Europe

Auto Added by WPeMatico

Russia’s Telegram ban that knocked out 15M Google, Amazon IP addresses had a precedent in Zello

Russia blocking access to Telegram after the messaging app refused to give it access to encrypted messages has picked up an unintended casualty: we’re now up to over 15 million IP addresses from Amazon and Google getting shut down by the regulators in the process, taking various other (non-Telegram) services down with it.

Telegram’s CEO Pavel Durov earlier today said that its reach in the country has yet to see an impact from the ban 24 hours on, with VPNs, proxies and third-party cloud services stepping in to pick up the slack for its roughly 14 million users in the country, and third parties refusing to buckle under requests from Roskomnadzor, the regulator, to remove the app from its stores and servers.

“Thank you for your support and loyalty, Russian users of Telegram. Thank you, Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft — for not taking part in political censorship,” Durov noted.

But Telegram’s Russia crisis is not the first time that an app banned by the Russian government has had to rely on third-party support to navigate its position with users. A recent precedent involving a much smaller communications app sheds some light on how all of this works. And ironically, its own run-in may have been the reason for why the government moved so quickly to block so many IP addresses around Telegram’s, affecting more than just the app itself.

A little over a year ago, the walkie-talkie app Zello received a notice from the Russian regulator Roskomnadzor. Zello was informed that it would be banned unless it started to host records of the conversations that were taking place on the app on Russian servers — in compliance with a hosting requirement that Russia put in place for ISPs back in 2014 as part of its efforts to tighten its control of digital information in the name of national security.

You might remember the name Zello from its bump of attention when a wave of people hit by Hurricane Harvey in Texas used it to communicate with each other when voice services went down or became too clumsy to use, but mobile internet connections stayed up. “Voice is how we most naturally communicate, and push-to-talk and radio-style communication is instant, no dialling or waiting,” said Zello CEO Bill Moore. “It can be with one person or large groups and build relationships and to solve problems.”

The startup itself is based out of Austin, Texas and has around 120 million registered users, with around four million monthly active users.

Moore — who had in the past also founded and run another Texas startup, TuneIn — said in an interview this week that Zello’s run-in with Russia started about a year ago, when the regulator started to block the application in Spring 2017, after Zello refused to cooperate with the hosting requirement, both on grounds of cost and principle.

(Cost: because it’s a small startup. And principle: because Zello is built in a way where messages are stored locally, both for direct messages and those sent in more widely-distributed channels, the feature that Moore believes might have been “why Zello annoyed Russia,” because protestors used these channels to coordinate activities.”)

Instead of buckling and leaving Russia, Zello decided to use to some software it had written years before, when the app had been issued with a block in Venezuela after it ran afoul of the government there — software “that let us change IP addresses for our service,” as Moore describes it. The change in IP addresses essentially meant that as Zello was shut down in one place, it was able to hop to another, using services from either AWS or Google Cloud.

Moore said that Zello — which originally hosted its service on IBM’s cloud before the ban — used its IP hopping tactic for nearly a year, moving first across IP addresses on Amazon and then hopping to Google Cloud when Amazon got too hot. By the time Zello started using Google Cloud, the government was well on to Zello’s ways, and it took only about 10 days before Google asked Zello to stop, Zello’s CTO and founder Alexey Gavrilov added.

“About a month ago, the press in Russia began to report that Roskomnadzor was threatening to block millions of addresses if that’s what it took to get Zello [to retreat]. That was when Amazon said, ‘you need to stop changing IP addresses,’” Gavrilov said. “We tried to get Amazon to reconsider, making the case that by asking us to stop, it is are really acting the same way that ISPs do that are controlled by Russia. Zello is not damaging, but Russia is by blocking. It’s not wise to go along with that threat.”

His argument echoes what Durov has been saying in defense of Telegram, although it didn’t appear to wash for the smaller app. “We lost that debate,” Gavrilov said.

Moore and Gavrilov say they believe Telegram may be using a similar kind of approach to move around Amazon- and Google-based IP addresses (I’ve tried to contact Durov to ask about this but have not had a reply; Google and Amazon also have not replied to my emails). However, now, with the Russian authorities well aware of the tactic, it simply decided to block large swathes of IPs to act more quickly, rather than negotiate with cloud companies to pick out which IP addresses were actually being used.

Partly because of the size of the service in question, and partly because of the blanket blocking, the difference between the IP addresses being blocked varied from just over 2,000 for Zello to more than 15 million by the time Telegram attempted its own IP hops.

Zello still believes that it was not in the wrong in its own encounters with the Russian government, although its appeals to Amazon and Google, and eventually Apple and others who host the app on their stores, ultimately didn’t wash.

“We believe that Zello doesn’t violate Russian law because originally the hosting requirement was written for ISPs, and Zello is not an ISP,” Moore said. “We cooperate with law enforcement on a consistent basis and do what we can under the law.” But like Telegram, Zello takes the view that the medium should not be attacked because of how it is used. “Terrorists drink water, but I don’t think we should outlaw water, either,” is how Moore describes his stance.

Since about two weeks ago, the only way that people in Russia can use Zello is by way of VPN proxies. Zello has a fairly even distribution of its several millon monthly active users across several countries, including the U.S., Mexico, Brazil, and Hong Kong. Russia had been one of its top markets until this happened, but the cost to Zello has been about half of its active users in the country, which now stand at 200,000.

“We don’t like to think about how we’ve lost half our users there,” Gavrilov said. “We like to think about how many we’ve managed to keep.”

Zello has always been ad-free and free to use by regular consumers. Moore said that the company is profitable, making its revenues through a premium tier for businesses to have their own private channels. So far, Zello is completely bootstrapped, although Moore said that it is likely it will want to raise money eventually to grow its consumer business.

Neither CTO nor CEO think that Russian bans impact the company’s wider business.

“In my opinion, incidents like these only help companies like Telegram and Zello on the global market,” Gavrilov (a native of Russia) said. “Realistically, Russia is a small share of the Telegram user base, and standing up to the demands in Russia just communicates to everyone else that you can trust these people. That only makes it more valuable.”

Amazon partners with French retailer Monoprix to launch Prime Now grocery deliveries in Paris

Amazon’s business in France is taking a big step forward after announcing a new deal today with retail giant Monoprix to deliver groceries through Prime Now. The service will begin serving Prime Now members in Paris this year and include products carried by Monoprix, including its own branded items and fresh produce.

Monoprix’s website already offers services including home deliveries in some areas and “click and collect,” which lets shoppers pre-order items online before picking them up at a nearby store.

Frédéric Duval, Amazon France’s country manager, told Journal du Dimanche earlier this month that the company wanted to launch grocery delivery there, though at the time he didn’t specify who Amazon would partner with. Monoprix competitors Systeme U, Leclerc and Intermarche were reportedly also considered potential candidates, while struggling big box store operator Carrefour was speculated to be an acquisition target.

Monoprix is owned by Casino Group, a French retail conglomerate that operates stores, including supermarkets, convenience stores and restaurants, in France, Latin America and Southeast Asia. It generated 38 billion Euros in consolidated net sales last year.

In press statement, Duval said “This commercial partnership, which further enlarges Prime Now service selection, will enable Amazon Prime customers to benefit from ultra-fast deliveries for their Monoprix orders.”

Maki.vc is a new early-stage VC out of Helsinki co-founded by the Chair of Slush

A new early-stage VC fund targeting tech startups in the Nordics is getting its official launch today. Founded by serial entrepreneur and Slush Chairman Ilkka Kivimäki​, and former F-Secure and startup executive Pirkka Palomäki​, Helsinki-based Maki.vc will invest in nascent and burgeoning companies in the region, both at seed and Series A stage. The VC […]

Revolut broke even in December, now has 1.5 million customers

 Fintech startup Revolut can’t stop and won’t stop growing. The company has had an amazing month of December with a huge increase in the total volume of transactions and signups. Because of that, Revolut broke even in December for the first time ever. The company told me that it wasn’t just a lucky month and January is looking good as well. Revolut announced that it had reached… Read More

Day One Ventures launches fund which wraps VC and PR into one

 There is a clutch of new VC funds launched in the US every year, and but when you look at the stats around new funds started by women they are pretty dismal. A cursory glance at the figures from last year reveals that out of 153 funds founded in the US last year, only four were founded by women, and only two have gone on to raise money. Furthermore, women account for only seven percent of… Read More

Badi bags $10M to build out its room rentals platform in Europe

 Barcelona-based Badi launched a marketplace for urban room rentals in September 2015 with the goal of making it easier to find flatmates. The startup has now closed a $10M Series A investment, led by Spark Capital, with the aim of ramping up its presence across Europe. Read More

Sodexo acquires majority stake in French online restaurant FoodChéri

 Sodexo, a French publicly-listed food services and facilities management company, has acquired a majority stake in Paris-based online restaurant and food delivery startup FoodChéri. Terms of the deal remain undisclosed, though François Paulus of Breega Capital, which backed the company’s €6 million Series A, tells me he is “happy with the return”. Read More

Countingup, a startup from founder of Clear Books, raises ​$750K to merge banking and accounting

 Countingup, a new fintech startup from Tim Fouracre, who previously founded cloud accounting software Clear Books, wants to simplify the life of sole traders by reinventing the business bank account. Specifically, Fouracre’s vision is that for one-person enterprises, business banking and accounting software should be merged so that book keeping and filing accounts can be automated. Read More

Powered by WPeMatico

BuddyGuard raises €3.4M for its home security camera powered by AI

 BuddyGuard, the Berlin startup behind the Flare AI-powered home security camera, has raised €3.4 million in new funding, money it plans to use to ramp up marketing of the newly-launched device. Leading the round is German electrical specialist Bachmann Group, with participation from over 20 unnamed angel investors across Europe. Read More

Powered by WPeMatico

BridgeU raises $5.3m to close the gap between education and industry needs

 Students deciding on their next phase in higher education face a daunting choice and a array of options. Most schools have zero capability to deal with sifting 40,000 undergraduate courses in the UK, alone. Why not apply big data to the problem and create an ‘adaptive learning platform’ which actually helps students make these crucial decision, based on real data.
That’s… Read More

Powered by WPeMatico

AI-powered customer marketing platform Ometria raises $6M Series A

 Ometria, a customer marketing platform which says it’s “AI-powered” has raised $6m in Series A funding. US-based Summit Action led the round, along with an investment syndicate backed by individuals with roles inside some key retailers. Ometria has now raised a total of $11m to accelerate the development of its customer marketing platform, which, it claims, enables retailers… Read More

Powered by WPeMatico

Digital wealth manager Moneyfarm acquires tech behind fintech chatbot Ernest

 Moneyfarm, the U.K.-headquartered “digital wealth manager” has acquired the technology behind personal finance chatbot Ernest. Terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed, though I understand that, along with the tech, this is an acqui-hire of sorts, seeing London-based Ernest’s CTO Lorenzo Sicilia join Moneyfarm to oversee technology integration. Read More

Powered by WPeMatico

DogBuddy, the European dog sitting marketplace, scores €5M Series A

 DogBuddy, a pan-European online marketplace for dog sitting, has closed €5 million in Series A funding, money it plans for further expansion. Backing the London-headquartered startup in this round is existing investor Sweet Capital, the investment fund started by the founders of King.com, and a number of new unnamed private investors. It brings total raised by DogBuddy to €10 million. Read More

Powered by WPeMatico

Pointy, a startup that lets local retailers easily put stock online with a simple gadget, raises​ ​$6M

 Pointy​,​ ​an Irish start​ ​startup​ ​that​ lets ​local​ ​retailers put their stock online so that they can be discovered via search engines, has raised $6 million in Series A funding. The round is being led by Frontline Ventures, alongside Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital, Draper Associates and a number of notable angel investors. Read More

Powered by WPeMatico

Index Ventures is coming in force to TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin this December

 We are delighted to announce our next wave of speakers for Disrupt Berlin. And what a wave. Index Ventures is one the world’s leading international venture capital firms. And we are incredibly excited to have 3 of its partners on stage at Disrupt Berlin!
But before we outline the details, please just be aware that our final batch of Disrupt Berlin 2017 tickets at the deeply… Read More

Powered by WPeMatico

Acasa is building a platform for ‘Generation Rent’ to manage their homes

 London-based startup Acasa has come a long way since late 2015. The company, then called Splittable, offered a way to manage and share household expenses with multiple house members. However, the bigger vision was to build a platform for ‘Generation Rent’ that makes moving from one houseshare to another as easy as logging in and out of the Acasa app. Read More

Powered by WPeMatico

Carspring, a London and Berlin startup that lets you buy a used car online, raises £5M Series B

 Carspring, the London and Berlin used car buying platform founded by Rocket Internet, has picked up £5 million in Series B funding. Backing the round are Rocket Internet itself, along with Channel 4’s Commercial Growth Fund, which offers media in the form of TV advertising in return for equity. Read More

Powered by WPeMatico

iRobot to acquire its biggest European distributor for $141M

 Consumer robot maker iRobot is to acquire its largest European distributor, Robopolis, in a cash deal worth $141 million. The company said it’s signed a definitive agreement to acquire the privately-held, French company, with the acquisition expected to close in October 2017. Read More

Powered by WPeMatico

Startup hub builder Factory plans gargantuan new campus in Lisbon

 This year Lisbon is roaring along with noted startups like Uniplaces, Aptoide, Farfetch, Seedrs and Unbabel putting the Portuguese capital on the map. Vast annual startup conference Web Summit arrived last year with 53,000 people, and entrepreneurs and investors have been increasingly eyeing-up the city as a viable alternative to equally cheap Berlin, especially since the government allowed… Read More

Powered by WPeMatico

The dream of Polish tech entrepreneurship is almost over

 Poland has worked diligently over the past decade to become an entrepreneurial powerhouse. Once home to businesses focused primarily on app design and outsourcing, social, societal, and economic pressures forced the country’s brightest to start building for themselves. And they did. I’ve covered Polish startups for almost a decade, first on TechCrunch and then on a new blog I… Read More

Powered by WPeMatico

Privitar raises $16M to help ensure privacy in big data analytics

Data flying over group of laptops to illustrate data integration/sharing. As data protection — a set of laws and practices created across different markets to ensure that our sensitive information does not get leaked or shared without our permission — continues to gain priority in our rapidly expanding digital world, a UK startup called Privitar that is building tools to help organizations keep that data private has picked up $16 million in funding… Read More

Powered by WPeMatico

Trainline now gives you real-time train information in France

 Trainline’s European service (formerly known as Captain Train) is becoming your one-stop shop for French trains. The company has partnered with SNCF to get real-time data about trains, delays and your current location. You had to use SNCF’s official app before to get this kind of information. If you’ve used Trainline to book a ticket before, you know that the app can alert you… Read More

Powered by WPeMatico

Inside Station F, the startup megacampus that just opened in Paris

 Station F is the world’s biggest startup campus. Thousands of entrepreneurs are currently moving into the new building here in Paris. But if you’re still wondering what it actually looks like, we visited Station F and interviewed the two persons behind it — Roxanne Varza and Xavier Niel. Station F is a massive building that has been completely renovated and now features… Read More

Powered by WPeMatico

Tonsser, the social app for youth soccer players, partners with Nike and raises new funding

 Tonsser, the Copenhagen-based startup that offers a vertical social network aimed at youth soccer players who want to build their own online profile and potentially get discovered by a bigger club, continues to grow at a clip, both in terms of signups but also the influence it wants to have on the beautiful game. Read More

Powered by WPeMatico

Construction tech company Aproplan closes €5 million Series A

 Not so long ago the administration needed to run a major construction project relied almost entirely on pen, paper, excel spreadsheets and faxes. That has provided a huge opportunity for startups to take a stab at digitising the construction industry. Brussels-based Aproplan, which bills itself as akin to “Salesforce for construction,” is one such company, and today is disclosing… Read More

Powered by WPeMatico

Twist is Slack without the annoying distractions

 When Slack implemented threaded conversations, it seemed like the holy grail for internal communications. Slack finally lets you talk about multiple things in separate conversations. But Slack remains a real-time messaging service at heart, so threads don’t feel native. It works well for many teams, but some companies would prefer something a bit more asynchronous and focused. At the… Read More

Powered by WPeMatico

Heresy, founded by ex-Stack Overflow Europe MD, wants to help sales teams close with better data

 Heresy, a startup co-founded by Dimitar Stanimiroff, who was previously MD Europe at Stack Overflow, is a new sales tool designed to increase collaboration between sales team members, and help them make better data-driven decisions, collectively and individually, and ultimately close more sales. Read More

Powered by WPeMatico

Venture investing in the US and Europe are totally different industries

 While venture investing outside the US has come a long way in recent years, our analysis shows it remains an entirely different industry than US venture capital.  And when we say different, we mean totally different. We looked at venture investment trends in 2007-2011 from PitchBook and compared them with VC exit results in 2012-16, to very roughly compare investment in one 5 year period… Read More

Powered by WPeMatico

Grab a Demo Table and pitch your startup at The Europas, June 13, London

 During London Tech Week, The Europas Conference & Awards (in partnership with TechCrunch)will see the highest concentration of tech investors and corporate players in one place. No other event can match it. What better time to pitch your startup? But there’s more than one way you can make an impact with your startup there. The first is the obvious Demo Table option. Because this year… Read More

Powered by WPeMatico

Plum bets on Facebook Messenger as the place to manage your finances

 Plum is one of a number of fintech startups reimagining how we manage our finances online, in the form of an AI-driven or ‘smart’ chatbot. However, unlike competitors that exist primarily as standalone apps, the London startup (for now, at least) has decided to bet big on Facebook Messenger. The thinking, explains co-founder Victor Trokoudes, who was previously an early employee… Read More

Powered by WPeMatico

Lucas VonCranach and Ijad Madisch to speak at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin

 Disrupt Berlin 2017 is coming up in December, and even though that is a ways off, we are already building out our content. We’re also here to remind you to sign up for our next 2-for-1 ticket release on our website here. We’ll send you an email with more details on how you can obtain these limited supply tickets. By signing up now, you can use this extra ticket to bring a… Read More

Powered by WPeMatico

Vote now in #TheEuropas 2017 Awards, for the hottest European startups

 In partnership with TechCrunch, The Europas Conference & Awards, is a different kind of tech event which features main-stage speakers and panels as well as smaller breakout sessions on key subjects for startups. The Europas conference is followed by a glittering awards based on voting by expert judges and the industry itself.
Voting is now live, so please go and vote!
The awards are… Read More

Powered by WPeMatico