil, a longtime marketing executive, and Daniel Perrone, a serial entrepreneur and technology executive whose previous company, BroadMap, was acquired by Apple; The Shed hopes to take the rental model that Home Depot has turned into a billion dollar business line and take it to the masses.

Unlike Home Depot, The Shed touts its presence in eight categories. Stanley Black & Decker is a marquee early partner and the company’s executives said that others have come on board.

“We don’t buy product,” said Perrone. “We take delivery of all the products and rent them out in the local marketplaces where we do business.”

The only thing the manufacturer provides is the products and some servicing starter kit so that The Shed and its employees can manage and maintain the product.

The Shed founders Karen Rodgers O’Neil and Daniel Perrone. Image Credit: The Shed

Since its launch in April the company has expanded beyond its Richmond, Va. home base to Denver — and will be looking to expand further into Portland, Austin, and San Jose, according to Perrone.

Among the features that the company intends to roll out as it expands is a dynamic pricing capability that will enable manufacturers to wring the most out of their goods when they’re in high demand.

Rodgers O’Neil came up with the concept back in 2012 when she was working as a marketing executive for General Electric out of Boston.  Perrone met Rodgers O’Neil at a networking event in Boston and became convinced that her notion of offering more rental options to encourage a more circular economy and reduce consumption was something that could resonate with consumers.

To be sure, The Shed isn’t the first company to attempt to bring the rental business to a broader array of consumer products in an effort to cut down on consumption. The Los Angeles-based startup Joymode was attempting to do much the same thing. That company sold to an early stage investment firm out of New York.

Joymode’s chief executive, Joe Fernandez spoke about the difficulty of running the business. “Part of the thesis was that by making things available for rental, people would want to do more stuff,” said Fernandez, but what happened was that consumers needed additional reasons to use the company’s service, and there weren’t enough events to drive demand.

By contrast, The Shed isn’t owning any of the inventory, just acting as a broker and managing inventory between local retailers and manufacturers who want to take advantage of the company’s service.

In addition to Stanley Black & Decker, companies like Primus camping equipment have placed their products on The Shed along with Mobility Plus, which added wheelchairs and mobility scooters; and Replacements, the largest china dealer in the country, which is offering a “Party in a Box” for dinner, cocktail or tea parties.

To date, the company has raised $1.75 million from investors and entrepreneurs from the Richmond, Va. area. Now, with 60 manufacturers on board and another 15 to 18 vendors signing up monthly, the company is looking to expand even further.

“I joined with Karen because I saw that this would be a game changer in the rental space,” said Perrone. There are a number of retailers in specific verticals that still don’t transact online, so The Shed becomes their avenue to reach the market, he said.

#apple, #articles, #austin, #boston, #brand, #broadmap, #broker, #business, #consumer-products, #denver, #general-electric, #graphic-design, #home-depot, #joe-fernandez, #joymode, #los-angeles, #marketing, #new-york, #portland, #product-management, #richmond, #san-jose, #tc, #virginia

Cloudflare launches Workers Unbound, the next evolution of its serverless platform

Cloudflare today announced the private beta launch of Workers Unbound, the latest step in its efforts to offer a serverless platform that can compete with the likes of AWS Lambda.

The company first launched its Workers edge computing platform in late 2017. Today it has “hundreds of thousands of developers” who use it and in the last quarter alone, more than 20,000 developers built applications based on the service, according to the company. Cloudflare also uses Workers to power many of its own services, but the first iteration of the platform had quite a few limitations. The idea behind Workers Unbound is to do away with most of those and turn it into a platform that can compete with the likes of AWS, Microsoft and Google.

“The original motivation for us building Cloudflare Workers was not to sell it as a product but because we were using it as our own internal platform to build applications,” Cloudflare co-founder and CEO Matthew Prince told me ahead of today’s announcement. “Today, Cloudflare Teams, which is our fastest-growing product line, is all running on top of Cloudflare workers and it’s allowed us to innovate as fast as we have and stay nimble and stay agile and all those things that get harder as you as you become a larger and larger company.”

Cloudflare co-founder and CEO Matthew Prince

Prince noted that Cloudflare aims to expose all of the services it builds for its internal consumption to third-party developers as well. “The fact that we’ve been able to roll out a whole Zscaler competitor in almost no time is because of the fact that we had this platform and we could build on it ourselves,” he said.

The original Workers service will continue to operate (but under the Workers Bundled moniker) and essentially become Cloudflare’s serverless platform for basic workloads that only run for a very short time. Workers Unbound — as the name implies — is meant for more complex and longer-running processes.

When it first launched Workers, the company said that its killer feature was speed. Today, Prince argues that speed obviously remains an important feature — and Cloudflare Workers Unbound promises that it essentially does away with cold start latencies. But developers also adopted the platform because of its ability to scale and its price.

Indeed, Workers Unbound, Cloudflare argues, is now significantly more affordable than similar offerings. “For the same workload, Cloudflare Workers Unbound can be 75 percent less expensive than AWS Lambda, 24 percent less expensive than Microsoft Azure Functions, and 52 percent less expensive than Google Cloud Functions,” the company says in today’s press release.

As it turned out, the fact that Workers was also an edge computing platform was basically a bonus but not necessarily why developers adopted it.

Another feature Prince highlighted is regulatory compliance. “I think the thing we’re realizing as we talk to our largest enterprise customers is that for real companies — not just the individual developer hacking away at home — but for real businesses in financial services or anyone who has to deal with a regulated industry, the only thing that trumps ease of use is regulatory compliance, which is not sexy or interesting or anything else but like if your GC says you can’t use XYZ platform, then you don’t use XYZ platform and that’s the end of the story,” Prince noted.

Speed, though, is of course something developers will always care about. Prince stressed that the team was quite happy with the 5ms cold start times of the original Workers platform. “But we wanted to be better,” he said. “We wanted to be the clearly fastest serverless platform forever — and the only number that we know no one else can beat is zero — unless they invent a time machine.”

The way the team engineered this is by queuing up the process while the two servers are still negotiating their TLS handshake. “We’re excited to be the first cloud computing platform that [offers], for no additional costs, out of the box, zero millisecond cold start times which then also means less variability in the performance.”

Cloudflare also argues that developers can update their code and have it go live globally within 15 seconds.

Another area the team worked on was making it easier to use the service in general. Among the key new features here is support for languages like Python and a new SDK that will allow developers to add support for their favorite languages, too.

Prince credits Cloudflare’s ability to roll out this platform, which is obviously heavy on compute resources — and to keep it affordable — to the fact that it always thought of itself as a security platform first (the team has often said that the CDN functionality was more or less incidental). Because it performed deep packet inspection, for example, the company’s servers always featured relatively high-powered CPUs. “Our network has been optimized for CPU usage from the beginning and as a result, it’s actually made it much more natural for us to extend our network that way,” he explained. “To this day, the same machines that are running our firewall products are the same machines that are running our edge computing platform.”

Looking ahead, Prince noted that while Workers and Workers Unbound feature a distributed key-value store, the team is looking at adding a more robust database infrastructure and distributed storage.

The team is also looking at how to decompose applications to put them closest to where they will be running. “You could imagine that in the future, it might be that you write an application and we say, ‘listen, the parts of the application that are sensitive to the user of the database might run in Portland, where you are — but if the database is in Ashburn, Virginia, then the parts that are sensitive to latency in the database might run there,” he said.

 

#amazon-web-services, #aws-lambda, #cloud, #cloud-computing, #cloud-infrastructure, #cloudflare, #computing, #developer, #financial-services, #firewall, #google, #internet-security, #matthew-prince, #microsoft, #portland, #prince, #python, #serverless-computing, #tc, #virginia, #zscaler

Conversa Health raises $12M Series B for its digital health platform

It’s no surprise that the coronavirus pandemic is accelerating the digital health space and so it’s also no surprise that a lot of the startups in this area are currently getting funded. Conversa Health, a Portland, Oregon-based startup that provides a virtual care and communication platform for personalized healthcare, is among these startups. The company today announced that it has raised a $12 million Series B round led by Builders VC and Northwell Ventures, the venture arm of Northwell Health, one of the largest healthcare providers in New York, with 23 hospitals and 800 outpatient facilities.

With this round, which also saw the participation of P5 Health Ventures, Nassau Street Ventures and Ohia’s UH Ventures (the venture arm of Ohio’s University Hospitals), Conversa has now raised a total of over $26 million.

In addition, the company also today announced that it has appointed Murray Brozinsky as its new CEO. Conversa co-founder — and now former CEO — West Shell III will become the company’s executive chairman.

“I used to say that virtual health is inevitable,” Brozinsky told me. “And the reason is that we can talk about the economics and how healthcare is moving to a value-based reimbursement system and how we’re gonna break the bank in spending 20% of GDP and our need to improve the patient experience. So you can see how it would become the predominant way that we practice healthcare in this country. And with COVID, that has now become the catalyst for it to become a tipping point. So we’ve seen an acceleration of virtual care and we fully believe that the major health systems are going to implement platforms like this, in many cases, our platform as the first line.”

The goal, Brozinsky told me, is for Conversa’s platform to become the digital front door for a health system. The company’s automated chat-based platform can help triage patients and see if they need a virtual or in-person visit with a doctor, for example. But healthcare systems can also use it to check in on patients and gather data about them, either by asking for it or through connected devices. Indeed, as Brozinsky noted, in many ways, Conversa is a data company.

One new line of business is the company’s Employee HealthCheck services, which allows employers to screen workers before they return to work, using a simple Q&A process. In the current environment, where businesses are very much responsible for creating and maintaining a safe work environment, that’s indeed a very timely launch (and health care providers, too, are using the company’s system to screen patients and their loved ones before they arrive at their facilities).

“We think it’s going to be incumbent on employers to continue to screen their employees for COVID,” said Brozinsky.  “And then on the heels of that, we’re seeing a lot of — and this has been an issue, but now it’s become a bigger issue — which is mental health. So a lot of PTSD, certainly from healthcare workers, stress and anxiety for lots of people in the environment. So we’ve got programs on the heels of COVID that are helping to screen for mental health.”

He also noted that while a lot of employers have launched wellness programs, the activation rates for these have remained very low, all while the nature of work is changing rapidly as people work remotely and are often scared to come in to work.

“Even before COVID-19, we have been expanding our work with Conversa throughout our organization over the last few years as they are a critical component of Northwell Health’s vision for virtual health, further strengthening the provider-patient relationship through personalized, insightful engagement,” said Joseph Schulman, Senior Vice President, Population Health, Business Transformation, for Northwell Health. “We have been successfully using Conversa to scale our communications and care for thousands of COVID-19 patients with programs focused on lab results, quarantine, antibody tests and more. Conversa has been an extraordinary partner.”

Conversa CEO Murray Brozinsky

#bank, #companies, #economy, #funding, #health, #healthcare, #new-york, #ohio, #oregon, #portland, #recent-funding, #startup-company, #startups, #vc

Puppet names former Cloud Foundry Foundation executive director Abbey Kearns as CTO

Puppet, the Portland-based infrastructure automation company, today announced that it has named former Cloud Foundry Foundation executive director Abby Kearns as its new CTO. She’s replacing Deepak Giridharagopal, who became CTO in 2016.

Kearns stepped down from her role at the Cloud Foundry Foundation earlier this month after holding that position since 2016. At the time, she wasn’t quite ready to reveal her next move, though, and her taking the CTO job at Puppet comes as a bit of a surprise. Despite a lot of usage and hype in its early days, Puppet isn’t often seen as an up-and-coming company anymore, after all. But Kearns argues that a lot of this is due to perception.

“Puppet had great technology and really drove the early DevOps movement, but they kind of fell off the face of the map,” she said. “Nobody thought of them as anything other than config management, and so I was like, well, you know, problem number one: fix that perception problem if that’s no longer the reality or otherwise, everyone thinks you’re dead.”

Since Kearns had already started talking to Puppet CEO Yvonne Wassenaar, who took the job in January 2019, she joined the product advisory board about a year ago and the discussion about Kearns joining the company became serious a few months later.

“We started talking earlier this year,” said Kearns. “She said: ‘You know, wouldn’t it be great if you could come help us? I’m building out a brand new executive team. We’re really trying to reshape the company.’ And I got really excited about the team that she built. She’s got a really fantastic new leadership team, all of them are there for less than a year. they have a new CRO, new CMO. She’s really assembled a fantastic team of people that are super smart, but also really thoughtful people.”

Kearns argues that Puppet’s product has really changed, but that the company didn’t really talk about it enough, despite the fact that 80% of the Global 5,000 are customers.

Given the COVID-19 pandemic, Kearns has obviously not been able to meet the Puppet team yet, but she told me that she’s starting to dig deeper into the company’s product portfolio and put together a strategy. “There’s just such an immensely talented team here. And I realize every startup tells you that, but really, there’s actually a lot of talented people here that are really nice. And I guess maybe it’s the Portland in them, but everyone’s nice,” she said.

“Abby is keenly aware of Puppet’s mission, having served on our Product Advisory Board for the last year, and is a technologist at heart,” said Wassenaar. “She brings a great balance to this position for us – she has deep experience in the enterprise and understands how to solve problems at massive scale.”

In addition to Kearns, former Cloud Foundry Foundation VP of marketing Devin Davis also joined Puppet as the company’s VP of corporate marketing and communications.

#abby-kearns, #agile-software-development, #cloud-foundry-foundation, #cto, #developer, #devops, #enterprise, #entertainment, #information-technology, #portland, #puppet

The Station: Pony.ai turns to delivery, Kodiak cuts, Lime snaps up Boosted’s IP

Hi and welcome back to The Station, a weekly newsletter dedicated to the future (and present) of transportation. I’m your host Kirsten Korosec, senior transportation reporter at TechCrunch.

What you’re reading here is an abbreviated version of The Station. To get the complete newsletter, which comes out every weekend, go here and click The Station.

Here’s a friendly reminder to reach out and email me at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com to share thoughts, opinions or tips or send a direct message to @kirstenkorosec.

Let’s go.

Micromobbin’

the station scooter1a

There wasn’t a ton of news in micromobility this week, but I came across an interesting read over at City Lab about whether or not cities should financially support micromobility services. Shared bikes and scooters provide transportation options to city-dwellers during a time when some cities are deciding to scale back public transportation operations in order to keep its employees and residents safe.

In Portland, City Lab pointed to how the city agreed to temporarily waive e-scooter fees as long as Spin passed those savings onto riders. Now, Spin rides cost about 50% less in Portland.

But, as the authors write, “While we believe that waiving e-scooter fees and offering public funding may be necessary, we harbor no illusions that it would be easy to do so in the current fiscal environment.”

— Megan Rose Dickey

A little bird

blinky cat bird green

We hear things. But we’re not selfish. Let’s share.

Layoffs are nothing new in this COVID-19 world. More than 260 startups have laid off 25,010 workers, according Layoffs.fyi, a website that is attempting to track cuts in the startup ecosystem amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Not all of these layoffs are directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic. In many cases, the pandemic has merely augmented pre-existing problems. One such example is Kodiak Robotics, an autonomous trucking startup, that laid off 20% of its staff on Wednesday (about 15 of its 85-person staff). The Information was the first to report the layoffs and TechCrunch has since confirmed those numbers. The official line is that Kodiak reduced its headcount due to the dramatic impact COVID-19 has had on the economy. The move was couched as the best way to position Kodiak for the future.

We’ve learned from several people that the company was already facing considerable headwinds on the fundraising front.

Kodiak Robotics came out of stealth in August 2018 with $40 million in a Series A funding round led by Battery Ventures. CRV, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Tusk Ventures also participated in the round. The company likely attracted interest and investment because of its founders. CEO Don Burnette was part of the Google self-driving project before leaving and co-founding Otto in early 2016, along with Anthony Levandowski, Lior Ron and Claire Delaunay. Uber then acquired Otto (and its co-founders). Burnette left Uber to launch Kodiak in April 2018 with Paz Eshel, a former venture capitalist and now the startup’s COO.

The pair scaled up quickly. The company, headquartered in Mountain View, Calif., went on a hiring spree in 2019 and opened a new facility in North Texas to support commercial deliveries using its fleet of eight trucks. Autonomous vehicle technology startups are already capitally intensive. But Kodiak was also trying to launch a carrier service — not just developing the self-driving truck stack.

Fundraising efforts started late last year and Kodiak was hoping to raise a $100 million round on a $300 million pre-money valuation, according to two sources. It was suggested that Kodiak already had a lead. However, the company has had trouble closing a Series B round with attractive terms, according to several sources who spoke to TechCrunch on condition of anonymity. When COVID-19 erupted it put more pressure on the startup.

Kodiak is hardly alone. Autonomous vehicle technology startups have had a more tepid reception from investors since spring 2019. It’s still possible to raise funds. But it’s harder now — particularly those seeking larger raises — and the terms are less desirable.

Another autonomous delivery pivot

the station autonomous vehicles1

Pony .ai is the latest autonomous vehicle startup to turn its efforts to delivery — at least temporarily. The company announced this week it will partner with e-commerce platform Yamibuy to provide autonomous last-mile delivery service to customers in Irvine, Calif.

The new delivery service was launched to provide additional capacity to address the surge of online orders triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, Pony.ai said.

Pony.ai, which recently raised $400 million from Toyota Motor Corporation, has focused on shuttling people, not packages. The company has launched ride-sharing and commuter pilots in Fremont and Irvine, California and Guangzhou, China.

Pony.ai now said it will use its Irvine robotaxi fleet of 10 electric Hyundai Kona vehicles for delivery through at least mid-summer. It’s not clear how, or if, Pony.ai can generate revenue with this new delivery service. The company is in talks with the California Department of Motor Vehicles, the agency that issues AV testing permits, about this issue. The DMV doesn’t allow AV testing fleets to charge money by delivering goods or rides. However, a deployment permit, which Pony.ai has for its Irvine service, does allow for commercial use, just not a delivery fee.

Pronto.ai makes a move

the station semi truck

Pronto.ai, a startup co-founded by controversial star engineer Anthony Levandowski, is not pursuing Level 4 autonomous vehicle technology, Instead, the company is developing an advanced driver assistance system product for trucks called Copilot. Pronto AI was originally called Kache.ai, according to paperwork discovered at the time by TechCrunch, and was registered as a corporation with the California Secretary of State.

The startup has maintained a low profile since August 2019 when Levandowski was indicted by a federal grand jury on theft of trade secrets, forcing him to step down as CEO. Levandowski has since reached a plea deal. Now, it seems that the company is making some moves.

Pronto.ai recently applied for a five-year exemption from the federal government that would let drivers in trucks with Pronto’s CoPilot technology to stay on the road longer than current rules allow. The request to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which was first reported by Freight Waves, would let drivers to drive up to 13 hours within a 15-consecutive hour driving window after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty.

Drivers are typically allowed to drive up to 11 hours in a 14-hour window, after being off duty for 10 or more consecutive hours.

Lime swoops up Boosted IP

Boosted, startup behind the Boosted Boards and, more recently, the Boosted Rev electric scooter, would typically fall into micromobbin’. But it deserves it’s own segment this week.

Five weeks ago, Boosted laid off “a significant portion” of its team and began actively seeking a buyer. It seems that a sale never materialized and Lime swooped in and bought up Boosted’s core patents, according to a report from The Verge.  Lime was apparently working on acquiring Boosted’s intellectual property since the end of 2019. The shared scooter company snapped up the IP after a proposed acquisition from Yamaha fell through for Boosted.

Boosted cofounder and former CEO Sanjay Dastoor, who left the board 18 months ago, posted a message to the Boosted subreddit shortly after The Verge story published that suggests Lime’s acquisition was broader than originally thought.

Dastoor wrote that the company is closed and will likely enter into some form of bankruptcy protection. He also wrote that Lime had purchased all the assets and IP of the company and appears to be in possession of everything at Boosted’s headquarters in Mountain View, including access to the building. Here’s one important nugget:

“As far as I can tell, this includes design files, software and code, diagnostics, parts, and test equipment I’m not sure if this includes the responsibility for warranty coverage for boards and scooters sold before. I do know that a handful of former engineers at Boosted, most senior is Michael Hillman who joined as VP Engineering last year, are now at Lime and may be able to help. Regardless of how this is structured, if we want our products to continue being supported, including parts for boards or any software diagnostic tests and debugging, their cooperation and help will be needed.”

He added that some Boosted employees have been trying unsuccessfully to service and send boards back to customers for weeks.

“I’m not a lawyer, but I suspect that those boards should rightfully get back to their owners and should be safe to ride, and I’m trying to find a way to help with this,” Dastoor wrote. “In the meantime, I’d recommend folks who are looking to get in touch more urgently should reach out to Lime directly.”

#anthony-levandowski, #artificial-intelligence, #automotive, #av, #battery-ventures, #bird, #california, #ceo, #china, #claire-delaunay, #coo, #covid-19, #don-burnette, #driver, #emerging-technologies, #federal-government, #fremont, #google, #hyundai, #kirsten-korosec, #kodiak-robotics, #lightspeed-venture-partners, #lime, #lior-ron, #michael-hillman, #otto, #pony, #portland, #self-driving-cars, #sharing-economy, #technology, #toyota-motor-corporation, #transportation, #tusk-ventures, #uber, #unmanned-ground-vehicles

The Station: Starship expands, AutoX opens up shop, and a big moment for ebikes

Hi and welcome back to The Station, a weekly newsletter dedicated to the future (and present) of transportation. I’m your host Kirsten Korosec, senior transportation reporter at TechCrunch .

What you’re reading now is a shorter version of the newsletter, which is emailed every weekend. If you want to subscribe, go here and click The Station.

The transportation industry has seen an influx of “disruptors” in the past 15 years, including car sharing and ride-hailing apps and later shared ebikes and scooters. Now autonomous vehicle technology developers and flying car startups are working for that title.

COVID-19 could turn out out to be the transportation disruptor of this new decade. Yes, yes I know — it’s still early days. However, COVID-19 is already changing how we get around. Public transit has taken a hit and shared scooters have been pulled off streets. Meanwhile, ebike sales are booming and some cities are experimenting with how to provide transportation (and even space) that we need to move around without spreading the disease.

Shall we explore further? Read on. Before we dig in, here’s one more friendly reminder to reach out and email me at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com to share thoughts, opinions or tips or send a direct message to @kirstenkorosec.

Micromobbin’

the station scooter1a

Electric bikes are having a moment. While shared micromobility companies have pulled scooters and bikes off streets, there is evidence that private sales are growing. Meanwhile, cities are taking action to make this means of transportation more available.

Here are three examples:

  • New York’s tentative budget agreement reached April 1 includes a provision that would legalize throttle-based bikes and scooters.
  • Lectric eBikes, an Arizona-based startup that launched in May 2019, told TechCrunch it has seen a spike in sales since mid-March. The company was selling an average of 25 bikes a day before COVID-19. By mid-March sales jumped to about 48 bikes a day. The following week, the company averaged daily sales of 55 ebikes. Lectric sold 175 bikes the week of March 7th. A month later, weekly sales hit 440.
  • Portland is trying to make its shared bike system known as Biketown more accessible and a helluva a lot cheaper. The city has reduced pay-as-you-go plans to a $0.10 one-time sign up fee and then $0.01 a minute. Yes, 1 cent a minute.

Autonomous delivery

the station autonomous vehicles1

COVID-19 has put a new focus on autonomous vehicle delivery. There aren’t fleets of delivery bots at the ready, but progress is being made.

Starship Technologies launched this month a robot food delivery service in Tempe, Ariz., as part of its expansion plans following a $40 million funding round announced last August.

Starship Technologies, which was launched in 2014 by Skype co-founders Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis, has been ramping up commercial services in the past year, including a plan to expand to 100 universities by late summer 2021. Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing traditional restaurants to close and placing more pressure on gig economy workers, Starship Technologies has an opportunity to accelerate that growth. The company recently launched in Washington D.C, Irvine, Calif., and says it plans to roll out to more cities in the coming weeks.

Nuro’s next milestone

Meanwhile, Nuro has been granted permission to begin driverless testing on California’s public roads. Nuro’s low-speed R2 vehicle isn’t designed for people, only packages.

And it’s well positioned to actually scale commercially in California. Under state law, AV companies can get a separate permit that allows them to operate a ride-hailing service. But they can’t charge a fee.

Nuro can’t charge a delivery fee either. However, it can generate revenue by working with local retailers to launch a commercial delivery business using the autonomous vehicles.

Other autonomous vehicle news

AutoX has opened an 80,000 square-foot Shanghai Robotaxi Operations Center, following a 2019 agreement with municipal authorities to deploy 100 autonomous vehicles in the Jiading District. The vehicles in the fleet were assembled at a factory about 93 miles outside of Shanghai.

AutoX, which is developing a full self-driving stack, has operations in California and China. It has been particularly active in China. The company has been operating a fleet of robotaxis in Shenzhen through a pilot program launched in 2019 with BYD. Earlier this year, it partnered with Fiat Chrysler to roll out a fleet of robotaxis for China and other countries in Asia.

The Shanghai operations center marks an escalation of AutoX’s ambitions. The company plans to unveil a ride-hailing app that will let users in Shanghai request ride from one of vehicles at the new operations center.

Trend Watch

Trend watch is meant to be a bookmark that we can look back on in a few weeks, months or even years and see if it actually caught on.

I’ll mention two this week.

Nauto is an automotive tech startup that combines cameras, motion sensors, GPS and AI algorithms to understand and improve driver behavior. The company’s platform is used in commercial fleets and some fresh data shows an uptick in last-mile driving and more distracted driving.

Nauto’s distribution and last-mile fleets averaged 41 miles driven every active driving hour in March, a 46% increase from the same month last year.

Meanwhile, distracted driving incidents increased. Nauto said that its distribution and last-mile fleets averaged 1.54 distraction events every active driving hour in March compared to 0.98 events per hour in the same month last year.

Now onto cities. Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf launched Saturday the Oakland Slow Streets initiative to help folks maintain physical distancing. The city has shut down down 74 miles of streets to through traffic to give people space to recreate.

Streets are open to local traffic only and residents are able to drive home. Fire, police, deliveries and other essential services won’t impacted by street closures either.

Other cities are experimenting with similar efforts. While streets will likely open back up after the pandemic passes, this could change how people, including planners, business owners and city officials view how we should use streets.

From you

Over the past few weeks, I’ve shared comments from readers about how COVID-19 has affected their business or how they use transportation. This week, I thought I’d share some advice from Laurie Yoler, a new partner at Playground Global, board member of Zoox and adviser to multiple companies. She was an early adviser and former board member at Tesla .

Here’s what she shared.

This is a time of deep reflection. Instead of viewing ‘social distancing’ as a prison, we can focus on the people we care about and reflect on our work and what gives us joy. Look at this time as an opportunity to be compassionate with yourself and the people around you, and pursue your curiosity. That doesn’t mean forcing yourself to complete a list of tasks with urgency and focus, but rather using this time for gentle creative exploration.

If your business needs to rethink its plans or is facing a substantial slowdown, as so many are, remember you can only be effective by focusing on one thing at a time. I have five “F’s” I run through with entrepreneurs I advise. Friends and family first, then physical facilities, in order to ensure business continuity. After that, you can move to finances, cutting costs and creatively thinking about your business model in order to give your company the best chance of survival. Next, it’s about planning for the future. Scenario planning is essential for all critical areas of your business. Ask yourself, “can I use this crisis to make the company stronger?” Lastly, we turn to faith in the world’s scientists and innovators to see us through this difficult time.

Remember, even amid the devastation around us, there is still space for optimism. This could be a catalyst for the sweeping innovation in healthcare and education that we so desperately need. Use this time of stillness to restore yourself. Watch inspirational TED talks, exercise, meditate, and check in with friends and colleagues often.”

— Laurie Yoler

#asia, #av, #bicycles, #board-member, #byd, #california, #car-sharing, #china, #driver, #electric-bicycle, #emerging-technologies, #fiat-chrysler, #healthcare, #kirsten-korosec, #mayor, #nauto, #new-york, #oakland, #playground-global, #portland, #self-driving-car, #shanghai, #sharing-economy, #shenzhen, #starship-technologies, #tc, #techcrunch, #tesla, #zoox

Der nächste Umzug steht an – Abschiedsschmerz bei den Reimanns

Abschiedsschmerz bei den Reimanns: der nächste Umzug steht an Und wieder geht es auf ins Ungewisse! Diesmal ziehen aber nicht Konny Reimann (64) und Ehefrau Manu (51) um, sondern Tochter Janina.
Foto: RTL2

#auswandern, #hawaii, #portland, #reimann-konny, #rtl-2, #texas, #tv, #usa