Spain’s ten-year plan to put startups in the economic driving seat

Spain is preparing to push forward with pro-startup legislation, having recently unveiled a big and bold transformation plan with the headline goal, by 2030, of turning the country into ‘Spain Entrepreneurial Nation’, as the slightly clumsy English translation has it.

Prime minister Pedro Sanchez took a turn on Web Summit’s stage in December to announce the introduction of the forthcoming Startup Act — and to trumpet a new role, a high commissioner, tasked with bringing off a nationwide entrepreneurial economic transformation by working with all the relevant government ministries.

The broad-brush goals for the strategy are to increase growth in startup investments; attract and retain talent; promote scalability; and inject innovation into the public sector so it can bolster and support Spain’s digital development.

The aforementioned Startup Act is the first piece of dedicated legislation for the sector — and is intended to simplify starting up in Spain, as well as bringing in tax concessions and incentives for foreign investments. So it will be something of a milestone.

Chat to local founders and there’s a litany of administrative, tax-based and fundraising pain-points they’ll quickly point to as frustrations. Wider issues seem more cultural; startups not thinking big enough, investors lacking the necessary appetite for risk, and even — among wider society — some latent suspicion of entrepreneurs. While Spain-based investors are champing at the bit for administrative reform and better stock options. Moving the needle on all that is the Spanish government’s self-appointed mission for the foreseeable future.

TechCrunch spoke to Francisco Polo, Spain’s high commissioner overseeing delivery of the entrepreneurial strategy, to get the inside track on the plan to grow the startup ecosystem and find out which bits entrepreneurs are likely to see in action first.

“The high commissioner for Spain entrepreneurial nation is a new body that’s within the presidency. So for the first time we have an institution that, from the presidency, is able to help coordinate the different ministries on one single thing: Creating the first national mission. In this case this nation mission has the goal to turn Spain into the entrepreneurial nation with the greatest social impact in history,” says Polo.

“What we do is that work of coordination with all the ministries. Basically we have a set of internal objectives. First is what we call impacts — different sets of measures that is contained in the Spain entrepreneurial nation strategy. We also work trying to get everyone together on this national mission so we work on different alliances.

“Finally, we are also very focused on helping let the people know that Spain has made a decision to become — by 2030 — this entrepreneurial nation that is going to leave no one behind. So that’s our job.”

Scaling up on the shoulders of giants

The southern European nation doesn’t attract the same level of startup investment as some of its near neighbors, including the UK, France and Germany. But in some ways Spain punches above its regional weight — with major cities like Barcelona and Madrid routinely ranked as highly attractive locations for founders, owing to relatively low costs and the pull of a Mediterranean lifestyle.

Spanish cities’ urban density, high levels of youth unemployment and a sociable culture that’s eagerly embraced digital chatter makes an attractive test-bed for consumer-facing app-based businesses — one that’s demonstrated disruptive potential over the past decade+, in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis which hit the country hard.

Local startups that have gained global attention over this period — for velocity of growth and level of ambition, at the least — include the likes of Badi, Cabify, Glovo, Jobandtalent, Red Points, Sherpa.ai, TravelPerk, Typeform and Wallapop, to name a few.

Spain’s left-leaning coalition government is now looking to pick up the startup baton in earnest, to drive a broader pro-digital shift in the economy and production base — but in a way that’s socially inclusive. The shift will be based on “an ironclad principle that we leave no one behind”, said Sanchez in December.

For this reason the slate of policy measures Sanchez’s government has distilled as necessary to support and grow the ecosystem — following a long period of consultation with private and public stakeholders — pays close attention to social impact. Hence the parallel goal of tackling a variety of gaps (territorial, gender, socio-economic, generational and so on) that might otherwise be exacerbated by a more single-minded rush to accelerate the size of the digital sector.

“We are a new generation of young people in government. I think in our generation we don’t understand creating a new innovation system or a new industrial-economic system if we are not also talking about its social impact,” says Polo. “That’s why at the basis of the model we have also designed inclusion policies. So all this strategy is aimed at closing the gender gap, the territorial gap, the socio-economic gap and the generational gap. So at the end of the day, by 2030, we have created the entrepreneurial nation with the highest social impact in history.”

There’s money on the table too: Spain will be routing a portion of the ‘Next Generation EU‘ coronavirus recovery funding it receives from the pan-EU pot into this ‘entrepreneurial’ push.

“Specifically, for 2021, the budget assigned to the different goals of the strategy — we have more than €1.5BN for the main measures that we want to start setting up. And for the period 2023 it’s over €4.5BN dedicated to the rest of the measures. So basically between 2021 and 2023 we will be setting the basis/foundations of the Spain entrepreneurial nation,” says Polo.

Execution of the strategy will be down to the relevant ministries of government — who will be enacting projects and passing legislation, as needed — but Polo’s department is there to “guide and accompany” the various arms and branches of government on that journey; aka “to help make things happen” with a startup hat on.

The national strategy envisages entrepreneurship/startup innovation as the driving force at the top of a pyramid that sits atop existing sectors of the Spanish economy — “spearheading the innovative system that we want to generate”, as Polo puts it. “We are not only focusing on innovative entrepreneurship. We are also trying to create virtuous cycles between this ecosystem and the actual driving sectors of the Spanish economy — that’s why we listed a set of ten driving sectors that represent above 60% of the GDP. And this is of utmost importance.”

The listed sectors where the government wants to concentrate and foster support — so those same sectors can leverage gains through closer working with digital innovation are: Industry; Tourism and culture; Mobility; Health; Construction and materials; Energy and ecological transition; Banking and finance; Digitalization and telecommunications; Agri-food; and Biotechnology.

“We decided we needed to make the cut at some point and we decided that putting together 60% of the GDP in Spain was a clear direction of the sectors that we could be using in order to accelerate the change that we want to see,” says Polo. “Basically what we want to shift with this model is that the innovative entrepreneurship that has been quite enclosed in the past starts working with the different driving sectors that we have in the country because they can help each other solve their different issues.

“So first, for example, for investment — what if big companies start investing more and more than they are actually doing? We accelerate also that path — into innovative entrepreneurship system. That is going to help close that gap… What if startups and scale ups in Spain work together with our international companies in order to attract and retain that talent? That is going to put us as a country in a better position.

“To me the best example is about scaling up: Because what is better than scaling up on the shoulders of giants? We have already a big number of international of world class companies that are in different markets so what is better than being able to scale up with a company that is already there, that has the knowledge and that can help you mature as a scale up in a shorter period of time. So there are a lot of virtuous cycles that we can generate and that’s why we wanted to make also a broad appeal to the different driving sectors. Because we want to let the country know that everyone is called to make this a reality.”

Lime scooters outside El Retiro Park in Madrid (Image credits: Natasha Lomas/TechCrunch)

Digital divides

Digital can itself divide, of course, as has been writ large during a global pandemic in which the development of children excluded from attending school in person can hinge on whether or not they have Internet access and computer literacy.

So the principle of entrepreneurial growth being predicated upon social inclusion looks like an important one — even if pulling off major industrial transformations which will necessitate a degree of retraining and upskilling in order to bring workers of all ages along the same path is clearly not going to be easy.

But the ten-year timeframe for ‘Spain Entrepreneurial Nation’ looks like a recognition that inclusion requires time.

The long term plan is also intended to address a common criticism of Spain’s politics being too short-termist, per Polo. “In Spain particularly it’s been a regular criticism that politics always look in the small term so this is proof that this government is also addressing the short term issues but also is preparing Spain for the future,” he says, adding: “We really believe that [presenting a long term vision is] a good thing and it’s an answer to that social demand.”

The country has also — over the last decade or so — gained a bit of a reputation for successfully challenging digital developments over specific societal impacts in Europe’s courts. Such as, in 2010, when a Spanish citizen challenged Google’s refusal to delist outdated information about him from its index — which led, in 2014, to Europe’s top court backing what’s colloquially referred to as the ‘right to be forgotten’.

Uber’s regulation-dodging was also successfully challenged by Spanish taxi associations — leading to a 2017 ruling at the highest level in Europe that Uber is a transport service (and therefore subject to local urban transport rules; not just a technology platform as the ride-hailing giant had sought to claim).

Anti-Uber (and anti-Cabify) strikes have, meanwhile, been a quasi-regular (and sometimes violent) feature of Spain’s streets — as the taxi industry has protested at a perceived lack of enforcement of the law against app-based rivals who are not competing fairly, as it sees it.

And while gig platforms (even homegrown European ones) tend to try to shrug off such protests as protectionist (and/or ‘anti-innovation’), they have oftentimes found themselves losing challenges to the legality of their models — including most recently in the UK Supreme Court (which just slapped down Uber’s classification of drivers/riders as self employed — meaning it’s liable for a slew of costs for associated benefits).

All of which is to say that the muscular sense of injustice that segments of Spanish society have willingly — and even viscerally — demonstrated when they feel unfair impacts flowing from shiny new tech tools should not be dismissed; rather it looks like people here have their finger on the pulse of what’s really important to them.

That may also explain why the government is so keen to ensure no one in Spain feels left behind as it unboxes a major packet of startup-friendly policies.

Among a package of some 50 support measures, the entrepreneurial strategy makes a reference to “smart regulation” and floats the idea of sandboxing for testing products publicly (i.e. without needing to worry about regulatory compliance first).

The idea of opening up sandboxing is popular with local gig platform Glovo. “I really believe this is key; allowing innovation to test products/services without having to go through regulatory nightmares to test. This would really drive innovation,” co-founder Sacha Michaud tells us. “This is working well in financial services but could be applied across a wide range of tech areas.”

Attracting more investment to Spain and improving stock options so that local companies can better compete to attract talent are other key priorities for him.

Michaud says he’s fully supportive of the government’s entrepreneurial strategy and the Startup Act, while not expecting immediate results on account of what he expects will be a long legislative process.

He’s less happy about the government’s in-train plan to regulate gig platforms, though — arguing that last-mile delivery is being unfairly singled out there. This reform, which is being worked on by the Ministry of Labor, has been driven by a number of legal challenges to platforms’ employment classifications of gig workers in recent years — including a loss last year for Glovo in Spain’s Supreme Court.

“In Glovo’s case [the government] are specifically looking at regulating only riders, last-mile delivery platforms — yet still allowing over an estimated 500,000 autonomous workers in logistics, services and installations to continue,” says Michaud, dubbing this “very discriminatory; affecting literally a handful of tech companies and ‘protecting’ the status quo of the traditional IBEX35 Spanish companies”.

Asked about progress on the reform of the labor law Polo says only that work is continuing. “I don’t have more transparency on the work they are doing. I have probably the same information that you have and the conversations that we have with the different companies, also the gig companies that we keep an open dialogue with,” he says.

But when pressed on whether reforming regulations to take account of tech-driven changes to how people work is an important component of the wider entrepreneurial strategy he also emphasizes that the “ultimate goal” of the national transformation plan is “to generate more and better jobs”.

“We are always inclined to try to foster the companies that generate these better and increasing new jobs,” says Polo. “And I’m sure that the different gig companies that we have in Spain — I know that they understand this ultimate goal. They understand the benefits for the company and for the country of following this path and that they are willing to transform and evolve as the country is also evolving.”

At the time of writing Barcelona is also being rocked by street protests over the jailing of rapper, Pablo Hasél, over certain social media postings — including tweets criticising police brutality — judged, by Spanish courts, to have violated its criminal code around glorifying terrorism.

Spain’s laws in this area have long been denounced as draconian and disproportionate. Including by Amnesty International — which called Hasél’s imprisonment “an excessive and disproportionate restriction on his freedom of expression”. But Polo dismisses the idea that there’s any contradiction in Spain seeking to rebrand itself as a modernizing, pro-entrepreneur nation at the same time as Spain’s courts are putting people in prison over the contents of their tweets. (Hasél is not the only artist or citizen to fall foul of this law — which has also been infamously triggered by social media jokes).

“There’s no opposition of concepts at all,” Polo argues. “Spain is one of the most robust democracies in the world and that is something that is not us who are saying it — it’s the international rankings. And we have a rule of law. And in this case it’s a very clear case of someone who went across the limits that are established in legislation because the freedom of speech has limits of the rights of other people so it’s something that has nothing to do unfortunately with freedom of speech… The reason why Pablo Hasél is in jail is because he promoted terrorism.”

Pressed further on how ‘jail time for tweets’ might look to an international audience, he reiterates a recent government statement that they do intend to reform the penal code. “There are very specific things that, yes, we want to reform. Because times have advanced,” he says, adding: “We are a more mature country than the one we were in the 1980s. And there are specific things that we want to change in the penal code — but they have nothing to do with the recent events.”

Graffiti in a Barcelona street protesting against the imprisonment of rapper, Pablo Hasél, for crimes involving freedom of speech (Image credit: Natasha Lomas/TechCrunch)

Measures to change mindsets

On the broader issue of cultural challenge — aka: how to change a national mindset to be more entrepreneurial — Polo expresses confidence in his mission. He says it’s about making sure people see the big picture and their place in the vision of the future you’re presenting to them; so they see you’re actively working to bring them along for the ride.

“This is one of the things that I feel confident about. Particularly based on my background prior to being in politics. That is helping change mindsets,” he tells TechCrunch. “In the past I was able to help tonnes of people realize that they were capable of doing things that they thought they were never capable of doing. My understanding is that in order to generate those cultural changes you need to do one thing first: That is generating a vision for the future.

“That’s why we insist so much that by 2030 Spain is going to become an entrepreneurial nation with the greatest social impact in history and that we have a plan for that… Where we take the entrepreneurship and we help them spearhead this new innovation model. We leverage all the driving sectors of the economy so we are actually building on success; on the actual success of Spain as an international economy. And that there’s something for you in that plan. That’s why we are including in the strategy at the basis of the strategy the inclusion policies in order to close the gender gap, the territorial gap, the socio-economic gap, the generational gap.

“In order to change cultures you need align people into working together towards building something that is greater than themselves and I think that with the Spain entrepreneurial nation strategy we made that first step. And this is why — and this is a parenthesis — that’s why we say the [startup] law is as important as having this strategy.”

That startup law — due to be presented shortly in draft (aka as an anteproyecto de ley) for approval by the Council of Ministers, before going to parliament for a wider debate process (and potential amendments) — is the first piece of legislation aligned with the wider strategy. It also looks set to be one of its first deliverables.

Although it’s not clear how long it will be before Spain gets its shiny new startup law. (The country’s politics has lacked consensus for years; Sanchez’s ‘progressive coalition’ was only put together after he tried and failed to get a full majority for his Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) twice in a row.)

“That’s something that is difficult to say because there are laws that have a shorter and others that have a longer period of approval,” says Polo, on the timeframe for passing the legislation. “For us the important issue here is that the startup law has a full process — so it has a full agreement on every side of the hill so it becomes robust and stable legislation for the years to come.”

This “long awaited” regulation which the ecosystem has been calling for for “years”, per Polo, will address a number of different issues — from the first legal “definition” of startup (to reflect differentiation vs other types of companies); to measures to help startups retain and attract talent.

“We need to reform stock options so that they become a tool in order to compete internationally for talent,” he says, noting that the idea is to enable Spain to compete with regimes already offered by countries elsewhere in Europe, such as the UK, France and Germany.

“Also we need to reform VISAs in order to again retain and attract that talent,” he continues. “The president also talked about incentivizing investment and having a certain degree of tax breaks — and we understand that business angels need more incentives. So we have a more ordain and logical system of investment at the pre-seed and seed stage. And many other actions — it’s the Ministry of Economy that will end up with the final text that will be passed in the Council of Ministers in the coming weeks.”

Polo cautions that the law won’t instantly fix every gripe of founders and investors in Spain. Clearly it’s going to be a marathon, not a sprint.

“That’s why we have a strategy,” he emphasizes. “I understand the interest in the startup law but I always say that as important as the startup law is the Spain entrepreneurial nation strategy. Because it’s in there where we address the big problems that we have as a country when it comes to the ecosystem. And in there we have pointed out four big challenges that we have.

“First is investment. We need to accelerate the velocity of maturity of the investment in Spain… The numbers have been growing, year after year, and they look really good. So what we want to do is to help accelerate those numbers so we are able to run faster and close the gap that we have between us and our neighbours: Basically Germany and France. That they have 4x or 5x the number of investment that we have in Spain. We really want to be in ten years in a place where Spain could be leading the investment in innovative entrepreneurship in mainland Europe.

“Second challenge: Talent. We know that in order to build the entrepreneurial nation we need all the talent that we have. So we need to develop the internal talent but we also need to attract international talent and we need to retain that talent. So that’s why we were talking about the different tools that might be included in the startup law.

“The third challenge is scaling up. We in Spain have a lot of companies that assimilate success to selling. And that’s great — it’s totally legitimate. But what we need as a country is to have an increasing percentage of companies in the future that do not think about selling as a synonym of success; but they think about buying other startups around the world. Of growing. Of scaling up. So they started building today the big companies that in the future by 2030 they will generate thousands of good quality jobs in Spain which is the ultimate goal and the bottom line of the strategy.

“And the fourth goal: Turn the political administration into an entrepreneurial administration. Meaning that the political administration, it’s more agile. That we generate a positive benchmark. And that sometimes the public sector makes the investment that not even the riskier of venture capital funds can do. Because that’s the role of the public sector; to generate this kind of visions and to put the means in in order to achieve those. So among all the challenges that we have in the ecosystem it’s something we have put together in the strategy — that is going to addressed not only with one law but with 50 different measures that we included in the Spain entrepreneurial nation strategy.”

The wider entrepreneur strategy talks about nine priority actions to be developed in the next two years via certain projects — which Polo envisages being accelerated in the near term with the help of EU coronavirus recovery funds.

He highlights a couple of priority projects: One to create a network to link entrepreneurs and policymakers with the wider ecosystem, and another to connect incubators and accelerators to build out a national support network for founders — both of which have been inspired by approaches taken in other European countries.

“Among these projects we have one — Oficina Nacional de Emprendimiento — which is deeply inspired by La French Tech in France. So we want to generate a one-stop-shop for entrepreneurs, investors and the rest of the ecosystem to access all of opportunities of collaboration between the central government, regions and CP councils in order to improve entrepreneurship in their respective areas,” says Polo.

“We have other projects like Renace — which is an acronym for Red Nacional de Centros de Emprendimiento — and in there we’ve also been inspired by the network that Portugal has that are doing such exciting things. So what we want to do is help connect the different incubators and accelerators and venture builders that we have in Spain. So they’re at first connected and we add more value — but with one particular focus: The different gaps.

“With Renace in particular we want to help close the territorial gap. Because it’s going to be very interesting to be able to work with engineers in Cáceres for a company that is based in Barcelona. Or to work with a team of designers from the Basque country for a company that is setting up in Malaga. With Renace we can help integrate the country and really talk about an entrepreneurial nation and not just cities. So Spain has the potential to build that. And there are many others issues.”

France alone spends billions annually both on R&D and on direct support for the digital sector. And even with EU funding Spain can’t hope to match the level of ‘ecosystem’ spend of richer, northern European countries. But Polo says the plan is to make the most of what it has with the resources it can marshal — hence, with the Renace project, it’s about linking up existing incubators/accelerators (and adding “a new layer of value” such as via public-private partnerships).

“When you end up reading the Spain entrepreneurial strategy you realize it’s not a billionaire plan of money that you put on the table in order to start building this Spain entrepreneurial nation,” he says. “It’s instead it’s a very robust plan in order to create that vision and putting together the different pieces that we already have — the different assets that we have as a country to start working together intelligently so we can make the best of everything that we can.”

Polo also argues that Spain is already doing well on the startup cluster front — saying it stands alone with Germany in having more than one city ranked among the top ten ‘most entrepreneurial’ in Europe, per such listings. More recently, he says, Spain has risen further up these listicles — as more of its cities have popped up in the “global competition for innovative entrepreneurship”.

“Meaning that in different places of Spain there are many cities and regions that have the hunger to become a place that is helping entrepreneurs to create this kind of economy. And we can get many more,” he suggests, pointing to Renace‘s hoped for value from a social inclusion angle.

“With Renace what we want to do is generate this network and add more value — provide services, get into public-private partnership in order to add the value of the different places that we have in the country. So let’s say that a company in Barcelona can find tonnes of engineers in a city like Cáceres. The company in Barcelona becomes more competitive because the salaries in Cáceres — if you pay them the best salary in Cáceres they could be two-thirds of the salary in Barcelona. So the company in Barcelona becomes more competitive. But also the engineers in the city of Cáceres who want to stay in the region, who want to stay with their family or to have a life-project in Cáceres they can stay. So this is an example of how we can close the territorial gap and also become really integrated startup nation in the full term of nation.”

“The ultimate goal of the Spain entrepreneurial nation strategy is turning Spain into a country that is able to avoid the effects of different crises. And particularly the effects of that we saw in 2008 when the most vulnerable jobs were destroyed overnight — and they were counted by tens of thousands. That particularly struck the young people with unemployment rates that were above 55%. The immigrants and the people over 50. We don’t want that to happen again. So there’s been a very profound reflection on what needed to happen in Spain for that to change. And the conclusion was that we needed to change the productive basis of the country,” he continues.

“That’s why we are putting together a strategy that is going to help the innovative entrepreneurship sector spearhead these new models, this new economic model for Spain. That is going to be leveraging the different driving sectors of the economy — those ten sectors that we state in the strategy — and that as it could not be differently in a 21st century strategy, and particularly a strategy designed by a new generation of politicians and trying to respond to the ambitions of the new generations that is a strategy that is not including the social impact of this phenomenon. So that’s why we are also focused on putting together inclusion policies.”

Polo won’t be drawn into naming any especially promising startups he’s encountered on his travels around Spain — referring instead to the “tonnes of super innovative companies” he says he’s sure will soon be disrupting business as usual in Spain and (the government hopes) internationally — from battery charging companies to retail disruptors working on new ways to make clothes. (“Different kinds of innovations that people can’t imagine,” is his pithy shorthand.)

“What we are trying to do every time we have an opportunity is to also promote the knowledge of these companies — and also help Spanish people and also people abroad — to know that we have everything that we need in order to succeed as a nation and become that entrepreneurial nation with the greatest social impact in history,” he adds, acknowledging that a big part of his mission is “to tell the rest of the world that we are here”.

 

#digital-policy, #europe, #francisco-polo, #glovo, #policy, #spain, #startup-regulation, #startups, #tc

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Although the pandemic has been a unifying force in much of Europe, parties seeking to create a breakaway state for Catalonia received a majority of votes in a regional election.

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A raunchy and emotional look at the life of Cristina Ortiz Rodríguez, this Spanish series showcases the strength of transgender and queer communities.

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On a jagged island in the Canary archipelago, a whistling language known as “Silbo Gomero” is still in use thanks to mandatory classes for schoolchildren.

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Pablo Hasél Protests: Clashes in Madrid and Barcelona

Pablo Hasél had been sentenced to prison after voicing support for insurgents and insulting an ex-king, but barricaded himself in a university. His arrest led to protests in multiple cities.

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Lang.ai snags $2M to remove technical burden of implementing AI for businesses

Lang.ai, which has developed a no-code platform for businesses, closed on a $2 million seed funding round.

The company’s SaaS platform aims to allow business users to structure any free-text data with custom categories built through a drag & drop interface, based on AI-extracted concepts.

Village Global led the financing, which included participation from new and existing backers including Acceleprise, Oceans Ventures, Alumni Ventures Group, 2.12 Angels, GTMFund, and Lorimer Ventures.

Spain-born Jorge Penalva founded Lang.ai in 2018 with the goal of giving any business user the ability “to build enterprise-ready natural language processing models in just minutes.” It was built to give non-engineers a way to automate repetitive tasks in use cases such as customer service and claims processing.

“It can be installed in our cloud or theirs,” Penalva said. 

Lang.ai saw its revenue double from the last quarter of 2020 to the first quarter of 2021 and the seed funding was motivated mainly to continue that momentum.

“We’re getting demand in the form of projects with our larger customers, so we needed the funding to be able to support that demand,” Penalva told TechCrunch.

In his previous role of CEO of Séntisis, Penalva realized that processes driven by free-text data remained a blind spot for many companies. 

“Today, millions of dollars and hours are invested by companies to manually read and process textual information captured from disparate areas of their business,” he said.

His mission with Lang.ai is to “empower businesses to put AI to work for them, without the technical complexities of building and training custom algorithms.” 

Specifically, Penalva said that Lang.ai’s product analyzes a customer’s historical data “in minutes” and suggests AI-extracted concepts to build custom categories through a drag & drop interface. The custom categories are applied in real-time to automate “tedious” tasks such as the manual tagging and routing of support tickets, the processing of insurance claims and the dispatching of field engineers to incoming work order requests.

Put simply, Lang.ai’s goal is to remove the technical burden of implementing AI for a business.

Lang.ai’s community of users (called “Citizen NLP Builders”) consists of mostly non-technical business roles, ranging from customer service operations to marketers, business analysts and UX designers.

Customers include Freshly, Userzoom, Playvox, Spain’s CaixaBank, Yalo Chat and Bancolombia, among others. 

Ben Segal, director of infrastructural efficiency at Freshly, described the platform as “so nimble.”

“Out of the box, it took us two days to make automated tagging 15% more reliable than a previous platform that we had had in production for 2 years, with the added benefit that now all of our teams can tap into and exploit our support data,” Segal said. “The marketing team has built workflows to understand key customer moments. Our data and analytics team is super excited about having all these new tags in Snowflake, and it’s crazy how easy it is to use.”

Penalva is proud of the fact that Lang.ai’s engineering team is primarily based in Spain and that he has been able to grow the 10-person company outside of his native country.

“With very few resources, it took us a little over two years to build an enterprise-grade product and find the right set of early customers and investors who are aligned with our vision,” he said. “I moved to the US from Spain to build a global company and this is just the beginning…Lang has always been powered by immigrant hustle, and it has been core to our values since day 1.”

#alumni-ventures-group, #artificial-intelligence, #business-process-management, #funding, #recent-funding, #saas, #spain, #startups, #tc, #tc-include, #techcrunch-include-company

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Amazon says government demands for user data spiked by 800% in 2020

New transparency figures released by Amazon show the company responded to a record number of government data demands in the last six months of 2020.

The new figures land in the company’s bi-annual transparency report published to Amazon’s website over the weekend.

Amazon said it processed 27,664 government demands for user data in the last six months of 2020, up from 3,222 data demands in the first six months of the year, an increase of close to 800%. That user data includes shopping searches and data from its Echo, Fire, and Ring devices.

The new report presents the data differently from previous transparency disclosures. Amazon now breaks down the top requesting countries. U.S. authorities historically made up the bulk of the overall data demands Amazon receives, but this latest report shows Germany with 42% of all requests, followed by Spain with 18%, and Italy and the U.S. with 11% share each.

But the report also removes the breakdown by legal process, and now only differentiates between the requests it gets for user’s content and for non-content. Amazon said it handed over user content data in 52 cases.

For its Amazon Web Services cloud business, which it reports separately, Amazon said it processed 523 data demands, with 75% of all requests made by U.S. authorities, and Amazon turned over user’s content in 15 cases.

An Amazon spokesperson would not say what led to the sharp rise in data demands. (Amazon seldom comments on its transparency reports.)

Amazon’s transparency report is one of the lightest reads of all the tech giants at just three pages in length, and spends most of the report explaining how it responds to each legal demand than on the data itself. The company, known for its notorious secrecy, became the last of the major tech giants to push out a transparency report in 2015. Where most tech companies added data to their transparency reports, like takedown notices and account removals, Amazon bucked the trend by removing data from its reports, despite the company’s growing reach into millions of homes.

The Financial Times reported this weekend that Ring, the video doorbell and home security startup acquired by Amazon for $1 billion, now has 2,000 law enforcement partners across the United States, allowing police departments to access homeowners’ doorbell camera footage.

#amazon, #amazon-echo, #amazon-web-services, #articles, #computing, #germany, #italy, #ring, #security, #spain, #spokesperson, #technology, #the-financial-times, #transparency, #transparency-report, #united-states

0

Booksy raises $70M war chest to acquire salon appointment apps, expand internationally

Beauty and wellness appointment booking apps have proliferated of the last few years, but it appears the race is still on as today one of the leaders, Booksy, raises $70 million in a Series C round led by Cat Rock Capital, with participation from Sprints Capital. 

The round was also joined by OpenOcean, Piton Capital, VNV Global, Enern, Kai Hansen, Zach Coelius and Manta Ray Ventures, and takes the total raised by the firm to $119 million. The funding will be used for expansion plans across North America, expanding to new verticals, and acquiring complementary businesses.

The Booksy app is used by customers to book and pay for beauty appointments with local businesses. Salons, nail bars and barbershops can manage the bookings, payments, and customer base via the accompanying Booksy Biz app. The platform also allows salons to sell other products via Booksy E-Commerce, which acts as a marketplace allowing customers to discover and book other local stylists, nail technicians etc.

Booksy was founded by Polish entrepreneurs Stefan Batory (CEO) and Konrad Howard. Allowing customers to schedule their best appointment time means that 38% of customers end up booking after-hours and increasing their appointment frequency by 20%, says the company. The startup launched in 2014 but is now in the US (its largest market), UK, Poland, Spain, Brazil, and South Africa. It claims to be the number-one beauty booking app in each country, with “13 million” consumers on the app.

Batory said in a statement: “Like with many sectors negatively hit by the pandemic, it’s been a turbulent time for the beauty and wellness industry but we’re confident in its ability to come back from this, so it’s fantastic to see our latest group of investors share our optimism and vision. This latest round of funding enables us to reach even more salons and service providers across the US, and in all the regions we operate, which in turn helps them reach more customers.” 

Alex Captain, founder and managing partner at Cat Rock Capital, said: “We are incredibly excited to invest in Booksy as it builds the leading global software platform for digitizing the beauty and wellness industry around the world.”

Booksy certainly seems to have cracked the international expansion game ahead of most competitors, which tend to stay more local to their countries of origin such as Treatwell, Styleseat, Vagaro and Mindbody. The opportunity for Booksy is to now use its war cast to roll-up other local players.

It has already acquired rival Lavito in 2018 and, more recently, merged with Versum in December 2020 allowing it to enter Mexico.

#brazil, #ceo, #cloud-applications, #e-commerce, #europe, #managing-partner, #manta-ray-ventures, #mexico, #mindbody, #north-america, #piton-capital, #poland, #polis, #software-platform, #south-africa, #spain, #sprints-capital, #tc, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #zach-coelius

0

Madrid Explosion Leaves at Least 3 Dead

The blast that destroyed several floors of a building in the Spanish capital appeared to be the result of a gas leak, the mayor said. Eleven people were injured.

#accidents-and-safety, #deaths-fatalities, #explosions-accidental, #madrid-spain, #spain

0

Madrid Explosion Leaves at Least 2 Dead

The blast that destroyed several floors of a building in the Spanish capital appeared to be the result of a gas leak, officials said. Emergency workers said that rescues were underway.

#accidents-and-safety, #deaths-fatalities, #explosions-accidental, #madrid-spain, #spain

0

Madrid Is Buried Under Heaviest Snowfall in 50 Years

At least three people have died after Storm Filomena wreaked havoc across Spain and blanketed the capital in more than a foot and a half of snow, paralyzing it for days.

#deaths-fatalities, #madrid-spain, #snow-and-snowstorms, #spain, #weather

0

Covid Vaccine Rollouts in Europe Are Off to a Shaky Start

Programs in many countries have been hampered by slow-moving bureaucracies, a lack of nurses and shortages of vital equipment.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #england, #europe, #germany, #great-britain, #italy, #nursing-and-nurses, #politics-and-government, #spain, #vaccination-and-immunization

0

Echoes of Another Pandemic: How The Times Covered the 1918 Flu

The influenza outbreak killed more than 20,000 New Yorkers and 675,000 Americans. It might have dominated the news, if not for World War I.

#copeland-royal-s, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #influenza, #influenza-epidemic-1918-19, #new-york-times, #newspapers, #spain, #wilson-woodrow

0

Gibraltar Gets Its Own Brexit Deal With Spain

Spain and the European Union will share oversight over the flow of goods and people to the British territory, which worried about being left isolated and economically pinched outside the bloc.

#european-union, #frontex, #gibraltar, #great-britain, #great-britain-withdrawal-from-eu-brexit, #spain, #territorial-disputes

0

Hilaria Baldwin Talks Spain, Boston, Alec and Instagram

Accused of a “decade long grift where she impersonates a Spanish person,” the entrepreneur (and spouse of Alec Baldwin) talks about being the main character in this last week of 2020.

#baldwin-alec, #boston-mass, #children-and-childhood, #computers-and-the-internet, #content-type-personal-profile, #names-personal, #news-and-news-media, #social-media, #spain, #spanish-language, #your-feed-internet-culture, #your-feed-selfcare

0

Co-ops in Spain’s Basque Region Soften Capitalism’s Rough Edges

A group of worker-owned businesses may present an alternative model to economies dominated by the interests of shareholders.

#basque-region-spain, #cooperatives, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #corporate-social-responsibility, #factories-and-manufacturing, #labor-and-jobs, #layoffs-and-job-reductions, #matz-erreka-s-coop-erreka-group, #mondragon-spain, #mondragon-corp, #politics-and-government, #spain

0

Ex-Military Officers Criticize Spain’s Government and Praise Franco

The comments by former officers, and some current ones, struck a raw nerve in a country that had been ruled by a military dictatorship.

#defense-and-military-forces, #franco-francisco, #north-atlantic-treaty-organization, #politics-and-government, #right-wing-extremism-and-alt-right, #spain, #spanish-socialist-workersparty

0

Google expands its cloud with new regions in Chile, Germany and Saudi Arabia

It’s been a busy year of expansion for the large cloud providers, with AWS, Azure and Google aggressively expanding their data center presence around the world. To cap off the year, Google Cloud today announced a new set of cloud regions, which will go live in the coming months and years. These new regions, which will all have three availability zones, will be in Chile, Germany and Saudi Arabia. That’s on top of the regions in Indonesia, South Korea, the U.S. (Last Vegas and Salt Lake City) that went live this year — and the upcoming regions in France, Italy, Qatar and Spain the company also announced over the course of the last twelve months.

Image Credits: Google

In total, Google currently operates 24 regions with 73 availability zones, not counting those it has announced but that aren’t live yet. While Microsoft Azure is well ahead of the competition in terms of the total number of regions (though some still lack availability zones), Google is now starting to pull even with AWS, which currently offers 24 regions with a total of 77 availability zones. Indeed, with its 12 announced regions, Google Cloud may actually soon pull ahead of AWS, which is currently working on six new regions.

The battleground may soon shift away from these large data centers, though, with a new focus on edge zones close to urban centers that are smaller than the full-blown data centers the large clouds currently operate but that allow businesses to host their services even closer to their customers.

All of this is a clear sign of how much Google has invested in its cloud strategy in recent years. For the longest time, after all, Google Cloud Platform lagged well behind its competitors. Only three years ago, Google Cloud offered only 13 regions, for example. And that’s on top of the company’s heavy investment in submarine cables and edge locations.

#amazon-web-services, #aws, #chile, #cloud-computing, #cloud-infrastructure, #france, #germany, #google, #google-cloud-platform, #indonesia, #italy, #microsoft, #nuodb, #qatar, #salt-lake-city, #saudi-arabia, #south-korea, #spain, #tc, #united-states, #web-hosting, #web-services

0

Spanish Lawmakers Pass Bill Allowing Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide

The draft law goes to the Senate, where it is likely to pass. The country would join a handful of others allowing terminally ill patients to obtain aid to end their lives.

#euthanasia-and-assisted-suicide, #law-and-legislation, #roman-catholic-church, #sanchez-perez-castejon-pedro-1972, #spain

0

He Broke Out of Quarantine for 8 Seconds, and Got a $3,550 Fine

Around the world, flouting coronavirus regulations can have expensive consequences.

#australia, #belgium, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #fines-penalties, #italy, #quarantines, #spain, #taiwan, #united-states

0

Dispute Erupts Over Translation Rights to New Nobel Laureate

For 14 years, one publisher released Louise Glück’s poetry in Spanish. Then she won the Nobel Prize, and her agent made a change.

#book-trade-and-publishing, #books-and-literature, #gluck-louise, #language-and-languages, #nobel-prizes, #poetry-and-poets, #pre-textos, #spain, #spanish-language, #translation-and-interpreters, #writing-and-writers

0

After Perilous Atlantic Journey, Migrants Await Their Fate in Canary Island Hotels

The Spanish government has put migrants up in hotels as the islands struggle to cope with a rise in arrivals from Africa, but tensions are fraying with locals who fear they’ll scare off tourists.

#africa, #canary-islands, #europe, #european-union, #middle-east-and-africa-migrant-crisis, #spain

0

British Hiker Goes Missing in the Pyrenees

Esther Dingley, who had written extensively about traveling through Europe for the past six years with her partner, was last seen on Nov. 22.

#dan-colegate, #esther-dingley, #europe, #france, #hikes-and-hiking, #missing-persons, #pyrenees-mountains, #spain

0

Recycling robotics company AMP Robotics could raise up to $70M

AMP Robotics, the recycling robotics technology developer backed by investors including Sequoia Capital and Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, is close to closing on as much as $70 million in new financing, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the company’s plans.

The new financing speaks to AMP Robotics’ continued success in pilot projects and with new partnerships that are exponentially expanding the company’s deployments.

Earlier this month the company announced a new deal that represented its largest purchase order for its trash sorting and recycling robots.

That order, for 24 machine learning-enabled robotic recycling systems with the waste handling company Waste Connections, was a showcase for the efficacy of the company’s recycling technology.

That comes on the back of a pilot program earlier in the year with one Toronto apartment complex, where the complex’s tenants were able to opt into a program that would share recycling habits monitored by AMP Robotics with the building’s renters in an effort to improve their recycling behavior.

The potential benefits of AMP Robotic’s machine learning enabled robots are undeniable. The company’s technology can sort waste streams in ways that traditional systems never could and at a cost that’s far lower than most waste handling facilities.

As TechCrunch reported earlier the tech can tell the difference between high-density polyethylene and polyethylene terephthalate, low-density polyethylene, polypropylene and polystyrene. The robots can also sort for color, clarity, opacity and shapes like lids, tubs, clamshells and cups — the robots can even identify the brands on packaging.

AMP’s robots already have been deployed in North America, Asia and Europe, with recent installations in Spain and across the U.S. in California, Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, Michigan, New York, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.

At the beginning of the year, AMP Robotics  worked with its investor, Sidewalk Labs on a pilot program that provided residents of a single apartment building representing 250 units in Toronto with detailed information about their recycling habits. Sidewalk Labs is transporting the waste to a Canada Fibers material recovery facility where trash is sorted by both Canada Fibers employees and AMP Robotics.

Once the waste is categorized, sorted and recorded, Sidewalk communicates with residents of the building about how they’re doing in their recycling efforts.

It was only last November that the Denver-based AMP Robotics raised a $16 million round from Sequoia Capital and others to finance the early commercialization of its technology.

 

As TechCrunch reported at the time, recycling businesses used to be able to rely on China to buy up any waste stream (no matter the quality of the material). However, about two years ago, China decided it would no longer serve as the world’s garbage dump and put strict standards in place for the kinds of raw materials it would be willing to receive from other countries.

The result has been higher costs at recycling facilities, which actually are now required to sort their garbage more effectively. At the time, unemployment rates put the squeeze on labor availability at facilities where trash was sorted. Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has put even more pressure on those recycling and waste handling facilities, despite their identification as “essential workers”.

Given the economic reality, recyclers are turning to AMP’s technology — a combination of computer vision, machine learning and robotic automation to improve efficiencies at their facilities.

And, the power of AMP’s technology to identify waste products in a stream has other benefits, according to chief executive Matanya Horowitz.

“We can identify… whether it’s a Coke or Pepsi can or a Starbucks cup,” Horowitz told TechCrunch last year. “So that people can help design their product for circularity… we’re building out our reporting capabilities and that, to them, is something that is of high interest.”

AMP Robotics declined to comment for this article.

 

#amp, #amps, #articles, #asia, #california, #china, #colorado, #denver, #europe, #florida, #machine-learning, #materials, #matter, #michigan, #minnesota, #new-york, #north-america, #pepsi, #recycling, #robot, #robotics, #sequoia-capital, #sidewalk-infrastructure-partners, #sidewalk-labs, #spain, #starbucks, #tc, #texas, #toronto, #united-states, #virginia, #water-conservation, #wisconsin

0

Portugal’s Faber reaches $24.3M for its second fund aimed at data-driven startups from Iberia

Portuguese VC Faber has hit the first close of its Faber Tech II fund at €20.5 million ($24.3 million). The fund will focus on early-stage data-driven startups starting from Southern Europe and the Iberian peninsula, with the aim of reaching a final close of €30 million in the coming months. The new fund targets pre-series A and early-stage startups in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Data Science.

The fund is backed by European Investment Fund (EIF) and the local Financial Development Institution (IFD), with a joint commitment of €15 million (backed by the Investment Plan for Europe – the Juncker Plan and through the Portugal Tech program), alongside other private institutional and individual investors.

Alexandre Barbosa, Faber’s Managing Partner, said “The success of the first close of our new fund allows us to foresee a growth in the demand for this type of investment, as we believe digital transformation through Intelligence Artificial, Machine Learning and data science are increasingly relevant for companies and their businesses, and we think Southern Europe will be the launchpad of a growing number.”

Faber has already ‘warehoused’ three initial investments. It co-financed a 15.6 million euros Series A for SWORD Health – portuguese startup that created the first digital physiotherapy system combining artificial intelligence and clinical teams. It led the pre-seed round of YData, a startup with a data-centric development platform that provides data science professionals tools to deal with accessing high-quality and meaningful data while protecting its privacy. It also co-financed the pre-seed round of Emotai, a neuroscience-powered analytics and performance-boosting platform for virtual sports.

Faber was a first local investor in the first wave of Portugal’s most promising startups, such as Seedrs (co-founded by Carlos Silva, one f Faber’s Partners) which recently announced its merger with CrowdCube); Unbabel; Codacy and Hole19, among others.

Faber’s main focus is deep-tech and data science startups and as such it’s assembled around 20 experts, researchers, Data Scientists, CTO’s, Founders, AI and Machine Learning professors, as part of its investment strategy.

In particular, it’s created the new role of Professor-in-residence, the first of whom is renowned professor Mário Figueiredo from Lisbon’s leading tech university Instituto Superior Técnico. His interests include signal processing, machine learning, AI and optimization, being a highly cited researcher in these fields.

Speaking to TechCrunch in an interview Barbosa added: “We’ve seen first-time, but also second and third-time entrepreneurs coming over to Lisbon, Porto, Barcelona, Valencia, Madrid and experimenting with their next startup and considering starting-up from Iberia in the first place. But also successful entrepreneurs considering extending their engineering teams to Portugal and building engineering hubs in Portugal or Spain.”

“We’ve been historically countercyclical, so we found that startups came to, and appears in Iberia back in 2012 / 2013. This time around mid-2020, we’re very bullish on what’s we can do for the entrepreneurial engine of the economy. We see a lot happening – especially around our thesis – which is basically the data stack, all things data AI-driven, machine learning, data science, and we see that as a very relevant core. A lot of the transformation and digitization is happening right now, so we see a lot of promising stuff going on and a lot of promising talent establishing and setting up companies in Portugal and Spain – so that’s why we think this story is relevant for Europe as a whole.”

#articles, #artificial-intelligence, #barcelona, #crowdcube, #cto, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #european-investment-fund, #machine-learning, #madrid, #managing-partner, #neuroscience, #portugal, #private-equity, #seedrs, #spain, #startup-company, #tc, #valencia

0

Sequoia-backed recycling robot maker AMP Robotics gets its largest purchase order

AMP Robotics, the manufacturer of robotic recycling systems, has received its largest purchase order from the publicly traded North American waste handling company, Waste Connections.

The order, for 24 machine learning enabled robotic recycling systems, will be used on container, fiber and residue lines across numerous materials recovery facilities, the company said.

The AMP technology can be used to recover plastics, cardboard, paper, cans, cartons and many other containers and packaging types reclaimed for raw material processing.

The tech can tell the difference between high-density polyethylene and polyethylene terephthalate, low-density polyethylene, polypropylene, and polystyrene. The robots can also sort for color, clarity, opacity and shapes like lids, tubs, clamshells, and cups — the robots can even identify the brands on packaging.

So far, AMP’s robots have been deployed in North America, Asia, and Europe with recent installations in Spain, and across the US in California, Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, Michigan, New York, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.

In January, before the pandemic began, AMP Robotics worked with its investor, Sidewalk Labs on a pilot program that would provide residents of a single apartment building representing 250 units in Toronto with detailed information about their recycling habits.

Working with the building and a waste hauler, Sidewalk Labs  would transport the waste to a Canada Fibers material recovery facility where trash will be sorted by both Canada Fibers employees and AMP Robotics. Once the waste is categorized, sorted, and recorded Sidewalk will communicate with residents of the building about how they’re doing in their recycling efforts.

Sidewalk says that the tips will be communicated through email, an online portal, and signage throughout the building every two weeks over a three-month period.

For residents, it was an opportunity to have a better handle on what they can and can’t recycle and Sidewalk Labs is betting that the information will help residents improve their habits. And for folks who don’t want their trash to be monitored and sorted, they could opt out of the program.

Recyclers like Waste Connections should welcome the commercialization of robots tackling industry problems. Their once-stable business has been turned on its head by trade wars and low unemployment. About two years ago, China decided it would no longer serve as the world’s garbage dump and put strict standards in place for the kinds of raw materials it would be willing to receive from other countries. The result has been higher costs at recycling facilities, which actually are now required to sort their garbage more effectively.

At the same time, low unemployment rates are putting the squeeze on labor availability at facilities where humans are basically required to hand-sort garbage into recyclable materials and trash.

AMP Robotics is backed by Sequoia Capital,  BV, Closed Loop Partners, Congruent Ventures  and Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, a spin-out from Alphabet that invests in technologies and new infrastructure projects.

#alphabet, #amp-robotics, #amps, #articles, #asia, #california, #china, #colorado, #congruent-ventures, #energy-conservation, #europe, #florida, #machine-learning, #materials, #matter, #michigan, #minnesota, #new-york, #north-america, #plastics, #recycling, #robot, #robotics, #sequoia-capital, #sidewalk-infrastructure-partners, #spain, #tc, #texas, #toronto, #united-states, #virginia, #water-conservation, #wisconsin

0

Ride Vision raises $7M for its AI-based motorcycle safety system

Ride Vision, an Israeli startup that is building an AI-driven safety system to prevent motorcycle collisions, today announced that it has raised a $7 million Series A round led by crowdsourcing platform OurCrowd. YL Ventures, which typically specializes in cybersecurity startups but also led the company’s $2.5 million seed round in 2018, Mobilion VC and motorcycle mirror manufacturer Metagal also participated in this round. The company has now raised a total of $10 million.

In addition to this new funding round, Ride Vision also today announced a new partnership with automotive parts manufacturer Continental .

“As motorcycle enthusiasts, we at Ride Vision are excited at the prospect of our international launch and our partnership with Continental,” Uri Lavi, CEO and co-founder of Ride Vision, said in today’s announcement. “This moment is a major milestone, as we stride toward our dream of empowering bikers to feel truly safe while they enjoy the ride.”

The general idea here is pretty straightforward and comparable with the blind-spot monitoring system in your car. Using computer vision, Ride Vision’s system, the Ride Vision 1, analyzes the traffic around a rider in real time. It provides forward collision alerts and monitors your blind spot, but it can also tell you when you’re following another rider or car too closely. It can also simply record your ride and, coming soon, it’ll be able to make emergency calls on your behalf when things go awry.

As the company argues, the number of motorcycles (and other motorized two-wheeled vehicles) has only increased during the pandemic, as people started avoiding public transport and looked for relatively affordable alternatives. In Europe, sales of two-wheeled vehicles increased by 30% during the pandemic.

The hardware on the motorcycle itself is pretty straightforward. It includes two wide-angle cameras (one each at the front and rear), as well as alert indicators on the mirrors, as well as the main computing unit. Ride Vision has patents on its human-machine warning interface and vision algorithms.

It’s worth noting that there are some blind-spot monitoring solutions for motorcycles on the market already, including those from Innovv and Senzar. Honda also has patents on similar technologies. These do not provide the kind of 360-degree view that Ride Vision is aiming for.

Ride Vision says its products will be available in Italy, Germany, Austria, Spain, France, Greece, Israel and the U.K. in early 2021, with the U.S., Brazil, Canada, Australia, Japan, India, China and others following later.

#artificial-intelligence, #australia, #austria, #brazil, #canada, #china, #continental, #europe, #france, #germany, #greece, #honda, #india, #israel, #italy, #japan, #motorcycle, #ourcrowd, #recent-funding, #ride-vision, #spain, #startups, #tc, #transportation, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #yl-ventures

0

Spain’s Other Covid Casualties: Undetected Cancer Cases

A raft of lawsuits has emerged from a health care system where the struggle to fight the pandemic has led to neglect of other serious conditions.

#cancer, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #emergency-medical-treatment, #hospitals, #organized-labor, #spain, #suits-and-litigation-civil

0

Mink and the Coronavirus: What We Know

Mink are the only animal known to both catch the virus from people and transmit it to them.

#agriculture-and-farming, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #denmark, #italy, #minks-animals, #netherlands, #spain, #sweden, #united-states, #vaccination-and-immunization, #world-health-organization, #your-feed-animals, #your-feed-science

0

Spain’s All Iron Ventures closes €66.5M first fund

Spain’s All Iron Ventures (AIV), an investor in b2c marketplaces and ecommerce plays, has closed its first fund with commitments totalling €66.5 million (~$79M) — which it touts as one of the largest first fund raises in the country. 

Capital committed to the fund by its parent Group’s founding partners and other investors brings its total investment capacity to around €110M. 

Backing for the fund has come from private investors, with no public support sought. AIV aligns itself with what it dubs a “new breed” of entrepreneur-backed VCs emerging in Europe — which includes having its own incubation program.

The Bilbao headquartered fund has been operating since late 2017, run by co-directors Hugo Fernández-Mardomingo and Diego Recondo. It’s part of the All Iron Group — which includes a listed real estate holding company and was founded by the Ticketbis founders who sold their ticket reselling marketplace to eBay in 2016 for more than 165M; a major exit success story for the Spanish ecosystem.

Among some 150 investors in AIV’s fund I are local entrepreneurs such as Iñaki Ecenarro (who is also a partner); Salvador García, co-founder and CEO of fintech startup ebury; and Jose Poza, founder of Ibercom which later merged with MasMóvil (which was itself recently acquired by private equity in a multi-billion euro deal).

The fund leads or co-invests mainly in Series A and pre-A funding rounds — though it notes it has flexibility to also invest at seed level. It typically cuts an initial check of up to €2M, with the capacity to support portfolio companies in follow-on rounds too.

Its investment thesis is focused on b2c companies, with a stated preference for marketplaces, subscription and e-commerce models. “Capital efficiency and clear path to profitability play a significant part in AIV’s investment decisions,” it adds in a press release.

In terms of geography, AIV positions itself as a partner for international VCs wanting to invest in Spain and elsewhere — with an international focus on Europe and the Americas.

Recent investments include Ukraine-based online tutoring marketplace Preply and Spanish on-demand laundry service Mr Jeff.

Other portfolio startups include Lookiero, Lingokids, Spotahome and Seedtag (from Spain) — as well as Barkyn (Portugal), Refurbed (Austria), Paul Camper (Germany). Kodit (Finland), Rebag (US) and Zenklub (Brazil).

#all-iron-ventures, #b2c, #ecommerce, #europe, #marketplaces, #spain, #vc, #venture-capital

0

Nutrium app, which links dietitians and patients, raises $4.9M led by Indico Capital

Nutrium, a digital health startup which links dietitians and their patients via an app, has raised a €4.25 million Seed round led by Indico Capital Partners, alongside the the Social Innovation Fund in Portugal (SIF) and previous investors. It now offers professional nutrition software to 80,000 nutrition professionals and 800,000 patients in more than 40 countries.

With this investment round, Nutrium plans to double the team size in the next 24 months in order to focus on platform development and expand global sales in markets like Spain, France, Italy, USA and the UK where the company already has a strong customer base.

With the Nutrium platform, patients get integrated nutrition counseling which combines professional advice, continuous monitoring and access to commercial products.

André Santos, CEO and Co-founder of Nutrium commented: “We are moving closer to our vision of enabling the improvement of eating habits for millions of people globally.”

Stephan Morais, managing general partner at Indico said: “Nutrium will become a full-fledged platform bringing together nutritionists, patients, products and wellness data that will enable healthier and happier lives. We are pleased to back this jointly developed vision with capital and knowledge.“

Rui Ferreira, Vice President at Portugal Ventures said: “In 2017, when Portugal Ventures invested in Nutrium’s pre-seed round, the company was mainly present in two markets. Today, Nutrium operates in more than 40 markets, having increased its turnover exponentially.”

Nutrium’s competitors include NutriAdmin, AppointmentPlus, Evolution Nutrition which has raised $2.3M.

#articles, #europe, #france, #general-partner, #health, #indico-capital-partners, #italy, #nutrition, #ro, #spain, #tc, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #vice-president

0

Sharks Wash Up on Beaches, Stabbed by Swordfish

The discovery of impaled sharks on Mediterranean shores backs up old fishermen’s tales of the marine predators dueling with swordfish.

#fish-and-other-marine-life, #ichthyological-research-journal, #libya, #mediterranean-sea, #research, #sharks, #spain, #your-feed-animals, #your-feed-science

0

Turning 100, a Former Spanish Soldier Laments the Curse of His Birth Year

Andreu Canet is one of the last survivors of the “baby bottle conscription.” Born in 1920, they were drafted as teenagers in an ill-fated bid to stop Franco from winning Spain’s civil war.

#canet-andreu-1920, #content-type-personal-profile, #defense-and-military-forces, #draft-and-recruitment-military, #monuments-and-memorials-structures, #spain, #spanish-civil-war-1936-39

0

Spanish Judge Releases a Fugitive Italian Mafia Suspect

A court spokesman said the judge had not been aware of accusations linking the fugitive to organized crime.

#ndrangheta, #drug-abuse-and-traffic, #fugitives, #italy, #organized-crime, #spain

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Using a Law It Hates, Far Right in Spain Takes Aim at Franco’s Rivals

Vox, an ultranationalist party in Madrid, is working to remove memorials to Socialist figures of the 1930s, calling the effort a warning that a “law of historical memory” should be abolished.

#franco-francisco, #largo-caballero-francisco, #madrid-spain, #monuments-and-memorials-structures, #politics-and-government, #sanchez-perez-castejon-pedro-1972, #spain, #spanish-civil-war-1936-39, #vox-spanish-political-party

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Nvidia will power world’s fastest AI supercomputer, to be located in Europe

Nvidia is is going to be powering the world’s fastest AI supercomputer, a new system dubbed ‘Leonardo’ that’s being built by the Italian multi-university consortium CINECA, a global supercomutin leader. The Leonardo system will offer as much as 10 exaflops of FP16 AI performance capabilities, and be made up of more than 14,000 Nvidia Ampere-based GPUS once completed.

Leonardo will be one of four new supercomputers supported by a cross-European effort to advance high-performance computing capabilities in the region, that will eventually offer advanced AI capabilities for processing applications across both science and industry. Nvidia will also be supplying its Mellanox HDR InfiniBand networks to the project in order to enable performance across the clusters with low-latency broadband connections.

The other computes in the cluster include MeluXina in Luxembourg and Vega in Solvevnia, as well as a new supercooling coming online in the Czech Republic. The pan-European consortium also plans four more Supercomputers for Bulgaria, Finland, Portugal and Spain, though those will follow later and specifics around their performance and locations aren’t yet available.

Some applications that CINECA and the other supercomputers will be used for include analyzing genomes and discovering new therapeutic pathways; tackling data from multiple different sources for space exploration and extraterrestrial planetary research; and modelling weather patterns, including extreme weather events.

#artificial-intelligence, #broadband, #bulgaria, #computing, #czech-republic, #europe, #finland, #flops, #gpu, #luxembourg, #mellanox, #nvidia, #portugal, #science, #spain, #supercomputers, #tc

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Spain’s Savana Medica raises $15 million to bring its AI toolkit turning clinical notes into care insights to the US

Savana, a machine learning-based service that turns clinical notes into structured patient information for physicians and pharmacists, has raised $15 million to take its technology from Spain to the U.S., the company said.

The investment was led by Cathay Innovation with participation from the Spanish investment firm Seaya Ventures, which led the company’s previous round, and new investors like MACSF, a French insurance provider for doctors. 

The company has already processed 400 million electronic medical records in English, Spanish, German, and French.

Founded in Madrid in 2014, the company is relocating to New York and is already working with the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies and over 100 healthcare facilities.

“Our mission is to predict the occurrence of disease at the patient level. This focuses our resources on discovering new ways of providing medical knowledge almost in real time — which is more urgent than ever in the context of the pandemic,” said Savana chief executive Jorge Tello. “Healthcare challenges are increasingly global, and we know that the application of AI across health data at scale is essential to accelerate health science.”

Company co-founder and chief medical officer, Dr. Ignacio Hernandez Medrano, also emphasized that while the company is collecting hundreds of millions of electronic records, it’s doing its best to keep that information private.

“One of our main value propositions is that the information remains controlled by the hospital, with privacy guaranteed by the de-identification of patient data before we process it,” he said. 

 

#articles, #artificial-intelligence, #disease, #electronic-health-records, #health, #machine-learning, #madrid, #new-york, #pharmaceutical, #pharmacy, #seaya-ventures, #spain, #tc, #united-states

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John McAfee Arrested in Spain, and U.S. Seeks Extradition

The U.S. authorities accused the former antivirus impresario of evading taxes and said his extradition to American soil was pending.

#fugitives, #john-mcafee, #justice-department, #mcafee-inc, #spain, #tax-evasion, #united-states

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John McAfee arrested after DOJ indicts crypto millionaire for tax evasion

Cybersecurity entrepreneur and crypto personality John McAfee’s wild ride could be coming to an end after he was arrested in Spain today, now facing extradition to the US over charges spanning tax evasion and fraud.

The SEC accuses McAfee of being paid more than $23.1 million worth of cryptocurrency assets for promoting a number of ICO token sales without disclosing that he was being paid to do so. Furthermore the DOJ has levied a number of counts of tax evasion against McAfee, saying that he “willfully attempted to evade” payment of income taxes owed to the federal government.

In a brief announcing the arrest and unsealing of indictment documents, the DOJ also details that the charges are confined to McAfee the individual and that they did not find any connection with the “anti-virus company bearing his name.”

The DOJ’s charges against McAfee are a bit dry but detail 10 counts against the entrepreneur. McAfee faced 5 counts of tax evasion, which each carry a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison, as well as 5 counts of “willful failure to file a tax return,” each carrying a maximum penalty of 1 year in prison.

The SEC filing is a much more interesting read, with 55 pages detailing a lengthy investigation into McAfee’s alleged fraudulent activity promoting a number of ICOs throughout 2017 and 2018. The report specifically notes that McAfee allegedly received more than $11.6 million worth of BTC and ETH tokens worth for promoting seven ICOs. Unfortunately, those offerings were not named in the suit. He additionally received $11.5 million worth of the promoted tokens, the suit alleges.

We have reached out to John McAfee for comment.

#articles, #cryptocurrency, #cryptography, #doj, #entrepreneur, #federal-government, #initial-coin-offering, #john-mcafee, #mcafee, #spain, #tax-evasion, #tc, #u-s-securities-and-exchange-commission, #united-states

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Spain’s startup ecosystem: 9 investors on remote work, green shoots and 2020 trends

As reported in the first half of our Spain-focused VC survey, the nation’s startup ecosystem continues to grow and is keeping pace with ecosystems in more developed European countries such as U.K., France, Sweden and Germany.

While main hubs Madrid and Barcelona bump heads politically, tech ecosystems in each city have been developing with local support. According to this regional investor database, Spain is home to 62 angels, 84 seed funds and 19 Series A and beyond institutional funds.

As the capital and financial center, Madrid enjoys proximity to political power and multinational companies, which is likely why it’s home to a larger proportion of fintech startups. According to Dealroom, between 2015 and 2019, Madrid’s emerging companies raised €1.5 billion. In recent years, its Arganzuela district has become known as a startup hub, but Barcelona’s Districte de la innovació is also home to a growing number of established and upcoming technology companies.

May of 2020 saw a resumption of VC activity with €70.89 million invested in startups. Wallabox, the Barcelona-based electric charger company, closed the second part of €12 million from a Series A investment. Also in May, Belvo raised €9.09 million, Accure Therapeutics €7.6 million and Cubiq Foods €4 million.

Notable companies and data points:

  • Voovio Technologies — raised €15 million from Moira Capital.
  • MOVO — €13 million from Delivery Hero, Seaya Ventures and others.
  • Lana — $12.5 million from Base10, Cathay Innovation and other investors.
  • ProntoPiso — €1.6 million from existing shareholders.
  • Colvin — raised €14 million.
  • U.S./Spanish insurtech startup CoverWallet was sold to AON for $330 million.
  • MediQuo — raised €4 million.
  • Factorial — raised a €15 million in a Series A round led by CRV.
  • Holded — €6 million Series A round in 2019 led by Lakestar.

Here are the investors who shared their thoughts with us for the conclusion of our Spain VC survey:

Lourdes Álvarez de Toledo, partner, JME Ventures

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
SaaS. B2B.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
Kymatio.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
Subscription B2C app for managing kids from 0 to 18 years.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
Scalability,

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
Too much competition: travel. Interesting areas: quantum computing.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
More than 50% in Spain.

Which industries in your city and region seem well-positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
Industries: cybersecurity. Companies: Lingokids, Devo, Genially, Glovo.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
Spain has no Series B investors, so there are many opportunities for foreign Series B funds.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
At least in Spain, I think remote work will be only temporary. If you are freelance it is still important to work near the main cities.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19?
Retail, fashion, travel.

What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
Don’t take debt if it is not extremely necessary, try to be cash flow positive — although you have to sacrifice faster growth.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
Yes! In Genially: awesome growth.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
Schools opening again (four kids already).

Any other thoughts you want to share with TechCrunch readers?
Spain will be very harmed the next year, and so will the startup ecosystem.

Javier González-Soria y Moreno de la Santa, managing partner, Top Seeds Lab

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

#barcelona, #covid-19, #europe, #fintech, #madrid, #spain, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital

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Brands building for scale should look to hypercultural Latinx consumers

As two female investors who themselves identify as hypercultural (HC) Latinx, we see much potential for brands and startups that invest in this demographic.

For the purpose of this article, we will focus on 13-to-25-year-old individuals who can trace their heritage to a Latin American country who have spent the majority of their lifetime in the U.S. Whether they were born in the U.S. doesn’t matter as much as how much time they have spent immersed in mainstream American culture. This is important to note because this demographic is largely defined by always having one foot in their parents’ native country and another in the United States.

In simplest terms: A Latinx person has origins from a country in Latin America, like Mexico or Brazil, while a Hispanic person has origins from a country where Spanish is the dominant language, such as Mexico or Spain. A Pew Research study found that one in four people who describe themselves as Hispanic or Latino have heard of the non-gendered “Latinx,” but only 3% of them use the term in everyday life.

So what makes the hypercultural Latinx so unique and worthy of pursuit? It’s not a secret that they have massive purchasing power behind them (a collective $1.9 trillion to be exact). However, they are also different from their mostly white counterparts in the way they vigorously engage with technology, their obsession with being online at all times and their unique shopping habits.

Hypercultural Latinx consumers are accustomed to being early adopters of new technology: 81% of them say they like to learn about the latest technology (overindexing their white counterparts by 36%). Latino households are filled with the latest gadgets and smart tech toys. Although we assume most Gen Zers and young millennials love technology, HC Latinx love tech at astronomical rates and shell out more dollars than their white, mostly monocultural counterparts.

This makes sense given that 60% of HC Latinx grew up in the internet age versus only 40% of their white counterparts. Across levels of HC Latinx income (or their parents’), there is always a budget for technology. In my own Mexican household (Ilse), I grew up prioritizing tech over other (sometimes more important) categories like books or vacations.

The online lives of the HC Latinx can be summed up by one statistic: 24% spend three hours or more on social media per day. compared to only 13% of their white counterparts. So much time is spent online by this Latinx youth that they are able to create a digital comunidad where they thrive socially and intellectually. This comunidad has so much influence in how the HC Latinx thinks about what they purchase and how loyal they are to the brands they buy from.

#brazil, #column, #diversity, #latin-america, #latinx, #mexico, #social, #spain, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital, #whatsapp

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9 VCs in Madrid and Barcelona discuss the COVID-19 era and look to the future

Spain’s startup ecosystem has two main hubs: Madrid and Barcelona.

Most observers place Barcelona first and Madrid second, but the gap appears to close every year. Barcelona has benefitted from attracting expats in search of sun, beach and lifestyle who tend to produce more internationally minded startups.

Madrid’s startups have predominantly been Spain or Latin America-focused, but have become increasingly international in nature. Although not part of this survey, we expect Valencia to join next year, as city authorities have been going all-out to attract entrepreneurs and investors.

The overall Spanish ecosystem is generally less mature than those in the U.K., France, Sweden and Germany, but it has been improving at a fast clip. More recently, entrepreneurs in Spain have moved away from emulating success in pursuit of innovative technologies.

Following the financial crisis, the Spanish government supported the creation of startups with the launch of FOND-ICO GLOBAL, a €1.5 billion fund-of-funds in 2017, which put €800 million into the market that year. Three years later, the fastest-moving sector is tech. In 2018, Spain counted 4,115 active startups, reported 150sec. Barcelona has seen a boom in startups and support systems, with companies based there raising €2.7 billion between 2015 and 2019, almost doubling Madrid’s figure (according to Dealroom).

In the first half of a two-part survey that asks 18 Spain-based startup investors about the trends they’re tracking, we reached out to the following VCs:

Marta-Gaia Zanchi, managing partner, Nina Capital

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
Infrastructural needs of the healthcare industry.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
We see opportunities in data liquidity, in silico trials, biotech manufacturing … for which enabling technologies may already exist from the information technology and semiconductor industry.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
What we always do: Great unmet need, deep understanding of healthcare stakeholder ecosystem, the right technology solution, a team we love to work with.

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

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
Local ecosystem: 10% Rest of the world: 90%.

Which industries in your city and region seem well-positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
We only invest in healthtech. So, the answer is: healthtech 🙂

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
They all think we have a wonderful climate. After all, it’s Barcelona. Regarding the investment climate in particular, I believe too few international investors appreciate the full spectrum and significance of the opportunities that this city affords for starting and scaling a company.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
Not really. I think most companies will continue to have HQs in the major hubs, but their teams are going to be more distributed. And hubs that were traditionally at disadvantage over the usual suspects will find themselves less so.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
We are specialized healthtech investors. All our investments to date are B2B companies selling to healthcare organizations.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
We decided to increase our reserves, to have more capital to support our portfolio companies in follow-on rounds. For more, see here.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
My team is amazing. With them by my side, I never lost hope.

Any other thoughts you want to share with TechCrunch readers?
I know 2020 is a tragedy but … Isn’t it something to see everyone finally engaged in the conversations that matter (healthcare, science, public health, politics, equality, diversity).

#barcelona, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #europe, #madrid, #spain, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital

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Vilified Early Over Lax Virus Strategy, Sweden Seems to Have Scourge Controlled

After having weathered high death rates when it resisted a lockdown in the spring, Sweden now has one of Europe’s lowest rates of daily new cases. Whether that is an aberration remains to be seen.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #deaths-fatalities, #disease-rates, #great-britain, #netherlands, #spain, #stockholm-sweden, #world-health-organization

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Crypto exchange Bitpanda closes $52M Series A from Valar Ventures, backed by Peter Thiel

Bitpanda, a crypto assets platform, has closed a $52 million Series A funding round form Valar Ventures, a venture capital firm backed by Peter Thiel. Vienna-based VC Speedinvest also participated, alongside other unnamed investors. Claiming 1.3 million users, Bitpanda has previously been trading digital assets and tokenizing precious metals.

The Vienna-based company will use the cash to expand internationally. It expanded to France, Spain and Turkey in 2020 and plans to enter additional European markets this year and next. It has 300 employees.

Essentially, Bitpanda is a crypto exchange which can support other kinds of assets in a tokenized form. To date, it’s not very well known or used in the Crypto world.

What this represents is an interesting move by a crypto exchange, effectively expanding into real-world assets. At the other end of the spectrum, platforms like eToro, Robinhood and Revolut, which came from traditional assets world, and are now adding Crypto world assets. Eventually, the two will meet, in some shape or form.

Bitpanda is a centralized exchange with its own infrastructure, and is not running on a public blockchain. Other centralized exchanges include Coinbase, Kraken, Binance, Kucoin and Huobi.

As part of the investment, Valar Ventures founding partner, Andrew McCormack, will also join Bitpanda’s board. McCormack was previously with PayPal in its early years and supported Peter Thiel during its IPO and eventual sale to eBay in 2002. Valar has previously invested in European fintechs including Transferwise and the Germany-based digital bank, N26.

#binance, #coinbase, #ebay, #etoro, #europe, #finance, #france, #kraken, #mobile-payments, #money, #n26, #online-payments, #paypal, #peter-thiel, #revolut, #spain, #tc, #transferwise, #turkey, #valar-ventures, #venture-capital, #vienna

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